1985 Renault R9 (Alliance) Convertible
Acquired: Winter 1988; Sold: Summer 1991
Firsts: 1st transversely-mounted engine; 1st overhead cam; 1st fuel injection (throttle body); 1st used car dealer purchase
When I decided to ditch the R5, it was still operating well enough, and I had the luxury of being able to take my time and look for a car that I really liked. I decided that a good car would be a Renault Fuego, which was their sport GT model. A friend back home had one, and the one time I drove it I found that it handled better than either my R12 or R5. I started calling all the dealers in town asking if they had one.
Most places treated me like a weirdo, but one place said that although they didn't have a Fuego they did have a Renault Alliance convertible. I was intrigued. I knew that there was a convertible version of the Alliance coupe, but I had never been particularly interested in the Alliance/Encore line. Still I decided to check it out. It was a bitterly cold day in February, and the irony was not lost on me that I was going to look at a convertible in such weather.
The car looked like new, and in fact had less than 10,000 miles on it. It was black with a gold fabric interior. This was good, because vinyl seats, especially black vinyl seats, would have been a show-stopper for a convertible (try sitting down in shorts after the vinyl has been sitting in direct sunlight for a while). The dash board was particularly appealing, with a smart instrument cluster, and tidy central console that was very well resolved around the stick shift. The front bucket seats had this funky pedestal mount that provided a unique rocking adjustment in addition to standard reclining (this configuration could be found for years to come in the Jeep Cherokee).
I took the car for a ride and found that although it didn't handle like my R12 or R5, it had a much more smooth and "luxurious" ride. The convertible top was adequately wind-proof and the heater worked well enough to convince me that it would deal with the Northcountry Winters just fine.
I decided that I wanted the car. This would be the first time I ever bought from a dealer, however, and the first time I had to pay a commensurate price (somewhere over $6000). It wound up being the first time I had to get a car loan. Fortunately my credit record, albeit somewhat spartan, was also spotless. I had no trouble getting the loan.
Although I bought the Alliance more for the convertible top than for the fact that it was a Renault, it proved to be a most remarkable car. It didn't have the quaint charm that the R12 or R5 had, but it was much more smooth, tight, and essentially modern. And with a conventional transverse mounted engine and transaxle, the shifting was very clean. This was a luxury I had learned to live without, and was pleased to have back.
The convertible top wound up being a lot of fun when the warm weather finally rolled around, but regardless of that I just absolutely loved to drive this car. I often went for drives around the Syracuse area just for something to do, and with the frequency of my road trips I found that I was putting miles on the car at an alarming rate.
The car moved with me from Syracuse to Ithaca, where I continued to drive it locally and on long trips. All the while the miles were adding up. At the time, I had the impression that Renaults would start to fall about at around 60,000 miles. In true form, when this car passed that milestone, a number of things started to go wrong with it. One was the power convertible top. By this time I had found a Renault specialist in the Ithaca area who knew these cars from bumper to bumper. He was able to fix anything I needed, but he told me that the parts to fix the power top were simply not available. I could put it up and down manually, but it took all my strength. When I heard a tell-tale rattle coming from the front-end, I decided to get out of it before it was too late.
I sold it to some unsuspecting young woman who thought it was cute. As soon as it was gone I had a little seller's remourse. She quickly came back to me, upset at the fact it was basically impossible to get the top up and down, and fraking out over the estimate she got on the front end. I should have refunded her money and took the car back, but I just said, "Caveat emptor," sent her away, and got on with my life.