Welcome to Thursday Trivia where we offer up a historical automotive trivia question and you try and solve it before seeing the answer after the jump. It’s like a history test, with cars!
This week’s question: What was the most notable aspect of the 1972 Renault R5’s—and certain earlier Renaults’—wheelbase?
If you think you know the answer, make the jump and see if you’re right.
The term SuperMini arose in the late 1960s, and described a class of cars just one rung up the ladder from what was at the time the smallest thing to be considered a proper car, the BMC Mini. Many cars sought the title of most super SuperMini, from Fiat with their 127, to Volkswagen and their Polo, to Ford with their surprisingly popular Fiesta.
Most of those followed the same path as the Mini, with a transverse engine powering the front wheels. One contender however took a different route, and that was Renault’s R5, what a few of us know as the “Le Car.”
The R5 eschewed a transverse engine and transmission layout for one that harkened back to the Traction Avant and which it shared with the contemporary Citroën SM, that being a longitudinal engine, resting behind the transaxle. That made for some interesting packaging in the passenger compartment—the radio stares at the ceiling instead of the seats—but didn’t seem to be all that much less space efficient than its contemporary rivals.
Another place where the original R5 turned back the clock was with its suspension design, featuring tried and true torsion bars for a compact package. The way they were arranged however led to an interesting result regarding the R5’s wheelbase.
The 1972 Renault 5, though, was not one of them. Instead, it borrowed from its older 1961 brothers, the Renaults 3 and 4 – successors to the 4CV that, in turn, had been inspired by the Citroen Traction Avant’s installation with the gearbox ahead of the longitudinal engine. As on the 3 and 4, the rear transverse torsion bars were mounted behind one another, resulting in a wheelbase longer on the offside than the nearside.
That’s right, 95.2-inches on one side and a far more generous 95.7 on the other. The small difference didn’t affect the car’s handling or stability, and of course like the Mini, the R5 provided an amazing amount of space inside for so small a package.