Amazing Renault R5 Maxi Turbo reminds me of turbo-days gone by

posted on - 05/07/2013 12:35

The Renault R5 Maxi Turbo is a wide 'n' wild race car legendJust look at this Renault R5 Maxi Turbo. Isn't it gorgeous? This is the ultimate Renault 5 turbocharged competition car and it will be on display on a packed – with racing goodies new and old – Renault stand at next week's Goodwood Festival of Speed. And while a real-deal Maxi Turbo would cost £50,000 and more these days, a canny buyer can still find a road-going cousin of this wide-arch track and rally monster to enjoy on the road. The Renault 5 GT Turbo.

Priced at around £5,000 for a nice one on the used market, the GT Turbo is an 80s hot hatch hero easily on a par with the MK1 Golf GTI and Peugeot 205 GTI. But, the GT Turbo always has the edge in my book. I am biassed – I owned a pretty hot one.

I found my GT Turbo in early 2002, languishing in Chelsea, London, with a blown turbo and a dent on pretty much every body panel. It looked like a black golf ball when I first clapped eyes on it! However, it was cheap, nicely original and had a low engine miles despite that knackered turbo. Original GT Turbos were getting hard to find even back then, so I went about modifying it with serious speedy intent.

BB Performance Tuning were the GT Turbo tuning gods at this time, based in Colchester, Essex, and with the sort of stacks of tuning knowledge and aftermarket parts that made a GT Turbo owners go weak at the knees, and light in the wallet!

A new hybrid turbo was fitted, a beefier clutch, the carburettor re-jetted to feed the now thirstier engine, plus a wealth of parts to handle the extra go-go. Bigger brakes, coilover suspension and sticky tyres wrapping bigger 15-inch lightweight alloy wheels. The Renault 5 GT Turbo came with 120bhp from its 1.4-litre, 4-cylinder, push-rod petrol engine from the factory, but mine had 170bhp when we'd finished with it. Not a huge amount of power by today's standard, perhaps, but remember this was before the days of extreme vehicle safety adding kilo upon kilo to a car's weight, and the GT Turbo tipped the scales at just 850kg. A turbocharged biscuit tin, if you will And with that sticky new chassis set up and powerful brakes, this 170bhp flying Frenchie was quite a force to be reckoned with. Especially in the bends where it changed direction like a bat on the hunt.

The term go-kart-like handling is perhaps over used these days, but with its bespoke coilover suspension and Toyo super-soft rubber, my GT Turbo really did attack the apex. It would understeer a little if really pushed, but then a quick back-off the throttle would have the rear end immediately stepping back on to my racing line of choice.

By the time it was running with this much power it had also been repainted in original deep-black, over the original uprated factory body kit parts, and it looked, well, it looked the business. And it had the power-walk to back up its low and hunkered talk.

So, what next for this very-well-sorted GT Turbo? Well, as my infatuation for modifying cars was probably a little out of control at the time, I then set about installing a huge stereo in the car. It looked amazing in its custom-made fibreglass install – a 12-inch subwoofer and two big amplifiers to power it all - and was about as loud as a decent earthquake. But, it was heavy. And the extreme weight of the install turned the corner-king GT Turbo into a wayward-from-the-rear oversteer scare-machine. Oh dear. Lesson learnt on that one – if it was broke and you fixed it, don't break it again!

Posted by Sebastian TurkenburgADNFCR-3205-ID-801608607-ADNFCR