Robert Opron designed some of the greatest French cars of the 1970s and 1980s. Actually scrub that, Robert Opron designed some of the greatest cars of all time. Period.
A man could quite easily retire a hero having penned the designs for the Citroën SM and playing a major role in that of the redesigned Citroën DS. He was also responsible for the timeless elegance of Citroën’s less desirable but no less interesting CX and GS. As far as Citroën goes then, it is very much a case of job done, Monsieur Opron.
But Opron also dabbled with a few Renaults in his time and it would be fair to say that the results are not quite as memorable. One such car is the Renault 9, a model which is essentially the saloon version of the once ubiquitous Renault 11 hatchback. So the 9 is therefore a Shatchback which has so far managed to escape the wrath of PetrolBlog. There’s still time of course, especially with a Halloween edition of Shatchbacks coming up.
The Renault 9 is one of the few Shatchbacks to be awarded European Car of the Year status, doing so in 1982. Production lasted until 1989, by which time some 1.1 million cars had rolled off the production line, meaning the saloon outnumbered the 11 hatchback by over 100,000 units. So somebody liked it.
Today though, you’re far more likely to see a well driven Audi than a Renault 9, with many of them spiralling into worthlessness in the 1990s and therefore not making into the new millennium. I didn’t like it when it was new, I certainly didn’t like it as it glided into bangerdom and to be honest, I’d largely forgotten about it.
But then I stumbled across a Renault 9 Turbo in the classifieds. If there was a Renault 9 to have, then surely it would be the Turbo? It had the same engine as the mighty Renault 5 Turbo, meaning it had 115 bhp and could be propelled to an eye-watering 120mph, reaching 60 in a little less than nine seconds.
Of course, by sharing the same engine as the 5 Turbo, it also meant you were likely to be killed by the turbo’s tendency to kick-in mid corner and take you into the nearest hedge, wall, tree or branch of Tandy. Indeed, I’m sure statistics will support my claim that more Renault 9 Turbos were killed in action than by metal disease. Whatever the reason, the sad truth is that the number of 9 Turbos left in existence today barely reaches double figures.
With a brand new MOT and a screen price of £900, surely this Renault 9 Turbo is worth a punt? It has a proven engine and pretty decent handling, so this is an awful lot of 80s car for not a lot of cash. For sure, the interior plastics will creak under the strain of 23 years and 97,000 miles of use, but as a dealer on a test drive once told me to do, you could always just turn the radio up and listen to the Pet Shop Boys.
The Renault 9 Turbo could only have come from the eighties and the boxiness of the design and simple fact that it has survived all this time makes it quite appealing. The ad can be found here.
One guy who will be interested is Glasgow-based petrolhead Simon Ford, or @sf4d74 as he’s better known on Twitter. Although Simon never actually owned a Turbo, he was a proud owner of a 1.4 GTS in 1997. It had a rather dubious sounding two-tone paintwork, green on the top with grey on the bottom and came complete with a red go-faster stripe.
Simon remembers the car with great fondness, praising the car’s good handling, helped by the saloon’s extra weight over the back wheels. Simon claims that the 9 lives in the shadows of the 11 when it comes to aesthetics. I have to say that I disagree in this respect. If you’re going to go for boxiness, then make sure the whole damn thing is boxy! No nasty hatchback curves for me, thank you.
But while the Renault 9 is fast disappearing from UK roads, we’ll always have television adverts such as the one above these to remember it by. So very, very 80s.
If anyone takes the plunge and buys the Renault 9 Turbo featured here, please get in touch. I’ll buy you a pint and a packet of Hobnobs for services to French cars of the 1980s. Salut!
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I’d forgotten there even was a 9 Turbo. I do, however, remember my first ever experience of a turbocharged car:
It was an 18, which a motor trader friend bought at auction when it was just a few months old. He casually tossed me the keys and asked me to drive it home for him. It only had 110 BHP, but I remember being smitten by the wave of torque when the turbo finally started spinning.
And then there was the savage 21 turbo, which I drove many years later. That was almost as ugly and angular as the 9, but it was a heck of a Q car!
Ah yes, the Renault 21 Turbo. Also getting increasingly difficult to get hold of, especially in an unmodified state. Torque steer galore!
The 21 Turbo a ‘Q-car’?????? Hardly!
I always thought, with a few stickers added, it looked ready for the BTCC!
Not one of Opron’s greatest designs, it has to be said.
My girlfriend at Uni (now wife) had a 1985 1.1 in orange. Vile thing but actually went pretty well, took ages to get there but managed north of a lepton with 5 adults in the car. Looking back its clear why insurance for young people is high – they are stupid.
Had a couple of full brake failure moments in it, pedal right to the floor. Grim.
Two word car reviews for the win: ‘VILE THING’. 😉
I bought a (then) ten-year old Renault 11 GTX as a commuter car. Comfortable, reliable, 48mpg, smooth but mediocre handling and…er…spectacular and un-announced brake failure just as I pulled it up to the kerb, in front of an interested buyer.
Switching the engine off in first gear to halt the car before it hit my neighbour’s Metro, I announced to the buyer and his wife that the prospective sale was off. The car’s brakes had failed.
He gave me the kind of withering look that one might expect under the circumstances. However, his wife came up with a response to which I found no helpful answer possible:
“But…we’ve just come from Bognor!”
Ha! Not the best test drive, but a brilliant comment! 😉
There is a green Renault 9 (E, Reg) that i see every now and again around Southport. One car mag from 1982 called this car “Bore Of The Year”. Whatever happened to the Renault 20/30 range? Can’t find one of these for sale anywere.
Good call on the 20/30. Might need to run a feature on them…
Oh bloody hell, that’s delightful.
The interior, the wheels, the Renault-Elf sticker…
Hi there. Just thought you’d like to know that in April after a long time searching we got our Renault 9 Turbo phase 2… It’s in pretty decent condition except for some welding currently being done to the sills… Not unexpectedly. It’s got a few upgrades, T25 Turbo, lightened flywheel , larger inter cooler & a catcam camshaft, but it’s very understated looking.. It’s currently receiving some tlc from our mechanics… The only downside is the difficulty in finding some parts, even through clubs.. We’ll never sell it so there will always be one Renault 9 Turbo surviving in the UK. 🙂
Would love to post a couple of pics for you but not sure I can here.