The Renault 5 Turbo II is a rare sight, even at historic car shows but remains an indelible memory of one of the 80's all conquering Gruppe B cars.
In response to Lancia's exceptional rallying success with the mid-engined Stratos, in 1977 822 project was born from the imagination of Jean Terramorsi Deputy Director of Product Management and Henry Lherm, his young assistant responsible for small series production at the Alpine factory in Dieppe. 822 Project developed into a design brief commissioned by Renault to meet a precise specification eligible to compete in then then FIA Group 3 & Group B specifications, which would be intended to promote sales of FWD Renault 5 models. Product management was convinced and a prototype was developed as a corroboration between Renault Sport, Alpine Renault, the Renault Board and BEREX (Office of Study and Exploratory Research). Several modifications were made initially to the chassis design where it improved with each development. For body styling Renault's Jean Terramorsi, vice-president of production asked Bertone’s Marc Deschamps to design a new sports version of the Renault 5 Alpine supermini. The distinctive new rear bodywork was styled by Marcello Gandini at Bertone.
The Renault 5 Turbo or R5 Turbo I as it later became known, was launched by Renault at the Brussels Motor Show in January 1980 to an enthusiastic press. The Group B Renault 5T was primarily designed for rallying at first, but the intention was there to also make a road legal version available. Once the initial homologation models required for racing had been produced, a second version named the Turbo 2 was introduced. This used more stock Renault 5 parts, replacing many lighter (but expensive to produce for small production batches) alloy components in the original 5 Turbo. version, which had included suspension arms & roof skin. The Turbo 2 was less expensive to buy new as a result, whilst still offering essentially the same levels of performance. In the early 80's 0-60 in 6.9 seconds with the benefits of a factory fitted close ratio gearbox meant the R5T was one of the quickest cars in production. In Germany, the cost of a new Turbo II was equal to a new S class Mercedes; the Turbo II was really only meant as a low production car, but such was it's popularity in racing, plus it's ability to be used as a daily driver meant a total of 3576 R5 Turbos were manufactured during a four-year production run.
In part due to being small, lightweight and endowed with a very exploitable chassis, the mid-engined Renault's excellent weight bias and lightweight construction ensured it's smaller 1.4 litre capacity was competitive against larger 2.0 cars entered for rallying in Group B from other manufacturers. From 1981 to 1986 in group B, the Turbo II won three notable World Championship races: Rallye Monte Carlo 1981, Tour de Corse in 1982 and the Tour de Corse in 1985 at the capable hands of Jean Ragnotti.
Click here to see the original footage from the 1985 Tour de Corse.
For 1985 Group B Homologation, Renault was obliged to build 200 units. These turbo2's being the last units of production, carried a capacity increase to 1432cc by way of a longer stroke crankshaft, minor headwork & turbo modifications & were specified with aluminium roof to help reduce center of gravity & weight.
The example we offer herewith from our stock is one of those last aluminium roofed examples. When having John Price Rallying inspect and appraise this Turbo II, he commented that this was the first example he can remember seeing, yet alone one in original factory condition as most of those produced were used for racing. John also commented that although Renault had been obliged to, in fact they built only around 50 before production stopped.
This example was originally supplied new to Japan where we bought it in 2010. In order to explain it's rust free condition, it's important to understand that in Japan, all roads are drained of water through the use of efficient concrete storm ditches (there are heavy rains at times from typhoons and Japan is 70% mountain terrain with forest, so safety is paramount). This means there is no mud & debris washed onto roads during storms, unlike what is commonly seen in Europe. Roads in Japan are also probably the best maintained worldwide, without potholes, mostly smooth surfaces with good grip, etc. Japan is also the country with the largest network of roads in the world for a given area.
No salt, grit or sand is laid on surfaces over winters in the most populated areas, as urban towns & cities are invariably built on lower plains, due to risk of earthquakes and consequential landslides that would be risked if building on mountain areas. Because roads are well designed and maintained in Japan, this means undersides of Japanese cars don't tend to be covered in electrolytic dirt and so when the underside gets wet in rain corrosion is much less likely to develop. Essentially the cars are washed by clean rain in Japan if they get wet and explains why cars used in Japan are typically completely rust free, including their undersides and all components. By contrast if you feel the inner arch of a car that's been on British roads for a decade or more, it will have corrugated dirt built up inside, which is electrolytic when wet and therefore corrosive. Corrosion to these Renaults was common in much of Europe, where they were road driven.
In keeping with the history of it's life in Japan this example, although rust proofed as new from the factory there remains no corrosion at all to the underside. As a car with some 58,000km when we bought it in 2010 it had been kept very original, but over the last years of it's life with it's owner hadn't be used due to illness. Intending to keep this rare car for ourselves and due to not having any access to parts in Japan, we sent it to the UK. The first thing we did was to completely replace the entire fuel system or have components overhauled where new parts are no longer available. The fuel tanks were removed and professionally cleaned and new components fitted, from pumps, custom made hoses, AN inline filters, warm up regulator right down to the tachometric relay.
We renewed all the ignition service items, leads, and also replaced old hoses with silicone replacements. Needless to say the entire car was checked over mechanically and extensively serviced, but it's notable that there was nothing we encountered that was seized at all, no broken bolts, etc. Even the brake calipers, although rebuilt, weren't corroded!
With the engine and mechanicals taken care of, fueling & boost set to factory specification it now started on the first turn of the key.
It's clear to see the original bodywork has been beautifully preserved. Bodywork & paint is all original and there is even an original but slightly faded sticker in the driver's door with a number stamped on that shows such originality. This car has never been in an accident nor had rust repairs!
Seats, steering wheel & even the gear knob are original too. Carpets had become stained and aged and like all Turbo II's the head lining had long since disintegrated, so we had new matching colour carpet & headlining professionally trimmed & fitted. The car came to us with the Devil exhaust fitted and Panasport 2 piece split rim wheels, but we felt it looked much better on Minilites of special deep-dish design, specified precisely for the Turbo II, so a new set were sourced whilst still available. Other modifications we've fitted have been a new fan for the front mounted radiator (With fan over-ride switch), a boost gauge to ensure it's running at correct (0.85 bar) boost and a fire extinguisher.
Going forward we would be tempted to put a 210 bhp fast-road cam in, but hesitate to modify the engine internals to keep the car as original as possible. Our intention would be to upgrade to John Price Rallying's coil over kit at each corner which we are reliably told would make the handling even better, to similar levels of road rally cars, but for the sake of keeping this car original we've resisted. It remains on original spec. torsion bars and shock absorbers.
For the last year or so, it's been UK registered & stored in a secure heated facility in Leicestershire when not in use but driven (sensibly) at least once a month in order to keep it in fine fettle, although it's not been used when there is salt on roads, nor rain.
We were forewarned that this cheeky Renault would get under our skin and that it most certainly has done, to the extent that we've become quite attached to it. From idle it has a menacing sound and it's not uncommon for people to come out for a look when the engine is started. It warms up well without temperament and water temperature setles at about 2/5 on the original gauge. Acceleration is brisk even by today's standards, with the engine's joy singing from just behind the driver's ears. A smile will crack on the occupant's faces the first time they hear the subdued popping that occurs on the over-run. It's always a temptation to keep it in at higher revs on the over-run just to revel in the sound. Handling has more roll than is typical for today's standards and the front lifts up whilst the rear squats on acceleration, but with double wishbones at each corner suspension remains well controlled and this is a car that can confidently be thrown at corners, without fear of sudden repercussions. If desired, it can be steered progressively from the rear with the use of throttle on corners and can be entertaining to hold sideways around a corner, but it's possibly too much to risk on an road for a car of this rarity and condition.
Since buying it in 2010, we've observed a handful of other Turbo II's for sale in Japan and today this by far is the best we have seen over 5 years. Although there have been a couple of good steel roofed TII's (both red), three others have been horribly corroded from having been sat outside, with cracks developing between the original metal and FRP joints on the rear arches (due to rust), cracks and damage to all the FRP. Their undersides had some corrosion too, which showed clear signs of neglect.
It's safe to say that the worst ones were complete restoration projects, something difficult given that most restoration parts are extremely hard to get hold of now - knowing first hand of the rarity of parts without inside knowledge of where to obtain, we were amazed at the strong prices these resto-projects fetched none the less.
As most were raced, modified, crashed, neglected and scrapped, it's estimated less than a handful of these last homologation examples exist. Of those, we believe this is the last original aluminium roofed Homologation example left that still has it's factory original bodywork. It's also fortunate that it was built in blue with the beige interior, as it's the best colour combination in our eyes. Red, white, Silver spring to mind as not nearly as beautiful. It has to be said that every time it's driven it attracts admiration and curiousity and in the shows it's been to in the summer we find that enthusiasts are driven away from exotica to take a closer look at the little but wide French car.
Price: £ P.O.A. Contact us if you're after the very best original Turbo II available. Hurry, if you're a serious collector because once this is gone it's irreplaceable.
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