Transformation level: 9000

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There are moments when a carmaker’s ambitions go way beyond its financial or technological powers. But in pursuing said ambitions, only a select few companies managed to overcome any difficulties and deliver amazing car.

Take Renault, for example. Back in the late 70s and early 80s, the French firm simply couldn’t afford to fully develop a rally race car from the ground up. So it had to work with what it had, in this case the humble Renault 5, which through massive modding gave the raucous Renault R5 Turbo.

The Renault R5 - A Legendary Hatchback You Probably Forgot All About
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This is perhaps one of the most spectacular transformations in the car world.

Forget about how the Mercedes-Benz G-Class beat its condition as a military vehicle and went on to epitomize wealth and luxury - as well as performance, in AMG G 63 guise. The Renault R5 Turbo homologation car and the run-of-the-mill supermini it was based on were basically opposites as far as drive and engine layout went. And somehow, Renault pulled it off.

To begin with, the Renault 5 was front-wheel-driven. It also had the engine in the front. The Renault R5 Turbo, however, was mid-engined and rear-wheel-driven. Can you spot the huge gap? Well, it comes from a time when creativity and engineering madness were allowed to roam free inside a carmaker’s facilities to a far greater extent than today.

The Renault R5 - A Legendary Hatchback You Probably Forgot All About
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So what Renault did was delete the 5’s rear seats and plunk a 1.4-liter four-cylinder in there, after adding 10 more inches to the car’s rear track. The engine mated to a five-speed manual transmission which spun the rear wheels. With the engine in the back, the 5 could also receive a tubular frame for extra stiffness and better safety credentials.

The Renault R5 - A Legendary Hatchback You Probably Forgot All About
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That was not stock engine, though. It now had a turbo, new carburetors, and new fuel injectors. An intercooler was also cleverly hidden in the signature fender flares. Power went up to 160 horsepower, and torque was about 163 pound-feet. More powerful versions turned into out-and-out race cars could deliver as much as 250 horsepower, with the Maxi Turbo topping the ranks with 350 horsepower.

The Renault R5 Turbo has a very enticing story, nicely told by Jason Cammisa in the video below:

Tudor Rus
Assistant Content Manager - Automotive Expert - tudor@topspeed.com
Tudor’s first encounter with cars took place when he was only a child. Back then, his father brought home a Trabant 601 Kombi and a few years later, a Wartburg 353. At that time, he was too young to know how they worked and way too young to drive them, but he could see one thing – each of them had a different ethos and their own unique personality. As time went on, he started seeing that in other cars as well, and his love for the automobile was born.  Read More
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