I just ran across the now-expired thread about the Renault R-5. Having inherited a '76 R5 and putting 188,000 miles on it over 22 years, as well as having experience with dozens of other cars, from Fords to Lamborghinis, makes me qualified to comment ! The main problem with the Renault was a lack of competent mechanics in this country and a "couldn't care less" dealer network which didn't want to be bothered learning the car or the replacement parts system. It's French, and it required a whole new way of thinking about its repair. The R5 did not have head gasket problems. Nor did they have rust problems, at least in coastal California. Parts were scarce and expensive ($ 300 for a water pump !) but it was a reasonably well designed car. It used a timing chain, rather than a rubber band as its competition did. It had a number of minor bugs in the electrical system which were easily overcome. It required super grade fuel and even pinged on that, unless the timing was retarded more than factory specs. Yes, they were ugly, but there are even more hideous 2003 model cars by GM and the Japanese on the streets. At least my R5 didn't have the unbearable "LeCar" logo on the doors ! The Achilles' heel of the R-5 was the camshaft, which drove the accessory belts. Replacing the transaxle required removing the pulley from the end of the cam, and using an impact wrench would crack or shatter the camshaft hub at the pulley end(ever seen an engine running with the belts all stopped ?). Many a hapless mechanic finished off an R5 this way. All in all, the problems the R5 had were no more significant than modern cars costing twice as much (example-take a look at Ford Taurus 3.8L complaints on the web, or the Cadillac variable cylinder 8/6/4 engines, or the Oldsmobile diesel cars of the 1980's). The R-5 could carry more stuff than a full sized American sedan, and long items could stick out the sunroof. Would I want another one ? No way, but it was really just a car which got a lot of bad press and incompetent mechanical service from ignorant people.
Geoff Fors, Monterey CA