Renault inked a deal with American Motors Corporation (AMC) in 1978 and started selling the 5, the 18 and the Fuego in the United States a year later. By 1980 the French automaker owned 46.4 percent of AMC and it made ambitious plans to build U.S.-spec variants of the upcoming 9 and 11 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. This enabled it to keep up with Volkswagen, who had opened a plant in Westermoreland, Pennsylvania, a few years prior, and to outdo rival Peugeot, who was struggling to stay afloat in the U.S.
Renault had been present in the U.S. for several decades but it was the first French automaker to build cars locally, a fact that its top executives were very proud of. To celebrate the inauguration of its American division and the introduction of the Alliance (which had earned Motor Trend’s prestigious Car of the Year award in 1983), Renault launched several U.S.-themed special editions on the Old Continent, including the 5 Le Car, the 18 American and a series of models based on the 9 called Avenue, Louisiane and Broadway, respectively. Surprisingly named after the state of Louisiana, the Louisiane was introduced on the French market in February of 1985.
The Louisiane was based on the existing GTL trim level and offered in either metallic green and gray or dark blue and gray, colors that were supposedly inspired by American cars. It sat on 13-inch steel wheels fitted with model-specific hubcaps and it wore a Louisiane sticker on the trunk lid and on both front fenders.
Inside, the Louisiane came with tinted windows, power windows and locks and a Philips cassette player linked to two speakers mounted on the dashboard. It had roughly the same four-spoke steering wheel as the performance-focused 9 Turbo, and it came standard with a two-tone upholstery that was similar to the one found in the U.S.-spec Alliance.
Renault made no modifications under the hood and the Louisiane was powered by the same carbureted 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that was found in the GTL. Linked to a five-speed manual gearbox, it sent 68 horsepower and 74 lb-ft. of torque to the front wheels. The sedan could reach 62 mph (100 km/h) from a stop in 15 seconds and reached a top speed of 99 mph (160 km/h).
The 7,000 examples of the Louisiane that were initially earmarked for the French market were all spoken for by the time 1985 drew to a close, and the car was re-released in 1986 and 1987. The Louisiane was also offered in a number of other European countries including Germany and it sometimes underwent minor region-specific changes such as a different paint job and more standard equipment.
Note: The car pictured above is no longer wearing the Louisiane’s model-specific hubcaps.