The Phoenix Gold Renault 5
A project by BJ Electronics & Streetcustoms
This September, we had the pleasure of being a part of one very special car’s journey and got the chance to catch up with the friends who made it all happen.
Building a car audio system in a modern car is one thing. Modifying an older car and taking it to its limits is another task altogether. No-one knows this better than Bjorn Van Bon, the creator of the incredible Renault 5 which currently sits in our UK garage, 400 miles away from its home in Apeldoorn, Netherlands.
“He said, “I want as much Phoenix Gold as we can put in!” Bjorn explains, talking about the beginnings of the project when his friend and audio enthusiast Michel demanded that he fill the car to its breaking point with the legendary audio brand. “But it’s a small car” Bjorn continues, “It’s a really, really small car.”.
“We wanted to make it really, really nice – not just a quick subwoofer box, and not just loud either – we wanted to create something we were truly proud of”
Nevertheless, here we are. Despite its size – one of the most endearing factors about the now classic Renault 5 – the car exists and it appears that Michel got his wish. The initial punch is delivered by the sheer detail put into every element of its design. Not only is this thing full of Phoenix Gold subwoofers, amplifiers and speakers, but it takes the brand’s colours, stylings and finesse and applies it to the entire car. The bodywork, alloys, interior trim, roof liner and seats all feel like part of a coherent whole. Part of the balancing act this car accomplishes is lunging forward with the essence of a ballsy show car whilst still retaining the charm of the Renault 5 it inhabits.
Head Unit: Pioneer DEX-P99RS
DSP: Phoenix Gold DSP8.8
Amplifier: (x2) Phoenix Gold Ti31200.4
Amplifier: (x3) Phoenix Gold Ti32000.1
Speakers: (x3) Phoenix Gold Ti365CD
Subwoofer: (x3) Phoenix Gold Ti312D2X
Battery: (x2) Stinger SPP1500DCR
Battery: Stinger SPP1200
“We tried to not make it too much like the original version, so we took everything out – the dashboard, front seats, rear seats. We wanted something that wasn’t 100% stock.” Like a snail, the shell is that of a Renault 5 but the inside feels organic, reimagined.
Bjorn explains that although they stripped out nearly everything from inside, meticulous work is ongoing to find and locate original parts to complete the build.
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“We’re missing some switches, controls for the heater – but nobody wants to sell them. The only place you can really look is eBay or on forums. There’s one guy in Portugal who sells some original stuff. The problem is that you hardly ever see a Renault 5 – there’s only 40 in Holland. We managed to get this one from France actually. We went there in a trailer, picked it up and drove back.”
It comes across that the authenticity of this project is still important to Bjorn. From talking to him, it’s clear that he has a connection with this car; the Renault 5 means more than simply being a housing for the multitude of audio wizardry within.
“When I was 14 years old, I started working at a gas station doing my job after school and the owner had this black Renault 5 GT Turbo with one massive 15” earthquake subwoofer in the back. I got totally hooked after that.” When the time finally came to build his own unique Renault 5, Bjorn decided to take the project to the next level, recruiting the help of his staff at his company, BJ Electronics, and his friend Wim Kuiper, who stands with us today, quietly surveying our garage. “Wim?” says Bjorn, pointing to him. “Oh, he’s responsible for a lot of special projects. Wide bodies, wheels, custom builds. He really brought this car to life in the details.”
They both admire the custom alloys for a moment – another masterstroke of Wim’s – they’re OZ turbos, each adorned with the Phoenix Gold logo to tie the whole aesthetic, the audio and the appearance, together. There is the sense that he is the yin to Bjorn’s yang – each having a different but wholly compatible skill-set. The more we talk, the more it’s apparent that this is the sort of project you really need to rely on friends to help with. “My company does car audio, his focuses on the physical side.” Bjorn explains, walking over to the car.
“The problem is that this car is 30 years old and there’s nowhere you can buy parts. It’s been tricky.”
“We took off the door panels, as you can see now, we have completely customised them. Inside each door we have three Phoenix Gold Ti3 16cm speakers – there’s actually two separate compartments, one for midrange and two for kick bass. We’ve got the tweeters on top of the dashboard, very bright. The power cabling and batteries are all from Stinger.” We’re still in the cockpit and it’s striking just how much love has gone into the details of the interior, even down to the Pioneer pull tabs on the doors which reference the brain of the system. “I really like the radio. It’s the classic P99RS from Pioneer. The other Turbo I was working on had the P9RS – the previous model – so I was definitely looking for a similar, very high-end radio and then I found this one. It’s very hard to get one, but this was brand new. I had to ship it from Russia.”.
Things get significantly more insane when we move toward the boot and take a look at what the cockpit truly exists to support. “It’s quite a big box” Bjorn states, gesturing towards the entire back half of the car “180 litres – this is for the subs”. There are three of course, and five amplifiers which sit proudly behind them, stacked up underneath the X frame of the custom roll cage like they were designed to be used like this. It’s a testament to how well everything comes together that a vision this excessive could feel coherent.
The interview ends when Bjorn asks, “so, do you want to hear it?”. Of course, we can’t turn down the opportunity. The sound system speaks for itself. Loud, dynamic and surprisingly well-balanced, it’s everything Bjorn and Wim had described. And maybe most importantly, it has the X-factor, something not really attainable through technology alone. This is a car with considerable soul.
With everything that this particular project has achieved and the lengths its creators have gone to show it to the world, it’s clear that car audio is more than just about sound – it’s a way to express ourselves, our tastes and our dreams. This particular Renault 5 also shows just how much you can achieve with a clear vision and a little help from some talented friends.
Bjorn would like to emphasise that none of this would have been possible were it not for the efforts and support of Robert Nitsche and Michel De Vré of maxxcount, Wim Kuiper of Streetcustoms, and Henry Eibrink of Ice-Xtra
This article originally appeared in the 12V Review, Fall 2019 edition.
View the full Phoenix Gold product range at phoenixgold.com