This looks very much like an authentic period review of the 1976 Renault 5 GTL by revered motoring writer Archie Vicar.
The text first appeared under the headline “Another New Renault” in The Amman Valley Chronicle and East Carmarthen News, June 5, 1976. The original photographs were by Douglas Land-Windermere. Due to the effects of xylophagic fungi, the original images could not be used.
This article was initially published on DTW in October 2018.
Renault, Renault, Renault. This firm does try hard and is to be commended for its efforts to keep up with trends sooner or later. That means they are once again on the “hatchback” bandwagon, or staying on the bandwagon in the case of the 5 tested here today. The 5 appeared on the market in 1972 and the firm is sticking with the formula of front-drive and a hinged opening panel on the rear of the car in place of a proper separate boot.
It remains to be seen if British buyers can eventually accept this novelty but in the meantime, Renault UK continue to offer variants of the car in the hope more sales can be garnered.
That means the GTL is now part of the Renault catalogue. What is it? In brief, it’s an entrant in the smaller car class, with a 1,289 cc four-cylinder ohv engine, a Solex carburettor and rack and pinion steering.
Outlandish as all that may seem, it makes a certain kind of sense (if you begin the day with a Gauloise and two glasses of Pernod at least). Typically, most small cars have small engines: one litre’s about your lot at the poverty end of the market. Renault have packed what amounts to a 1.3 into the frail body of the 5, choked it with a minuscule carburettor (probably Solex’s tiniest unit) and it results in a flat torque curve.
That means most of the power appears early on and never really increases no matter how hard you stamp on the pedal. The torque is good enough, much more than the 5 TL at about 62 lb ft of twist. Finally, the gearing is as tall as Westminster Tower, at 20.7 mph per 1000 rpm. So, at a modest 3000 rpm the car is good for a steady 60 and so returns 42 mph, 2 mph more than Citroën’s frightening Ami.
The rest of the car is much the same but in the name of research and to test claims made by Renault of adjustments to the seating foams, we took the car on an Iberian tour. First stop was the Allegra Restaurant in Port Talbot where we had a fine lunch of caldereida, cebolada, dobradinha (cow’s stomach) washed down with plenty of Setubal (a bit thin). The first leg of the trip took about an hour. The traffic in Ammanford beggared belief. It allowed a lot of opportunities to test the disc/drum brakes (adequate) and the feelsome rack and pinion steering. No sign of back pain at all.
We took the nice mountain roads through Afan and headed to Abergevanny. The steering really has improved since the early days of the 5 and the car proved to tend towards the entertaining, especially on the wet and slippery roads of the district. Understeer, did you say? It’s still ferocious and in the event means the car isn’t at all cheering to drive even if first impressions suggest otherwise.
The same goes for throttle reaction. Unlike, say an Alfa Romeo or perhaps certain Peugeots, easing off the throttle does nothing but slow the car down. The attitude doesn’t alter. So we slowed down for a hearty dinner to digest the experience: the Palmela Restaurant where I had a lovely cabidela, some cafreal and bacalhau com natas which is a kind of cod in cream sauce.
A bottle of Bairrada and some nice 17 year old Madeira added some festivity to the occasion. My notes say “Good Madeira. Good roadholding on wet and very wet surfaces. Michelin ZX. Tyre squeal. Land-Windermere shouting.” The dinner and the lemonade calmed him. Aren’t his photos good?
You’ll need premium four star to keep the 5 GTL fuelled and SAE 20W740 is the preferred lubricant. The ashtray is a small drawer and not very good.
From Abergevanny to Crossgates where we pulled up for the evening. No sign of backpain despite the three stints at the wheel. I’d say the restaurant seating was far more harmful to the old spine than the R5’s buxom chairs. As luck would have it, the B&B in Crossgates was run by a lovely Portugese couple who provided a fine slap-up supper for Land-Windermere and I so
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(The original text in the Amman Valley Chronicle and East Carmarthen News ends here without explanation.)