It is with a certain degree of regret, but mostly indifference, that I report the GTA has moved on to a Renault collector in Indiana. You win some, you lose some, and then with others you just sort of poke around with the little time you have before throwing your hands up and asking “why did I buy another project car right now anyway?”
A few days after dragging the Renault home, I ordered all of the parts for a timing belt refresh from a Renault guru who rebuilds the tensioners himself, and went nuts on spares from RockAuto. Since RockAuto was having a closeout on Renault parts, I stocked up on everything I could; I snagged a $5 water pump and some $25 struts among other dirt-cheap parts. eBay provided a Haynes service manual for 75 cents, while I also ordered a period factory service manual for $30. When the weekend hit and I had everything in hand, I started tearing into the car.
For those of you who haven’t read my earlier post on the Renault Encore I had many years ago, I’ve always had a soft spot for the products conceived by the unholy alliance (pun not intended) of AMC and Renault. The one I always wanted, though, was the one-year-only GTA; Renault’s brief attempt at a competitor to the VW GTI, exclusive to the U.S. Since they were only sold for one year before Renault washed their hands of the American market, they’re pretty uncommon, and I never thought I’d actually find one…until I did.
In 2006, I discovered the so-called BABE Rally, where each team had to purchase a vehicle for $250 or less and complete a maniacal cross-country road trip from New York to New Orleans (or, the Big Apple to the Big Easy, hence the acronym). Somehow, I convinced my parents to let me participate as a high-school graduation present and got two friends to come with me. So we started looking for a car; I had already developed an odd taste, so I demanded something more interesting than a Civic or Corolla. Then, one day, a running 1984 Renault Encore showed up on Craigslist. The asking price? $175. Thus began my journey of growing to love one of the most hated compact cars ever sold on U.S. soil.