Although it came along at a bargain price and I really do like my ‘83 Renault 5TL, it’s not quite what I wanted. Oh sure, I did want a R5 but what I actually envisioned was the purity of the very first Renault 5’s as they were when launched in 1972. Where my ‘83 model has been softened and made plusher for the more demanding buyers of the 1980’s, the original R5 was a study in minimalism with huge swathes of painted metal inside, rubber mats covering the foot wells and that wonderfully quirky umbrella gearshift sticking out of the dash, a feature which disappeared little more than a year after the car hit the market. My perfect Renault five would be one of these early ones, in bright orange with the classic pale grey bumpers, just like the brochure picture above depicts. Well, now I have my wish… sort of…
When I was told of the existence of this early R5, from the description given, I had envisioned a mouldering wreck which if I was lucky, might yield a few parts with which I could attempt to make my ‘83 model look a bit older. When I first clapped eyes on it, I could hardly believe what I was seeing! Orange! Pale grey bumpers! Dash gearshift! There it was…my perfect R5! I could barely get the £50 handed over fast enough!
Right away i knew this was no parts donor. One way or another this car had to live again. Early R5’s like this are mega rare now and the chances of getting a good one are slim but the chances of getting one the fits my idea of R5 perfection so throughroughly is almost non-existent. It was clear to see that the car had been stood, untouched for a very long time.. long enough for mother nature to do her worst with the frail 70’s sheet metal. Gaping rust holes abound and it’s just as bad underneath.
The car is a 1973 5TL with a 956cc engine and four speed. I was surprised to see it had disc brakes on the front as everywhere else it’s very spartan and low spec. The car was actually languishing behind a very long established Renault dealer, who it turns out had sold this very car new. The original owner had his own cherished registration number “5 DKE” ,which was applied to this car when it was new. This number was transferred to the R5’s replacement at some point, after which the R5 was abandoned, minus it’s new registration plates, assuming some were even issued. Over the subsequent years the documents and keys have gone missing but after following a bit of a paper-trail, I have managed to find out not only the key numbers, but also the old owners details and it would appear the person still resides at the same address so I may well be able to find a little more about the car and acquire the relevant registration documents.
After getting the car home, the first job was the clean off the many years of accumulated moss, slime and lichen that had made the 5 it’s home and assess the state of it. Sure, it’s rusty… really, really rusty, but the interior and all the fitting, trim and running gear is all complete and in fairly good order. The back rest of the rear seat has been swapped with one from another model at some point but the rest of the inside is actually pretty good. After a little tinkering the engine sprang back to life and sounded quite healthy so the 43,119 miles showing on the odometer may actually be genuine.
I adore the interior design of these early 5’s. They are pretty unique looking with a beautiful, stylish simplicity to all of the controls and instruments. It’s easy to forget what a pioneering car the R5 was in 1972… a super-mini hatchback. many were to copy this basic concept which now forms the basis of the European small car market.
Eeek!! BIG rust!! At first I wondered whether the car could be re-shelled using the fairly solid body of my ‘83 model but on closer inspection, the differences in the designs of the pressing are many… too many for my liking. I could probably make it look right from the outside but it’d never be a proper early R5, so I’ve now accepted that at some point in the future I’m going to be spending a great deal of time in the company of my MIG welder. It’ll be a while before I touch this car as I already have the Violet SSS and my Sunny Truck to finish as well as the myriad of other jobs I already have lined up, but I have to say, I’ve never been so pleased with a £50 heap of rust as I am with this one!