The Fuego (fire in Spanish) is a sports coupe that was produced by French automaker Renault from 1980 to 1986, replacing the Renault aging 15 and 17 coupés of the 1970s. Renault sold the Fuego in the UK hoping to take sales from the established Opel Manta and Ford Capri.
It was never quite the runaway success that Renault had hoped for. Part of the problem was the Renault 18 platform which was underneath. Although fundamentally sound it wasn’t much of a driver’s car and was ill suited to what was intended to be a sporty coupe.
With styling by Robert Opron, the designer that also penned the Citroen CX and SM, the Fuego is still a good looking car, and despite being essentially a Coupe it’s actually surprisingly practical, easily accommodating four adults and their luggage. Aerodynamic, stylish and unusual, the Fuego makes a great left-field classic buy, but only if you can find one.
This Fuego has an interesting past, one that has enabled it to last just over 40 years in such remarkable condition. In a brief period in the early 1980s it was more cost effective if you ordered a right hand drive car in Europe and then drove it back to the UK, essentially a self-import. Purchased new in Belgium in 1982, the car was originally driven on Belgium number plates (included in the sale), so was first registered in UK in 1984.
The owner was living in the USA and moved to San Francisco, working as a sea pilot in the Bay area before moving to Alaska piloting in the Alaskan waters. There is still a window sticker from San Francisco on the car. During this period the car was safely tucked away in his garage on the Isle of Wight. Driven occasionally and MOT'd regularly the Fuego always returned to the warm garage, living under a car cover.
Eventually the owner retired to Arizona, where he now resides. On a phone call during lockdown , the subject of the Fuego cropped up, and he pointed out he was unlikely ever to return for the car! So now it’s being offered for sale; with only one owner, 30,000 miles, unmolested and amazingly original. The Vendor’s brother has said he will deliver the car to Portsmouth from the Isle of Wight if necessary.
As you would expect, despite the age it is a 30,000 mile car so it didn’t have that many services. One stamped in the book carried out by DH Motors of the Isle of Wight in March 2010 when the car had covered 29,743 miles shows nothing major was done to pass that years MOT test.
Upon the decision to sell, the Fuego was sent for a health check at a local garage as it hadn’t been driven for nearly a year. A bill on file shows the following was done: drain fuel and refill, change oil, pair of wiper blades, a new battery, new gas struts for the tailgate, and a new brake master cylinder to replace the original which had leaking seals. Apart from that nothing needed doing!
Accompanying the Fuego are the original Owner’s Manual and Service book, and a couple of original brochures (one in French). A delightful Renault Boutique Accessories catalogue is included along with its original Belgian plates. There are also several old MOTs documenting the slowly increasing mileage.
The interior is in excellent condition –even for a car that has covered a mere 30,000 miles. As you can see from the photographs the light blue velour looks untouched, with no marks or stains. The carpets have been protected by a set of Renault rubber mats, so are like new. The interior plastic is all unwarped, uncracked and clean, and would require only minor detailing to make it perfect.
In the boot there are a couple of issues that could be addressed. Firstly the carpet has started to degrade, just through age. There is a large bald patch in the middle of the boot carpet. Secondly, the underside of the rear load cover could do with a good clean. Under the carpet there are two storage spaces, one containing the jack and handle, the other some tins of paint, and a delightful and complete toolkit, still displaying its funky Renault Boutique sticker.
The car was fitted from new with Remote Central locking, but this does not work from the fob, it could be just a new battery is required. However the central locking does work with the key.
As you would expect from a 40 year old car the exterior is not entirely unmarked. The injection moulded plastic bumpers have faded a little in places. There are various nicks and scratches in the paintwork, mostly small and not particularly obvious. There is a slight dent in the bonnet, noticeable in the shaded photographs, where perhaps someone has closed it too firmly –probably easily removed. There is some bubbling confined to the trim strip that runs along the sill on both sides of the car which would need to be remedied before it got much worse.
The driver’s side tail light has a crack and hole, so an ebay hunt may produce a replacement! Other than that the window glass and lights show no cracks or chips, and we tested the lights and fog lamps – all were working well. We are sure you’ll agree there is something particularly cool about yellow fog lamps on a French car!
The factory fitted electric fabric sunroof worked perfectly and shows no marks that could not be removed with a gentle clean. The Fuego was ordered with a factory tow bar from new, and this is still fitted.
Under the bonnet there is Renault’s SOHC 1.6 engine that started and ran like a dream when we visited. Sounding extraordinarily smooth, with no rattles or squeaks, it is exactly how a “just run in nicely” 30,000 mile engine should. It drove like an early 1980s car should, on our way to take the photographs,. The steering is a little heavy at slow speeds, but once rolling it’s fine.
Although it appears the engine bay has never been cleaned there is just the lightest dusting of rust evident on the firewall, cam cover and in places on the inner wings. The engine, although dusty, appeared to have no oil leaks or stains. With an all the fluids (including brake and fuel) changed in March this year, and with its new battery there’s no reason why the Fuego shouldn’t be reliable and useable classic.
If you are a fan of 70s and 80s classics then the Fuego is one of the landmark cars of the era. With only nineteen Fuegos of all types still road registered in the UK, out of which only six are GTS variety, this is a rare car indeed. We are willing to bet that most of them have at least twice the mileage or more, and virtually none will be as well preserved as this one. If you fancy the perfect car for Hagerty’s Festival of the Unexceptional in July this year, this is it!
Now, where are my Dire Straits cassettes?
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1982 Renault Fuego GTS
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