Some of you may recognise this week's car under a different name, the Renault Encore, the hatchback version of Car and Driver & Motor Trend's car of the year for 1983 the Renault Alliance. Others may have spotted a very similar looking taxi being ripped apart in the Bond film 'A View To A Kill'. I however see Jean Ragnotti's Group A rally car in 1986 & 1987.
Released in 1983 as a 3 or 5 door hatch then facelifted in 1987, the 11 was based on the Renault 9 Saloon. Late '84 saw the introduction of Turbo versions of both cars, sharing a boosted 1.4 litre 4 cylinder engine with the mid engined Renault 5 Turbo. Early cars made 105 bhp while the later models gained another 10 ponies. Weight was only 915 kg so performance was pretty brisk, between 8 & 9 seconds to 60 depending on the model and year.
The Group A Turbo predictably gained a good chunk of more power. Renault Sport at the time suggested around 185 bhp although seemingly this was more like 220 bhp in reality. Although the cars proved fast on tarmac with some pretty strong finishes, they were never fully able to compete with the Sierra Cosworths and Lancia Delta HF 4WDs. Reliability was never a strong point for Renault Sport either.
On the road, the car was designed to be a bit more grown up and comfortable than contemporaries such as the Golf & 205 GTIs. Unfortunately this isn't what the public wanted. As soon as the smaller, more eager front wheel drive 5 GT Turbo was introduced, the 11 faded into obscurity with many of the cars donating engines to their little brothers. Over time, what few were sold dwindled in number further to the point that there are now apparently just 9 left on UK roads.
It is a shame so few are left though, the torquey engine in such a light car gave good performance and it handled pretty well too. They also came with some of the most eightiestastic wheels and stripes early on with later cars receiving an equally enticing chiselled bodykit. Personally I just want to borrow one to play at being Monsieur Ragnotti for a couple of hours, preferably without having to rely on a hoard of rallyists pulling me out of a 20 foot drop. If you don't know what I'm talking about, check out the video below!
From AJTaylor's blog The Wastegate.