Some people follow themes in their diecast car collections. Some folk own a model of everything ever in the entire Ferrari back catalogue. Some folk collect exclusively silver models, and there are, of course, motorsport fanatics who use their collection to demonstrate their allegiance to a given team or driver.
Me? I collect stuff I think is awesome. That’s all. And what’s more awesome than a tiny shopping hatchback transformed into a fire-breathing Group-B rally monster? The answer I’m looking for is “very little”.
It’s the Renault 5 Turbo.
There have been various breathed-on Renault Cinq’s over the years, starting with the Renault 5 Alpine of ’76, which the British among us enjoyed as the Gordini as the constantly-rebranded Rootes Group got all sniffy about other people using the “Alpine” name. With 93hp in a body weighing less than a bag of Frito-Lay’s finest, it was a nippy little blighter.
Nippier still was the Alpine / Gordini Turbo which came next; same basic mechanical package except for a nice little Garrett snail granting an extra seventeen horses. The nought-to-sixty dash dropped to just under nine seconds. Good stuff, but not nearly as mental as the car represented by the model in these images.
The 1397cc engine is basically the same in architecture and size, but very turbocharged indeed and expressing itself with 158hp. Said engine was deemed so lovely that Renault thought it better positioned in the rear passenger compartment so that the driver could look at it and caress its metallic form without opening the bonnet. This decision also had the secondary benefit of improving weight distribution and made rear-wheel-drive an obvious configuration. Dress it all with a gung-ho bodykit and scoops galore (the better to cool, ventilate and feed the still-carburettored engine and cover the necessary increase in front and rear track) and a star was born.
It was an immediate success, going straight out and winning the Monte Carlo Rally, but despite ever-increasing power levels, culminating in a Dassault Mirage-rivalling 345hp in the Renault 5 Maxi Turbo, competition from an increasingly four-wheel-drive opposition meant the sun didn’t shine on it for very long. However, irrespective of the motorsport background it certainly gave rise to a hell of a road car. And a hell of a 1:18 scale model, too.
It’s made by Revell, and is the same model as what went on to be marketed under the Universal Hobbies label. It’s got it all, really. The doors all open, the engine cover in the passenger compartment lifts (awkwardly) to expose that mid-mounted turbo-four complete with plug wires. The chassis is beautifully detailed with all the custom bits that differentiate it from lesser Cinqs being faithfully represented, and the dashboard, dials and decor are worthy of appreciative gawping.
It’s a terrific model. If I had a complaint it would be that the shut-lines aren’t 100% consistent and precision of casting isn’t perfect. And perhaps the paint is slightly over-glossy. But none of these complaints are really justifiable in the light of what I paid for it; a fraction over £20 on eBay, and that’s where I urge you to pick up your copy. It may take a while for one to turn up, but it’ll be well worth the wait.
My only problem now is resisting the temptation to score a Clio V6 to go with it.
(All images copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2015)