1985 Renault RS Turbo2 rockets into Jay Leno’s Garage

Bring-A-Trailer co-founder Randy Nonnenberg brings his rare hot hatch to Burbank for a drive and discussion

The Renault R5 hatchback was forbidden fruit on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Yet Jay Leno’s Garage featured the French hot hatch in a recent episode.

The particular car is a 1985 R5 Turbo2, the name designating that it’s part of the R5’s second generation. Unlike the mass-market Renault 5 model, the R5 hatchback featured a mid-mounted 1.4-liter turbo-4 that made just under 200 horsepower. It only tipped the scales at 2,138 pounds, which made it a quick machine.

The biggest difference between it and the standard car, however, was the engine’s location. This was a mid-engine car that sent its power to the rear wheels instead of a front-engine, front-wheel-drive econobox like the 5. The R5 Turbo2 also was homologated for rally racing but not specifically for the short-lived Group B series.

The owner of this car is Randy Nonnenberg, co-founder of the popular car auction website Bringatrailer.com, which only seems fitting that someone behind the enthusiast auction site owns such a peculiarly awesome car. He tells Leno that the R5 shares basically nothing with the standard car, perhaps aside from the rear hatch and doors. The suspension, engine, and fenders are all exclusive to the R5 Turbo2 model.

As for this car’s story, it was a gray-market import before red tape and the Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act of 1988, commonly known as the 25-year import rule, made it easier to import such forbidden fruit as the R5. That means the car came to the U.S. early in its life, which is not possible with the 25-year rule.

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The original owner ordered three R5 Turbo2 models from the factory and sold them in Southern California. The car was even modified in the U.S. to pass California smog requirements, which made it a street-legal car its entire life.

Nonnenberg pops the hatch and goes through the somewhat humorous process of exposing the mid-mounted turbo-4 before he and Leno take the R5 Turbo2 for a spin. The engine sounds good for a 4-cylinder, and as Leno notes when he drives the car, it has some endearing turbo lag.

The Renault R5 was one of the cars that helped kick off the hot hatch craze, and its unique forbidden status in the U.S. makes it a cool car to see on the street or even in this video.

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  • john emmet
    April 23, 2019, 8:19 PM

    jay,my advice is get rid of it or do not ever drive it. i had a renault lecar(5). the are the most horrible cars you can get for any price. the engine on my car blew twice. i’m telling you. france is famous for their tower in paris,the TGV,and french food. but you couldn’t get me to buy a french car ever,ever,ever,again. and that includes your citroen SM,sorry!!!!! also,i suggested this before i’m suggesting this to you again. get a ’68-’71 lincoln continental mark III(3). you thank me after you get it. john

    REPLY
    • Justin Cas4@john emmet
      April 24, 2019, 3:48 PM

      Although I appreciate any information as well as experience of owning,working on body or mechanical or simply being the sales person of any vehicle.

      We all know you cannot compare Apples to Cashews when it comes to a Renault because it’ll simply make you Nutts.
      Lmao.
      Having been in the cat business for over 30 years I can honestly say just when you think you’ve seen it all.
      Something will happen to blow your mind…(or your engine) in the case of the Renault’s.

      It reminds me of when the Hyundai’s 1st came out for under $5,000 and there was such a love affair For the Nike shoe box without the shoes.

      People would live by lie and Die for them.

      More so if you get into the Mercedes category you’ll hear the stories of amazing they were…or possibly still are

      Although stepping back a decade when I was Buying/Selling or leasing them I couldn’t get enough of them.

      Especially when the 07 new car came out.
      It was like comparing D.S.L. vs.dial up.

      Ehhhh,eh ba ding bam,bam bam ,ba ding.

      And every single Mercedes i dealt with was in the shop more than on the road.
      But at the same point…I’d hear the same arguments…its the Best…
      Or
      Its absolutely the worst.!!

      Send me a comment on any car that you think is the most reliable ever.

      And I’m sure that’ll spark a whole new heated debate.

      For Examples sake
      Back in 1997 I worked for a place called Don Davis "Jeep,Mitsubishi, Oldsmobile, ford,Lincoln Toyota and just about every Preowned car you could get your hands on"

      So for whatever reason people would come in to look at the Toyota (we were lucky enough to be able to cross sell)

      And would go thru all the motions.
      And then decide to leave and tell me the reason was that it just couldn’t hold a candle to the reliability of a Honda..!!

      Besides being frustrated at wasting 2 hours of my time for a vehicle they had no interest in buying.

      They then went on to spend at least a good 30 minutes of explaining to me (at that time a 10 year car sales veteran)

      Of how amazing the Honda was in comparison to the 2nd most reliable car being the Toyota.

      But they felt if they didn’t stop and stare they wouldn’t have done their due diligence.

      So I asked them to do me a favor and get into the Toyota that I really,,,really,,,really…..
      Needed to show them something…!!!

      At that particular point
      I drove them to the local Honda dealership.

      And somewhat confused,,,,
      They said that wasn’t a good idea .!
      Taking them to the Honda dealer…
      (The most #1 reliable car) in their mind.

      And I was simply making their decision even easier.

      But,,,,,,

      I didnt park outfront…
      I didnt park on the side….

      I drove them straight into the service department….with my Toyota!

      And I said,
      If you had to take a guess…
      How many Honda’s do you see…?again slightly confused…

      If I had to guess….maybe 100 or 150 cars.. alot of them being brand new.

      TheN I said…ok…100 to 150 BROKE DOWN HONDA’S

      Mr and mrs Jane doe…
      There is a few hundred Broke down HONDA’S.

      So which one of those brand New #1 most reliable BROKE DOWN HONDA’S

      would you like to purchase??

      Mmmm none…!!
      Exactly..!

      So will it be the champagne two-tone camry.

      Or the XLE with the leather.??

      We’ll take the Xle.
      Thank you Paul.

      No thank you!
      For allowing me to be able to enlighten you to the fact that these are machines

      And you’ll either get the best one…
      Or the brand new Honda In Service

      Will that be cash or Credit.
      L.M.A.O!

      True story

      REPLY
      • James McIntire@Justin Cas4
        April 25, 2019, 6:03 AM

        So let me ask you; At any one time, how many brand new Toyota’s did you have in the service dept. awaiting repairs? In my honest opinion, Toyota’s are one of the most overrated automobiles on the market. They may be good, but they’re not THAT good! As you said they’re all just machines built with human hands. That means that any given component may fail at any given time.

        REPLY
        • Jukka Suvisalmi@James McIntire
          April 26, 2019, 12:40 AM

          Dear John Emmet

          Renault 5 lecar is totally different car. It is front Wheel drive car with small engine at the front.
          It is a passanger car.

          Renault 5 Turbo 2 is rear wheel driving car with a powerfull turbo charget mide engine.
          It is a sports car.
          It is same if you compare VW beetle to Porsche 911 🙂

          Jay … you have a very nice collection. Lucky you ! Keep those rolling…

          REPLY

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