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Wrecked 30 Years Ago: 1979 Renault 17 Gordini

The calendar year 1979 might be an eventful one in Renault’s history books. That’s the last year they built the 17 Gordini, a sports coupe, and the year they began buying up interest in American Motors. We mention this because AMC dealers sold Renaults in the 1980s and would have been the place to go for parts. This ’79 Gordini looks good on the inside and from the driver’s side. But when you walk around to the passenger’s angle, you’ll see the outcome of an accident that occurred 30 years ago. In somewhat running order and with the sheet metal needed to fix the car, this French-built project is available here on eBay and in Ridgewood, New York. The current bid is just $1,200 for a car you seldom see anymore.

Renault’s 15 and (later) 17 were built for eight years between 1971 and 1979.  They were a couple of versions of the Renault 12 below the skin but used the Renault 16 TS engine for the 17 Gordini editions. Renault was having trouble selling cars in the U.S. in the 1970s, easily outnumbered by the German and Japanese competition. They hit upon the idea of buying into American Motors to give them a wider network to sell their wares. We’re not sure if AMC sold any of the 17 Gordinis as they went out of production the same year as the purchase started. But AMC would live on to build the Renault Alliance and Encore in Kenosha until Chrysler came along in 1987 (they wanted Jeep).

An interesting storyline has unfolded for this 1979 Gordini. With north of 100,000 miles, its female owner took it to a mechanic who worked at AMC until 1987 to do a complete mechanical overall and a repaint. During this process, the fuel injection was changed to carburetion as the mechanic was finding it difficult to obtain Renault parts (in light of Chrysler taking over in ’87, no doubt). Everything may have been going swimmingly after that until the owner got into an accident that took out the right front fender, front bumper, and creased the rest of the passenger side. So, from 1993 until the seller bought the car in 2019, it stayed dormant.

The car has some new (or newer) parts, like the water pump, fuel pump, alternator, etc. The Renault was in driving order until the seller pulled the gas tank to refurbish it, but it hasn’t been reinstalled. The radiator is also out of the car waiting for the same kind of attention. The seller says he/she has everything you’d need to get this car back on the road but has too many other projects to invest more time in. Apparently, his/her collection numbers 18 vehicles and the goal is to get that number down to 17.


  1. Bick Banter

    Ooof. You would want to have a body shop xheck this out first. Unibodies do not take too well to major accidents. And parts were not easy to find in the late ’80s and early ’90s as the article mentions. I doubt the situation has improved much.

    Like 7
  2. Stan

    Dial 📞 1-800-the-hook 🪝 🛻

    Like 5
  3. Jasper

    Would love to have this. Someone is going to get a manageable, worthwhile project and a really cool car. People always say something like “it looks like a Pinto or a Datsun”, but they don’t realize how sophisticated these actually were. In the day, it was the stuff found only on exotica. Plus, they looked nice and that retractable top is something only French designers could pull off.

    Saw one last year, in of all places, Seward, Alaska alongside an R15.

    Like 9
    • kim in Lanark

      I cringe when I see “sophisticated” in connection with a French car. That means overcomplicated, a hydraulics fetish, and odd ergonomics.

      Like 1
    • Sebastian Branten

      Do you perhaps know the owner of the R15 and R17 in Alaska?

      The R17 was that an orange car?

      Like 0
  4. george Member

    While everyone endlessly repeats that Chrysler bought Renault’s USA interests “to get Jeep,” the Brampton, Ontario plant was a big part of the deal, too.

    It was built to produce the Renault-25-based Eagle Premier, and while they dropped that excellent Giugiaro designed car like a bad habit, the structure of the Renault and much of the subsequent engineering of the LH series Chrysler sedans was based on it, and they had a basically new factory in which to build it.

    Like 5
  5. Big C

    Again. Take all the money out of your wallet, put it in a pile and light it. It it’ll work out better.

    Like 4
    • John

      Indeed… Was junk right out of the dealership. And if you are buying for parts. #1 seek mental health professionals #2 junk the junk you’re buying parts for HhhhaaAa 😂😆😂😆

      Like 0
  6. Troy

    Current bid over $2k my bet is its leaving the country soon

    Like 2
  7. Harvey Member

    If it were mine it would have been junked 30 years ago.

    Like 4
  8. douglas hunt

    I dunno how rebuildable it is, but that interior looks pretty sweet,

    Like 1
  9. Gary Gary

    My dad bought two of these brand new, a Renault 17TL, and a Renault Gordini 17TL . The first one was a royal plum hardtop, the second one was arctic white with a red rally stripe and retractable soft-top. Both were 5-speed stick and very quick with a top end of 137 mph verified – I saw it with my own eyes every time I did it. Expensive as hell when parts were needed, such as an alternator on one, and a complete 4-wheel brake job on the other. To this day I don’t know what inspired him to wanting those cars, but I most certainly enjoyed driving them. I think the first one was a 76, and the second one was a last year 79. Check out the specs from the sales brochure, who wouldn’t want one?

    Like 4
  10. Connecticut mark

    Looks great on drivers side, should be repaired, probably worth it, since not many around, looks like a fuego I had seen but I think these are older.

    Like 0

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