Don’t worry, you haven’t stepped into a time machine. The year is still 2019, and the bright yellow hatchback that you see in front of you is a freshly-completed build.
This is the Meguiar’s UK Renault 5 GT Turbo, and under the stewardship of the guy in charge of building it, Tom Clarke, it’s not only been saved from the clutches of time, but it’s also been brought boosting and pttssshing into the 21st century.
See, Tom and I are of a similar age and grew up coveting similar cars. I’m not talking about supercars or even sports cars at this point, but rather cars that excitable teenagers could almost, but not quite afford to build and run (and insure) when we first started driving.
For me, it was the Vauxhall Nova GTE/GSI – a retrospectively pretty crap 1.6-litre 8V European hatchback that would, in later years, either rust into dust en-mass, or be wrapped around lamp posts in similar numbers. But it had 100hp, and to a 17-year-old lad tearing the L-plates off his 40hp-on-a-good-day-and-downhill Volkswagen Beetle, that was a lot of power. It also weighed next to nothing, which didn’t help the aforementioned rust/lamp post issues, but did make them pretty nimble, chuckable, fun cars.
Tom’s aspirational, but also kind of crap car was the mighty Renault 5 GT Turbo.
Long before they were made mainstream famous by a fictional urban character from Staines, Renault 5 Turbos were the mainstay of the young drag strip racer. Straight out of the box Renault squeezed 115hp from the tiny 1.4-litre 8-valve engine – this was in a car that only weighed around 850kg! And because they were turbocharged the mischievous youths of Europe could unleash additional power that Renault, for some unknown reason, had left untapped. For the princely sum of around £15, a cheap bleed valve acted like a magical key, unlocking an extra 30 to 40hp.
Wisdom comes with experience, but when you’re a teenager in a fast turbocharged hatchback with unlimited extra horsepower at the turn of the screw, it’s hard to fight the temptation to keep on turning it. As a result, the GT Turbo head gasket and replacement engine business was a lucrative one in the late ’80s, ‘90s and early ‘00s. Still, this was all part of the fun of the 5 – boost it, blow it up on the drag strip, and then rebuild it faster, innit.
I’ve digressed monumentally here, as I tend to when talking about the early days of modifying in the UK, but it’s all relevant to the car that you see in front of you. See, this was the heyday of the Max Power era – a magazine which shouldn’t really need any introduction (if it does then I envy how young you are).
If you were young and modified a car in the ‘90s and ‘00s in the UK, and sometimes Europe, then Max Power was your bible.
It was an era identifiable by lairy bodykits, bright paint, big ICE installs, and a lack of
taste boundaries. Cars were tuned too, and horsepower was always part of the conversation, but a lot of emphasis was put on making the aesthetics as impactful as possible.
Looking back on it now, a lot of the styles were highly questionable, and haven’t aged well, but a few of the gems from the era can still revoke fond memories today. This is where Tom’s Renault 5 sits for me.I Like Gold
Tom is a senior marketer at Meguiar’s UK, and the very reason that this R5 exists in its current form can be put down to an idea that was rustled up in the marketing team at Meguiar’s HQ in Daventry.
Tom, along with his colleague Dale, pitched to Meguiar’s the idea of doing a head-to-head build-off series for YouTube. Meguiar’s agreed, and TOM vs DALE was born. If you want the full backstory on this car, the whole series can be viewed here; I’d recommend you do take a look.
While Dale opted to build a classic Mercedes-Benz lowrider, Tom went about sourcing his ideal build with the halcyon days of Max Power firmly in his mind, and came back with a bright green Renault 5 GT Turbo, already wearing a full widebody kit made by a company called Skeete Motorsport. The plan was to rebuild the green 5 and reimagine it for 2019, while staying relatively true to its Max Power roots.
However, the more parts Tom and the team at Reflex Auto Design pulled off the car, the more problems they uncovered underneath. In short, the widebody looked like it needed some TLC on the outside, but it hid a multitude of sins underneath.
To overcome the problems, Tom sourced a lower specification, but newer red Renault 5 Campus model to use as a parts car, but the more the GT Turbo was stripped, the less sense it made in retaining it. Ultimately, they made the call to scrap the green car, and move the kit, engine, drivetrain and any parts they could salvage over to the red car and do it right.
Sure it’s not a bonafide GT Turbo to the purists now, but this isn’t a car for the purists anymore anyway.
Reflex Auto Design grafted the repurposed Skeete kit – comprising of wider front and rear arches, side skirts and bumpers – onto the car, whilst smoothing the skirts into the bodywork. The latter is something that’s not really done as much nowadays, but it’s a touch that’s true to how people were doing bodykits in the ‘90s. Back then, the less panel gaps you had, the better.
The ‘bad boy’ bonnet is also straight out of the ‘90s. If your car didn’t look like it was pissed off that you’d fitted huge wheels and filled it full of subwoofers, then you weren’t doing it right.
There are many smaller touches that it’s easy to skim over, too. For instance, the Skeete kit originally came with a large aero-style aluminium fuel cap fitted, but Tom opted not to retain this. Instead, Reflex grafted a newer OEM fuel cap in its place on the wide rear arch. It’s far more subtle and doesn’t sound like much, but it was a big job.
Tom also opted for a modern spoiler to finish off the back end. This was sourced from a Clio RS 200 and made to fit the 5’s hatch.
Perhaps my favourite decision was the choice of Renault Liquid Yellow paint combined with the modern Renault F1 graphics as you’d find on newer RS Meganes and Clios. The colour is absolutely stunning in the sunlight.Floppy & French
In keeping with the ‘90s style, Tom opted to retain the original Dimma three-piece wheels that came on the car, albeit with a full rebuild and refurbish by The Wheel Specialist in Fareham. Wrapped in Nankang AR-1s all round, they measure 16×7-inches up front and 16×8-inches in the back (note: these are pretty huge sizes for the little 5), and are bolted in place with a Garage Midnight stud conversion kit.
Making the car not handle like a floppy old French hatchback from the ‘80s/’90s is a set of BILSTEIN B14 coilovers combined with a custom MMR Performance rear beam. Further stiffening things up are Powerflex bushes throughout.
Making braking marginally less terrifying is a set of OEM calipers rebuilt by EBC combined with fresh EBC discs and a set of EBC Yellowstuff pads. Forge Motorsport braided lines help with the braking feel.
In complete contrast to how almost everyone treated their 5s back in the day, Tom has resisted the urge to wind the boost up to 11 and obliterate his head gasket. Instead, an OEM block was stripped back and rebuilt from scratch with a few choice, and very sensible modifications.
A full Forge Motorsport hose kit keeps the boost where it should be, while other OEM parts have since been uprated using a Forge intercooler, actuator, dump valve and header tank. The only other addition under the bonnet is a Pipercross cone filter.
The entire car has been rewired, as well as being fully undersealed with Raptor protective coating, so it should last considerably longer this time around than its donor car did after it was built.
Inside, the eagle-eyed amongst you might recognise the front seats as modern Renault Sport Recaro CS items. The rear bench was then trimmed in matching Renault Sport fabric and yellow RS seatbelts added. Tom opted to retain the Campus dash and door cards to show off the Liquid Yellow paint on the doors and tie the exterior into the interior (the GTT cards cover the full door).
In place of a boot full of gigantic subwoofers, as you’d have had in the ‘90s, a more subtle Kenwood single sub occupies a lion’s share of the luggage compartment, while matching Kenwood speakers and head unit complete the package.
Why do I like this little Renault so much? It’s not the highest specification one out there by far, but it’s been executed with just the right balance between old and new. The ‘90s vibe reminds me of bygone days when the very notion of OEM+ wasn’t really on most people’s radars, while the newer OEM+esque touches are a nod to the more subtle trends of modifying in 2019.
Where the car, wheels and bodykit could’ve been lifted straight from the up-turned and creased pages of an old copy of Max Power, the paint and graphics are modern additions. It’s a wonderful juxtaposition that doesn’t jar at all in my eyes. Top job Tom, Meguiar’s and all involved.