- - Thursday, June 2, 2011

@Text.noindent:A quarter century ago, Jeff Masoner was a student at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh when his ancient car died. Needing an inexpensive replacement, he considered a Dodge Omni, a Plymouth Horizon, a Mazda GLC, a Honda Civic and a Renault Le Car.

@Text.normal:With the money burning a hole in his pocket, he went to buy Le Car, “the one with the great character” but the salesman he had talked with was not in. With all the wisdom of a college student he left, went down the street and bought a Toyota Corolla.

He never got over what he considered losing Le Car.

About the same time, on Aug. 28, 1982, a summer resident of Kennebunk, Maine, went to Crepeau Motors, the local AMC/Renault dealership, and purchased a 1982 deluxe four-door Renault Le Car.

The base price of the diminutive French car was $6,130. It came equipped with an 85-cubic-inch four-cylinder engine that developed 51 horsepower, which was mated to a four-speed manual transmission and a speedometer with a limit of 85 mph.

The cast-iron engine block and an aluminum cylinder head was crowned by a Weber downdraft two-barrel carburetor.

The spare tire nestles in the right rear corner of the engine compartment.

The original owner opted for the $199 Master Shield Rust Protection, which probably explains why the 11-foot, 10.5-inch-long car exists today, that and the fact that it was never driven during the winter months.

The little car stands 55 inches tall and is 60 inches wide. The most unusual dimension, however, is the wheelbase, or should that be wheelbases.

The wheelbase on Left side is 95.8 inches while the right side wheelbase is 94.6 inches.

The deluxe Le Car with a softback sunroof, was delivered with a heater but no radio, tinted glass, and the much-coveted Le Car carpeted front floor mats.

Standard equipment included the front disc brakes.

For more than two decades Le Car served as a trusty summer car in Maine before the owner, after accumulating 22,000 miles on Le Car, reportedly decided to bring it to his home down south to Charleston, S.C.

As the story goes, the garage space assigned to Le Car was soon usurped by a Mercedes-Benz and the owner couldn’t bear to see the little Le Car sit out in the weather, so it was sold.

Le Car ended up at a Wilkinsburg, Pa., dealer which is where Mr. Masoner happened upon it. Negotiations ensued and in September of 2004 the title to Le Car changed hands.

Shortly thereafter the car arrived at Mr. Masoner’s Upper Marlboro home on the back of a very large truck. With almost eight inches of ground clearance, the car was unloaded without incident.

Mr. Masoner was anxious to reacquaint himself with Le Car. He liked the stick shift and the hand choke and what he called, “the tall and narrow” silhouette of the car.

At the rear of the car, Mr. Masoner points out that once the hatchback is lifted the liftover height is virtually at the level of the bumper to the cargo area.

As for flow-through ventilation, there are 16 slots on asymetrically located on left side the engine hood in front of the driver to draw fresh air in and a stack of vents above each taillight to exhaust the cabin air.

The rear window is imbedded with a dozen horizontal defogger red wires above the two backup lights, one on each side of the license plate.

Whenever Mr. Masoner drives up to the gasoline station in his 1,862-pound car he has to pull up to the left side of the gas pump because he can refuel on the right rear side of the car, 10 gallons of unleaded gasoline please.

He reports mileage on road trips of more than 35 mpg and that is achieved by a 25-year-old car.

Typical of European cans, Le Car has no glove compartment but instead features a utilitarian under- dash package shelf.

Additionally, a bin on both front doors offer extra storage space.

“This car makes me real happy,” Mr. Masoner says at the steering wheel of the nimble car.

The car features rack and pinion steering and the steering wheel can be turned lock to lock in 3.75 turns.

“With $3 a gallon gasoline, I might bring it out of mothballs,” Mr. Masoner says.,

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