Today’s Nice Price or No Dice Le Car is one of the rare four-door models and has a nice fold-back roof. Let’s see if this throwback supermini comes with a price that you might just throw down over.
It was once said that “the sun never sets on the British Empire,” so vast were the nation’s colonial holdings. Those colonies are long gone, and with Brexit, so too has Britain’s role as an influencer in the European Union.
Somewhere in between those two extremes, the British auto industry thrived and foundered, but before it did, it managed to build the 1980 Triumph TR7 that we considered yesterday. A small sports car that offered open-air motoring, a pleasingly notchy five-speed stick, and pop-up headlamps, that Triumph checked a lot of the right boxes. So too did its $5,500 asking price, apparently, since it took home an overwhelming 85 percent Nice Price win.
The British and the French, have over the past few centuries, alternated between being at war, figuring out who at the moment is conquering who, and pretending to be BFFs while creating things like the Concorde and Chunnel. It’s truly a love/hate relationship.
Since we looked at an old British car yesterday, it seems fitting that we should do the same today for that nation’s frenemy across the channel.
This 1982 Renault R5 “Le Car” is representative of the wave of superminis that entered the European market in the early to mid-’70s. Like so many things French, it was unlike competitors such as Italy’s Fiat 127, Germany’s Audi 50, or Great Britain’s Ford Fiesta, however. All of those mounted their engines in the modern transverse fashion with the transmission tucked on the side. The R5, on the other hand, took its drive train from a rear-engined car and hence carried the motor longitudinally, with the gearbox out in front.
Befitting the supermini category, the R5s were always cheap. That didn’t mean they weren’t cheery, though. This one, which carries the humorous “Le Car” badge and a vinyl folding sunroof is about as twee and plucky appearing as you could want. Being a five-door means that it’s also pretty roomy and has more windows to roll down than the three-door too.
Powering the R5 is a 1387-cc inline-four. That makes 51 horsepower but considering that the same basic mill was used in the Alpine A110, you can bet that there’s more to be had somewhere. In front of that is a four-speed manual driving the front wheels, and like last week’s Citroën, those wheels have only three lugs.
As fitted, this R5’s acceleration is most properly measured with a sundial and its 88 mile-per-hour top speed makes it best used as a city car. That being said, these can be quite fun to drive around town and the long-travel suspension makes for a surprisingly pleasing ride.
This one seems to be in far better shape than most old R5s. The red paint pops and, save for what looks to be a broken backup lamp lens, all the trim appears to be intact.
There are only 46,000 miles on the clock so it is appreciably lightly used and the interior shows that. The seats look like they’re wearing covers or have been re-upholstered since they don’t match the door cards. Still, they look pretty good and perfectly serviceable.
One quirk of the R5’s design is the radio which sits facing upward just ahead of the gearshift. That’s necessitated by the fact that the engine intrudes into the cabin space directly ahead. Everything else here — all of the next to impossible-to-find trim pieces and hardware — appears to be in place and working. The title is clean and while it is presently located in Los Angeles, the car wears Idaho plates. It also wears, oddly enough, a “This Vehicle Is Not For Sale” sticker on its windshield.
Much like yesterday’s Triumph, this Renault is a survivor from a different age. It’s indisputable that pretty much any modern car will outperform this R5 in every measure. That doesn’t mean it’s totally without charm. As an around-town car or a fun going-to-car-shows ride, there is a lot to like here.
Let’s see if that include’s the R5’s $4,500 asking price. That’s pretty cheap for any old car in this nice of shape, but then, how big a market is there for an old French supermini these days?
What do you think, is this low-mileage R5 worth that $4,500 asking? Or, does that price put this Le Car out of le contention?
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