France Sportive – 1978 Renault LeCar

It’s been a while since I’ve exposed anybody guilty of selling a French car to the unknowing public, but here’s an opportunity that was just too good to pass up (and not in the ironic sense, either). As mentioned here in the past, Renault 5s, which got the goofy but memorable LeCar name in North America, were a sales success in many parts of the world, but didn’t do so well here. They packed a remarkable amount of room into a small footprint, and their front-drive hatchback format preceded the Golf/Rabbit by a couple of years. And just as with the Golf and other competing small cars, people found ways to turn them into little rockets. Today’s LeCar, which the owner refers to as an R5 GTL, is available in San Francisco, CA for the low, low price of $1700.

1978 Renault LeCar left rear

We don’t talk about stance too much here, but this car has it down (ha!). It appears to have many factory and aftermarket sports parts, including Dial R5 Turbo wheels, sports mirrors, and lowered suspension including Archer anti-roll bars and KYB shocks. It’s always been garage kept as well, which suggests that all plastics and rubber surfaces should be in good shape. Notice the twin tail pipes.

1978 Renault LeCar right front

LeCars were SCCA raced, so I guess it shouldn’t be so surprising there are some modified examples out there, but the only ones usually for sale are stock. As with the last LeCar, however, this one is not in running condition. While it has had a recent (recent in miles or in years?) timing chain, water pump, and clutch, seller says it needs engine work, without describing the issue, and the car seems to have lost all its smog equipment. He suggests you may get a DMV waiver – this is indeed a rare car here, so can anybody provide input on how this is done? You will also need new tires since it sits on Pirelli P3s, and probably the usual attention to hydraulics and fluids. It also needs a battery and radio, as well as a parking brake cable, and one of the rear drums is stuck.

1978 Renault LeCar interior

That interior looks to be from a non-US market car, since the LeCar interiors were usually pretty stark – maybe that’s where the R5 GTL reference comes from. Seller says the car is like an R5 Turbo, which I guess is true if you ignore the absence of, well, a turbo. In addition to the sweet 80s seats, which no doubt have that wonderful supportive, cushioned feel only French cars can pull off, it also has a sports steering wheel and an upgraded sound system.

1978 Renault LeCar engine

Here’s the engine, and while I’m not too familiar with these, the original air filter housing is absent, and it’s got a finned valve cover. Seller mentions an aftermarket carb, exhaust, and other engine parts, and that the car is fast & fun. Maybe this is a case for a cheater engine to pass smog? Not that anybody would ever do that…


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