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How I revived a $100 car that sat for 17 years

The voice at the other end of the line sounded exasperated. “I don’t know, give me 100 bucks and get it out of my yard.”


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/11/29/reviving-a-100-dollar-car-that-sat-for-17-years
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Well done, sir!

A good friend of mine had a Le Car, and while I found it “interesting” I wouldn’t have bought one.

Your newer model looks much more appealing, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy driving it.

  • Jim
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That looks like a good purchase. I hope to see an update when it is road-ready. What is the situation like for registering, fueling, and using cars that don’t have emissions controls there?

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Hey, you’re right, it’s markedly more modern than the LeCar in just about every way. It’s better rust-proofed, too, which is nice because the original 5 rusted really well – and normally from the inside out, so by the time you noticed a small spot on the quarter panel it was completely, utterly shot. It’s also more spacious inside.

The suspension and the chassis are Super 5-specific, but it drives a lot like the 5/LeCar in the sense that you kind of have to play with weight transfer to pre-load the suspension before taking a turn at higher speeds, ha. It’s how a lot of French cars were tuned during the 1970s and the 1980s. It’s certainly quirky, but it’s also a lot more comfortable than you might imagine a 33-year old economy car would be.

Hey, registering a car is normally straight-forward. It has to pass safety and emissions, but the folks who run the inspections stations around here generally put things into perspective. They don’t hold a 1986 car to the same standards as one from 2006. With that said, it still has to have lights, seat belts, glass, doors, good tires, etc.

Once it’s inspected, you need to apply for a title, which is also normally straight-forward. This one will be more difficult to register because the last owner died in 2002, but it won’t be impossible. I’ll need to jump through a lot of legal hoops, and fill out a ton of paperwork. Of course, the option of getting a clean title from a parts car is still on the table, and it wouldn’t be illegal because it’s over 30 years old.

For years, the most popular cars in France were body-on-frame; the 2CV and its derivatives, as well as the Renault 4 and its off-shoots. They also rusted pretty well. In the 1980s, before safety and emissions were mandatory, folks didn’t think twice about putting a good body on a good chassis and calling it a day. 30-40 years later, you end up with a lot of cars with mismatched documents, hence why it’s okay to have one serial number on the title and another (or none) stamped into the body/chassis if the vehicle is over 30 years old. Whether it’s body-on-frame or unibody isn’t taken into account. Don’t try that with, say, a 2017 BMW 3 Series, though, ha.

Anyway, back to the road: Fueling is simple. I pour 98-octane in all of my classics and they run well. And, there are no restrictions on using classic cars in France, but there used to be (you couldn’t drive out of your department until the early 2010s) and I’m afraid there will be new ones sooner or later. Germany has an annual mileage limit, for example. That’s why I stopped applying for classic titles years ago.

It’s up to the owner; the advantage is that classics are required to go through inspections every five years, versus every two years for normal cars. I don’t mind getting my cars inspected more often if it means I can drive them when I want. And, with a classic title you’re allowed to put vintage-looking black plates on your car, but that law isn’t enforced. I’ve got them on my 1972 Beetle, among others, and I haven’t ever worried about getting ticketed for it because it’s not registered as a vintage car.

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My friend’s LeCar was decidedly soft in the suspension area.

When he cornered it hard, I thought it was going to roll all the way over onto the roof!

Thank you for your very comprehensive reply! I spent much of today trying to help get a friend’s Boxster S through Virginia State Inspection with a non-functioning clutch-pedal-position sensor. It sounds like your bureaucracy is no more frustrating than ours.

In 1981 I attended the Formula 1 Dutch Grand Prix in Zandvoort, Netherlands. In a pre-race, a huge pack of Renault 5’s - there must have been 50 of them on the track - put on a great show, lots of passing, loads of contact, extremely entertaining. In those days you could walk the dunes and get right up next to the track. It was loads of fun to watch those little beasties run.

I bought a '76 R5 new,after owning an R15, R17,and an R16TS. I enjoyed the R5 for the first year or so,but then the novelty wore off. I came to the realization that none of the European cars I had owned were good for more than two years in the great white north (I’m a slow learner). I bought a new '78 GMC Caballero (which I still have) and have never looked back.

Looks like a real score to me! The 5/Le Car was quite popular here in Vancouver ‘back in the day’ and we saw many creeping around the streets of our neighbourhood. Then one day, extinct. Sure would like to see Renault, Peugeot, Citroen and the like back on our shores - alas, Canada’s population can’t support the ROI trying to crash-test and modify to meet standards… sigh

Great story. Back in 1991, I bought a house in Denver. The neighbor had a 1979 R5 Le Car parked out back that had been immobile for many years, with 35k miles. The story was that she lent it to a friend who kept driving after it had overheated, and the motor was cooked according to her mechanic. I looked it over, and everything looked ok. I offered the owner $50, which she accepted with a laugh. I pushed it over to my new driveway, and had it up and running the next day.

The problem turned out to be a small broken coolant hose hidden under the carburetor that was supposed to help the car warm up faster. It gushed coolant, but had apparently not caused any engine damage. I fixed it and drove it another 20,000 miles, including a few hundred on 100% ethanol. I ended up selling it for $400 at the demand of a long gone girlfriend. It’s still one of my all time favorite cars.

Nice find for cheap money. I’ve had a few of those in my time too. Best one was my dad’s friend asked me if I wanted a van and I took a look. The “van” turned out to be a '71 VW Kombi with 44k on it and a broken pitman arm bracket. It had sat for a few years but I slapped a battery in it and it started right up and I drove it the half mile home. Found a replacement front axle for $100 with new brakes on it and spent $15 for a carb kit, changed the oil and drove it for 4 years without a hitch. Best free car I ever had!

Fun read and respect your valor in the matter…:slight_smile: