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Worst Car Wednesday: AMC Alliance-Best To Worst In 12 Months

Worst Car Wednesday AMC Alliance Four-door.

The 1983 AMC Alliance was so bad Motor Trend gave it the “Car of the Year” award. Then, Car and Driver gave it their “Best Top 10 Cars” award. Confused? Read on. When you talk to former AMC Alliance owners they’ll tell you about them being fun to drive, and how well they handled. Plus, they got great gas mileage. And they were European being based on the Renault 9. In the first year. Once these Franco-American masterpieces hit the one year mark it was a quick downhill slide. So the AMC Alliance went from best to worst in 12 short months.

Why 12 months? That’s about how long it survived before CV boots and transmission cables headed south. And overheating ramped up. Plus a list of other issues that plagued what was called the Renault 9 in Europe. Lasting until 1987, many earlier Alliances were headed to the boneyard while new ones were still being cranked out from AMC’s home in Kenosha, Wisconsin. 

The Alliance sedans were built to the lowest common denominator

All of the cars offered by AMC in 1984. The Encore hatchback is in front. | FCA

Renault cars were never known for holding up under severe use. Actually, they didn’t hold up well at all no matter how they were treated or abused. Hitting potholes or deep ruts in the street garnered interior pieces popping off randomly. These were cars built to the lowest common denominator. 

AMC Alliance commercial | FCA

Car and Driver was so ashamed it offered an apology 26 years later. “Here and now, in vivid HTML, Car and Driver formally apologizes for naming the Renault Alliance to the 1983 10 Best Cars list. For the past 26 years, it’s been gnawing at our collective gut like a shame-induced ulcer. The car was trash. We should have known that back then, and it’s taken us too long to confess our grievous mistake. Let this frank admission be the start of our penance.” We’re still waiting for Motor Trend to do the same…

This all started when Renault got big eyes and purchased AMC in 1982

1983 AMC Alliance two-door | FCA

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This all started when Renault got big eyes and purchased all of AMC in 1982. Renault needed a good distribution system. Without it, they would slog along as it had for years before. Then for an additional $150,000 it refurbished AMC’s Kenosha, Wisconsin, plant. 

The new AMC went about Americanizing the Renault 9 for its debut in 1983. A hatchback based on the Renault 11 was introduced a year later. While sales were brisk initially, the word was soon out that these were terribly-built cars. At least dealerships had Jeeps to weather the Alliance slide. 

You could get your Alliance with the stomach pump 1.4-liter or 2.0-liter

The hatchback 1984 Encore was made from the Alliance | FCA

You could get your Alliance with either the stomach pump 1.4-liter or the slightly better 2.0-liter. Neither were great and especially with the 1.4-liter banger hills and long hauls taxed the car. At least they got good gas mileage while they rusted away.

Yes, the rust worm was a big problem, too. In the end, they were neither a good American car nor a quirky French sedan. In many ways, it took the worst traits of cars typical to either country and mashed them together.

Renault sold AMC to Chrysler after 1987. While the car-side was a throw-away, the Dodge truck and Jeep side of the company look like a huge bargain today. If you ever wondered if Motor Trend’s Car of the Year award was really a good indicator of what to buy, now you know. It’s not and probably never was.