Renault R5 Revisited
imperial67 Member Posts: 4
edited March 2014 in Renault
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
Geoff Fors, Monterey CA
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But to get the huge canvas sunroof,you had to buy the deluxe model,which made it a little pricy,and at the time I was really against "loaded" cars back then. Bought a new Citation for about the same money and kept it for 12 years...
Certainly Renault, a company with many years experience, could have designed a better, stronger and more accessible automobile.
Let's face it, it was a nuisance to own, and while there are other cars that are a nuisance, at least with most of them you got great performance or fabulous good looks. With an R5 all you got was the nuisance and a few "Awwww...how cute".
On behalf of all the tortured R5 owners who suffered under this car, (not you, fortunately!) good riddance to it. The car even had a bad reputation in France. It's the R4 that everyone there respected.
This is why people today are restoring XJs and Lambos and why R5s have long been turned into lawn furniture on Taiwan.
I'll probably get into big trouble for saying this, but I think Imperial is right about the head gasket issue. They gasked blew after the first overheat, and the reason so many were allowed to overheat was I believe (gulp) because the R5 was purchased and driven mostly by women who did not at the time have much car-consciousness as they do now, nor the instrumentation to help them. So the red zone in the temp gauge (or was it just one of those 50 lights across the dash that you were expected to memorize?) was merely the suggestion to "pull over sometime". Renault should have installed a factory whistle or air raid siren on the temp gauge to warn drivers, both men and women, that an overheat on an R5 was fatal----there was NO SLACK in these cars. A similar situation probably killed of the RX7 twin turbos ( I mean the "no slack" issue).
The inboard rear brakes on the XJ6 were real fun, too, and on some mid-engine Ferraris of the time you have to remove the engine to service it.
as the Lambo or XJ6 cost so very much more,of course they offered the car entheuist a lot. But compared to the "Opel by Izuzu" or Pinto,the Renault,even if not as long lasting,was a good car,Mazda GLC(was that one really good?)notwithstanding.
Torsion bar suspension was developed by Packard in 1955. It's an old design. Chrysler products used it long before REnault as well.
I can't imagine anyone restoring an R5 or paying more the $300 for one. I'm sure if there was a lucrative market for them in Europe someone in the US would be buying them up and shipping them over in container loads. I never have heard of such a thing from all my imported buddies, and I'm sure they'd be on it if it was a real market.
Geez, choosing between a Chevette, a Datsun B210 or an R5. It sounds like some kind of hell that car lovers are cast into.
I didn't know the idea went back as far as '36, that's interesting. Probably for the Citroen Traction Avant, right? I know Morris Minor had them in 1948, also the Citroen 2CV very early on, Porsche of course, Renault, DKW.
Of course, torsion bars have many different designs and uses and some worked better than others.
And I happen to think that's a good thing!
I would not say it didn't have some problems. The drum brakes wore out and were not replaceable; this lead to hand brake problems. Concerning the head gaskets blowing, if you replaced your coolant every two years, it was not an issue. They were hard to work on, but were much more complicated here than elsewhere, because it's hard to bring a small, carburated engine to smog compliance. The R1228 (75 to 79) had a 1300cc engine while the R1229 was beefed up with a 1400cc. That engine was used in the R5 TS, the really sporty version in Europe, but here, after the addition of the antipollution devices, it was barely adequate. I never paid $300 for a water pump, they were available at any part store. I agree with the fact it was hard to find a good mechanic. The dilemma was that you had a very cheap car, with mechanics that commended BMW prices. Many an R5 was sent prematurely to the junkyard because the ownerbalked at the price of new clutch. The later edition, BTW, had a bearing at the end of the camshaft which required a special puller to remove.
I sold our R5 3 months ago. The engine in it at 200000 miles and the car about 160000. It no longer was safe as a daily driver after being thrown against the sidewalk while parked. In addition, the machine shop botched the intake valve angles which had made idle problematic.
There is another thing that this discussion completely missed about the R5: they were fun cars. Not powerful, but fun.
The French are very chauvinistic about their native cars, so I'm not surprised they would be popular in France.
Far from me to deny that most people who bought them had problems. However, in my mind, it was due more to circumstances beyond the car design itself. The fact that they were available at a low prices made it a great car to have if you knew how to maintain it. As recently as 2 1/2 years ago I drove our R5 from LA to Gallup and back.
I must say, though, that an R5 would keep even a very good mechanic very busy, much less a clueless owner who bought an R5 because it was "cute". Had the R5 looked like a sports car, it might have fallen into more capable hands, but as it was, most cars went to young women, most of whom were not very good do it yourselfers, to be further preyed upon by unscroupulous or talentless Frenchmen and Italians with 25 scrapped R5s in the back 40.
I am not saying that your comments about mechanics was unjustified, although a worse case scenario was your friendly corner gas station mechanic.
Fact is, the car is despised in America and I don't think people are just making these stories up, so I'll have to respect public opinion in this case as the rule rather than the exception since the Nays are so overwhelmingly ahead of the Yeas.
I don't always follow the herd regarding car opinions, by any means, but in this case I believe the R5 really was a pretty bad car for most owners and I'm going to continue to recommend that people stay away from them. (That's better for you, of course, because then you get your pick!)
As for owning one now, getting parts is near impossible thanks to Chrysler. If you read what I wrote, we "sold" ours a few months ago to a collector.
"collecting" R5s makes me want to smile. "Collecting" in the back yard seems more suitable.
However, all kidding aside, the R5 was fun to drive and an efficiently designed package. But under no circumstance should an automaker allow their customers to take on the role of the R&D department. If a Renault can't hold a head gasket in the US, and it seems like few of them could, then the car is surely at fault for this.
But I agree with you, things like parts distribution and lack of service facilities are not the car's fault, even though they contribute to the car's downfall and bad reputation.
Now, I firmly believe this!
You also have the tendency to be very US-centric, he you forgive the expression. The R5 was sold pretty much worldwide, including, nearby, in Mexico. When it was introduced in the US, in 1975, the car already had several production years below its bumpers. Renault sold it here because it was its best selling model. By then R&D had long been over.
My point was that calling himself a "collector" seemed rather pretentious in the case of such a car as the R5. It just struck me as odd since I am used to the term being used as in "collecting fine things", that is, a connoiseur of something.
But in reality that is true, one can "collect" whatever one wishes--Hummels, leaves, marbles, manhole covers etc. Like Isell says, "one can collect anything". I stand corrected!
The LeCar did make the "Ten Worst Cars of the Milennium" List on a popular write-in vote-- but didn't win, so that's something: the Yugo took top honors.
Personally, I can't think of too many worse cars, but that's only my opinion.
What could be worse than a Renault? Yugos? Lancias?
Anyway, I like Renaults. I even have a pair of genuine Dauphine cufflinks, which I may sell on Ebay once the Dauphine market picks up...maybe around the year 2050 or so.
The next time you buy a used car for $400 and put over 100,000 miles on it (only one major repair: head gasket on original engine at about 145,0000), before reselling it, then please tell me about it.
You have had incredible luck with a car that wasn't known for reliability.
My point was...and I probably did a poor job of stating it is, no matter how bad a car's reputation, some people will still like these cars and will somehow avoid the normal problems associated with them.
Kinda like walking in a rainstorm and not getting wet.
Which is great, if you have the skills and patience to keep an R5 going. Most people are greatly disappointed when they buy an R5. You can't see that much "flak" about a car without something behind it that's true...where there's smoke, there's an R5.
I buy cars all the time that nobody else wants or can't fix. I've owned just about every "bad" car you can name and gotten good service out of it. How many people you know drove an MGB cross-country without a "burp"?. But I have access to parts and information, a lift, and a very large toolbox. I didn't "avoid" the problems with these bad cars, I anticipated them and/or fixed them.
I almost bought an R5 about two years ago for $200 for use as a "dock car" but it got towed away by the city of San Francisco same day I came to pick it up, and between the towing charges and parking tickets owed on it, it wasn't worth the $525 to me.
One problem is that most surviving R5s are beaters.
If you found a low mileage well-maintained R5, you might have a chance. I'd buy one if I saw a car like that and it was cheap.
But quite frankly, if you encourage people to buy R5s on the premise that they are really great, trouble-free cars and that their reputation is spurious, I think you would be doing people a bad turn, IMO.
What I said is that through the 80s and early 90s you could find one for very little money and get a reliable daily driver if you care to maintain it. My brother-in-law, before I knew him, did just that.
This comes from a guy (me) that owned two Peugeots!
These are TOUGH, rugged cars that hold a lot and they have seats that are the most comfortable you will ever sit in.
But, yeah, strange, oddball cars. It took about a four step procedure just to turn the head lights on as I recall.
The 504 was the best model they made, IMO. They ride great, run forever if cared for, and are quite comfortable, economical, and utterly worthless if you need to buy a parts car. Nothing rides as well, not even a Benz or BMW of that era.
What you have to get used to with French cars is that odd combination of excellent handling but LOTS of body roll.
You're right. The shops HATE working on them and very few (if any, anymore) will.
Even the oil drain plug requred some bizarre wrench.
I think in France a Peugeot would be just as reliable as a Volvo, as long as you stay away from a) turbos and b) the not-so-good models, like the...was it....604? Of course Volvo made bad cars, too, like their diesel and their own 164 and 264 series....
So you know, it depends on what models you compare to what models. The newer compact and subcompact Peugeot turbo diesels are fabulous little cars to drive but I have no idea about how they hold up.
There was a guy around here who specialized in them and had a pretty captive market. He pulled no punches and he would give stern lectures to abusive owners. If the abuse or neglect was severe, we would simply refuse their business.
I remember he once told me, that a well maintained Peugeot Diesel could easily go 300,000 miles an more but the average owner would "kill" them in about 150,000 miles.
My buddy bought a 604 Turbo Diesel new and drove it withou major incident for something like 230,000 miles. he dumped it when the heater core started leaking...I think it called for 14 hours of miserable labor plus parts!
The guy next to me could fix any of those, "funny fogiun cars" as people in southern Virginia used to call them. He pronounced thew wagon DOA after he saw what part has failed. You just couldn't get them in the US anymore.
How can a company in the US import such a vehicle? It has supper off-road and on-road characteristics by the use of a switch (on/off). When it is ‘on’ all the AWD and front and rear suspension are affected electronically.