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South Dakota Car: 1985 Renault Encore 5-Speed

Almost looking as if it had AWD, or was missing an engine – or better yet, was set up with the ever-popular Carolina Squat, this 1985 Renault Encore looks good in black. This Wisconsin/France marriage made in heaven (or not) is posted here on craigslist in Derry, New Hampshire, and the seller is asking $4,000. Here is the original listing, and thanks to PRA4SNW for sending in this tip!

This car appears to have been debadged and/or possibly repainted at some point, but we don’t know for sure. The seller says that it’s in good shape for its age and it’s a South Dakota car. There is a Northern State University sticker on the hatchback window and that’s in Aberdeen, SD. I’m not sure if they use salt on the roads there, but there is some scary rust to deal with on the rocker panels. If there is rust there, I’d want to check out every square inch of this baby.

I like the Encore’s two-door hatchback body style. A few years ago I sold my beloved 1987 Renault GTA, a really fun-to-drive car that I should have kept. I can’t imagine that an Encore is as fun to drive, but I bet it’s not unfun to drive, especially since this one has a five-speed manual. A four-speed manual would have been standard and there was an optional three-speed automatic also available. With a 15.2-second 0-60 time compared to 17.5 seconds, you want the five-speed.

Given the rocker panel rust and interior work, I’m not sure if the seller will get their $4,000 asking price, but as they say, if you start too low you can’t raise the asking price. The back seat looks good, though, other than some ripping at the top. These cars have incredibly comfortable front seats and even with a somewhat rubbery shifter feel, I bet this is a fun little car to drive. AMC and Renault came out with the Alliance first, in 1983, and the Encore followed a year later.

The engine is Renault’s base 1.4-liter fuel-injected OHV inline-four, which had a mere 56 horsepower and 75 lb-ft of torque when new. The seller says that it runs well but needs work on the brakes. They had standard power front disc brakes so once it’s sorted out, the rust and interior fixed… well, would any of you pay $4,000 for this car given the amount of work that’s needed?


  1. alphasud Member

    Renault “the one to watch”. I believe that was their advertising slogan in the 80’s. I thought the GTA and GTA convertible represented good value for the money. If memory serves they had better acceleration and handling on the skid pad than the Golf GTI. However they lacked refinement and reliability was a question when compared to the VW. Like most French cars the suspension is no doubt tuned for comfort which should have been a hit for the 80’s domestic buying crowd.
    Renault like many bygone brands would have fared better if the dealer body would get behind them. Unfortunately AMC dealer’s didn’t want to be bothered by a foreign make and techs grumbled about something unfamiliar. So the brand failed. I worked as a tech at a Saab and Alfa Romeo dealer. We were passionate about the product and provided good if not excellent customer support. I think that made a difference. That is why I now understand why automotive manufacturers push for exclusivity instead of sharing a building with other brands. If will be interesting how Stellantis makes it or doesn’t in our country. Early accounts don’t look promising.

    Like 7
    • JustPassinThru

      Interesting theory; but I’m not sure if it’s the only explanation. AMC had, only ten years earlier, dealt with the absorption of Kaiser Jeep – which at the time was a polar opposite of AMC; with GM engines (and an F-Head Willys four). Body-on-frame; leaf-springs…the opposite of what Rambler/AMC had stood for for 20 years.

      The purchase of Jeep was something generally unwelcome by the company and dealers – it was done because Kaiser owned a bloc of AMC stock, and Kaiser, with Henry’s death, was estate property, and the family had to raise tax payment. The Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966 spelled the end for tiny independents – Studebaker and Kaiser; but at the time, AMC people mostly didn’t want it. Only a shareholder vote forced it.

      The money from Jeep vehicles was a few years in the future.

      Renault, on the other hand, was a White Knight. Chrysler had gone, essentially, on welfare; but the same government nabobs had decided there was none to be had for AMC. Renault, on the other hand, offered cash and credit and a line of cars smaller than the “compact” Hornet derivatives – the size which now would be called intermediate.

      They did it differently in France; but with the money, Renault sent plenty of young managers and engineers to bring along the AMC veterans. Later, it divided anew – the AMC people became part of the Jeep product planning; and the Renault people took over the planned new products for Renault USA.

      How’d the dealers feel about it? I have only a little feel for it; but there’s no doubt that the interest in the Alliance, and its initial strong sales, were mostly welcome changes.

      I remember a Cleveland AMC dealer, Joe Erdelac, who was closing his store in 1982…remarking to the Cleveland paper: We’d waited for years for this, and now it’s here, but we’re already winding down. It’s too late for us.

      He would have eagerly sold these Renaults, but he’d had enough – old age and low sales.

      How the dealer’s service departments, handled things, I don’t know. BUT…the XJ Jeep was introduced at the same time, with metric fasteners and other Francophile touches…and the dealership mechanics had little problems with THOSE. They were strange, too – a new four-cylinder; a Chevrolet V6; a new driveline, of parts not familiar to Jeep or AMC guys.

      They did fine. The XJs did fine. The Alliance and Encore, not so much.

      Like 9
      • alphasud Member

        Big difference between import iron and domestic though. As a tech you get used to wiring diagrams and the way cars are generally built. Yes the XJ was different and had it not been for Renault it never would have happened. With a French car in a domestic shop we are taking 180 degrees of opposite. Another case being Merkur techs hated working on those cars over the domestic counter part. Bottom line is if the president of Renault didn’t get murdered the dealers might have held on long enough for the fruits of the XJ and ZJ to revitalize the company.

        Like 0
      • Howard A Member

        Excellent account of what happened. Jeep info was spot on, but “being there”, I don’t, however, recall the “White Knight/Renault” part. More like a last ditch effort to save a sinking ship. Sound familiar? AMF did the same with Harley. And there was merit to the White Knight, as it did save the marque(s) for a while, but the bigger armies won. Luckily, Harley had the name and following, and didn’t matter if Libbys canned vegetables owned them. AMC desperately needed entirely new facilities. Kenosha was from the teens,,the 19teens, that is, just to keep up. Alliance and Encores were good,,not great cars. Their main sales following were people that were AMC/Rambler loyal, and a tough sell otherwise. No match for the upcoming Asian offerings, however, that most ex-Alliance owners turned to, and that was that.

        Like 0
    • Daymo

      This was the Renault 11 in Europe and they weren’t as bad as being portrayed here.
      I had a 1983 GTL for five years and had zero problems with it. The ONLY reason I got rid was that, like this, it only had the three doors rather than the five to make it a proper family car. Clambering into the back with the three door wasn’t easy.

      Like 1
    • Fleetstar

      The dedicated dealer network and superior build quality is what made VW . And killed everything else. Want an Opel? Go into the Buick dealer and get hustled into a stripped Apollo. That’s why most mainland European car brands died. The Plymouth dealer hated our Cricket. Nobody knew how to work on it nor could the dealer get parts. The only factory technician they had hos only qualification was he had previously worked on BSA motorcycles . It never failed go in for service and a dealer would try to hustle mom into a Valiant . Having had a string of Minis dad showed the “technician” how to rebuild the carbs.

      Like 0
  2. Greenhorn

    In my short 15 years as a mechanic, seeing a lot of imports, this car stands out as the worst. Slapdash quality and if you were unlucky enough to overheat one, you were looking at a head gasket. Ugh, no. I wouldn’t pay $40 for this. To be fair, I did like the Le Car, but it’s failing is that it wasn’t Japanese. I like Peugeots as well, so I’m not anti French…

    Like 4
    • 370zpp 370zpp Member

      When these came out, I was working at a Volvo dealership that made the business decision to also sell Alliances and Encores.
      The mechanics would just shake their heads. They hated working on them or even seeing these cars come back for any reason. Meanwhile, I sold a few new ones and didn’t sleep very well for a while.

      Like 0
    • Fleetstar

      They were built by AMC in Kenosha

      Like 0
  3. Rob Parrish

    I bought a used 83 AMC /Renault Alliance 4 door in 85 and it was a PIECE OF S**T!!! The ac went out just a few months after purchase and the automatic transmission started slipping couple months after that. The CRAP 1.4l was the most anemic and under powered piece of junk I ever have had experience with. Way too many accessories taxing the engine (ac, pwr steer, etc) and NO acceleration whatsoever, dogs were running past me if the ac was on when attempting to pull away from a stop sign. Dealer was not much better than the car. The car was a hunk of junk, couldn’t afford to fix it and nobody would buy it. Eventually I stopped making payments, bought a $500 old Civic with my tax refund and took the credit hit. It took them over a month to come get it when I told them you couldn’t drive it because of the transmission going out!
    Because of this I HATE RENAULTS OF ANY KIND!! THEY’RE HORRIBLE AND UNRELIABLE. And UGLY! Think Le Garbage, uh, Le Car. Trash! Stay in Europe with the rest of your crap!

    Like 5
    • alphasud Member

      After an experience like that it’s no wonder after all these years the scab has never healed over. In my years in the auto industry unfortunately I have seen my share of customers at their wits end.
      We had KIA back in the 90’s when they went into receivership in 98. I felt for all those customers who bought that garbage. Day in and day out myself and the service advisors left at the end of the day like we had done 12 rounds. Manufacturer support was not there and there wasn’t a thing to do but to document so the customer could pursue the lemon law.

      Like 6
    • Howard A Member

      Oh, baloney sausage, Rob.

      Like 6
    • MattC

      I have two stories relating to the Alliance.

      My first was my next door neighbor’s Mom bought one to replace her 1975 Camaro Berlinetta. She literally did the bare essentials of basic maintenance on her cars. Yet, her Alliance lasted well into the 1990s with zero effort on her part. I think it was a rare exception of two wrongs made a statistical right.

      The second story . I was recently helping a friend move a couch out of his house. His neighbor had 3 Alliances in his driveway ( in 2022 no less). Surprisingly two were in decent shape. I’m not sure who is willing to devote such time and effort in such a terrible car.

      Like 3
  4. Stan

    This was a 💩 sandwich 🥪 delivered to the usa 🇺🇸 from le france 🇫🇷

    Like 3
    • CJinSD

      They were made in Kenosha Wisconsin, but the French built ones were terrible too. I had an Austrian magazine that did an extended test of one, which went for 40,000 kilometers if I remember correctly. They dismantled the car at the end and found out that most of its components were worn beyond spec. It was the worst car they’d ever tested, and Austria had access to Iron Curtain effluvia in the early ’80s.

      Like 3
  5. Rank

    French women? Yes. French cars? Not a chance.

    Like 5
  6. Richard

    Where would one get parts for these now?

    Like 2
  7. Steve Brookfield

    South Dakota roads are MADE of salt in the winter.

    Like 4
    • Rumpledoorskin

      Generally well into the spring as well until the rain washes the road.

      Like 1
    • SDJames

      Grew up just east of Aberdeen, still live in SD. While not as bad as Minnesota, the roads are saltier than some of the comments on here.

      Like 0
  8. Big C

    I can imagine how the guys who ran AMC feigned excitement when Renault introduced them to the Alliance and this complete piece of automotive garbage. Under their breath, they must have said “these hideous things are put together worse than the junk we’ve been tring to sell. Are we that insane?” But beggars can’t be choosers.

    Like 2
  9. FasterAsteroid

    Wait a minute. We are all missing the elephant in the room. “Ever popular Carolina Squat.” About as popular as a cold sore.

    Like 1
  10. MGM

    Back in 92, a customer calls me to come and haul off her 86-87 Alliance. Told me to junk it , that the trans was gone. Sat in her drive 2 yrs, under a tarp. Towed it to my shop title in hand. Started and ran great, no go,no gear for drive or reverse.Called my trans buddy, he tells me, these things have an electronic actuator in the trans. Ok, I put in a 35 cent glass fuse. That thing ran and shifted like new. Know what? It only had 29k one the odometer,it looked like it had never been sat in. Couldn’t believe it. Ok you say, did I call the little old lady back and tell her? Yes I did, she said she didn’t want to look at it. Next week my brother-in-law gave me $1800 for it. He in turn resold it for $2500. Long story I know,but I forgot about that AMC,had to tell about it.

    Like 4
  11. Jeremiah F

    My aunt had a red ’85 Encore 5 speed back around ’88-’89, one of her 1st coming of age cars after spending college driving dogged out VW Rabbits and Buick Centurys. It had around 40k on it IIRC, and I loved the looks of it. Still do when I see one of these pop up like this. But it was junk. You never saw a car fall apart so fast. Electronics, interior bits, suspension, everything failed failed failed. It lasted about 2 years before she happily traded it for a one year old red VW Fox GL coupe that was far and away a much better car. And given the Brazillian built Fox’s reputation, that’s saying something.

    Like 2
    • Greenhorn

      I remember the Brazilian made Fox well, and it wasn’t much of a car either.

      Like 0
  12. JGD

    In 1986, wifey bought a new (leftover) ’85 Renault Encore S with 1.7L engine, A/T, P/S, etc.. It must have been an exception to the alleged Kenosha junk. Build quality was on par with Detroit iron. Interior appointments were comparable to FMC, GM and Chrysler in the same price range, maybe better. Scotty is correct about the very comfortable seating. Despite the soft suspension, overall handling was better than many of the big three models we test drove. The 1.7L performance was noticeably better than the sluggish 1.4L base engine and more than suitable for suburban and interstate usage. IIRC, road tests at that time placed the 1.7L 0-60 times in the 12 to 13 sec. range. That would be 2 to 3 seconds faster than a 1985 Chevy Celebrity with a 2.5L 4 cyl. and A/T.

    When Chrysler bought out AMC, the parts availability for the Alliance and Encore suddenly dried up. Apparently, the remaining dealers could only get parts for cars still within warranty, all others were SOL. When we mentioned to a mechanic friend that we were reluctantly considering selling the car, he said the daughter of another friend needed a car. Our 3 year old car was sold at a good price and we understand that it continued to give good service to the new owner for several more years. Our mechanic friend continued to service the car but, probably had to scrounge through former AMC dealer inventories to get proprietary parts for scheduled replacement.

    Like 2
    • JGD

      Correction: I just did a quick fact check. I listed the wrong age for that car. The Encore was actually 10 years old when sold, not 3. I forgot to engage brain before typing.

      Like 1
    • Fleetstar

      Chrysler actually dug a giant pit and took every spare parts from the entire product line up except the Jeep line & shoved all of it into the pit and made it a parking lot. I have always loved the Eagle Premier and would dearly love one today but wouldn’t touch one now with a 10 foot pole due to lack of parts. The Premier has to be most forgotten car ever built next to it’s stablemate the Medallion .

      Like 0
  13. John Norris

    In 1983 until 1985 I raced in IMSA’s Alliance Cup Series. Imagine 40+ identical 54 hp Alliances. Not fast but close racing. I remember the race cars were pretty reliable and I told people to buy them as everyday cars. Most of those turned out to be POS’s

    Like 0

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