This Is The First Turbocharged French Hot Hatch: The Renault 5 Alpine Turbo
Story by Hugo Morin
Photography by Fabrice Berry
My name is Hugo Morin, I work for BMW in France, and have been a passionate vintage enthusiast for as long as I can recall. I began collecting and restoring mopeds and motorcycles before launching into cars, and today I am proud to share with you my 1983 Renault 5 Alpine Turbo. It has only traveled 85,000km (~52,816mi) since new, and it still drives as it was intended to when the odometer read zero.
My interest in cars started when I was a toddler, though I can’t remember the exact circumstances. I do remember my grandfather taking me to the Geneva Motor Show and me loving it at age four, so perhaps that’s a good place to begin. In that same year, and for many many since, another family member, my uncle, would take me to the races held at the Montlhéry Autodrome. And along with this dose of motorsport I also had some early exposure to fast French road cars, as my father owned two Renault 5 Turbos when I was growing up. It wasn’t only stuff from my home country though, and the uncle that took me to the races was a hardcore Porsche collector. It’s safe to say I grew up around exciting cars, and I’m happy to have been “infected” from such an early age.
When it came time for me to have some vehicles of my own, my lack of space saw my garage housing mopeds and motorcycles for a time (Solexes, Suzukis, Hondas mostly), but soon I had a place large enough to restore a car in, though the navy blue Renault I keep there hasn’t needed such an overhaul given its remarkable state of preservation. It’s not been touched in that regard, and still retains its original radio and spare wheel among everything else that makes a car “complete.” I have its full history free of gaps, all the way back to the factory.
The Renault was a childhood dream car of mine, and long before I had a license I pined for an R5 Alpine Turbo in blue. It took consistent and persistent searching of classifieds to finally come across this gem, which I couldn’t have been happier to make my own. This car, before the wide body homologation specials, was the first turbocharged hot hatch to come out of France, and it was a competitor with the other early icons like the VW GTI. I found my 1983 Turbo at Epoqu’Auto, a yearly show in Lyon, though it wasn’t technically present at the event. I was on the lookout for Renault Turbos of any type, and happened to see a countertop with some ads taped to it. One had a photo of this Alpine Turbo, and before I finished reading the description I knew this was the car I’d been looking for for so long. Luckily I was one of the first at the show, and I promptly took the ad and dialed the phone number.
It belonged to an older gentleman who happened to live just 20 minutes away from the venue, and the car was back at his home in the garage. He finished up some coffee with friends and then we left together to check out the Renault. It was funny to be leaving the event before most of the other people had arrived, and we passed a long line of arrivals as we made our way in the opposite direction. Soon we arrive and I’m doing laps around the car, trying to find fault. It was like new, as shown in the ad, and after stifling my excitement it didn’t take long for me to commit to becoming its next owner. At first we don’t talk price, just about our shared love for the car, and then once we’ve returned to the show I give him my offer. He came back with a slightly higher number, and I promptly agreed. I still see him, the previous owner, every year at the same show, and he’s happy that the car went to somebody who understood and loved it like he did.
It still gives me so much happiness, years after it stopped me in my tracks the first time. I love its shape, its color, its noise, its interior, everything. I’d cultivated my love for these cars such a long time ago, buying every magazine that was doing an article about them, looking at catalogs, and any kind of race reporting that involved Renault. It’s amazing to me still that I can now say one of them belongs to me.
Better yet, its navy blue paint and Sahara beige fabric are 100% original, as is the peppy 1.4-liter turbocharged inline-four. It’s not a very powerful car at a factory-rating of 110bhp, but it likes to rev and it’s still quite light, making it a lot of fun to take into the tight backroads. It’s a blast to toss around, and the experience of doing that on isolated windy roads more than makes up for the time spent on the highway. The gearbox can be a bit fuzzy-feeling at times, but overall it’s a very connected little car that offers a terrific noise to accompany any of the more spirited drives I take it on. I don’t regret my purchase even when I’m buzzing along on the highway in high gear, and there’s nothing I’d change on this car given the chance. I love it as it was, and thankfully this car is very much preserved after all these years.