Anyone old enough to remember the days when classified adverts came on paper rather than pixels is likely to recall the warning carried by printed editions of a close listings rival to PH: to be wary of contact from any potential buyers before the magazine had gone on sale.
This always triggered mental images of an army of bargain-hungry printers, grabbing hot of the press copies and leafing through them with ink-stained fingers in search of underpriced bargains. I don't know how often this actually happened, but I did know a bloke who managed an even more acute short cut, selling his Golf to the guy the magazine had dispatched, in the pre-digital age, to take pictures for the advert.
The 21st century version of this debate created an ethical dilemma in the PH virtual office this week, one triggered by Matt Bird's discovery of this bargainacious Pill. Instead of writing about it would it be morally acceptable to sweep in and nab it instead?
We live in an era of spiralling values for some unlikely cars. Even one-time mainstream Fords and Vauxhalls are being advertised for prices sometimes higher than they carried when new. Against which, the prospect of a rear-engined '80s sportscar for less than ten grand is seriously enticing. The fact this is a Renault GTA in what seems to be entirely unmolested condition earns it something close to "take my money!" status. The fact that nobody in the office seems to have actually sneaked off to buy it says more about our collective lack of liquidity than any ethical qualms.
It's only six months since our first ever French Brave Pill, a not-especially courageous Citroen C6 2.7 HDI, but the GTA more than resets the balance for both daring and adventure. Yes, the GTA has rust-proof plastic panels and a reassuringly mainstream powerplant, but parts support for the non-mechanical bits is more miss than hit and specialists are thin on the ground. Our Pill might have the least daring engine - a naturally aspirated V6 in place of the turbocharged version offered in brawnier versions - but it is still one of the rarest sportscars from the era. How Many Left reckons there were just 67 GTAs of all varieties on the road in the second quarter of the year, a further 222 on SORN.
Those figures reflect what is likely the reality for large numbers of the survivors, and like many of its siblings our Pill seems to have spent plenty of time laid up. The MOT history is impressively green, although it also shows the car has spent most of the last owner's tenure since purchase in 2007 off the road. It recorded a clean pass this October with 84,960 miles showing, an increase of just 51 miles over the odometer tally when it got its last ticket in February 2016. The one before that was in June 2012, with 84,896 miles showing. Even going back to the start of the online record shows 84,168 miles recorded in 2006. So that's under 800 miles in 15 years, and just 64 in the last nine.
Yet even surrounded by the varied and exotic stock of the specialist dealer selling it, the GTA still looks special. When it was launched in 1984 it seemed to have been sent back from a cooler near-future, the wedgy shape of the plastic and fiberglass construction making it seem vastly more modern than the contemporary Porsches it was targeted at. From the front the GTA's relationship with the later V6 powered Alpine A310 was obvious, its predecessor being the last car developed before the full Renault takeover. But from the rear the GTA's huge glazed tailgate and sleekly fared lights combined Avant Garde and haut couture.
The GTA scored plenty of critical love when new, too, although reviewers tended to gloss over the industrial soundtrack of the rear-hung PRV V6 when it was worked hard. This was the engine that had been developed to power the upper reaches of both the Peugeot and Renault families, and was later used by Volvo too, and was always keener on lugging than revving. In the launch-spec GTA it displaced 2.7-litres and produced a respectable 160hp when breathing through a carburettor, the same output as the top-spec Renault 25 it was closely related to. Weighing in at 1,140kg the GTA was quick enough to be interesting, an 8 second 0-60mph time being entirely respectable for the period, with the slippery shape also giving a 146mph top speed.
But it's fair to say that the naturally aspirated GTA lived most of its life in the shadow of its faster turbocharged sister. Launched a year later, this used a smaller capacity 2.5-litre V6 which was boosted to 200hp, with this trimming a second off the 0-60mph time and adding 9mph to the top speed. The Turbo outsold the regular GTA, but Renault never lost faith in the less powerful car, which was offered all the way to retirement and the launch of the A610 in 1991.
Sales in Blighty were always low, with fewer than 600 across all versions of the GTA clan according to the Renault Alpine Owners Club - less than 10 percent of LHD production. A rapid fall in values after production ended also brought a new ownership demographic for many cars, buyers keener to project an image than pay for diligent maintenance. Although the non-metal panels don't rust the GTA's steel backbone chassis and its extensions can suffer from corrosion. Mechanical components are generally tough and well-known, but good luck finding replacement body panels or bits of trim. Even window seals are reportedly NLA. How many of those surviving examples are sitting as parts bowsers to keep other cars going?
But while the value of similarly aged performance machinery has increased as nostalgia has cast its rosy hue, the GTA remains very much on the launch pad. Less loved examples have been cheaper in recent years, but not by very much. For perspective, this is a rear-engined sportscar with a decades-long motorsport pedigree that is both rarer than its contemporary 911, but also being offered for barely a third of what even a tired version of the Porsche would be up for. And it's half what somebody is asking for a Renault 5 GT Turbo.
The contrast with the increasing silly prices being demanded for another rear-engined PRV V6 powered sportscar are even more startling; imagine if Doc Emmett Brown had made the much more sensible decision to use the GTA as the basis for his time machine.
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