Interview: Renault 5 Turbo Restoration with Olly Melliard
Almost 40 years after it's unveiling the R5 turbo still very much holds its own. The Renault 5 Turbo is a high-performance hatchback launched at the Brussels Motor Show in January 1980. The mid-engine and wide-body, combined with its impeccable reputation and rally pedigree, have ensured that the car has it retained its place at the forefront of the vintage automotive world. Adam Morris, one of our gas strut engineers, sat down with Renault specialist Olly Melliard from Melliard of London while he popped by to pick up some gas struts, to ask him a few questions about the restoration of his latest Renault 5 Turbo.
How long did it take to complete the full restoration?
The restoration is ongoing to complete the finer details but started 6 months ago with the fitment of a new aluminium roof fabricated here and boxes of assorted parts. Projects such as this tend to follow the law of diminishing returns to get a to a complete functioning form, the big chunks are now complete but the painful work is now underway to source all the parts required to action jobs we take for granted such as working seat runners, screen washers and sun visors! The project start with the essential ingredients but the fixtures and fittings can often be more arduous than the mechanics and body.
What’s your favourite feature on this car?
The aluminium roof fabrication is a favourite accomplishment and looks fantastic to the trained eye but as a feature favourite it always has to be the engine location, it simply dominates everything else around it in form and function.
Early variants have seats akin to something from a 1970's episode of Star Trek in electric blue or red with matching carpets, that to me is pure French nostalgia and I go all misty eyed at the romance of Joanna Lumley or Gerard Depardieu in leafy west French countryside.
The car dates back 30+ years, what do you think it is about this model that still makes it so popular today?
The list is endless, a cult car with the same urban myths surrounding it today as always did! When new it had competition pedigree but accessible to the buying public, the fashionista choice of chic 80's crossed with hardcore motorsport function - what else does this, even today.
They are still very quick and also surprisingly useable but bundles of character which today is probably more credible than outright performance ability, organic in pops and bangs with occasional flames but all without aggravating people or trying too hard.
Some vehicles you have worked on have been featured on BBC’s Top Gear, how did that come about? And how did you find the experience?
They found me! The limited UK resources and understanding of Renault 5 turbo staged my business model concept and my past working life in Historic race restoration mean I have a fortuitous following. Having a good reference point for R5 turbo means I can deliver good working cars that do not underwhelm and the following enthusiasm can then be caught on camera.
BBC Top Gear were all utterly enthralled and their biggest social media hit was a request of more focus on the older car, the Stig would sign on the line for an R5 turbo that is for sure! Sony has also used cars for digitising to a format that can be used in the next episode of Gran Turismo and most recently The Car Years has commandeered my services for an Audi vs Renault feature that gives dedicated focus to an early Gr.4 homologation road car, both Vicky Butler Henderson and Alex Riley are smitten, Tiff Needell also has seen the light.
How did you find yourself getting into this line of work?
Working as an integral team member for Simon Hadfield Motorsport over nearly 20 years learning my craft crossed with a personal infatuation for Renault in Motorsport and especially the 5 turbo meant the two concepts joined. My dad was an avid racer at Crystal Palace and a huge Renault fan so I was brought up on old copies of Motorsport magazine who ironically I now help with features. Starting my own Historic race preparation business in 2018 allowed me to finally exercise my own work ethic and join the two concepts together, the workshop is a 50/50 split of real history racing cars and Renault 5 turbo. My dads London based company 'Melliard of London' gave up its domain details to start the business and will progress to Melliard Motorsport as the dust settles.
I have owned my car since 2004 and still get excited about them today, what I found personally back then was a distinct lack of knowledge and the ability to one stop shop with trust, shared enthusiasm and direction. Often as new owners we need impartial direction given as to what we do and why and also be shown a distinction between our 'wants & needs' I hope I now offer this.
What are some of the most notable cars you’ve worked on?
My personal favourite was the 1997 EMKA sponsored McLaren F1GTR Longtail for Rowan Atkinson but the list is endless from a 1972 Ferrari 312PB to Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar D-Type longnose, currently in the workshop is the 1979 Division 3 championship winning Zakspeed Escort which gets pretty high up the list despite its humble origins.
What do you drive every day?
Mercedes Vito van of course and why not.
What’s would be your favourite vintage/classic car to race?
I would be chomping to get the Zakspeed Mustang turbo IMSA car or Dekon Monza Chevrolet to take the fight to the Porsche 935's in Peter Auto's historic championship but the gorgeous Renault Alpine A442 Le Mans car at Le Mans Classic would be a moment...don't ask that question again!
You have had SGS NitroLift gas struts fitted to this Renault 5 Turbo – how do you find they compare to other struts?
Better than you would even hope, the fact I can personally tune the struts for the wafer thin aluminium tailgates would pass most by but they are that flimsy it is imperative not to bend the tailgate when closing, we always hope not to have to access the engine bay often of course.
We invited Olly over to our manufacturing plant in Derby to talk to gas strut engineer, Adam Morris. Adam showed Olly how to find the perfect replacement gas struts and how to fit them. With 30 years manufacturing experience, we're experts in everything gas strut related. From helping to deliver a boot opening motion that is smooth and safe, to giving customised upward-opening doors a sophisticated look, there’s no denying that gas struts are essential for both the general automotive user and the enthusiast.
If you're looking to upgrade or replace the gas struts in your car like Olly, then you can use our dedicated gas strut replacement service, or purchase custom struts in quantities from one to one million.
Do you have any more interesting restorations happening in 2019 we should look out for?
The Croix Blanche Group 5 Escort turbo show car is here to be restored to a working race car with its 19" wheels, box arches and turbo charged Cosworth BDG engine and the Renault 5 turbo Group 4 works 1981 Monte Carlo entry of Bruno Saby is to be restored back to former Calberson livery. We also welcome back the ex Gerstmann team Weslake Capri RS2600 of Klaus Ludwig I restored some years back for racing duties and a brace of Renault 5 turbo road cars await interior retrimming which is a new venture for me that I thoroughly enjoy doing, keep an eye out on my social media pages as maybe I have something really neat in the sidelines but for now mums the word.
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Olly recently had one of his cars featured on BBC Top Gear with Rory Reid. Rory set out to see if the new, Megane RS has that old Renault craziness beneath the surface. You can catch-up on BBC iPlayer to see the car in action.