Although the Renault 5 made its first appearance in January 1972, it took another four years for the Régie to offer it a sports version. The R5 Alpine was marketed in March 1976, and opens a new path for the Diamond manufacturer: that of the small bombinettes after the Gordini era of the 1960s. More generally, the small Renault is part of a European movement that consists in making sports versions on the basis of popular models. 1976 will also be that of the launch of the Golf 1 GTI. For those who grew up with and in the R5, finding this emblematic model is a real pleasure. The 5 Alpine, Alpine Turbo and especially the extravagant 5 Turbo fueled my passion for cars with the essential monsters of the 70-80 era, Countach and F40 in mind.
But let’s go back to our 5 Alpine, because we have the possibility to pick up the version belonging to the Renault Classic collection. This is a Phase 1 which dates back to 1978 and appears in immaculate condition after the refurbishment. It includes some changes that arrived the year before, such as the rear windows ajar and the Bobine rims that replace the Fergat. The 5 Alpine differs from the classic R5 obviously for its rims, but also for its California mirrors and its red borders with A5 logos. The lowered front bumper, which incorporates the fog lights, confirms the sporty appearance and also improves the high-speed stability of the small tricolor racing car.
Vibration seventies on board
The interior is of the same type after a careful renovation. The red upholstery of the era, the front seats with integrated headrests in the backrest (those of the R5 TS) and the padded roof lining smell nice seventies. The fine and refined dashboard is definitely dressed in some black plastic cheap, but we don’t care. All is forgiven at the sight of the superb three-spoke Iso-Delta steering wheel, which advantageously replaced the bland rim of the Renault 14 seen on the first models. Last specificity of the 5 Alpine: the spare wheel takes refuge in the trunk since there is no more space under the hood due to the new engine and its bulkier air filter. The engine in fact, it’s time to wake it up!
At the wheel of the R5 Alpine
The small French sports car does not bear his name by chance. The 5 Alpine, based on a 64 HP 5 TS, comes out of the Dieppe factory with a number of modifications to gain temperament. Thus, the engine sees its displacement increased to 1,397 cm3. It is also equipped with a hemispherical cylinder head, specific pistons and a revised exhaust manifold. Power reaches a peak of 93 HP, while the chassis is sharpened with the engagement of anti-roll bars, new shock absorbers and R12 brake discs at the front (the drums are kept at the rear for a matter of cost).
What sets you apart when you sit aboard the 5 Alpine is the comfort of the seats and the peripheral visibility offered by the thin struts of the body (we don’t know that anymore). The dashboard of this stage 1 stands out for its welcome simplicity, but still lacks an oil pressure gauge and a water temperature gauge at the instrument panel level. Incredible on a sporty model. We also wonder why the steering wheel is tilted so forward. In an Estafette it’s fine, but not here. However, we will not hide our pleasure, because the Alpine 5 is eaten like a sour candy : Once you get started, you don’t want it to stop. It must be said that you don’t get bored driving this bombinette traction. We live with the mechanics, we vibrate with the body and we appreciate the homogeneity of the whole.
The small suggestive four-cylinder with double-barrel Weber carburetor shows a furious character, taking advantage of the lightness of the car (850 kg) to take turns without complaining. But don’t expect a kick in the butt at the throttle depression (there will be the 5 Alpine Turbo in 1981 for that), and performance is ultimately unspecified. Once you have accepted the roll when cornering, you gain confidence and notice that the car fits well on its small 13-inch wheels that bravely cling to the required trajectory. The easy-to-dose brakes are a pleasant surprise, not the steering. A bit heavy in the corners, “lorry-like” in maneuvers, it also has a lot to do with the lazy front end when changing course.
The control of the badly driven box (especially 5-4) also indicates the rank of faults that today we forgive this GTI granny, because now we prefer to drive her with love rather than beat the drums. It must be said that this 5 Alpine has become a “must have” of the youth movement. We will no longer ask him for the moon or repeat the match with a Golf 1 GTI, against which the French had not made the weight due to a less successful design. As a former owner of the Golf 1 GTI, there is a world between these two cars. We will also have to wait for the Peugeot 205 GTI (1984) and Superfive GT Turbo (1985) for a tricolor bombinette to make the German waver.
And today ?
What remains today of this heritage of the 5 Alpines at Renault? It’s fast: nothing. The Clio RS died out with the fourth generation of the model (2012-2020), ending the era of small thermal bombs in the Renault catalog. The latest Clio 5, which we brought to this photo shoot, still peaks at 140hp. However, nothing compares, if not its Valencia orange color which takes up the bright colors of the first R5. Finally, there is indeed a Clio 5 RS Line in the range, but it’s just a finish that has no sporting pretensions.
The following ? It is electric, as the future R5 E-Tech will have a sporty version which should be called Alpine A5. The story begins again. We wish the Renault developers to find the magic recipe that will make you love an electric sports car as well as a “record” from 0 to 100 km / h that does not interest us, because it is neither the reflection of a mechanical character nor the expression of communion with the car. An alchemy that the 5 Alpini were able to achieve in his own time.
Find a Renault 5 Alpine
The saga of the 5 Alpines (and the 5 Alpine Turbos that took over in 1981) has marked an entire generation of fans of small sports cars. And it is to be believed that these motorists have worn these bombins, because there is not much left on the second-hand market. However, about 56,000 Alpine R5s were produced between phase 1 (1976-1979) and phase 2 (1979-1981), which were distinguished by a more modern dashboard and “petal” front seats. Obviously the rust, a real scourge for the bodies of the time, also passed through this and sent many models to landfills.
Result: There are very few Alpine 5s on the second-hand market. Between the € 2,000 model on which everything needs to be redone, as long as the leotard generally in lace is recovered, and the offer at € 20,000-25,000 for a version in perfect condition with history and expertise, the gap is high. The little French bombinette therefore does not run away the inflationary madness affecting the youth sector. It is well-deserved but off-putting to many aficionados. As for our 5 Alpine phase 1, it is not for sale. It remains hot in the Renault Classic collection, because there are not many left in such a state of preservation.
|Renault 5 Alpine (1976-1981)|
|Motor||4 cylinders in line, carburetor|
|Power||93 hp at 6,400 rpm|
|Couple||118 Nm at 4000 rpm|
|Transmission||to the front wheels|
|Adapter||mechanical, 5 gears|
|Weight unloaded||850 kg|
|0 to 100 km / h||n / a|
|maximum speed||175 km / h|
|Price of the new in 1976||32,000 francs|
|Price used||From € 2,000 to € 25,000 depending on conditions|
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