Not Alone Is The Winter’s Chalice Replenished

Very clearly the work of one person’s vision, Michel Boué, the Renault 5 impresses with the clarity of its concept. This example shows how it could be more than a basic conveyance.

Renault 5 TX automatic

In this instance we have here a really tidy, timewarp example with very little sign of tear or wear. We’ll get to the interior in a moment, with its comfortable sports seats and very inviting ambience.

The 5 is a reduction of the essential themes of the Renault 4, using simple industrial design form language. The surfaces are minimal and the discipline of the radii is consistently applied. The lamps fit neatly into the surrounding surface and the features aligned in an orderly fashion. Despite this formal correctness the car is quite cheerful and friendly.

This view captures the way the two volumes of the bonnet and cabin suggest the Renault 4 without just copying it. The wheel arch treatment is quite original, with the front wheel arch surround blending into the front fascia; at the back the wheel arch surround flows back into the bumper.

Boué wanted the rear lamps to go up the C-pillar to the roof, a wish vetoed by management who otherwise were supportive of a project created out of hours before being proposed for series production. A few adjustments such as flush registration plate lamps and the full-height rear lamps are all that would be needed to make this perfect. In the above photo you can just make out the carpeted boot and the split rear backrest.

Turning to the interior, note the high-spec seats with their side bolsters and alluring semi-cord upholstery. The choice of colour for the plastic trim and the warm beige cloth create a very welcoming ambience. It does not take much to turn the car from a spartan runabout to something altogether more habitable. It’s a remarkably roomy vehicle for one so small. This views shows the brightness of the interior and the excellent all-round vision afforded by the deep side glass and large rear window.

The side panel here, below the window, is a small masterpiece of industrial design. As a TX model it has speakers built into the trim; base models had a storage cubby.

Renault continually invested in improvements over the car’s life: the rear side windows gained hinges for opening in 1974 along with a revised dashboard slightly later. The three-speed automatic appeared in 1978, mated to a 1.3 litre engine. In 1980 Renault launched a 5-door version.

Though the sharp light cast strong shadows, you can see the condition of the upholstery and its rather delightful tone. Seats don’t look this comfortable any more, do they?

1978 Renault 5 TX interior

Here is another view with more even light and clear impression of the dashboard which is formally very correct and well-arranged. The colour break-up is sensible, distinguishing the functional areas from the rest. It is hard to imagine how to improve this concept. Notice the radio set vertically ahead of the automatic gearbox lever. The engine sat well back in relation to the axle and this meant there was not enough space to install a horizontally mounted radio.

Only the alloy wheels show much sign of the car’s age. Three bolts hold the wheel in place.

The lesson I draw from this car is that good industrial design endures as long as the material it shapes. The car also demonstrates how to apply appropriate amounts of luxury without over-stepping the mark. The later R5 Baccara had leather and wood trim and neither made for a more appealing interior than this. The colour choice also makes a big difference. As far as I can ascertain there weren’t other colours for the TX interior trim though possibly a mid-blue might have existed.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

2 thoughts on “Not Alone Is The Winter’s Chalice Replenished”

  1. Very nice find, Richard. The interior is of a nice kind we don’t find any more today. I’d probably like to see it combined with a metallic brown instead of the bland silver grey.
    The seats are in incredible shape. Light coloured cloth interiors of this time usually aren’t on the durable side. On our company parking lot there used to be a 2nd generation R5 in similarly pristine condition. The cloth looked inviting, too, although it was grey and presumably of somewhat lower spec. It really cheered me up when I saw it.

  2. What a cheerful, pleasant and non-aggressive car! I had forgotten just how well resolved the original Cinq was. It is the antithesis of current automotive design, and very much the better for it.

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