Fashion is a funny thing, though. Despite the grumbles, the 1300cc Renault 5 went on sale at R3 275 and by the end of 1976, just over 3 500 trendsetters were driving the coolest of cars. By 1979 the 10 000 mark was reached, and this marched on to nearly 36 000 by close of play in 1985. In defence of the buyers, the units sold were made here and, as we mentioned, were the best in the world in terms of quality and specification.
South Africa’s KZN plant, which had a R7.3 million investment injection, was up against Renault 5 factories in France, Spain, Belgium, Mexico, Morocco, Ivory Coast, Portugal and Indonesia in the auditing race. South Africa was awarded best manufacturing quality in 1977, ’78 and ’79, with the latter setting the highest-ever standard recorded for any Renault production anywhere on the globe.
Fifteen cars were churned out per day, which thanks to local body pressings and engine manufacture at Motor Assemblies saw the local content percentage reach 67. The local 5 also had numerous South African-only features when compared to the internationals. We got a suspended roof lining with felt insulation backing, fully carpeted floor and boot, trimmed interior pillars, larger-capacity radiator, bigger rear and heftier anti-roll bar. Complaints about heavy steering were remedied in ’79 by reducing the castor angle by 7 degrees; this was accomplished by designing new upper and lower suspension arms, steering links, steering knuckle and anti-roll bar.