At 15,782 feet, Mont Blanc (White Mountain) is the highest point in the French Alps. Today's Nice Price or Crack Pipe GTA is similarly vanilla hued, but does its price make you think the seller is high?
Our friends to the North are putting some interesting iron on the block this week. Yesterday it was a Canuck-built Subaru STI wagon that called Toronto home and couldn't decide in which year it was born. Exciting as that may have been, even a favorable exchange rate and a sassy attitude couldn't heat up enough love for that hot hatch's price, dunning it to a 78% Crack Pipe loss.
Today we're sticking with Toronto, but are trading in our maple flavored sushi rolls for Labatt's infused escargot. This 1988 Renault GTA turbo is described by its seller as being in as-new condition, in addition to being ONE OF A KIND. What it is that differentiates this great white from the North from the other 4,659 GTAs (Grand Tourismo Alpine) is never clearly defined, but regardless, with only 36,000 miles on its clock, it's a stunningly clean example of the breed.
Alpine started as an independent maker of race and rally cars in 1955. Founded by Jean Rédélé, who was a Renault dealer by day, and
masked mime fighter rally driver by night (and some days), Alpine proved very successful with their Renault-based racers. Eventually Renault absorbed the tuner and the initial result of that assimilation debuted at the 1985 Geneva Motor Show. The GTA took many of its styling cues, as well as its layout and suspension setup from the precedent A310, itself a derivation of the legendary A110. One significant departure from the earlier car was the availability of a turbocharged version of the 2,458 cc Renault Z7U V6. Developed in the early ‘70s by the joint venture of Peugeot, Volvo and Renault, the 90-degree V6 found a home in such disparate places as the Volvo Bertone Coupe, and the Delorean.
Here in this '88 GTA, the Turbo helps the SOHC six pump out a reasonably healthy 200 horsepower. That, along with the five-speed gearbox from the Renault 25, helps push the 2623 lb 2+2 to sixty in a claimed 6.9 seconds. While enjoying that performance, you'll also be reveling in leather-clad thrones that look like they were taken straight from your dentist's office. Between those is an inordinately high center sill out of which sprouts an oddly-shaped gear knob, and playing host to the power window switches and heater controls. A three-spoke wheel - fatter at 9 and 3 - sits in front of an ‘80s futuristic dashboard, in the middle of which is a stereo stack with more buttons than your prom date's dress, but still lacking the ability to connect to your iPod. Behind the deeply bucketed back seats is a vertical panel of glass that allows a good view to all the plumbing atop the little six. That forced induction engine is claimed to have a number of new parts here, including a rebuilt Garrett T3.
The shape of the GTA has held up well over the years, and pictures don't do the car justice in demonstrating just how low it is. Unlike the similarly rear-engined Porsche 911, the GTA has rear seats that are actually usable for short distances, and a generous hatch through which to admire and effect repairs on the six cylinder engine. Headlamps up front are covered, and all the windows are flush-mounted for a wind-cheating CD of only .30. And yes, it shares its tail lights with the lamented Lotus Elan.
Unique, eclectic and desirable to be sure, the question remains, is it worth $16,900 in Maple Money? And if it is, would it be worth it to spend that, plus whatever else it takes to let it R-O-C-K in the U-S-A?
This 36K GTA represents a rare opportunity. That being said, when people come and ask you what it is, you'll get a lot of blank stares and consternate responses from those for whom Renault means tissue paper Alliances and Le Cars. But you wouldn't be buying it for them, you'd want this for yourself, and as such you'd want to get the finest example you can as parts and repairs for these things will be dear. This is just such an example, and as such it's time to decide if you think its $16,900 price tickles your toque, or if that's just Grand Theft Auto.
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