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Renault 5 GT Turbo buying guide (1985-1991)

Renault 5 GT Turbo buying guide (1985-1991) Renault 5 GT Turbo buying guide (1985-1991) Renault 5 GT Turbo buying guide (1985-1991) Renault 5 GT Turbo buying guide (1985-1991) Renault 5 GT Turbo buying guide (1985-1991) Renault 5 GT Turbo buying guide (1985-1991) There was a whole raft of trends in the 1980s, including turbocharging and hot hatches. But surprisingly, the two rarely overlapped because boosted engines were generally reserved for bigger machinery than these so-called ‘pocket rockets’.

So while the 205 GTi, Golf GTi and Escort XR3i were normally aspirated (although there was an Escort RS Turbo of course), it was left to the Renault 5 GT Turbo to carry the turbocharging flag in what was a fiercely fought segment by the time it arrived in 1985. Renault already had a significant track record when it came to turbocharged road cars by the time the GT Turbo was launched, and while the car still suffered from noticeable lag, it was still seriously quick – especially when the wick was turned up.

It helped that the GT Turbo was so light; its featherweight bodyshell helped it to tip the scales at just 830kg, aiding agility and ensuring that every drive was a blast. Even now the GT Turbo is a quick car and you’ll still have plenty of fun in one – if you can find a really good example.

Which one to buy?

If you can go for a Phase 2 rather than a Phase 1 you’re likely to enjoy a greater degree of reliability, but the hot starting problems of earlier cars can largely be alleviated by fitting one of other of the various kits available.

However, the reality is that the GT Turbo you buy should be the first really good one you can find – and the chances are you’ll look at quite a few heaps before you find something worth buying.

Many of the GT Turbos out there have been crashed at some point and a lot of them have been badly repaired. Your mission is to find one that’s not been crashed, hasn’t been butchered either and is as close to factory spec as you can get. GT Turbo buyers now want originality, so if you can find an unmolested GT Turbo of any vintage, that should be the one you snap up.

Performance and spec

Engine 1397cc, four-cylinder
Power 120bhp @ 5750rpm
Torque 122lb ft @ 3750rpm
Top speed 123mph
0-60mph 7.1sec
Consumption 25mpg
Gearbox Five-speed manual

Common problems

• Corrosion isn’t normally too much of an issue on a GT Turbo that hasn’t been crashed. The rustproofing was OK so rust isn’t guaranteed, but it’s likely that the sills will need some TLC if they haven’t had some already. Also check the rear wheelarches, tailgate edges, doors and screen surrounds, just in case things have started to bubble.

• The Phase 1 cars got a grey bodykit while it was colour-coded for Phase 2 cars. Many earlier cars have had their bodykits painted to match the rest of the car, so these grey panels are now very hard to find.

• The 1.4-litre engine has a reputation for fragility, but that’s largely because in period many owners tuned them too highly or didn’t improve the fuelling to go with the increased boost pressures. Lean running, detonation then a failed gasket were the result, but 180bhp is easy to coax reliably from this powerplant.

• There’s no fuel injection here; instead there’s a Solex carb, so make sure the engine idles happily and that there isn’t loads of exhaust smoke as the car is accelerated through the gears.

• Ensure that as the engine is idles, the electric cooling fan cuts in. Also look for evidence of the head gasket having failed, as this is far from uncommon.

• Gearboxes are strong and clutches are usually reliable too, but the automatic cable adjuster for the latter can be an issue. Some owners fit a (stronger) Volvo 480 clutch, but a longer actuating arm needs to be fitted or the action is too sharp for road use.

• Most GT Turbos have had their suspension lowered, which is a good thing if done properly. You’re looking for yellow Koni dampers, plus a strut brace up front. Creaks from the rear suspension betray tired bushes, but they’re easy enough to replace.

• The brakes are okay but nothing special, so if you plan to make use of the GT Turbo’s available performance see if the anchors have been upgraded – few cars still sport their original system.

• Interiors are fragile, especially the seat trims which wear through, split and tear. You’ll be doing well to find a decent set of used seats – and if you do you can expect to pay plenty for it.

• You’ll also be doing well to find a dashboard that hasn’t had holes drilled in it, a parcel shelf that hasn’t had holes cut in it and a gearknob that still has all of its numbers showing as they wear away. It’s these details that can really bump up the value of a GT Turbo – and don’t under-estimate the difficulty of tracking down any decent used parts.

Model history

1985: The Renault 5 GT Turbo goes on sale with a 1397cc engine boosted by a Garrett T2 turbocharger.
1986: The GT Turbo gets a water-cooled turbocharger for improved reliability.
1988: Phase 2 GT Turbo features a new grille, a fresh alloy wheel design, revised cooling system and adjustments to the front suspension to improve tyre life.
1990: Raider special edition comes only with blue paint with unique seat trim. Production totals 1000.
1991: The last GT Turbos are built.

Key clubs and websites

• rtoc.org
• www.renault5gtturbo.com
• turborenault.co.uk

Summary and prices

The chances are, you’ve been lusting after a Renault 5 GT Turbo since they were new, like many other people. So many cars have been lost to insurance write-offs or poor tuning however, and demand for original cars far outstrips supply – making them a pricy business.

Prices range from around £2000-£4000 for cars in varying states. You’ll need at least £6000 for a mint example, although exceptional cars at a dealer could cost in excess of £10,000.

Words: Richard Dredge
Renault 5 GT Turbo buying guide (1985-1991) Renault 5 GT Turbo buying guide (1985-1991) Renault 5 GT Turbo buying guide (1985-1991) Renault 5 GT Turbo buying guide (1985-1991) Renault 5 GT Turbo buying guide (1985-1991) Renault 5 GT Turbo buying guide (1985-1991)
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