12 August 2016

Motor Trend owes me an apology. And $6000.

In 1983, I bought Motor Trend’s “Car of the Year.” Nowhere are quotation marks more appropriate than in that title, because just 12 short months after the magazine honored the third-generation Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, and a year before the award went to the all-new Corvette, I bought an AMC-Renault Alliance.

Thanks a lot, Motor Trend.

In the magazine’s defense, back then I could have closed my eyes, thrown a rock and it would have hit an automotive writer who liked the car. And it’s true that no one put a gun to my head and made me buy one, although I assume some Alliance owners considered taking “the easy way out” at some point. But I blame Motor Trend for setting the trap. Before I realized what was happening, I found myself caught in a snare of hoopla, affordability and ignorance.

I wasn’t a car guy; perhaps you’ve already guessed that. I was a full-time college student who was also working a lot, and I was sick and tired of nursing broken-down cars. So I did the math and figured that for the right price I’d be better off buying new.

My thinking got a little muddled after that.

Motor Trend got in my head, dang it. So did my father. I trusted both. My dad was my dad, and the magazine had been handing out the Golden Calipers trophy since 1949. So when I read that voting for the ’83 Alliance was unanimous, I was intrigued. Who wouldn’t be? This is the sentence that really got me: “A unanimous result is usually a sign of a completely engineered automobile.” Key word: Usually.

The magazine wasn’t alone in its praise. Road & Track called the new Alliance — which was the first product from the American Motors-Renault partnership — “an efficient sedan that lives up to its name.” AutoWeek labeled it “an automotive bargain.” And Car and Driver proclaimed, “If we were some other magazine, this would be our car of the year.” With all that positive press, not at least considering what appeared to be the greatest Franco-American product since SpaghettiOs would have made me a moron. Right? Anybody?

So I ran the idea past my father, and we test-drove an Alliance. I enjoyed the drive, but considering that a ramshackle Chevette was my mode of transportation at the time, I probably would have appreciated a 1941 John Deere’s road manners. Plus, I was practically incapacitated by that new-car smell.

My dad gave the Alliance two thumbs up, too. Seriously, it seemed like EVERYBODY loved this thing. I’m certain there was a method to Dad’s madness, however. Since the car offered little output (64 horsepower from its 1,397-cc inline-four engine) but provided great gas mileage (37–52 mpg), it was the best of both worlds for my father, who had some concerns about his lead-footed youngest son. Dad’s only caveat: Buy a four-door. “Trust me,” he said, “you’ll be glad you did.” And I was. At least he never said, “You’ll thank me someday.” A lifetime of therapy would not have healed that wound.

Under the guise of practicality, I thumbed through the Alliance brochure about a dozen times, took a second test drive and then kicked things around in my head for a day or two. And then it happened. I pulled the trigger on an Alliance L in Deep Night Blue, a car “for the buyer who knows real value when he sees it.” While I appreciated the back-slapping affirmation from AMC, my choice really had less to do with my good sense and everything to do with dollars and cents. I liked the car but couldn’t afford the DL or Limited versions. The L, on the other hand — with an MSRP of about $6,000 — provided a more manageable loan payment. Sadly, it also came with so much more.

My decision to save a few bucks and go with the L meant — surprise! — the front seats didn’t recline. And since reclining seats are a gateway drug to horizontal hijinks, I’m pretty sure my father knew this little detail before I bought the car. He said nothing. He did, however, have a smirk on his face when I signed the papers.

Also, while I expected the car’s lack of power to cause a certain amount of frustration, I didn’t expect to be passed by Yugos, Beetles and the occasional jogger pushing a baby stroller. (OK, that’s a stretch. I was never passed by a Yugo.) But the gist is this: An uphill climb in a new automobile shouldn’t require a sack lunch and camping gear.

From the start, mechanical problems were commonplace. For instance, the clutch cable on the Alliance seemed to be made of braided rubber bands. Twice I stepped on the pedal to change gears and, with a loud snap, found myself stranded in the middle of busy intersections. Passersby offered choice words and sage advice on both occasions, but I don’t recall any of them shouting, “Hey, dude, sweet Alliance!”

And the car’s CV boots wore out faster than my flip-flops. No wonder the Alliance got such great gas mileage. Testers must have included the number of miles you were forced to walk while the car sat in the shop.

I also discovered that the plastic center piece on the Alliance’s steering wheel was removable. Since things sometimes popped off the car whether they were supposed to or not, this was a feature I found by happenstance. However, I chose to consider it an “option,” since it provided an awesome hiding spot for cash — on those rare occasions that I had any.

Alas, you can’t put the toothpaste back into the tube. We have to live with our mistakes and move on as best we can, hoping that perhaps we have learned a valuable lesson or two along the way. Some choose to ignore the skeletons in their closet (no apologies from Motor Trend); others just come out and admit they blew it. Car and Driver did exactly that in 2009: “Here and now, in vivid HTML, Car and Driver formally apologizes for naming the Renault Alliance to the 1983 10 Best Cars list. For the past 26 years, it’s been gnawing at our collective gut like a shame-induced ulcer. The car was trash. We should have known that back then, and it’s taken us too long to confess our grievous mistake. Let this frank admission be the start of our penance.”

I also paid my debt to cardom and lived to tell the tale. Better still, I eventually sold that beast to my older brother, the fool. Pretty sure I got a hundred bucks for it, but it surely cost him a lot more in headaches and irritation. That’s what he gets for picking on me when we were kids.

73 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Jim Hodges Hurricane, UT August 15, 2016 at 16:27
    OK. I also followed the lead of Motor Trend and bought an '83 Alliance. However, our story is in sharp contrast. The only reason we parted ways was because our family simply outgrew the car. Our previous car was a 1980 Chevy Citation (go figure??!!). Back to the Alliance. Our inaugural road trip was from Salt Lake to Denver for Christmas via Southern Wyoming. We wound up in the middle of a blizzard that was decidedly more vicious than forecasted. We were on the backend of the storm in whiteout conditions following a snowplow. After spending the night in Laramie the skies cleared. We drove south to Denver with the temperature never getting above -15 degrees. Lack of muscle wasn't an issue. That little pipsqeak of a car got us through one of the toughest and coldest road trip with flying colors. It certainly proved it's mettle. We only had the car for 2 years. It never once failed us during that time.
  • 2
    Alex Maine August 18, 2016 at 21:21
    You should have bought a maroon one. They were pretty good.
  • 3
    Neil Russell Georgia August 18, 2016 at 21:35
    I too got the MT bug and bought the very first Alliance sold in Atlanta. A really nice looking 4 door DL model. I traded in my 1981 Spirit DL and paid the rest of the $8200 in cash ( I think they allowed me about $3K). It was terrific for about 10000 miles, then the shift knob began spinning because the little plastic tabs snapped off. It got great mileage upwards of 53mpg on the road and was a sprightly little performer around town. That all was good for another 8000 miles and then something let go in the engine but it wasn't anything about $2500 couldn't fix...temporarily. I sold it to a friend at work who gave it to his wife and she wrapped it around a tree the next week. Totaled. Probably for the best. My ability to choose automobiles didn't improve, I bought a Chrysler LeBaron convertible right after that and discovered that turbo charging isn't a Mopar forte. Power windows aren't either, or transmissions, or electric tops, or digital dashboards...
  • 4
    Chaz DFW, TX August 18, 2016 at 21:36
    My first car was an 83 Alliance. You are so right about those darn CV joints and I made the mistake of letting Pep Boys install some driving lights for me and they ended up drilling a hole into the AC condenser. I had to go an entire TX summer with no AC since it turns out that there wasn't a single AC condenser in the USA and they had to send off to France to get a replacement. The car was in the shop so much that the repair shop at the dealership took pitty on me and helped pay part of the repair bills once the repairs had reached the $1k plus level. They also suggested that I try to find a different car since this one had become a money pit 😞.
  • 5
    Philip Tron Moorhead, MN August 18, 2016 at 21:40
    Motor Trend also picked the Chevy Vega. I bought one of those. Quit laughing, it was tragic.
  • 6
    kenneth sack manhattankansas August 18, 2016 at 21:46
    I have read car mags for many years and I have noticed that many of the car of the year awards have not worked out very well after a few years and some were hard to get parts or service. some were pretty much junk because of rust or expensive repairs. Better to go with consumer reports or a mechanics recommendation and never buy a special edition or first run of a new model. It is ashamed that cars cost so much and road salt and the elements eat it up so quickly.
  • 7
    Rob Greene Fort Myers, Florida August 18, 2016 at 22:01
    Perhaps it was luck - - it certainly wasn't superior intellect - - but I thought that Motor Trend's staff was on the receiving end of serious payola for endorsing such a reprehensible piece of crap - - EVEN THEN, when it was brand new. Ever since that 1983 endorsement, I will neither READ Motor Trend, nor will I consider their evaluation of new vehicles when I am in the market for new wheels. Some scars never fade, eh? (Oh, and by the way, I make no apologies for my continuing disdain for Motor Trend; after all, trust is earned, not bestowed, and they not only proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that they couldn't be trusted, but unlike Car and Driver, MT didn't have the courage or commitment to its readers to admit to its abysmal performance in granting that little roach its Seal of Approval.) To my thinking, it's not unlike watching Motor Week on television, which for over 30 years has done little more than heap praise on every automobile that it tests, rather than performing true critical analysis of the product. Motor Week, in my opinion, has never risen above the level of paid infomercial for the auto industry. Tom McCahill at Mechanix Illustrated, (going back to the mid-1940s and through to the late 1970s, told it like it was, warts and all. If a car was great except for poor braking, Tom would tell you so. He would have skewered the Renault Alliance, and possibly saved a few thousand people from much wailing and gnashing of teeth, not to mention prematurely thinning wallets. Tom McCahill, I still miss you and your total honesty - - we could use more of it.
  • 8
    Rod Allentown, PA August 18, 2016 at 22:03
    I know the Alliance always gets a bad rap but I first drove a brand new one as a rental in Florida and it was a great car. I told my father in law about the car. He test drove one and bought one and loved it too as did my sister in law. I made them Alliance fans! I don't remember any issues but know they ran great and were comfortable cars. No apologies needed for me!
  • 9
    Bruce R Porter Sr NC August 18, 2016 at 22:04
    Thanks, I got a GREAT laugh out of it. I couldn't even read it to my wife cause I couldn't quit laughing.
  • 10
    Loggitt Springfield, IL, U.S.A. August 18, 2016 at 22:11
    I am a car guy and I remember all the hoopla! I was thinking that some bribe money had been spread around by AMC!!!! No one in their right mind would have thought that car model was quality!!
  • 11
    Terry Wynter Ft Myers,Fl August 18, 2016 at 22:44
    Great story, how long has that been brewing inside you? I haven't heard that name "Renault Alliance" in years, & they were not fun to work on, always coming back for repairs, but I always wondered what possessed someone to buy that type of car.
  • 12
    bill brisbane normalville, pa August 18, 2016 at 23:02
    I bought a little Alliance convertible (used with 30k) as I was always an AMC fan and got another 40k mostly trouble free miles out of it. Neat little ragtop but not a Car of the Year contender.
  • 13
    Mark Matuck Illinois August 18, 2016 at 23:11
    Had a Renault Alliance. Horrible vehicle. Then bought a Renault Medallion. Made the Alliance look like a BMW.
  • 14
    Jim Phoenix August 19, 2016 at 13:14
    It was part French, right? That should have been your first clue. They aren't exactly known for their engineering (at least not since the Eiffel Tower) or their automobiles....
  • 15
    jp Nevada August 19, 2016 at 13:58
    And they still give out car of the year awards, and people believe it.
  • 16
    charles anderson MI - Michigan August 19, 2016 at 18:01
    I had a 1959 Renault ,what piece of crap,two years old and drivers door fell off .starter worked when it wanted to,i had to stick the jack handle / crank handle through the body to crank the engine to start it.Heater sucked.three speed trans junk.leaked oil like an oil well .
  • 17
    Mary Issaquah, Washington August 19, 2016 at 18:07
    Jeff, thanks for the laughs and the walk down memory lane. I too lived to tell the first-new-car Alliance tale. What I remember most is changing those CV boots annually. And I got really good at changing flat tires. Not sure I can blame that on the Alliance but it was notable!
  • 18
    Kevin Pa August 19, 2016 at 18:32
    Alex, great laugh over the "maroon". Alas non of you have anything on me. At nineteen I was fortunate enough to order & purchase a beautiful 78 ford bronco. Three years later marriage and " gas crisis" turned it into a 1981 ford escort. The worst car I've ever owned.
  • 19
    Doug Washington August 19, 2016 at 18:38
    Last time I paid attention to a car magazine when buying a car was in 1980 when I bought my wife a Audi 5000Turbo. This car was undoubtedly the biggest con job/piece of junk ever foisted on the American public. It must have been in love with the Audi dealer's service department as it spent most of it's time there for the year we put up with it. How about 2 replaced transmissions (one from a dealer demonstrator as they couldn't come up with a new replacement), 2 replacement turbos and a replacement of the entire right front suspension and best of all a sticking throttle that they claimed was our fault because we didn't know how to drive. Best day of our lives was when it went down the driveway on a tow truck and was replaced by a Mercedes.
  • 20
    Ed Kovalchick Alabama August 19, 2016 at 18:46
    Hey everyone. I had a Dauphine in college and I had no problem pushing it everywhere I went.
  • 21
    Doug Noel Somewhere east of Laramie August 19, 2016 at 08:04
    Consider yourself lucky. If you were half a generation older you could have been a Vega owner. I always tell people, "If AMC had built the Vega they would have been out of business in '72"!!
  • 22
    Wayne VanVolkenburg Havelock, Ontario August 19, 2016 at 08:26
    About ten years ago I spotted a 1985 Alliance advertised for sale. I had little knowledge about that model but did remember the Motor Trend "Car of the Year" award. I took it for a drive around a mall parking lot as it was not licensed at the time. It was a U.S. car without a spot of rust, something rare in Ontario. It was a low mileage vehicle and in excellent condition, so I decided to buy. I loaded it on a trailer and brought it home. On my first real test drive everything went well until it shifted from 2nd. to 3rd. (automatic trans), when I was greeted with a very loud clunk. When I contacted the previous owner, he claimed that this would disappear after the vehicle was warmed up. Surprise... it didn't happen. I took it to a transmission shop that advertised "We can fix any transmission". After talking to an employee he was quick to add "If we can get the parts." They would have to remove and tear down the transmission, at a considerable cost, before they could even determine what part would be needed and if it might be available. So much for some simple adjustments. I drove the car for about 4 summers constanly wondering if the nxt clunk would be it's last. There were also several wiring problems....but don't get me started on that!
  • 23
    Doug Rubey Loves Park IL August 19, 2016 at 08:32
    If you had bought a new Dauphine in 1959 you would avoid anything connected with Renault. That one cost about $1850.
  • 24
    Bob Phoenix August 19, 2016 at 08:49
    My wife had an 84 Cadillac Sedan Deville as she was a realtor. It too was a piece of junk!! With the 4100 cc motor it flogged itself to death just to leave the stop sign. Got about 12 MPG ! TWO replacement computers per year for the heat and A/C.!
  • 25
    Bobby Texas August 19, 2016 at 21:22
    Motor Trend is a joke. As you see above they picked a long line of loser cars over the years. It is a joke between my friend Steve and I to always stay away from or suggest a MT car of the year.
  • 26
    Glava2876 syracuse NY August 19, 2016 at 09:26
    We had the 4 door hatch back and loved the car. It was red with a tan interior and ran great, handled fine and got great gas mileage. we had two infant children and I thought that it was a great car, especially for the money.
  • 27
    Matt Pennsylvania August 19, 2016 at 10:00
    I remember closely looking at these cars in 1986. the price for mine though was $9999 with auto and A/C. I'm tall so I immediately went for the seat recliner-none. The salesman showed me a handle the made the seat swivel like a rocker, that's how the whole seat moved, so you get to recline a bit while your legs get raised, not to good. I decided to go to my Uncle who was a sales manager at Oldsmobile to look at the Firenza. It was a few dollars more but of course he talked me into the much newer Olds Calais for......$12,000. but it was a good decision. My first new car. Comfortable, Reliable, and I really fit in it well for a small car. Oh and I had that nifty new Government mandated third brake light screaming look! New car, new car!
  • 28
    J.W. Saint Joseph, MI August 19, 2016 at 10:03
    What's that old saying, "Can't help stupid?" Do you believe everyone's opinion you read in Motor Trend Magazine? They have picked numerous cars of the year that have turned out to be horrible vehicles: 71 Vega, 74 Mustang II, 80 Citation, 95 Cirrus just to name a few. When was the last time you saw one of those cars on the road? Oh, they didn't last!
  • 29
    Ray K New Jersey August 19, 2016 at 10:36
    Kudos to Jeff Peek whose humor made my day! Don't worry Jeff, we've all had at least one, mine was a company car, a 1975 Plymouth Duster whose many ailments included the inability to drive it unless it was warmed up for an hour in a half before moving it.
  • 30
    Mitch Hackett New York August 19, 2016 at 22:40
    HA HA HA. Great story.
  • 31
    Steve Gruenler Parker, CO August 19, 2016 at 10:47
    While on a business trip in LA I had one of these wonderful cars as a rental. While going back to my hotel I made a wrong turn down Slauson and ended up in a really bad part of town. Of course being the car of the year that it was it immediately turned into the franco/american version of a yugo. The only way it would run at a stop light was to push all the way down on the gas pedal while pushing with all my might on the brake pedal. I went through a lot of gas and a lot of stares from people thast didn't think I belonged in that part of town. I finally found my way back to my hotel, albeit with an almost empty gas tank that was almost full when I started my journey. Yes it is true, the Alliance is the worst of the malaise era vehicles.
  • 32
    Dave Crabtree Walla Walla, WA August 19, 2016 at 11:56
    I never owned an AMC-Renault, but I did own a Renault Dauphine. That eventually taught me to be suspicious of anything with the name Renault attached to it, but at the time I was a poor college student and needed some basic, economical transportation. My Dauphine had an electric clutch and no clutch pedal on the floor. As you moved the shift lever (three-speed on the floor) the clutch was supposed to disengage and then re-engage once you were in the next gear. It took more skill to operate than a clutch pedal on the floor. Smooth starts and gear changes were difficult to impossible. The car had a water cooled engine in the rear, and situated rather high, or so it seemed to me. The Dauphine also had a swing-axle independent rear suspension. The combination of rather high center of gravity, narrow tread width and the swing axle suspension made it treacherous in any emergency maneuver at highway speeds, and sure enough I rolled it early one morning when a deer stepped out in front of me. The engine was liquid cooled with a wet sleeve cylinder in an aluminum block and was not tolerant of any approach to overheating. At highway speeds over the mountains in California things invariably got warm and after coolant leaked into the oil, I had to rebuild the motor. Finally I was so frustrated with the under-powered, poorly geared, cute little car that I traded it on - believer it or not - an Edsel. OK, the Edsel may have looked like a Pontiac sucking a lemon, but it was mechanically Ford/Mercury/Lincoln, and it got me the rest of the way through college.
  • 33
    King Troensegaard Virginia August 19, 2016 at 11:59
    We too were seduced by the Hoopla. Should have known better as we had a Dodge Aspen another of Motor Trends high fives. Thye Alliance true to form ate CV boots but its demise was from having a leaky heater core that I just routed around. While awaiting a new one my wife drove to the beach, overheated the car, and cracked the block. It turned out the heater core was a part of the cooling system. Inexplictably my son bought one of them and it did the same thing!! I don't think the things were ever designed to handle an east coast summer.
  • 34
    Jerry K Southeast Wisconsin August 19, 2016 at 00:13
    I still have my '87 2-door coupe. Bought new, still love it. Of course it's a GTA, so it's a 2.0L, 5-speed "pocket rocket" that's been my summer fun car for the last 24 of its 29 years. $9000 well spent for sure.
  • 35
    Steve Georgia August 19, 2016 at 12:25
    I subscribed to MT for many years. When they named the 1991 Chevrolet Caprice car of the year, I cancelled my subscription and stopped listening to their advice.
  • 36
    Howard NY August 20, 2016 at 01:29
    Ha! Couldn't believe the headline when I saw it. We too had an Alliance, 1983, 2-door, auto, with the highly coveted, highly collectible maroon color. Bought it used. It was our first car - what a piece of junk! I had to go outside every two hours, and ask a passer-by to spray carb cleaner while I cranked the engine to prevent it from not starting at all - this advice was given from a mechanic. The car spent most of its time at the repair shop, as 3-4 mechanics would huddle around it, trying to remedy the issue. Truly a horrible car. Our next car was amazing - a used 1979 Toyota Celica Supra. Inline 6 cylinder motor with 110hp. Quick, sleek, and a car that actually ran! Yes the Supra was 4 years older than the Alliance, but it was a Supra! (Actually, the first of its generation). Talk about an upgrade! The idea of owning a car that actually started and worked on a daily basis had escaped my mind due to the mind-numbing previous Alliance ownership. My infatuation with the Supra had begun, and has never ended.
  • 37
    Mike Minooka, IL August 20, 2016 at 13:50
    Thanks for the great story and the laughs! I also owned a '83 Renault Alliance that I bought from a family "acquaintance" used with about 40K miles on it. Looked identical to the gold one at the top of this story. It did get great gas mileage but was riddled with problems. I also got very good at CV boots and diagnosing electrical issues. My wife called it the 4-door appliance! The kids referred to it as Dad's "chick magnet"! I got about 80K miles out of it before a engine wiring harness fire put it in it's grave. As a Firefighter, my co-workers enjoyed tearing it apart as a extrication drill.
  • 38
    Alan OHIO August 21, 2016 at 08:34
    I owned more than one new car that was dangerous at any speed. The worst was a '67 Firebird, 74 Camaro, and a '94 Chevy work truck. I worked for G.M. & you always try to be positive, but sometimes you fail.
  • 39
    Ed White Plains, ny August 21, 2016 at 23:53
    8k fully loaded. Nice interior. No complaints until it hit 55k then everything went at the same time. No mechanic wanted to fix it. Solid for the money until it died a sudden and total death.
  • 40
    Steve Minnesota August 21, 2016 at 12:31
    I bought an AMC Jeep Grand Cherokee Wagon in 1986 as my wife had been in a car accident and the 84 Audi she was driving demolished from a fender bender. This Jeep turned out to be the worst car in history. My wife forced me to buy the warranty and I am glad she did as I do not think this "heap of Junk" went more than a few days before it went off to the dealership for repairs. After owning the car for a few agonizing months my neighbor bought the car as he was "insane' but he did transfer the warranty even though the warranty company tried not to. I then bought a 1987 ford Thunderbird that made you decide which accessories you wanted to work at which time-if it was raining -you could not have the radio on. If you wanted to open the sun roof the ignition switch had to be in ACC mode Little things like that that the dealer would not acknowledge. As I was moving I tried to sell this car to my neighbor but by that time he was helping to sell my home so he would not have to see me ever again. Since these two wonderful experiences I have never bought a new vehicle. I only buy low mileage used cars that have been certified and that I have checked by a mechanic I trust.
  • 41
    Kurt Pinellas Park, FL August 21, 2016 at 00:32
    Have most Motor Trend Mags back to Dec.1963 Got a 1972 Vega (Car of the Year 1971) Wore out it's camshaft in six months {took six weeks to get GM to replace it under warranty (no parts locally available) Two years later the engine overheated without warning and the aluminum-silicone alloy block melted in seconds. Water temp guage did not move until the engine seized. So many were failing none could be found in salvage yards. Had to get a short block from GM at my expense. Only the Gas Crisis brought a buyer and finally sold it. Beetles were far better, as were Toyota & Honda.
  • 42
    ferd the cloud August 22, 2016 at 14:26
    The best use of Motor Trend's "Car of The Year" awards is to determine which automaker has ponied up the most payola, and for which of their models. Then if you're still not warned off, at least you should be able to negotiate an excellent deal (since the manufacturer is desperate to unload them).
  • 43
    RJ OH August 22, 2016 at 18:31
    I worked for a Jeep/Eagle/Renault dealer back then in sales. I sold one at virtually full price to an EX-girlfriend who had broken up with me under some adulterous circumstances (on her part). The next and last time I saw her was back in the Service Department a few weeks after. Oooooohhhh bad looks ensued! I guess pay back IS a b****.
  • 44
    Frank Cain Concord, ON Canada August 23, 2016 at 14:29
    You think you've had problems. How about this? When I was barely 20, I would borrow my uncle's '55 Olds 88, take it down to a river in Bronte Ontario, nearby our house, and give it a wash - that was the fun part. What wasn't was learning that my uncle had a way of changing gears that would have suited power for a javelin thrower. If anyone knows Toronto, you know that University Avenue in the downtown area is no place for anything to happen to a car. Even back then, there were too many cars on the road, especially when you're changing gears at University and King and the gear shift lever disengages from the steering column, leaving a greased knob of about an inch, I mean greased! Try changing gears that way. Totally oblivious to anything or anybody around me, I finally made it up University and to my uncle's. When he saw what happened to the shift lever, he did me a favor - I never got the car again. Why the hell didn't he buy an Alliance?
  • 45
    Dana Reno, NV August 23, 2016 at 09:42
    This article brought bach memories of my AMC Gremlin. Total piece of junk, my HS graduation gift, a used 2 yr old Gremlin. Actually I learned a ton about cars owning that thing and being a poor college student. I guess I should be thankful for all it taught me!
  • 46
    Mr. Bill Northern California August 24, 2016 at 17:56
    "Car of the Year" doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to be a great car, but that it represents a new direction or new idea in automotive design. Had a Renault Dauphine. The "heater" consisted of a cardboard box in the engine compartment with a fan that sucked in the hot engine air and blew it into the passenger compartment. The theory was that the cardboard would filter out the smoke, which it didn't. On the plus side, because you could buy the wet sleeve cylinder, piston and connecting rod as a one part you could pretty much rebuild the engine in one day.
  • 47
    Dave S Ottawa August 24, 2016 at 12:11
    I bought one these as a winter beater which morphed in a two year relationship. Yup to CV boots, a few junk yard fuel pumps too. Had to turn the AC off if you wanted to pass someone. Other than that, always started and no worries with someone stealing it.
  • 48
    Cyril Boudreau Michigan August 25, 2016 at 22:10
    For a long time I have been of the opinion that the award (Car of the Year, etc.) that are purchased. If any gear head thinks back on what car models have received these awards then the next excursive would be to note how many of those marks are still in the marketplace. The car that sealed this thought in my mind was when GM introduced the Orca looking Impala. Having worked part of my career in modeling studios of the "big three" I have seen many truly fabulous styles come and go in clay but never anything as disfigured as that particular vehicle.
  • 49
    Lt. 36 Freeland August 28, 2016 at 20:16
    I remember my uncle buying 2 Citations in 80 (1 to drive 1 to store until the first one time to retire) thinking it would be the last car he would need to buy. Needless to say he trades both in (1 less then100 miles) on an 86 Buick estate wagon which my aunt is driving til this day
  • 50
    John Codman MA September 1, 2016 at 14:07
    I have been involved with automobiles in some capacity since 1958 or possibly earlier - one thing that I have learned, is that if you do not live in France, never purchase an automobile made by a French manufacturer. If you do live in France, never purchase an automobile made by any but a French manufacturer.
  • 51
    Robert Harvey Wichita KS September 12, 2016 at 17:21
    I bought a new 1980 Renault "Le Car". We drove it a little over 10,000 miles total, and at the end of that time it had spent 24 hours in the shop for every 99 miles on the odometer. Finally went back to the dealer as part of the settlement of the law suit. Worst car I ever had, or had even heard tell of.
  • 52
    Mark R St. Charles,IL September 23, 2016 at 12:13
    Had a 85' Alliance. There was always something wrong with the car. Got to know alot of tow truck drivers.
  • 53
    Michael Carter Houston, Tx September 24, 2016 at 14:38
    I worked as a mechanic for a local AMC dealership in the mid eightiesand yes we sold Renault's. First my sincerest apology to anyone who bought one. We sold the "la car" Allience and the fuego. We also sold the fuego turbo. I do remember an insurance company totaled a fuego turbo that had it,s ECM go out. The new ECM was more expensive to replace than the car was worth. We had Allience's lined up in the shop waiting on parts, usually it was for automatic transmission issues. If they were not under warranty and you had a major power train problem, the repair cost more than the car was worth. We had Renault's lined up to get in the shop and had a field full of them out back waiting to be junked. Most of the time customers could not justify the expense and would either leave the car never to return or tow it to the junk yard. I don't miss Those days. Every time I saw one come in on the hook you could bet on another customer having a very bad day.
  • 54
    Ken BC Canada November 22, 2016 at 00:06
    Ha Ha as a avid reader of Car and Driver for decades, I always avoided Motor Trend because in my opinion it was a mouth piece for the Car manufacturers, to help them sell cars. Rode in a alliance when it first came out, and it took me too Minutes to determine it was a POS ( Piece of shit), the Le Car ( the same) The Chev Monza (V8) and the blast from the past Frenza ( it would rust just looking at it and before you had a chance to take it off the lot) All if I remember had glorious write ups in Motor Trend at the time. The Cimarron, Pinto and the list continues, always distrusted that publication, and frankly still avoid it today. I am a little older, and know the skeletons in the closet, but in my opinion MT was just a shill, for any car manufacturer that would pony up a loaner car.
  • 55
    Robert Gloyd Centennial, Colorado December 28, 2016 at 17:03
    Don't feel bad! In 1971 they picked the Chevy Vega and I bought one. That was pretty much the end of my subscribing to Motor Trend.
  • 56
    Mike Williams CA December 28, 2016 at 17:05
    Chrysler partnered with the French to and called it the Simca in '71, a great little car, but had a problem with the starter breaking out of the bell housing from all the torque. I bought a used one and didn't notice the cracks till the starter fell out. LOL
  • 57
    Jim Mid Hudson Valley, NY December 28, 2016 at 17:45
    Sucked in by the hype (MTs, C and Ds, and R & Ts) and with a young growing family, it seemed a great car to trade in my '65 289 4 speed Mustang convertible on (Yeah, I know, I didn't think it was a good idea either, but the memsahib seemed to think new would be better). On the way to the dealer I managed to get hit in the left rear quarter. Result was no Alliance. Probably the luckiest accident anyone's ever had!
  • 58
    Jason B. ON December 28, 2016 at 17:49
    I remember seeing and being in cars like this in Italy back in the 80's!!! Over there it was called Renault 9. Some had the"Alliance" logo on it and some just had the "Alliance" sticker on it. They also had diesel engines in them. I think either 1.600cc or 1.700cc. They stunk even more 😂😂😂 gobs of black smoke and couldn't move any faster than a gasoline engine.
  • 59
    luckless pedestrian MA December 28, 2016 at 18:09
    But what else was better from a domestic car company (USA) in 1983... __________________________ Yup... that's about right....
  • 60
    Carl Lammons TX December 28, 2016 at 19:26
    I rented an Alliance in 1984 and it took about 5 minutes to determine it was a real POS. It was so bad, I went to a drug store bought shoe polish and wrote on the windows: "this POS is not my car it is a rental"!! LOL Beware of MT
  • 61
    Scott Motor City December 28, 2016 at 20:10
    I worked at the AMC dealer back in 1979. I was shocked that anyone would buy the tiny junk imports offered. The Jeeps were the only product that was worth purchasing. Today the Jeep brand is the only thing keeping Fiat/Chrysler afloat.
  • 62
    Jim Burton Nashua, NH December 28, 2016 at 20:15
    My wife and I bit the bullet on a brand new bright red 1985 Renault Encore hatchback, base model, with tan cloth interior, 1.4L engine, and a 4-speed manual transmission. I traded in my 1979 Honda Accord with Ansa exhaust, dual Webbers, a blown engine, a bad clutch, and a thoroughly trashed 5-speed manual transmission. The dealer was kind enough to give me $1000 trade and we drove away with what my wife said was “the cutest little French car she had ever seen” for $5000 cash. Not wanting to be known as the guy who drives the cutest little French car, I went to work redesigning the car and ordering parts. Who needs a warranty when you’re having fun with your brand new Renault. I contacted the UK Renault Club and asked them what to do with a “R11” as the Encore was called in Europe. They gave me some good advice on how to make my little French car a true European hot-rod. I ordered parts from the UK and US and set to work transforming my Encore into what it should have been before AMC got a hold of it. First, I dropped the entire exhaust and tossed it into the dumpster. It was too small in diameter and the catalytic converter was real constriction to exhaust flow. I replaced it with a European cat-free ANSA exhaust that made it sound like an Alfa Romeo. Next, I rebuilt the suspension with Koni adjustable shocks and struts and a lowering kit. The car looked and sounded fabulous at that point. The local scrap yard had a Renault 5-speed transmission and I raced down and bought it for $50. They also had a nice set of Renault alloy wheels and I snatched those up for $100. I installed the transmission myself with a performance clutch. The old transmission was about the same size and weight of a large frozen turkey and I hoisted it out using my hands. After the work, the car was exactly how I wanted it. I had myself a hot little French car that could do 0-60 in about 10 seconds and it got 40+ mpg to boot. The English guys taught me how to retorque the cylinder head bolts and adjust the valves. I did that religiously every month. I would wake up early on Saturday, do the retorque and join my wife for coffee at 7:30am. I did all the maintenance and most of the repairs myself. My neighbor was a mechanic at the local AMC dealer and he tackled the jobs that I could not do. Our car ended up on the cover of the UK Renault Owner’s Club magazine. You see, they sit in the righthand seat when they drive and we sit on the lefthand side. We put our old English sheepdog on the US passenger seat and I was driving from the left seat. To the Brits, it looked like the dog was driving! We received quite a few interesting replies from that cover and made some great friends in England. I used the Renault to commute to work for around ten years. I racked up quite a few speeding tickets and finally had to move out of Massachusetts to avoid the insurance surcharges. At 160,000 miles, I had a bad leak in the rear hatch of the encore that made the car smell like mildew. I blew one of the gaskets in the intake system and the car ran like crap. It was time to sell it to my neighbor the mechanic. I let it go for $500 and bought a Volvo 740 wagon. My days as a 20-something street racer had come to an end. We now have a 2005 Mini Cooper, red, with 5-speed manual, but it’s not the same. We miss our little French car and really wish we could have it back again. Jim
  • 63
    Vince Muniga Grosse Pointe Park, MI December 28, 2016 at 20:33
    What did anyone expect from a French car company team with American Motors? Talk about a bad penny...Hudson, Nash, (HASH Motors) AMC and now Chrysler. The DNA was bad to begin with only to get worse. I have been to more boneyards that I can count and you never see an AMC Appliance, Fuego Turbo or LeCar. Not even a junkyard wanted those Franco American POS.
  • 64
    DANIEL GARVIN Colorado December 28, 2016 at 21:42
    LOL, LOL!!! I can't recall haven't such honest, from the belly laughs over a written article. GREAT writing. Just a tad better than many of the comments which are hilarious!! Thanks for the great article and comments. By the way, as a young man I sold many a used Dauphine ($195 was top dollar for them, $99 was more common.) Thanks for the laughs!
  • 65
    John C Cargill Hanover Park December 28, 2016 at 21:56
    Renault , forced to leave the US market 4 decades in a row in disgrace. Look up the early 60s ads that say things like "the Renault for people who swore they would never buy another". I think that was for the Renault 10. They rather than extend AMC's life I believe shortened it and left a bad taste.
  • 66
    Mr.Amc-Bob Wisconsin December 28, 2016 at 22:18
    We bought a new 1983 Amc Renault Alliance 2 door DL in the sand color. We drove it for 10 years, put on 100,000 miles and it still looked like brand new. We took in on many vacations thru many states without problems like the fellow who wrote the story. You can find a lemon in any car, and yes, our Alliance didn't have much power, as ours was a loaded DL with automatic, and air. We had 50,000 miles of trouble free driving, then the things that most cars start to need after that came to be. Yes, it needed axle shafts, as the rubber boots would get tore, and leak out the fluid, thus ruin the axles. I learned to watch the axle boots, if one got tore, fix it quick, as it was cheaper fix then a whole new axle. At 50,000 miles I fixed many things that just seemed to be normal wear and tear, like brakes, (the rear brakes liked to squeak) stepper motor, head gasket, due to the under power and pushing it too hard. I then had about another 50,000 miles of good driving when I knew it would need all the things replaced again and traded in on a last year AMC Eagle. For a 10 year old car, the dealer even gave me $3,000 for it on trade on the Eagle. A lot more then the $100 the writer here got from his brother! Also that I mentioned the AMC Eagle, I still have that Eagle, and myself and my son now own 5 other Eagles! This summer my family wants to take 5 Eagles to same car show to see what people would do. Back to the Alliances, I have seen a few a car shows, as there are some that survived.
  • 67
    Eric Spokane, WA December 29, 2016 at 02:20
    That's what you get for reading Motor Trend! Oh wait, the other guys recommended it too. I'm betting leggy French models and their irresistible accents had something to do with this.
  • 68
    Lee L. Anywhere USA December 30, 2016 at 07:52
    As a Certified ASE Tech. The Renault was the biggest POS on the market. Yes' I would tell my customers that I would not work on them!
  • 69
    Al Ontario, Canada December 30, 2016 at 09:12
    great story! I never did own a Renault of any sort although I have had many cars in my lifetime, my Dad would buy a car, keep it for a maximum of 2 months and sell it....unfortunately most of the time for less than he paid for it....I caught that unfortunate virus and did pretty much the same thing. I did have experience working on an Alliance at a garage/scrapyard for a bit. it was a 1985 that a farmer had bought used, it broke down ALL the time and was very hard to get parts for, I think it was the only one still around! He went through cars like socks so it wasn't long before it was in his field. My first new car was a 1989 ford probe, right away the heater/ac was a problem the dealer tried to fix, I ended up fixing it myself. Muffler rotted off at 18k, brake rotors went out of round at 30k and the check engine light started coming on at 35k. also had low oil pressure right from the start. kept it a year, dumped it. Next one was a 2012 Chevy Cruze, fuel pump died at 5k, the transmission either would not kick in right away or slam into the next gear, needed new programming which was not commonly known about unless your mechanic dug around on the computer. camshaft sensors both went, electronic thermostat had the cooling fans roaring most of the time, security system locked me out twice and the list goes on! Thankful that it was under warranty got rid of it in 2014 before the warranty was up. The dealer kept telling me I was the only one with problems with that model, one went so far as to tell me it was driver error! Needless to say I now stick with older cars with over 200k as they seem to be a lot less trouble.
  • 70
    George Elmhurst, IL. January 2, 2017 at 12:30
    Excellent writing, and quite sarcastic, my favorite. Would love to know what this author does for a living. I remember begging my mom to buy one of these as a replacement for her aging and impractical 1973 Caprice Classic. But back in the mid 80's in suburbia it wasn't prudent to drive any "foreign car" so she opted for a brand new Ford Escort wagon. We were immigrants and still trying to make nice nice and fit in. Turns out she made the right decision after all in ignoring her "car guy" son. Foreign mom guilt greatly surpasses any other type of oppressive mother guilt, Catholic Jewish or miscellaneous. We both dodged a bullet.
  • 71
    Jim Burton Nashua, NH January 3, 2017 at 13:55
    If you're wondering why there are no Alliances or Encores left in the US, it's not what you think. The French bought most of them and had them shipped to the south of France. You can't even find them in the junkyards because they bought those too. If you go to Nice, France, you will see a lot of the GTAs and Alliance convertibles. Of course the French were wise enough to convert the automatic transmissions to manuals once they got them. In the early 1990s, I tried to find and buy a GTA convertible and had no luck finding any. One dealer had a brand now one he had been storing but he wanted $25K for it. All of the other GTAs had gone to France by that point.
  • 72
    Jim Burton Nashua, NH January 3, 2017 at 11:17
    You really needed to be a mechanical engineer to own one of these. The Alliances and Encores had the problems of an exotic car without the fun and visual appeal. Unfortunately, most of these cars were sold to families that did not have the engineering expertise to correct the problems and keep them running. Just for the record, the cars with the 1.7L engine and 5-speed manual transmission were nearly bullet-proof. All you had to do was to change the oil once in a while, keep up the coolant level, and change the timing belt on schedule. That car would easily go 150,000 miles with a minimal amount of maintenance. The 1.4L engines were another story altogether. Those had cast iron cylinder liners held in by o-rings. The head was aluminum and I believe the block was aluminum too, but I can't remember. Because of the difference in thermal expansion rate between the aluminum and cast iron, the cylinder head gasket would blow if it wasn't retorqued on a regular basis. Once you retorqued the head bolts, you had to readjust the valves too. The American AMC dealers had no idea how to retorque cylinder head bolts and adjust the valves. They ruined so many engines that AMC finally told them to just stop doing it. Because of the high exhaust backpressure (due to the tiny catalytic converter) and weak cylinder head gasket, the 1.4L engines typically failed at around 50,000 miles. Other problems with those cars included the axle boot rubber as mentioned by another person, rear brakes that would need replacing at 20,000 miles, and an EGR valve that tended to carbon up badly (it could easily be cleaned). Other than that, the 1.4L engines were like any other small 4-cylinder engine. The automatic transmissions were an absolute disaster. I had the manual, but I heard that the auto tranmssion would only make it to between 50K and 100K before giving out. As I said before, once I "re-engineered" all of the AMC problem, I had a perfectly reliable 2005 Encore for 160,000 miles. My 1.4L engine still ran like new at 160K after the mecnanic fixed the intake leak.
  • 73
    Bill Springer indiana August 2, 2017 at 16:55
    Restoring a 1983 Renault Alliance has a plaque that says #2346 of 3500 Motor Trend Car of year. Gave $500 for it and had it shipped from Delaware to Indiana. State Police of Ohio pulled carrier over and ramsacked car because they were sure it was full of dope. Has a blown head gasket but all in all think it will be a nice car to putt around town.

Join the Discussion