On Saturday, July 27th the Guys With Rides Team attended the latest Northern New Jersey Cars & Croissants event held at the scenic Hacklebarney State Park in Long Valley, New Jersey. 

A distant suburb of Manhattan, this event often attracts a number of very expensive cars that leans more towards offerings produced across the Atlantic Ocean.  Saturday’s event did not disappoint, with late-model Lamborghinis and Ferraris mixed in with a number of vintage Alfas, Jaguars, Porsches.  Yet, placed in the middle of all of these fancy cars was something you just don’t see anymore: a driver-quality, red over tan cloth, 1985 Renault Encore S Five Door Hatchback with only 55K original miles proudly on display by its passionate third caretaker Sandy. 

While American roads were filled with Alliances & Encores in the early 1980s, they are a very rare site today.  Here’s a quick video to jar your memory:

By 1979, American Motors struggled to stay afloat as the highly profitable Jeep brand was not enough to offset what had become a badly aged line of passenger cars.  A second energy crisis in seven years only made matters worse as consumers gravitated away from domestic offerings towards more fuel efficient imports.  Unlike Chrysler at the time, lawmakers did not consider AMC “too big to fail” and thus the smallest U.S. automaker sought assistance elsewhere.  When banks refused to provide AMC further credit to develop new products for the changing marketplace, AMC turned to French-Government owned Renault for a $90 million loan.  AMC signed an agreement with Renault giving a share in AMC’s ownership in exchange for the rights to sell Renault cars in the U.S. By 1980, Renault had a controlling interest in AMC.

The net result ended up having AMC’s Kenosha, Wisconsin plant retooled to make an American version of the Renault 9 subcompact under the new”Alliance” nameplate.  This new car was available a either a tw0- or four-door sedan that launched in June 1982 as a 1983 Model.  One year later, the hatchback Encore 3-and 5-door models launched.  With a long list of standard equipment and an estimated 37 miles per gallon city fuel economy, AMC’s new offering could go head-to-head with VW’s Rabbit and Chrysler’s Omni.  The Encore While the car sold very well during its first two model years, by 1985 American consumers were once again starting to buy buying larger cars as fuel prices declined. This combined with increased competition in the subcompact car market segment fueled the sales decline of the Alliance. Shortly after Chrysler purchased AMC in 1987, the new parent company canceled production of the Alliance and its Encore hatchback sibling.

Sandy proudly took us through his Encore, explaining how he bought it two years ago and got it road-worthy last May. He has since taken it reliably to the Carlisle Import Nationals as well as several French-Themed car shows such as the Citroen Rendezvous.  While seeing an Encore survivor is a rare site in its own right, we loved that Sandy was wearing an Encore T-Shirt!  Sandy and his Encore are proof that you don’t need to spend a lot of money or have a pristinely detailed collectible car to enjoy the hobby. We’d even argue he’s having more fun with his car as he doesn’t have to worry about scratching the already well-patina’d paint.  Thanks for sharing Sandy!