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Let’s be honest, in the world of classic cars, Rarity is King. Owning something a little out of the ordinary; making a statement; being unique. Collector’s cars such as those featured in yesterday’s report from the Hampton Court Concours are of course testament to this. But as always, ViaRETRO is here to tell you that a similar effect can… ehrmm, kind of… be achieved even on a tight budget…

And of course, there’s nowhere better to look than towards the French for a bit of quirky uniqueness – that’s not opinion; that’s fact! We’ve touched on that subject several times before, but perhaps never in more depth than last year when Dave asked: France – Where Did it All Go Wrong? Mind you, it’s not that the French messed up the modern day automobile more than did other nations, it’s just that they fell from a pedestal well above the rest. This perhaps made their decline even more disappointing. But up through the eighties, there was still a bit of sparkle left in the French car industry: Innovation, individualism and a desire to do things in their own way.

Don’t believe me? Well, look no further than the fabulously eighties Renault Fuego. Okay, so it’s not quite a Delage or Delahaye is it? But it still manages to have a distinct Frenchness to it and the four-seater coupé certainly stands out compared to its period competitors. That’s no coincidence either – when Michel Jardin penned the Fuego’s distinct lines, it was all done under close supervision of the French design legend, Robert Opron of Citroën SM, GS and CX fame. It’s an interesting design which is both quite aerodynamic for its time while still lending the coupé a surprisingly spacious interior. Though I must confess that it probably hasn’t aged quite as well as some of the more iconic French designs. Much like its predecessor, the Renault 15 and 17 coupé, there’s an elegance to the Fuego, but in a slightly clumsy way – if that makes any sense.

When the new Renault Fuego was launched in 1980 – not unlike its aging competitors such as the Peugeot 504 Coupé, Opel Manta B and Ford Capri – the pretty coupé body hid a mass-produced drivetrain and chassis utilised for ordinary family saloons. Though the Fuego did pioneer a new front suspension for Renault, the rest was largely identical with the four-door Renault 18. Engines ranged from a base 1.4-litre in the TL through a variety of 1.6-litre engines to a 2-litre in the GTX. From 1983 onwards, there was even the range-topping 1.6-litre Turbo pushing out a moderately sporty 110hp. And while I’m hardly a fan of diesel engines, it’s only far to include the 2.1-litre turbodiesel which was available in the Fuego from 1982 – thereby making it one of the first diesel-engined coupés on the market; well before this became a must for virtually every manufacturer.

Of course, we can probably all agree that if you’re in the market for a Fuego, it’s probably the Turbo you should aim for – or at the very least the GTX. But if you’re prioritising rarity, you might not always have the choice. That’s certainly the case here. According to the vendor of this UK-market Renault Fuego, there’s only one Fuego currently road registered in the UK and that’s this one. So while it’s perhaps a little unfortunate that it’s the base 1.4TL, if you want a RHD Fuego on your drive, you’ll clearly have to compromise when it comes to engine power. On a positive note; the lack of oomph will of course slow down the rate at which you’re travelling, allowing you time to fully appreciate that you will never experience an identical car approaching you on the road or pulling up next to you at a classic car show. Now who said you needed a Delahaye for that privilege?

This particular Renault Fuego TL is a 1984 model presented in a very befitting gold metallic, which makes the distinctive plastic streaks which protrude either side of the baseline of the side windows stand out even more. The vendor also claims that it drives well and it certainly looks quite smart in the pictures. He does however admit that the seats would benefit from a refurb while the odometer doesn’t work. In my opinion, the cheap aftermarket plastic wheel covers don’t do the Fuego any favours either. I would personally prefer the bare stock steel wheels until I eventually managed to locate a complete set of the funky asymmetric factory alloys with the two black streaks across them. Here are a few pictures which we’ve borrowed from the advert:

Mileage is given at 81,000 miles equating to approximately 130,000km and the Fuego comes with a current MOT as well. It’s for sale in Carlisle in the very north of England and can be yours for what appears to be a very reasonable £6,800, which will currently cost you Euro 7,700. It certainly seems a remarkable level of rarity for a relatively modest outlay – even if it’s unlikely to get you invited to next year’s Hampton Court Concours… Here’s a link to the full advert: 1984 Renault Fuego TL

 

With our Saturday instalment of Prime Find of the Week, we’re offering our services to the classic car community, by passing on our favourite classic car for sale from the week that passed. This top-tip might help a first-time-buyer to own his first classic, or it could even be the perfect motivation for a multiple-classic-car-owner to expand his garage with something different. We’ll let us inspire by anything from a cheap project to a stunning concours exotic, and hope that you will do the same.
Just remember – Any Classic is Better than No Classic! We obviously invite our readers to help prospective buyers with your views and maybe even experiences of any given model we feature. Further to that, if you stumble across a classic which you feel we ought to feature as Prime Find of the Week, then please send us a link to primefindoftheweek@viaretro.co.uk

7 Responses

  1. Andrew Boggis

    It was an interesting generation of Renaults, but these are now extremely rare in France.

    I’m not sure the “tiger” seat covering was original ;-).

    The other quirky features of this generation were the colours and “Roche Bobois” inspired seats of the R5 Turbo. I have no photos to hand, but I ‘ll try to find some at the next Retromobile.

    Reply
  2. Tony Wawryk

    I remember adverts for the Fuego making a great deal about its looks – “My Name is Fuego”, usually with a profile photo. I always thought its looks were somewhat over-rated – certainly by Renault themselves – and much prefer the 15 and 17.

    Reply
  3. yrhmblhst

    OK…y’all are probably gonna ban me, but I like these things. Dont know why really, but I do. Its a nice shape, tho somewhat let down by the streak of barn tin going along the beltline, but hey! that adds to the funkiness. Ive never owned one, but had three friends that did – all Turbos. BITD, Renault was still trying to [re] establish themselves in the American market [with no success], so one thing they did was take a normal tack and pursue a motorsport connection. First the sponsored the Renault Cup series, a spec series using Lecars – R5s to you. They also had a generous contingency for SCCA Showroom Stock racers too; one guy I knew actually paid for his car through this. He was successful enough in SSC out here in a ‘soft’ division to pay for the car. He drove it to work during the week and raced it on the weekends.
    When the Fuego came out, Renault did the same thing. Three guys I know took advantage of the deal and bought em. Ironically all were white, which REALLY makes that moulding stand out… Anyway, they all drove em during the week and raced em on the weekends. Mike was pretty darn successful in his and made it to The Runoffs in 84. Remind me to tell you a funny story about that sometime…
    Anyway, always liked these things even tho they were not paragons of reliability, and, even in Turbo mode,were slow as molasses. Think theyre cool, but cannot imagine what a yawner they are with that small engine.
    But like you say, you seldom will see another at a stoplight, and the one in Britain still going is probably one more than is in the US.

    Reply
  4. Rob

    I owned three of them ! All 1600 engines, with 5-speed ‘boxes. They drove well, economical and comfortable.
    My last one, a B-plate bright red GTS, beautifully appointed inside, looked a really neat car for the time.
    I never had any trouble with any of them, the all alloy engine had been around since the 60’s. Had no difficulty selling them either !
    I don’t think the Diesel version was sold in the UK.

    Reply
  5. Dave Leadbetter

    Lovely to see one a Fuego again, although it’s probably a decade or more since I’ve seen one in the wild. Great looking things, particularly the weird black slatted waistline trim / insert / section / whatever it’s called. I can’t think of another car that can boast that styling feature but presumably it’s influenced by something else?

    Reply
  6. Claus Ebberfeld

    I always liked the Fuego as well, and once thought of them as a cheaper alternative to the Porsche 924. Although they aren’t! This one is a great colour and seems right for the money.

    Regarding the trim, @dave-leadbetter – I didn’t ALWAYS like that, but obviously it’s part of the design. The only car I can think of that tried something similar is the Alfa 75, which is of course later. And not nearly as well resolved either.

    Reply
  7. Anders Bilidt

    Nice to know I’m not the only one to appreciate these funky early eighties French coupés… :-)

    @Andrew, well, if they’re rare in France, then no wonder they’re practically extinct here in the UK.

    @Tony, I don’t know…? I always found the R15 to look somewhat frumpy. I actually think I prefer the Fuego then – if only by a little. Although I would certainly take the R17 over its successor. Always did appreciate its sharp lines. Very cool!

    @yrhmblhst, I had no idea that the Fuego had motorsport history in the USA. As always, thx for enlightening us… ;-)

    @Rob, bet you wish you had kept that last Fuego GTS…

    @Dave and @Claus, I too struggle to think of others with that broad plastic upper waistline trim. And on that, the Fuego beet the Alfa Romeo 75 to the market by some five years…

    Reply

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