Friday, January 25, 2019

When econoboxes evolve into hot hatches

The focus of this blog has been econoboxes, regular run of the mill vehicles that got you from 'A' to 'B'  in reasonable comfort while consuming as little fuel as possible. However, some manufacturers, and the car community in general, chose to take things to the next level and turn these vehicles into hot hatches! 

The obvious one for a Festiva enthusiast is the Ford Shogun, not a factory build but one  done by Chuck Beck and Rick Titus who created a "compact econobox with a bonkers drivetrain mounted behind the driver" (quoted from the Grassroots Motorsports article featured in this post.)

Photo from the Grassroots Motorsports article linked above

Beck and Titus were inspired first by the Ford RS 200 Group "B" rally car and then by the Renault 5 Turbo. The little Renault started life as a mild mannered econobox much like the original Festiva. Sold in North America as the Renault Le Car its 1397cc front mounted engine pumped out a mediocre 55hp through the front wheels. In its stock form it was even used as a police car in a couple of places (story here). Available in both three and five door models it was the former that was transformed into the Renault 5 Turbo, and later the Turbo 2.

Renault Le Car 5 door
Stock Renault Le Car in its 5-door variant. Link to source in properties.
What the Renault engineers did to transform this basic transportation into a Group "B" rally monster was simple... they stuffed a turbocharged 1.4l engine behind the front seats transmitting 158hp through the rear wheels! The improvements in performance were quite noticeable to say the least! The story behind the development of this hot hatch can be found by following this link to an article on the Rally Sport Magazine site. 

Renault 5 Turbo at Zandvoort. Photo credit in properties.
Renault 5 Turbo in Japan. Photo source in properties

It's plain to see where Beck and Titus got the idea for their Shogun project! So there you have it... an econobox transformed into a hot hatch! Be sure to check back in the coming weeks for more examples. Next up... the Dodge Omni.

If you have any suggestions for upcoming posts please be sure to leave them in the comments section below!

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