London | Lot 158

1986 Renault 5 Maxi Turbo

£290,000 - £360,000 GBP

United Kingdom | London, United Kingdom

7 September 2016

Chassis No.
Engine No.
Bill of Sale
  • Incredibly rare R5 Maxi Turbo with extensive competition history
  • Raced by Giovanni Rossi, 1988 European Hill Climb Champion
  • Potent rally weapon with 386 bhp; inspiration for Renault’s most extreme road cars
  • Freshly and authentically restored

386 bhp, 1,527 cc rear-mounted inline four-cylinder engine with Garrett T31 turbocharger, five-speed Renault Sport close-ratio manual transmission, ZF limited-slip differential, four-wheel independent double wishbone suspension with lower longitudinal torsion bars, telescopic gas shock absorbers, and anti-roll bars; and four-wheel ventilated disc brakes. Wheelbase: 2,430 mm

By the summer of 1976, Lancia was already well on its way to claiming its third consecutive World Rally Championship manufacturers’ title. The legendary Stratos had again proven its superiority where it mattered. Renault had topped the manufacturers’ table with its sublime Alpine A110 prior to the Stratos’ arrival, but the A110 was already long in the tooth and could trace its roots back to the late ’50s. The French company wanted revenge and would stop at nothing to return atop the podium.

In order to be competitive, Renault would need a new model. Jean Terramorsi, Renault’s vice-president of production, outlined his requirements. To keep costs down, the new car would need to be based on an existing production model. It would also need to be small, light, and agile, requiring only minor modifications to go from road-going trim to full rally specification.

The answer came from Bertone’s Marc Deschamps, who penned a radically reworked version of the Renault 5, with the engine mounted centrally (much like the Stratos) and driving the rear wheels rather than the fronts. Terramorsi was sold on the idea and immediately gave the go-ahead for a prototype to be created. Sadly, he passed away soon thereafter, but his successor, Henry Lherm, shared his passion for a mid-engined R5 and ensured that the project went ahead as planned.

With the company’s Renault Sport division busy with Le Mans commitments, the project initially fell to a team of just four engineers, who set about creating the first Project 822 prototype in a small workshop at Renault’s Alpine facility in Dieppe. At first the plan was to build the car around a spaceframe chassis, but this solution proved far too complex—and needlessly expensive—so a hole was cut in the rear floor of the 5’s monocoque and a tubular frame constructed to support the engine and transmission.

A number of engines were considered. The 2,664-cubic centimetre V-6 from the Renault 30 was dismissed for being too heavy and complicated for rallying; the 1,995-cubic centimetre inline four from the 20 TS was too long to fit. A turbocharged version of the Alpine A110’s 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine would have proved perfect—Renault was about to pioneer the use of turbos in F1, so could use its knowledge for the new rally car—but after this engine’s capacity had been multiplied by the equivalency factor of 1.4, it would move the car out of the 2,000-cubic centimetre class and into 2,500, where a heavier minimum weight requirement would ensure the car failed to play to its strengths.

That left the 1,397-cubic centimetre unit from the Renault 5 Alpine (known as the Gordini in the United Kingdom). Using a modified Lancia Stratos as a testbed, work began on increasing its output from a normally aspirated 93 brake horsepower to a turbocharged 162 brake horsepower. The most highly developed “fives”, including the R5 Maxi offered for sale here, would develop well over 350 horsepower, an extraordinary figure, given the car’s diminutive size and weight of only 905 kilograms.

The Renault 5 Maxi Turbo remained a potent force until the all-wheel-drive Group B cars arrived, and it would remain competitive in many forms of motorsport for several years in the hands of some incredibly talented racers.


The Renault 5 Maxi Turbo offered here is a former European Champion, piloted by the late Giovanni Rossi, a regular at major events in the French and European Championships and a three-time Championship winner. Rossi had previously driven competitive cars and was a successful racer, winning his first Championship in 1983 in a BMW 528i. His second soon followed, at the hands of a BMW M1 in 1984, before Rossi secured this third and final title in 1988 in chassis number R5T/684, the car offered here. Rossi’s outrageously powerful R5 Maxi Turbo could boast of beating a host of strong opposition, including Audi quattro, Peugeot 205 T16, and Lancia Delta S4 and 037, on its way to victory.

Offered with a collection of period photographs, this historically significant 5 Maxi Turbo warrants serious consideration from both devoted collectors of Renault’s finest cars and those who appreciate the most outrageous and potent competition machines. Welcome at a wide range of modern events, this Maxi Turbo offers the new owner an opportunity to continue its illustrious career and compete at the highest level.

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