Rare Rides: The 1984 Renault Fuego, or Feu d’Artifice

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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]