Remembering a memorable Renault.
In 1976, Renault introduced the 5 GTL, a version of France’s best seller which was intended to appeal to more economy-conscious customers. Powered by a detuned version of the 5 TS’ 1289 cc engine, it was a low-revving, relatively unstressed power unit, aimed at reducing fuel consumption – in a rudimentary manner perhaps, predating BMW’s more elaborate attempts at achieving a similar goal with their ETA engine programme the following decade.
At the time at least, it went against the orthodoxy of using a smaller capacity engine to achieve the same goal, (Renault were already offering the Cinq with engines of 845, 956 or 1108 cc capacity), so while the headline economy figures for the GTL were more impressive than the smaller engined versions, the gains really had to be offset against the higher purchase price and the fact that its greater swept volume would place it into a higher taxation band in several European markets. Late in life, the GTL switched to the smaller capacity 1108 unit. Either way however, it proved a successful variant of an already well-liked car.
It is a car I once knew rather well, a 1977 example becoming our family’s second car during the early 1980s. In some ways I perhaps became over-acquainted with it, youthful over-exuberance once involved getting it airborne over a humped-back bridge one spring afternoon. I’m not proud of myself I must add, and despite being convinced I had done irreparable damage, the Cinq seemed to have taken the abuse in its long-travel stride.
It’s also the car in which I later passed my driving test, it’s low-geared steering I recall making the more technical manoeuvres somewhat more taxing than they might otherwise have been. It was, if memory serves, a decently reliable car too, although age, mileage (and misuse) did lead to a few running repairs, including to the gear linkage (a rather convoluted device). I also vaguely recall it arriving back on the end of a tow-rope once, but the reason has been lost to memory.
One curiosity of the GTL (and suggestive of its intended city role) was that the protective side strakes (which matched the bumpers) were more or less unique to the model, and not fitted to the more upmarket or performance variants. Perhaps one reason for this was that despite their prescience, Michel Boué’s well-drawn flanks looked better unadorned.
In addition, the GTL was offered with the same styled roadwheels which adorned the top of line TS model, although it lacked that model’s more generous equipment levels. Nevertheless, the GTL (initially) gained reversing lamps, illuminated heater controls, electric screen-washers and a cigarette lighter over its lowlier TL sibling. The dashboard covering was also of a different (unribbed) finish.
For a car which was something of an outlier in a broad range, the 5 GTL has appeared on several occasions on the pages of Driven to Write. Firstly in 2015 in a piece by former scribe, Sean Patrick, then latterly in 2018 in a transcription of the original from the inimitable Archie Vicar.
All of which might provide some slight diversion from the unremitting tide of contagion. Take care of one another… and please, wash your hands.