1980 Renault 5 Turbo
The 5 Turbo was a shock to the world when it debuted as Renault’s challenge to the exotic rally machinery fielded by Lancia. Taking a different tack entirely from the Ferrari-powered, wild-looking Stratos, Renault looked through its stable of cars and picked out one of the smallest and least powerful, the 5 supermini. A miniature skunkworks team of Renault-Alpine engineers oversaw the transformation from ultra-compact urban car to a mid-engined, box-flared rally monster. Those flares (and other external styling clues) were the work of Marcello Gandini, better known for his masterpiece, the Lamborghini Countach LP400. Sitting back where the passenger seats used to be is a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder with nearly double its original output — 155 horsepower in street trim, and far more on the rally courses of Europe. Considering its humble roots, the little Renault did very well, at least until Audi’s Quattro burst onto the scene and made everything else virtually obsolete. Still, there’s no denying the cheeky charm of the Renault 5 Turbo, which is a rewarding driver and a reminder of how clever engineering can solve complex problems.