A V6-powered, 2+2 sports coupé, built by a company with impeccable racing heritage – the Renault Alpine GTA made sense in any language.
The Alpine legacy dates back to 1955, when French garage owner Jean Rédélé started to produce his own sports cars based on the rearengined Renault 4CV. Evolving through the iconic A110 rally machine and the A310, the GTA was of the same Renault-engined, plastic-bodied bloodline as previous Alpines.
Thrusting the new car’s sharp-looking plastic body into the Eighties was a 160bhp 2.8 litre V6 engine, driving through a five-speed gearbox and ultra-fat tyres. Fully-independent wishbone suspension and a low-slung rear-engined chassis also charmed the motoring press at the car’s 1984 launch.
In 1985 the GTA Turbo produced an even meatier 200bhp from its 2.5 litre powerplant. A widebodied Le Mans special edition followed, before the reworked 250bhp A610 concluded it all in 1994.
1986 Renault GTA V6 Turbo
1986 Renault GTA V6 Turbo
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
On the plus side, the outer body panels are corrosion-free polyester; on the minus side, these panels are bonded to a steel chassis frame, which was never galvanised at the Dieppe factory. As a result, rust can strike in a number of important structural areas, making corrosion checks essential for the GTA buyer.
Check the sills and jacking points, as you would for any car, but also inspect the door pillars. If the doors have dropped, it may be a sign of excessive corrosion in the A-pillars; alternatively, it could simply be down to hinge wear. If it’s an A610 you’re looking at, check the steel front floors for rust, particularly where they meet the front wheel arch liners – the earlier GTA was blessed with grot-free fibreglass floors.
Ensuring the strength and integrity of the chassis is crucial to buying a good example. For this reason, pay close attention to the suspension mounts (including the front and rear turrets), in addition to the rear subframe (which, fortunately, can be removed for
repair). Try to check the bulkhead where the steering rack bolts to it – corrosion can lurk here, although this is particularly difficult to spot.
The polyester-based outer panels should be less troublesome, but don’t be tempted to neglect them with your checks. If there are any cracks or splits in the plastic bumpers or front wings, then either specialist repair or replacement could be called for. New replacement panels can be found, but they’re not cheap; second-hand items can still be found, however.
The club can recommend paint specialists should re-finishing be required.
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION
The GTA powerplants were based upon the V6 PRV (Peugeot, Renault, Volvo) engine, which powered cars from all three of these marques (as well as less mainstream machines such as Deloreans and Venturis). The upshot of utilising such a well-proven engine is that the GTA mechanicals aren’t known for any particular weaknesses, with the added bonus of having no cam-belts to change (due to the use of timing chains instead). It’s worth checking for signs of head gasket failure, though, simply due to the age of the cars.
While the non-turbo models used a 2.8 litre V6, based on the Renault 30 engine, the Turbo V6 was a 2.5 litre unit familiar to Renault 25 Turbo owners. Neither version gives particular problems, but watch out for smoke from the Turbo – blue smoke from the exhaust hints at turbocharger wear, while plenty of black smoke suggests that the unit will require urgent attention.
As with the engine, the GTA transmission has a reputation for longevity. However, watch out for any clutch judder, which could be due to oil leaking from the gearbox. Don’t under-estimate the work or cost involved in changing a worn-out clutch. The engine has
to be removed to tackle this job and while new clutch kits for the GTA can be sourced for under £200, the kit for the A610 is closer to £500.
STEERING, SUSPENSION AND BRAKES
Check the steering for play, in addition to any knocking or clicking noises, suggesting wear. This can occur in the steering column universal joint, which can only be found second-hand, and while new track rod ends are available, they will set you back over £100 each. Fortunately, the club will be able to offer alternative parts in the near future.
The eight lower rear suspension wishbone bushes will probably need replacing if they haven’t already – Renault charges £132 per bush, but don’t panic as the Club can supply bushes at £30 each. A knocking from the rear when tackling speed bumps is the giveaway for tired bushes. Corrosion-prone lower wishbones will set you back just under £350 each, complete with bushes. Dampers, again, are cheaper through the club, with uprated Spax replacements from £99 (against the £240 of genuine Renault items).
Most GTAs were fitted with 20mm-thick brake discs, which cost about £30 a pair from Motor Factors. Pads are similarly inexpensive at about £10. However, the 22mm discs of later GTAs are only available from Renault, while the 24mm-thick items of the A610 cost a staggering £270 each. Inspect the troublesome rear handbrake callipers, which could require rebuilding.
Unfortunately, French car electrics gremlins can play havoc with the GTA’s electrical equipment. Being laden with electrical goodies from new means that there’s plenty to go wrong, so don’t be surprised to find non-functioning electric windows, central locking, trip computer or speedometer. Unless you don’t mind breaking out the multi-meter, try to find a car where everything works. Mercifully, the later A610 had most of these problems eliminated, but instead check that the ABS is working correctly.