This past Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and just over a month ago, I ventured to Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood to watch a movie at the historic Harper Theater with a close friend and her grade school-aged daughter. This was my first time venturing to that part of the south side using public transportation exclusively, but it proved to be a cinch. I took the Red Line south from my neighborhood of Edgewater to the Harrison stop downtown near Columbia College, then transferred to the No. 6 Jackson Park Express bus. This bus then took me within just a few blocks of the restaurant near the theater where I was meeting Adrienne and her daughter.
They were already seated at the table about five minutes before I showed up. What they didn’t know was the reason I was a few minutes late, which was our featured car. Taking purposeful strides westward on East 53rd Street toward the restaurant, I was stopped dead in my tracks by this appliance-white Alliance. This is probably the first (presumably) running Renault Alliance I’ve probably seen in the wild in, literally, fifteen years, and it looked like it was in pretty good shape, save for a little rust at the bottom of the rear quarter panel.
I wondered, as I walked around the car snapping just a few photos with my phone (I had left my camera at home, as it was drizzling that day), if the owner had to get out and push it to make it go in reverse, as did my first piano teacher. That poor woman… Mrs. Eich had to deal with both my initial refusal to practice my scales and a lightly-used example of a former Motor Trend “Car Of The Year” that wouldn’t back up properly.
The year after the Kenosha-built, Renault 9-based Alliance was introduced, an also-American (Motors)-ized Renault 11 hatchback version was introduced as the “Encore”. Our family had an ’85 Encore, which we really liked. That car was as basic as it got, with an automatic transmission (so Mom could drive it) and a rear-window defogger as its only options. It didn’t even have an AM radio, but it was responsive, fun to drive, got phenomenal gas mileage, and was noticeably more reliable and quicker than the ’84 Ford Tempo GL sedan my parents bought new, which served as our regular family car.
Our Encore is pictured above on the right, photobombing this shot my mom had taken in the fall of ’89 of me in the driver’s seat of a ’75 AMC Matador coupe I had wanted to buy for $400. I passed on the Matador, as it needed a ring job and smoked a little, but I loved its styling, inside and out, even if I didn’t care for the white, vinyl roof. (Imagine a swoopy coupe like this coming from the factory with both a landau roof and dog-dish hubcaps!) I did end up purchasing a ’76 Malibu Classic coupe in this same shade of tan which, compared with the Matador, probably saved me from a lot of teenage ridicule I would have experienced otherwise.
I guess what I like the most about this particular Alliance is that it seems to have, literally, found an “encore” by its very existence, just by outlasting just about every other example of its kind out there. Let’s face it – even though its execution and build quality were far less than perfect, this car’s basic design was a good one, and decent enough to merit introduction of its hatchback derivative in the United States. As for our featured Alliance, I quote a refrain sung by the great Cheryl Lynn from around the time it was new: “You deserve an encore.” Indeed.
Hyde Park, Chicago, Illinois.
Monday, January 16, 2017.
Related reading from:
- Vanilladude: My Holy Alliance With The Franco-American Motors Renault Alliance;
- Jeff Nelson: Curbside Classic: 1986 Renault Alliance – Patina Royale; and
- David Saunders: Curbside Classic: 1987 Renault GTA – An Alliance Of A Different Stripe.