“What a lovely car, is it new?” asked the demented lady from the roof of the Renault 5 GTX. A second later, a plump traffic warden is perched on the black bonnet, popping a hard-boiled egg into her mouth.
So began one of the most chilling, terrifying and frankly bizarre television adverts of the 1980s.
Renault was keen to extol the virtues of the Renault 5 ‘Superfive’, which, for the 1988 model year, was given a subtle facelift, new engines and revised equipment. The famous 5 was available in 14 flavours: eight three-door and six five-door, with the flagship GT Turbo perched at the top of the tree.
The Renault 5 GTX was completely new – a kind of ‘diet’ GT Turbo, designed for those who fancied the look of the full-fat hot hatch, but with more lukewarm performance. It looked the part, while a 1.7-litre engine developing 90bhp meant that it was 30bhp short of the turbocharged tearaway, so less likely to send you into a hedge.
Top speed: 115mph, 0-62mph in 9.4 seconds. The GTX had a five-speed gearbox and a choice of 13-inch steel or alloy wheels. Uprated suspension, ventilated front disc brakes and velour seats completed the makeover.
Who better than Nicholas Parsons to demonstrate the nimble handling and decent poke of the Renault 5 GTX?
For the benefit of PetrolBlog’s overseas reader, Parsons is perhaps best known for hosting the radio show Just a Minute and the television quiz show Sale of the Century, which opened with the famous line “And now, from Norwich” as if the Norfolk capital was one of the world’s great metropolises, up there with Las Vegas, London and New York.
Norwich has many things going for it – one of its streets was the first to be pedestrianised in England – but broadcasting from the city is no big deal. Arriving there from a Wild Bean Cafe on the A11 isn’t quite the same as arriving in Vegas from Los Angeles.
Following the crazy lady and egg-fancying traffic warden, Nicholas Parsons appeared from the darkness in a rather demonic manner. “Seventeen-hundred-cc, 90-brake-horsepower… bet she’s a lovely mover,” says the Sale of the Century host, before proceeding to tear around the multi-storey car park like a joyrider on the Blackbird Leys estate.
What’s worse? The thought of the Renault 5 GTX losing its driver’s door, Parson’s ghostly demeanour, or the fact that the number plate is so obviously fake?
One thing’s for sure: the facelift for the 1988 model year was a triumph for the Renault 5, with the offset badge and new front grille and bumper with integrated spoiler combining well, especially on the GTX model. Yellow fog lights on a black car will always make PetrolBlog go weak at the knees.
Although the How Many Left website isn’t entirely accurate, it would appear that there are just half a dozen Renault 5 GTX left on the roads of Britain, with a further 43 listed as SORN. In 1994, there were around 5,200.
How many were killed in action by former game show hosts is anyone’s guess, but PetrolBlog is pleased to report that Parsons’ career lasted much longer than just a minute, as he celebrated his 96th birthday just a couple of weeks ago.
The life expectancy of a quiz show presenter is far greater than that of a French hatchback from the 1980s – who’d have thought it? Don’t go away nowwwwwwwww…
Main image courtesy of Renault/Wheelsage. UK GTX © Kieran White.