Heuliez traveled to the 1982 Paris Motor Show to display a convertible version of the Renault Fuego Turbo. The car was the latest in a long line of Heuliez-built concepts designed to showcase the studio’s know-how in manufacturing bespoke versions of existing vehicles.
Building the Fuego Turbo Convertible was considerably more difficult than merely chopping off the roof and sanding down the rough edges. Fully intended to enter regular production, the car was primarily designed with the United States market in mind so it was shipped to the AMC factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin, after the conversion process was done and fitted with U.S.-specific parts such as headlights, bumpers and side market lamps.
After a brief stint in Kenosha, the ragtop was shipped back to France in time for the press days of the 1982 Paris Motor Show. Finished in an eye-catching two-tone white and light brown paint job, the Fuego Turbo Convertible was undeniably positioned higher up on the market than its coupe counterpart. The plastic trim that ran down both sides was painted white in order to blend in and create a crisp, clean look, and it was fitted with premium-looking alloy wheels.
The upmarket treatment continued on the inside with a power-operated soft top controlled by a switch on the center console and tan leather upholstery on the seats, the door panels, the dashboard, the center console and the steering wheel. Upholstery and carpet aside, the interior was standard Fuego Turbo fare.
Heuliez did not make any modifications under the Fuego’s hood, meaning the model was powered by the same 107-horsepower turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder found in the bay of its fixed-roof counterpart. The turbo four made 25 ponies less than its European-spec counterpart, but both were linked to a five-speed manual transmission that spun the front wheels.
The Fuego Turbo Convertible was well-received when it debuted in Paris, and Renault briefly considered sub-contracting the manufacturing process to Heuliez and adding the car to its catalog as a regular-production model. Those plans were short-lived as the Fuego’s disappointing sales figures convinced Renault to can the project and allocate its resources to more lucrative projects.
The Fuego was sent back to Heuliez’s headquarters in Cerizay, France, and stored in a heated warehouse next to an armada of other prototypes that met similar fates. These included a Simca VF2-based Talbot Wind, a Citroën M35, a compact commercial van based on the Simca 1100 and a stunning Simca 1501 coupe.
Going once, going twice…
In 2012, Heuliez decided to auction off 41 unique prototypes from its private collection as a last-ditch effort to avoid filing for bankruptcy after spending over a decade in dire financial straits. The Fuego Turbo Convertible was offered with no reserve at an auction that took place on July 7th, 2012, during the popular Le Mans Classic event.
According to the listing, the topless Fuego was sold without a title but it was billed as a running and driving car that had recently undergone exhaust and fuel delivery work. The alloy wheels that were mounted on the car when it bowed in Paris three decades earlier were long gone replaced by standard Renault 9/11-sourced steel wheels (not pictured).
The auction’s organizers expected the Fuego to sell for anywhere between €15,000 and €25,000, but it found a new home for €10,722 including all fees and taxes. The identity of the new owner was not disclosed but the car is believed to reside in a private collection.
Some images courtesy of Artcurial.