V.I.S.I.T. – Imported From Kenosha

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When you think Wisconsin, you think Renault, right? Okay, so it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that Wisconsin produced more French cars during the decade of the 1980s than any other place in the western hemisphere. You know, to feed the voracious appetite of the upper midwest for compact French machinery during the Reagan 80s. Admittedly, Kenosha: Home of the Renault Alliance doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as it once did, and neither do the Dukakis ’88 bumper stickers that I imagine are still securely affixed to many Alliances. But that doesn’t mean they weren’t good cars, even though some minor issues may have existed in the sales network.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that some Renault dealers weren’t down with the whole idea of being Renault dealers. An acquaintance who tagged along with his grandmother to test drive one of these fly machines in the 1980s remarked to me that the dealers who sold these weren’t especially enthused about having to sell them. “If you wanna buy one, buy one!” the salesman shrugged and went back to reading the paper. And that was the extent of that particular sales pitch. Persuaded on the spot by the salesman’s erudite demeanor and sophistication, Nana ended up leaving the lot in a swanky new Alliance convertible, perfect for that looong Wisconsin summer, the summer that Wisconsin is famous for all over the US of A.

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Actually, the summers of the upper midwest, Wisconsin in particular, can be quite warm stupefyingly hot and humid, so a convertible is not as mostly futile a purchase as it seems. And since a large number of managed to sell in the midwest despite the best efforts of the dealer network, it is still the region where most of them are likely to be found. A thoroughly unbelievable 623,000+ Alliances were built in Kenosha from 1982 till 1987, and southern Wisconsin is still the place to look for one. If you’re into that sort of thing.

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I know what most of you are thinking right now: so what happened to the grandmother’s car? Unfortunately, history did not record what became of Nana’s Alliance convertible, though half-reliable sources suggest that it may have been traded in for literally hundreds of dollars in dealership credit towards the purchase of a Chrysler something or other, after accumulating a whopping 27K miles and some moderate battle damage over the span of a decade.

All kidding aside, the GTA seen here was in ridiculously good shape for its age. I don’t think anyone will dispute that these cars, especially the Encore hatches and Alliance sedans, were treated as disposable by many of their owners and expired long ago, so it’s not unusual to see a surviving Alliance that looks about as worn as a 10-year old Honda.

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It has long been my suspicion that Alliance convertibles enjoy a slight plurality among all surviving Renault Alliances in the states. They were the top of the range model, and didn’t tend to be purchased to be beaten into oblivion and discarded after 3 years of commuting. They also tended to be bought by people who bought them because they actually wanted one, rather than buying one because it was slightly cheaper than a VW Fox at the dealer across the street. So seeing this well-kept GTA was a special treat.

[Images: Copyright 2013 Hooniverse/Jay Ramey]

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14 responses to “V.I.S.I.T. – Imported From Kenosha”

  1. TurboBrick Avatar

    Dashboard layout just screams 80's Renault, however…. I can't believe this one didn't come with the clever radio remote control!

  2. Vavon Avatar

    Let me show you the cover of the French Youngtimer Magazine of this month…
    <img src="http://autoivresse.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/youngtimers_mars_2013_30.jpg&quot; width="500/">
    Blue = Alliance Hatchback, White = Medallion Sedan and Red = Alliance Convertible.

    1. Jay_Ramey Avatar

      Brilliant idea for a mag, our enthusiast magazines are all divided by marque, and I always thought a catchall publication might be interesting.
      Actually, we already have that: Hemmings Sports & Exotic Cars does a great job of covering this niche.
      By the way, one of those three at the bottom is coming soon to a Hooniverse article near you : )

    2. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      That there is a magazine I'd love to write for. Unfortunately, mon Francais c'est ne pas plus excellente.

  3. Trouble Avatar

    If you ever rode in one, very sweet.

  4. lilwillie Avatar

    Two things.
    I remember working on one of these in my youth, local guy, THE only local guy to own one, THE only Renault I saw in our area of Wisconsin, had one and it was a pretty decent rig, it wasn't broke very often and rust took it to its doom before mechanical failure. Now, I live in a town of 1500 so by that math there was like 3200 Renaults in Wisconsin. The rest of you got them all.
    Second thing, I can recall being told about the plants in Kenosha, you could drive by and see the rolls of steel rusting away in the back lot, waiting to be turned into AMC's…..

  5. wisc47 Avatar

    The weather in Wisconsin is more eclectic than anything. One day in the summer it'll be 95 and sunny, the next it'll be 55 and rainy. This makes own a convertible, especially an old European one from the 80's, a very stupid, yet satisfying proposition. I should know.

  6. Batshitbox Avatar

    You're really flogging these Kenosha Kreampuffs on here, Jay!
    <img src="http://hooniverse.info/wp-content/gallery/visits-01-2013/renault-401.jpg"&gt;
    This silver weekend edition one appears to be in Carlisle, PA if my google kung fu is worth a damn; and the red one from today is sporting a Norco Motors decal. According to the Sanatoga (PA) Post, Norco went tits up back in 2008. The two towns are a mere 100 miles apart, it's possible Norco sold them both.

    1. Jay_Ramey Avatar

      Oh yeah, I was wondering what that Norco one was from, it looked like the decal had peeled a bit. I did hear that there was an AMC-Renault dealer in that area.
      Both cars I found in Carlisle actually, this was the day before Carlisle Import Nationals and there were cool rides scattered around downtown and neighboring towns. "Cool" in our sense of the word, obviously.

  7. Tim Odell Avatar
    Tim Odell

    This one's a stickshift, too.
    I'm curious where the crossover point is in value for sticks and automatics, age-wise.

  8. danleym Avatar

    There's a local AMC club here in St. Louis, and while I don't do a lot with them (most have 30 years on me) I've met some of the members. One of them only owns Renaults. Like 12 or 13 of them, from Dauphines to Alliances. Problem is, I've never seen him actually drive one of them, I've only heard of them. Someday I hope he actually brings one out.

  9. Tom Gross Avatar
    Tom Gross

    Hello, the red GTA is my car – I'm assuming these pictures were taken in 2012 – it was in Carlisle but I wasn't. Its funny that you talk about Wisconson because the young man who owned the car before I did went to college up there and at first glance I thought these pictures were from up there. (then I saw the close up of the rear end and saw the new tires I had put on it.) We have a strong club here and we get a good turnout at Carlisle. Just for some people to know – all GTA's were stickshift. They have a close ratio transmission so you car run right thru the gears and stay in the power band while your dumping it. Believe it or not we get 95 horsepwer out of 105 cubic inchs of engine!

  10. Tom Gross Avatar
    Tom Gross

    The radio is the top of the line one that AMC had available in 1987 – six speakers and 12 watts per channel – with 7 band equalizer. The cars with the stock P185/50R15 tires could pull a .87g turn on the skid pad. ( the only US car that could beat it was the Corvette). All in all you either love these cars or hate them. They are alot of fun to drive. The other interesting thing is these cars were "hybrids" – not in the sense that people today think of – The Alliance, Encore and GTA were fuel injected. (These were known as the R9 to the rest of the world) The European ones were carburated or Diesel powered. Also the Convertibles were only available in North America – So any of these elsewhere in the world were imported from the US. Thanks for putting the pictures up here.

  11. Tom Gross Avatar
    Tom Gross

    The Silver hard top lives in Carlisle (the owner is our go to guy for help with repairs.) The Silver Convertible is from New Jersey and mine is in Reading PA.