Popular diesel, the economy and the success of the Renault 9 GTD

Just at the time when diesels were finally reaching the most compact and popular segments, the Renault 9 GTD was presented as a vehicle as modest in performance as it was incredibly economical.

Okay, the Renault 9 GTD It is not the model dreamed of by the fans. What's more, there are few who remember its existence - and importance - unless they have a clear encyclopedic vision of historical motorsport. Furthermore, from its sound - typical of an agricultural industrial vehicle - to its performance - it is impossible to think of rapid overtaking - this is not a particularly exciting option either.

However, when we look back we not only have to interpret the legacy of a brand based on our current desires as fans of a recreational passion; far from it, the correct thing would be analyze and judge with a broad view to each and every one of the mechanical milestones capable of, with their importance and significance, having allowed us to get here.

Thus, the Renault 9 GTD must be recognized as vitally important in the development of the Spanish vehicle fleet, being one of the first - and most economical - examples of the popularization of diesel mechanics during the eighties.

A decade in which, after that first scare experienced during the 1973 Oil Crisis, manufacturers began to take everything related to consumption very seriously, thus implementing the direct injection, turbochargers and, of course, a vision of diesel linked not only to its use in the heaviest commercial vehicles but also in compact and popular ones.


During the fifties and sixties a good part of the world lived under the illusion of constant and unlimited growth. In this sense, the automobile became the main symbol for the expansion of the consumer society, which was based on the growth of cities and the new middle classes in order to spur production to truly surprising levels.

Likewise, only a small and invisible part of the scientific community stopped to think about how finite - and unstable - hydrocarbons were under that situation of galloping optimism. However, when the Oil Crisis in 1973 woke up from that dream, the capitalist West - this time not based on the rigors of ecology but through complications of geopolitics - the top brass of motorsports took charge. awareness of the need to undertake certain changes.

Mercedes 300 SD, one of the first examples in relation to the turbodiesel.

Changes based on the savings capacity, thus initiating a large number of experimental programs around reducing consumption with engines capable of combining smaller displacement with equal - and even better - performance.

In short, a process where diesel engines emerged strongly beyond their use in sedans subjected to high mileage; This case is very representative among the units of the SEAT 1800 D with Mercedes engine. In the end, the second diesel model manufactured in Spain -not counting conversions carried out by independent companies- after the presentation in 1968 of the Dart Diesel with the Barreiros C-65 engine.


Due to this particular market niche related to mid-high range sedans required by salespeople and taxi drivers with enormous mileage, diesel was entering the field of passenger cars. from top to bottom. What's more, one of the brands that did the most and best research on diesel mechanics was Mercedes, which in 1978 presented its 300D.

Only available for the US market and, in a pioneering way, equipped with a turbocharger based on the tests carried out on the C111 prototype saga. Likewise, with regard to Spanish production, diesel was gradually entering the Talbots and even the more modest Ford Fiestas already in the mid-XNUMXs.

A motorization in which Renault entered late although, to tell the truth, when it did it it did so with real impetus. At this point, the diamond house applied its first massive diesel - a 2.068 cc four-cylinder served in both naturally aspirated and supercharged versions - in both the R18 as in the more specific Fire and 20/30. An interesting but insufficient line of work since, after all, there was still bring diesel to the compact and general segment.


When the Renault 9 hit the market in 1981 - thus replacing the R14 - it was already a compact and affordable model. However, he still had to take one more step along that path of savings and moderation when waiting for the presentation of its diesel version: the GTD. Equipped with a smaller engine than the diesel already used by Renault - this time the block with four cylinders had a capacity of 1.595 cc - this can be described as a true “diesel for everyone.”

Thanks to this, the Renault 9 GTD was a key piece in the diversification of the range offered by FASA, which was already on par - and even surpassing - the sales made by a SEAT that, just at that time, faced hard times marked by the transition from FIAT to Volkswagen. What's more, its diesel option in competition with the Renault 9 -based in the Ronda- was around 15% more expensive in addition to showing worse consumption.

With a five-speed transmission - very striking given the segment within which the Renault 9 GTD was located - this model stood out for its foolproof reliability thanks to a simple and uncomplicated mechanics as, in fact, its resounding and primitive sound. Of course, in return nothing could be expected from the performance, which was 55 HP at 4.800 rpm with a top speed of 146 km/h.


We just discussed issues related to power and no, really This is not the important thing in a car like the Renault 9 GTD. Far from it, here what is paramount is consumption and, furthermore, the delivery of torque.

And, even though it is not a model capable of quick responses to the demands of the accelerator, a simple look at its torque curve -the first document to take into account when we analyze an engine- shows us how it delivers its maximum force -102 Nm- around 2.250 rpm.

If we compare this with the point at which it shows its greatest horsepower -4.800 rpm-, the Renault 9 GTD seems to deliver its power at a medium-low pace. That is, the perfect point to make this vehicle a solvent ally in daily traffic of a city while, without boasting, it is capable of covering interurban journeys with averages of 6 liters per 100 kilometers.

Depending on the source with which it is compared, between 35 and 45% less than what is required by the gasoline variant on the same journey. Anyway, it may not be one of the turbocharged Renaults that was so desired when we talk about the eighties, but without a doubt this GTD marked a before and after for the Spanish market because, not in vain, It was the best-selling diesel in Spain during 1984.

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Written by Miguel Sánchez

Through the news from La Escudería, we will travel the winding roads of Maranello listening to the roar of the Italian V12; We will travel Route66 in search of the power of the great American engines; we will get lost in the narrow English lanes tracking the elegance of their sports cars; We will speed up the braking in the curves of the Monte Carlo Rally and we will even get dusty in a garage while rescuing lost jewels.

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