Today’s Bad Idea: 1990 Renault Alpine GTA V6 Turbo

As I’ve lamented before, French automakers have never really found much success in the United States. Lackluster dealer networks, questionable corporate acquisitions, and ultimately the assassination of Renault’s CEO Georges Besse (!) kept some truly interesting vehicles out of the hands of American consumers; this Renault Alpine GTA is one such example. The awful timing of Renault’s American operations collapsing just as these went to production leaves one wondering if the Alpine GTA could have been the product that turned it all around. While we will never know, now it’s at least possible to get a taste of what we missed out on. In this case, anyone with $9500 burning a hole in their pocket can grab this scruffy Alpine GTA on Craigslist in Seattle and finally experience the joy of a rear-engined, turbocharged V6 French sport coupe leaving them stranded on the side of the road.

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Project Renault update: It runs!

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.

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CCG Project: 1987 Renault GTA convertible

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.

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Today’s Bad Idea: 1988 Citroen BX 16 TS

Automotive Francophiles like me are an uncommon group in the United States, as is pretty much anything manufactured by Citroen; they gave up on the American market back in the 1970’s, a good 20 years before its relatively plebeian competitors Renault and Peugeot. Citroen earned its place in the history books with the iconic 2CV, beautiful DS and exotic SM models, which were very sophisticated but characteristically lacking in build quality and reliability. After owner Michelin left Citroen on the brink of death in 1974, Peugeot came to the brand’s rescue, offering a much-needed influx of cash along with a parts bin and platforms Citroen could borrow to slash development costs. By the 1990’s, the quirkiness that once made Citroen so special had all but disappeared, but transitional models like this BX and the later XM managed to wonderfully mix Citroen oddity with Peugeot’s improved build quality and parts support. Basically, these models are perfect for French car enthusiasts who like to drive their vehicles more than work on them. So why is this rather nice 1988 BX 16 TS a Bad Idea?

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Imported from Kenosha: 1984 Renault Encore

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.

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