By on June 8, 2018

Back in the early 1980s, Renault/Jeep/AMC dealers sold quite the assorted lineup of vehicles in the North American market. Shortly after it obtained a 59 percent ownership stake in AMC, Renault launched a new sporty coupe that was assuredly lit.

Come along and check out the Fuego.

We’ve had some Renault vehicles before in the Rare Rides series. First up was the Alliance GTA – the Renault built in the very same Kenosha, Wisconsin factory (and at the same time) as the Chrysler Fifth Avenue. Then came a later version of Renault’s 5, in GT form — a modification of the LeCar that Americans didn’t much like. Most recently we went full-fat with the mid-engine R5 Turbo, which North America certainly never received. It was asking a tidy $122,000.

Today’s Fuego can be had for much less than even the sales tax on that R5.

As the 1970s drew to a close, Renault needed a replacement coupe for the 15 and 17 models, which were interesting looking but very dated. Starting with the conservative 18 sedan’s underpinnings, stylists at Renault drew up a sporty coupe body to entice the new buyer of the ’80s. Suspension and interior components were new and unique to the Fuego when it debuted in 1981, but would filter into other Renaults as time passed.

Renault was determined that the world would take note of the Fuego, so it threw some technology its way. For 1983, it was the first car with remote keyless entry. It was also the first four-seat sports car designed in a wind tunnel. There was also a turbodiesel version, which in 1982 was declared the fastest diesel car in the world. Top speed of that diesel was 111 miles per hour. Another first: There were radio controls on the steering wheel in 1983, paving the way for Pontiac steering wheel buttons in the years to come.

The Fuego was available between 1982 and 1985 at AMC dealers. Turbo models were available in the U.S. from the outset, featuring a 1.6-liter inline-four producing 107 catalytic-dosed horsepower. The naturally aspirated 2.2-liter engine was the only other option — a Peugeot unit generating around 114 horsepower in American applications.

Though the Fuego sold well internationally and received a favorable rating from American journalists (MotorWeek review below), customers were not so keen. The design team at Renault wasn’t happy, either, as the big bumpers and sealed beam headlamps required by American legislation interfered with the design’s original idea.

American Fuego sales cut off a couple of years before the rest of Europe, which received the coupe until 1987. It persisted even longer in South America, where you could buy a new one at your local Renault dealer through 1993. At that time, money problems at Renault forced the cancellation of the Fuego II (which was to look similar to the Alpine GTA), and the coupe’s replacement in North America — the Alliance GTA we discussed previously.

The 1984 model we’re eyeing today is presently located somewhere in Indiana, probably near some corn. It features a manual transmission and a red/black interior scheme to match the exterior colors. Fuegos came standard with a high level of equipment for the time, and this one’s no exception. There’s non-functional AC, plus a CB radio. Unsurprisingly, it needs a couple of things, but overall looks clean and solid. Listed on eBay with no reserve, perhaps the B&B can establish a value for this hot ticket item.

[Images: seller]

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57 Comments on “Rare Rides: The 1984 Renault Fuego, or Feu d’Artifice...”


  • avatar
    road_pizza

    I’m shocked that this Fuego has survived this long given Renault’s legendary reliability and all…

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Another automotive bullet I just narrowly dodged. That and a Fiat X-19.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      You could have just changed your middle name to “Bondo” and called it a day.

      I did check one of these out back in the day. Super comfy seats.

    • 0 avatar
      lon888

      I owned a ’79 X1/9 for a number of years. Once I added a 55 amp alternator, it was one of the most reliable cars I ever owned. I only had to replace one CV joint and that was it. I really miss it today. What a great handling car.

      • 0 avatar
        FormerFF

        The X1-9 was probably the most fun road car I’ve every driven. No power, but unassisted brakes and steering, plus perfect balance made it a blast to drive on the street. Other than a few electrical issues, they weren’t bad on the reliability front.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          Unfortunately in the Toronto area you could actually hear them rust while you were sitting in them.

          Instead of the Fiat I splurged and got a Corvette. By no means a ‘great car’ but competitive in that era. And a boon to my social life.

      • 0 avatar
        road_pizza

        Maybe so but here in n.e. Ohio they disintegrated in just a few years.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    So it comes without A/C but with a CB radio.

    Well, God bless America.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    My daughter loves “Elena of Avalor” (one of the latest Disney princesses) and her Captain of the Guard is named Gabriel. Having been born in the 70s I can’t help but snicker every time he calls for his horse “FUEGO”.

  • avatar
    VW4motion

    Great find. And also great to read a non-political article on TTAC.

  • avatar
    probert

    I had an Alliance hatchback, and while it’s easy to make fun of these cars, they were a real pleasure to drive. Typically French, they had very comfy seats and a compliant suspension. This, coupled with a vast glass area and good steering, resulted in a really nice driving experience.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      I do miss cars where you could easily see all four corners of the vehicle from the drivers seat.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Didn’t the Alliance have some kind of offbeat seat track system?

      • 0 avatar
        King of Eldorado

        Yup. In addition to the usual forward-aft and backrest angle adjustments, the entire seat was mounted on an arc-shaped track (concave side up) that allowed you to rock the seat along that track. The principal practical effect was that it allowed raising or lowering the front edge of the seat bottom to provide more or less thigh support.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      IIRC the Alliance hatchback was originally introduced a few years prior as the Encore. I think the Encore name was dropped and Alliance Hatchback was only for the final Alliance/Encore MY, 1987 I think.

  • avatar
    SilverCoupe

    I think that this car technically made my criteria list in 1984, for a turbocharged, manual transmission, front drive sport coupe, along with the Chrysler Laser/Dodge Daytona, the Mitsubishi Cordia, and the Isuzu Impulse, but I just could not take the Fuego seriously.

    Since the beautiful Impulse wasn’t available with the turbo yet, I went with the Chrysler Laser Turbo.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    The eBay ad says this one has the 2.2. Yeehaw!!

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    Ah, another vestige of the Malaise Era, the CB radio. Those eight foot whip antennas were the cat’s ass! “Breaker! Breaker!”

  • avatar
    James2

    Always liked this car. IIRC it and the Ford Mustang were the few cars to have Michelin TRX tires.

  • avatar
    Ermel

    Those were quite common in Germany in the 80s and 90s, but they have all but died out. The Euro version looks way sleeker, though. Not a bad car at all, a worthy competitor to the VW Scirocco, Opel Manta/Calibra, and Ford Capri. There’s even a bit of Porsche 924 in the design. I’ve always liked the Fuego, rode in one once (very comfy!), but I’m not a coupé kind of person, so I’ve never lusted after one.

  • avatar
    darex

    Just feu. Feu d’artifice means fireworks.”

  • avatar
    darex

    Just feu. Feu d’artifice means fireworks.”

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I remember seeing one in the driveway of a wealthier family friend of ours. I was 10 or 11, but having already been reading R&T at the public library I realized I was seeing something rare. It was a new silver turbo spec’d model.Cool stuff, but I always thought the Merkur XR4Ti was cooler.

  • avatar
    ShoogyBee

    I remember my dad being a fan of the Fuego’s styling. Then the redesigned Audi 5000 came out for the 1984 model year, so he ended up buying a 1985 model since the waiting list was so long at the time.

    Around 1988 or so, my brother and I were looking for a cheap set of wheels to replace the junky 1982 Escort 5-door we had shared in college. One of the cars we test drove was a 1983 Renault 18i sedan. It was in OK shape and a neighborhood mechanic strongly dissuaded us from buying it (ended up with a 1984 Pontiac Sunbird instead, another POS) but man, that 18i had an amazingly smooth and absorbent ride. I think only the LS400 that my dad bought in 1991 had a better ride, as far as cars that I’ve experience in my lifetime.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      I worked in a store that sold Mazda, Fiat, and AMC/Jeep/Renault, and had an 18i demo for a few months. I can’t imagine those had the greatest reliability, but the ride was amazing and the handling pretty impressive as well, if a bit heavy on the body roll. The interior was nice as well.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        I thought I’ve heard that many average versions of French cars tend to heel over hard in the turns. (Note “average,” so stuff like a Pug 205 whatever-the-hot-hatch-is is excluded from my generalization.)

        Makes for a nice ride, as evidenced by a buddy’s 1986 Alliance DL.

  • avatar
    RHD

    This car is a survivor. With 130K, it might be near the end of its life expectancy, though.
    It comes complete with a color-coordinated broom handle to hold up the rear hatch. At a certain point, the shocks give out, and are a bit pricey to replace, especially when considered as a percentage of the value of the entire vehicle.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    I attended a launch meeting for the Fuego, which was held at Road Atlanta of all places. I did get to do a few laps around the track at a quick touring speed. It was a pleasant driving car, certainly not fast, but good handling and enjoyable to drive. Renault was hoping it would be their halo car much as the RX-7 was Mazda’s, but it didn’t work out that way.

    I don’t recall selling many of these. At the time gas prices were high and the Le Car actually moved some units, the rest of the Renault lineup, which was only the 18i and Fuego were a much tougher sell.

  • avatar
    Oreguy

    The trailer hitch makes me laugh. On my route home from work through a local neighborhood, I often pass a white Fuego parked in front of one of the homes. The most bizarre aspect of this sighting is that the Fuego usually has a boat trailer featuring a 1970’s Glastron tri-hull speedboat on it attached to the hitch. Neither are in very good shape.

    The first time I saw it I thought it was a joke (Portland is definitely weird), but the combo often disappears and re-appears during summer months – suggesting that it is actually being used to pull the boat.

  • avatar
    Gene B

    I had one of these back in the day. I loved it. The most comfortable seating position of any car I ever owned. The 5 speed with the Bosch fuel injected 2.2 was a dream. 33 mpg at 80 mph. I put 30k miles on it in one great year.

  • avatar
    ry6puwh7vybo8ghot8nowo9ly4ne4deth5ca7ghe6bo7he7gyc

    Am I the only person here that worked at a USA Renault dealership when these were here?
    The Fuego Turbo was great fun. A lot like the Ford Probe. The fabric/vinyl top was different. But I liked the Fuego.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    As most here know, Fuego, if we consider it a Spanish word, means Fire in English. Not sure that is a good name for a car, but the one in the ad apparently has not gone into bonfire mode.
    Perhaps they were assuming that most Americans did not understand other languages. Of course many Americans can barely understand and speak English.
    Almost five decades ago I worked on the occasional R8, R10 or Dauphine. They were okay cars in their day. I recall the R10 had springs on the rack to center the steering. Never could figure out why they did it that way and not with caster.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      Meh… “Fire” isn’t really a bad name for a sports car. I figure it’s as good as any.

      Firebirds are popular and a lot of them even used to have flames painted on the side and hood. “Nova,” now that was a famously bad name- it means “new” in Latin but unfortunately there is no such thing as the Roman Empire GM Dealer Association (nor the Vatican City) so most customers went with the Spanish translation instead and the rest is automotive history.

      But “Fuego?” Sounds exotic to Anglo-only buyers and the translated meaning is alright too.

  • avatar

    I recall when this was new they had the gall to compare it to the 924….which at the time wasn’t great either. This car just gave us the sads we didn’t get the Alpine…..

  • avatar
    Bearadise

    I worked at an AMC/Jeep/Renault, Datsun/Nissan, Jaguar store and sold a few Fuegos. Their best feature was that they didn’t have a tendency for dashboard fires like the Renault 18i did. Oh, and the outside door handles didn’t come off in your hand like the Alliance/Encore handles did. Nothing like going to demo a brand new Alliance and be standing there with the driver’s door handle in your hand to get the sale started off right.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    I’d drive it. Needs the Euro headlights though. Neat little car, thanks for sharing Corey.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    I’m kind of embarrassed I didn’t include a Fuego in my hatchback crap garage. They weren’t great, but they were interesting and decent enough for their era.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Corey, I thought of a future drive/buy/burn:

    Ford Freestyle vs Chrysler Pacifica (the crossover) vs Hyundai Veracruze

    Three early attempts at larger crossovers that pretty well failed. You could also use the Subaru B9 Tribeca in place of one of them.

    • 0 avatar

      Hmm, yeah I think I’d put the Tribeca in place of the Pacifica. Then we’d have three three-row things.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        I thought the Pacifica offered a 3rd row, but to be honest, I never checked into it. I guess I just assumed it did given its size.

        I would say the CVT-only Freestyle gets an automatic (pun unintended, but it works lol) burn. The Taurus X at least went to a reliable 6 speed auto, but it still isn’t something I’d care to own.

        • 0 avatar
          cognoscenti

          John you are right. I had a three-row 2007 Pacifica with the 4.0 engine, which just like the Pontiac Fiero, was finally a great vehicle just in time to cancel the platform. DCX simply followed the GM pattern 20 years later.

          Little known fact: the cloth was a significantly better choice than leather in that car, as it not only looked great, felt cool and wore excellently (which is to say, hardly at all), but offered significantly better third row passenger headroom.

          • 0 avatar

            I always thought they were two-row because of the shape. It seemed just like a Venza in general usage. I never looked into the Pacifica either, always found them rather hateful looking.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    My college flight instructor had one (this was 1987) and I knew it was a Fuego because it was tan with huge letters on the side that gave the name. Great guy and I thought at the time had odd taste in cars.

  • avatar
    WallMeerkat

    Eventually it got a successor in the Laguna coupe, a car that from the rear quarters looks like a mini Aston Martin – just a shame about the Laguna hatchback derived googly front lights.

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