My Five Story
Hi there. This is the story of my Renault Five Turbo and I am sure that most of you out there will be able to relate to some parts of it.
My story starts way before I bought my 5. I had a Fiat Regata before but it was a bit tatty (rusty like most older Italian cars). After looking around for a while I decided that the car for me was a Fiat Tipo, so I started looking for one. I found a good 1.9 Turbo Diesel but just as I arrived to view the car money was being exchanged. Shame.
One of my friends had a Toyota Corolla GT Twin Cam 16v D reg. It was quite quick and very reliable. One day soon after the Tipo gazumping my friend and I were driving around and we saw a Renault 5 Turbo accelerate in front of us so I turned to my friend and said "Go on then, get after him". To my amazement my friend turned to me and said, "You must be joking, once those things get going there’s no catching them". This from the man who I had never seen refuse a race. This experience had a profound effect upon me. I then moved my attention to both Tipos and Renault 5 turbos.
At this point in time I knew nothing about 5 turbos, so I started buying Max Power and the like to see what I could find out. I soon found out there was a great deal of enthusiasm about the 5 turbo and decided the Tipo was out; the 5 Turbo was for me.
I did not want to buy the first car I saw so I looked all over London and the South East for one in good condition. In all I viewed fifteen 5 turbos all advertised as "Mint" or "Good condition inside and out". I was disappointed to find major problems with all of these cars ranging from smoking exhausts to appalling interior and bodywork. I went to see one car in Central London where I was greeted by a lady claiming that her boyfriend had just taken the car for a car wash and that he would be back soon. Once the boyfriend had returned with the car I knew straight away that I was not going to buy it as it was completely dry and dirty. I had a quick look underneath anyway and straight away I spotted a serious oil leak. Goodbye. Another wasted journey.
Some other classics I was told when looking at cars were:
"Do not worry about the juddering they always do that when they are low on petrol"
"I am going to Prison next week so I need to sell it" - This was true!
By this time I was losing hope of ever finding a suitable car. Then I saw a black one in Welling, which I actually liked, I even put a deposit on it. When I returned the next day to pick the car up I noticed some dents in the bodywork which I had not seen the previous evening in the dark. I was also then informed by the seller that the gearbox had been rebuilt and the heatshield was faulty. Once again I had to walk away disappointed.
This saga went on for over two months. I nearly gave up, but whenever I was driving I would see 5 Turbos all over the place like they were haunting me.
Then I saw an advert for a 5 Turbo in Warlingham, just down the road from me. It was advertised for £3,500 so I was expecting a car in good condition. On arriving I saw the car had a cracked rear bumper courtesy of the careful lady owner. The next thing I realised was that it was a "Raider" which was a bit of a bonus. I do not think the owner knew the cars rarity. I examined the car and apart from the bumper I could not find any major problems. After haggling her down to £3,100 it was mine. At last.
The first thing I noticed when driving home was the blistering change in acceleration when the turbo span up. It felt so damn fast that first time. It’s a shame you get used to it. I suppose that’s why we modify our cars to get that feeling back.
Well that was August 1996 and it did not stay standard for long……
Ironically that month an article was published in Car and Car Conversions magazine regarding modifying Renault 5 Turbos. The two companies asked for their conversions and demonstration cars were Turbo Pacs and a certain GT Tuning. I still have that article if anybody would like a copy. This was my bible for the next six months or so. I could not decide which company would give the best service or had the best modifications. In the end I went for GT Tuning as they were only 120 miles away as opposed to 400 miles to Turbo Pacs.
I had already fitted PI springs and a K&N air filter, when I had my first visit to GT Tuning. I only had the in-car adjustable boost kit fitted but on driving the car afterwards the increase in power was incredible. Just driving down the road in third gear foot to the floor and then turning the boost up was like pushing my foot through the floor. I was now a turbo junkie. And that’s no joke.
Then one day while travelling to work the temperature gauge went above the second line and my electric fan did not activate. Hmmm I thought thinking back to the good old Fiat Regata days when I blew my head gasket and the first sign was no hot air and overheating. And guess what, the head gasket had blown. Was it the end of the Renault 5 Turbo should I let it roll over and die, cut my losses, no chance.
I had found out prices for replacing the head gasket which ranged from £500 from your local cowboys to £800 from Renault your dealer cowboys. From my knowledge of Renault 5’s and head gaskets I knew it was more likely to have been caused by a warped cylinder head than just a failing gasket which meant skimming etc and the inevitability that it may blow again.
So I decided to buy a new engine which would give me peace of mind at the end of the day, and should be able to withstand more modifications than an 80,000 mile + engine.
So who does engines. Everybody, so why the price differences, well all of the quoted engines are reconditioned, even genuine Renault engines use mostly reconditioned parts. This was not good; the whole reason I wanted a brand new engine was to make sure that I knew exactly how the engine had been treated and driven from its birth. So then another call to GT Tuning who it just so happened could get hold of a brand new engine from Renault in France. These engines are worth every penny for the longevity they give you. You get them at zero miles, you run them in nicely and from then on you know that its going to last. I think it was Max Power who quoted the engine in a 5 Turbo as being "Bullet-proof" (if looked after).
Having decided on a new engine I was in a quandary, do I have the car modified at the same time, saving labour charges or leave it till later. Once looking over the figures of a new clutch for example which is £165 for a Group N spec kit and a poultry £500 to fit or absolutely nothing from GT Tuning (as long as you buy an engine) I decided to go all the way (see crazy list of mods at end).
Once I got the car back I had to drive carefully for 500 miles, which I did. Then I took the car back to GT Tuning and they changed the oil, oil filter, re-torqued the cylinder head and re-set the valve clearances. After driving the car so carefully for so long the first thing Roland does is turn the boost up and floor it!
After taking the car home and having the guts to put my foot down with the boost turned up I am finally scared again. I have actually managed to recreate that original feeling when I first drove the car.
I then took the car to Mech Repairs Rolling Road day which was an owners club organised event. The car showed 174 BHP @ 5472 rpm and 173 lbs/ft2 of torque @ 4500 at the flywheel. Which as the rolling road was one of the more accurate ones the club had used I was very happy with these figures. Fast Car covered this event and below is what they made of my car:
After this event I upgraded the turbo to an HE5B Mark 2 which has the same low lag of the HE5A but bigger boost capability.
In January 1998 I started to notice a ticking noise from the engine under load. It seemed to come from right in front of me while I was driving. I thought it could only be tappets or the turbo. I phoned GT Tuning and Roland suggested that the exhaust manifold could be cracked or the manifold gasket had blown. When I had a new engine the manifold gasket was replaced so it was likely that the manifold itself had cracked. I had it checked out locally and they told me they were 99% sure it was a cracked exhaust manifold. So GT Tuning found me a cheap second hand manifold in excellent condition, Renault charge £450 just for the manifold. Then I took the car down to Wareham where I had the cylinder head ported and gas flowed to stage 4. The labour for this job would involve removing the exhaust manifold anyway so I was saving myself labour charges again. Once this was all done the ticking noise had completely gone and GT Tuning confirmed that there were several hairline cracks in the exhaust manifold.
After this work the car was just crazy, on standard boost 9psi at the engine it felt like it used to on full boost (at that time) 14psi. I was scared once more.
The car stayed like this for quite a while until my hunger for more mods and finishing touches got the better of me. I had heard of a company called Carisma that can re-trim the whole car in various colours of leather. Now that my Renault was getting on for 10 years old I thought that a complete re-trim would make a really big difference to the cars appearance. So I spoke to Carisma and drove to Colchester the following week to see their two demo cars and have a chat with Jamie Shaw (the boss). Jamie’s own car was on the front cover of Max Power quoted as the best GT Turbo ever. It is also to be featured in Fast Car in November. All their work was excellent and their ice installs looked really professional. All I had to decide was how much of the car to re-trim and what colour. After deciding to go all the way which including re-fabricated door and rear quarter panels, and a complete boot install I had to pick a colour. This is the hardest decision I have ever made regarding a mod to my car. Its not like wheels where you can imagine how the wheels look, or where you have seen them on another car. With leather you have absolutely no idea of what it will look like. I wanted to be different and have something that stood out so I didn’t want a dark colour, but I also didn’t want to go the garish bright colour route either, so all the loud colours were out. What was left was white, crème and magnolia (like the Ferraris have!) and so I went for magnolia with blue piping to set it off nicely. Jamie designed the door panels and boot install from our initial discussions and I provided all the new ice equipment. Jamie said it would take around 3 weeks and he got the car ready exactly three weeks later. When I picked the car up I was very shocked, it was so different to before I was not sure if I liked it, but the more I looked at it the more I loved it.
At this time I also decided to go for some 17" wheels, even though everyone I spoke to said it was a nightmare to get them on. After doing the mods myself I can tell you that its not as bad as they make out, as long as you get the right offset and size wheels and tyres its only a days work. The car still handled okay but was crying out for some decent suspension so on went some AVO 2¼" coilovers.
At this point Fast Car Magazine expressed an interest in featuring my car and as they were so local to me a photo shoot was organised and my car appeared in the January 2000 issue (page 40). The photo shoot was interesting to say the least. The magazines are not quite as we would perceive them. I also had the pleasure of having their current model Rachel Terhorst present at my photo shoot. She even asked if she could buy the car off me as she liked it so much!! I said no of course.
I took a break from modding for a while after the magazine feature and concentrated on the drag strip and getting some good bhp and torque figures down for my car. As you can see from the performance section and ¼ mile section of my website the cars performance is impressive to say the least for a 1397cc 4 Cylinder 8 valve pushrod engine designed in 1966!
But at this time I could not crack the 14 second barrier at the pod or get over the elusive 200 bhp barrier on the rollers.
I then started concentrating on the exterior styling, so on went a genuine Subaru Impreza bonnet scoop fitted and sprayed (and that’s not easy either). I must say that I fitted this 2 years ago, before most others!
I had recently heard GT Tuning were doing something new called a Cybercooler, which is a huge front mounted intercooler, similar to the impressive Japanese rally cars. I spoke with them and they convinced me that the Cybercooler would not only allow me to run more boost safely (due to lower charge temps) but also looked the nuts! To utilise a Cybercooler you obviously need a bumper designed for one, so I also bought one of their EVO bumpers.
I then thought that if I was going to have to get the bumper sprayed then I might as well get a few other mods so I save myself money on paint etc. So now my shopping list included twin headlamps, M3 door mirrors and splitters. I also asked for some elliptical vents for the bumper for extra cooling (and looks!).
Once my trusty bodyshop Panelcraft had worked their magic the car looked unbelievable, simply awesome, it now had a hard edge to its character, a growl if you like. I would hate to see my car in my rear view mirror!
To further enhance the cooling properties of the Cybercooler GT Tuning developed the Cyberspray which sprays a fine mist onto the intercooler upon the flick of a switch or at a certain boost pressure.
I actually own the first ever production Cybercooler and Cyberspray made!!
The Cyberspray took time to perfect with various types and size of jets and pumps used but the final result is excellent. I get more questions about that than anything else on my car (oh except for "How much has it cost you" yawn. Most people think the Cybercooler is an oil cooler! And keep telling me my car has a leak when the spray is on. Even the guy at the start line of Santa Pod dragstrip thought my car had a water leak!!
After these mods I finally got over the 200 bhp barrier at Gerald Dale Motorsport (GDM) in Hastings at one of the rolling road events I organised for the Owners Club. 180 bhp @ the wheels and 212 @ the flywheel!!! Hoorah.
So I went back to the strip and STILL could only manage a best time of 14.11@104 mph. I was convinced that this due to the extra weight of all my interior and the larger wheels so I embarked on a mission. That mission was to silence all my critics (of which there seemed to be many in the GT Turbo community – some people just want everyone to fail don’t they), and conquer Ultimate Street Car 2000 at Santa Pod in August 2000.
I completely stripped all the interior from my car (not an easy task with all the leather, door builds etc), this left only the drivers seat!!! And took me a whole day to do!!!! I also purchased some 13 inch wheels with nice sticky tyres.
I then went to Max Power Live and while I was on GT Tunings stand overheard Roland and John Semple talking about this new turbo they were building specifically to win USC 2000. My ears pricked up and I enquired further, apparently it would have more power than the current best turbo the HE5 Lic but much less lag!! How?? Well that was a secret until recently when Roland released details to the public that it utilises a ceramic wheel. I have personally felt the lower inertia of these wheels when compared to normal metal ones and they are MUCH easier to spin. So after a short chat we had expanded the new turbo (now known as the F1) production run to 3, one for John Semple, one for Rolands new project 11 (11 second ¼ mile car!!!!!), and one for me.
When I drove my car back from Dorset that first time with the F1 fitted I was utterly gob smacked. There was lag but nothing like an Lic or RB12 (roller bearing turbo) but the power was immense. There seems to be nothing and then all at once it hits you… BANG… and your at 7000 rpm!! I was convinced that running only 25 psi I could crack the 14 second barrier and finally join the 13 second club.
So off we all went to the pod praying for good weather (the previous 2 USC events had been renamed "Mudbaths" due to the heavy rain.
Roland quickly set the pace with a 13.7 in John Semples car, Trevor child driving Danny Fennels was also doing high 13’s. And a certain Europarts demo car (the grey one) was also doing high 13’s.
I did my first run and for some reason couldn’t get any more than 15 psi, so I was doing middle 14’s. After a quick check and tightening of a loose boost pipe on one of my intercoolers full boost was regained.
Getting good starts is the key at Santa Pod and I was getting consistently good 2.3 second 60 ft times. My next run yielded a 13.86@107 mph and the biggest sigh of relief I have ever sighed!!
Roland had done a 13.2 by now and Trevor a 13.6 so I was lying third.
My competitive nature then took over and I did repeated runs at 32 psi, as many as I could do, just driving straight from the end of the strip back to the start again. I managed a 13.7@110 mph, 13.6@108 mph and 13.5@94 mph (the terminal speed on this one was obviously wrong!). But I had done it, finally silenced all the doubters.
I will tell you all one thing, and that is until you have done a 13 second ¼ mile or been in a genuine 200 bhp R5 Turbo you have not lived. The rush it gives you, which is amplified by the lightness of the car and the noise is simply awesome.
So what was left for me to do? I hear you ask. Well I had heard that Carisma had built a new car on 18’s, so if they could do it, then I could do it. I love a challenge as you know by now. So I did all the maths and worked out what I would need to do and in theory I reckoned I could do it, just. But until you get the wheels and tyres you just don’t know because the tyre profile size can vary from manufacture to manufacturer.
So I bought some 7.5 x 18 Momo Sports and Pirelli 215/35/18 tyres and with some hefty angle grinding and bashing I got them on. Once I drove the car with them on I soon found out that I would need stiffer springs on the front, so I got AVO to make me up some 375 lb springs and they cope very well. The ride is extremely hard and the steering is heavy but I just had to have those wheels.
After I had fitted these wheels my next event was Trax 2000 at Silverstone. I took my car round the track again, and I was having great fun racing a modded Subaru Impreza WRX when someone blew up and we had to finish our Track time early. While I was there Revs magazine spotted my car and asked if they could feature it. I said "Only if it goes on the front cover" and they said "No problem". So a date was set and I drove my car to their Studio in Peterborough. Revs are surprisingly professional compared to the other mags I have dealt with.
My car appeared on the cover of the March 2001 issue, full pictures are available under the Revs feature on this site.
And that it where my story ends. I feel I have done just about everything I ever wanted to with my five, and I still look at it and smile to myself at how nice it looks. As the article says, "I cant stand people who polish their dump valves, bullshit about bhp or trailer their cars everywhere – its madness. This car is driven every day, I haven’t just had it sprayed last week, I’m not selling it, and I wouldn’t have it any other way." And that just about sums me up.
I hope you like the car and can appreciate how much time, effort and thought has gone into it. If not then fair enough everyone’s different.
I am a regular visitor to the GT Turbo Owners Club website which has chat pages buzzing with GT Turbo talk. I recommend them to anybody with an interest in the five. They contain tuning tips, recommended tuners/repairers, events updates and loads more.
I hope to see some of you at up and coming events. Long live the 5. Especially mine.
I will leave you with one final thought, "When the chequered flag drops, the talking stops."