The industrial roots of Torrance, CA, give it a feel that’s more Cleveland than Santa Monica. So imagine my surprise when I spotted this Renault Turbo II parked against the curb on the corner of Satori and Arlington Avenues. I’ve found a number of Curbside Classics in this area, but I typically spot American iron built-in the sixties or seventies, rather than an European homologation special from the eighties.
While most of us probably recall the existence of the Renault Turbo, I know I’d forgotten the specifics of this particular model. A quick Google search reminded me that the full name of this model is the Renault R5 Turbo II. The R5 Turbo had been built to compete in the European Rally circuit, and shared a body shell and engine with the R5 econobox. However, to better compete, Renault placed the powertrain behind the driver to create a mid-engine drive line, and turbocharged the base 1397 cc motor to create 158 horsepower and 163 foot pounds of torque. This engine has the same pushrod hemi head as the R5 Alpine/Gordini.
The tuning house Alpine assembled the first 400 R5 Turbos specifically for the rally circuit, and these cars included multiple modifications including an aluminum hood and roof and race grade interior.The racing versions had their power upped steadily over a number of years, as much as 345 hp in the 1984 R5 Maxi Turbo.
The R5 Turbo won the Monte Carlo Rally on its first outing in 1981. It added a number of other victories, but its rallying career was cut short when the new Group 4 four wheel drive cars appeared, and were faster in the dirt and gravel.
Renault also built a street version called the Turbo II, which is what our featured car is. This simplified version was built in the Renault factory. It used all steel body panels with standard seats and dashboard, but packed the same turbo powertrain as the full rally version. It was capable of a 200 kmh (120 mph) top speed and the dash from 0-100 km (0-61 mph) in 6.9 seconds. This was pretty seriously fast for the early eighties. Some 3,576 R5 Turbos were built between 1980 and 1984.