ANY READER who travels in France must be familiar with the swift and audacious Renault 5 Alpine, the model which finished second and third on the 1978 Monte Carlo Rally and won Group 2 this year. Now it is on sale in Britain, but called “Renault 5 Gordini”. Price? £4,149.
Its 1,397 c.c., aluminium-headed, pushrod engine puts no less than 93 b.h.p. through the tiny front wheels via a five-speed gearbox, enough for a top speed of 110 m.p.h.
We had a brief acquaintance with a hardly run-in example in Oxfordshire and Berkshire recently. Acceleration through the gears was hampered by stiffness, but still very fast, the engine revving happily to an indicated 7,000 r.p.m. (though the tachometer is red lined at 6,200 r.p.m., maximum power is produced at 6,400 r.p.m.). It was very flexible from low revs, but really came on song above 4,500-5,000 r.p.m. A very noisy machine though, even at 70 m.p.h. in fifth, with a bad boom period at 4,500 r.p.m.
Tenacious grip and handling which could be influenced very much by the throttle (it tucked in strongly if the throttle was lifted in mid corner), much less roll than other 5s and the powerful 9 in. disc/7 in. drum brakes made for a fabulously entertaining car across country. But this was a tiring exercise, full use of torque making the rubbery, but responsive steering quite heavy. Quite an infernal device!