A photo for Sunday: 1983-1989 Renault 11

This is a late entry hence the night-time photography. It’s a great example of a car that when current had the appeal and visual distinction of a disposable plastic cup…


…but is now rarer than a Ferrari [insert name of recent model]. Thus it is now morbidly almost interesting. The reason this particular car exists is that it was imported from Spain to Denmark at some point. The “E” plate is still on the tail. The Danish ones are all iron oxide now whereas Spain’s dry climate reduces rust’s assault on cars.

As a TXE model it has the 1.7 litre suitcase engine and extravagant brightwork around the door-frames. The grim black head-lamp housings were shared with the Renault Alliance (or AMC Alliance) made in Canada from 1983 onwards.

Tonal monochrome produced a clearer image: 1983-1898 Renault 11 TXE
Tonal monochrome produced a clearer image: 1983-1898 Renault 11 TXE

Is this car comparatively less appealing than a Jetta, Escort or 323? No. I can think of a peer that did have more panache, a regular on these pages.


Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

17 thoughts on “A photo for Sunday: 1983-1989 Renault 11”

  1. The Renault 11 is famous for having a talking dashboard and the TXE´s was digital. According to Honest John there are just eleven left in the UK. I found one for sale with an asking price of €9500 with just 4000 km under the wheels. Now imagine having a factory fresh 11 to drive around in.

    1. Did you write that there are just “eleven” left in the UK? That seems incredible, although I can’t recall the last one I saw. My word! It was basically a hatch version of the earlier R9, wasn’t it? And I recall that the R9 was once proclaimed as being Europe’s CoTY. The digi-dash asides, I remember these cars for the Monorace (or, was it Monotrace?) mounted front seats that allowed rear passengers to place their feet either side of seat rails that sat narrowly beneath the front seats. I think it also safe to say that both cars could not claim to be of Opron’s finest works.

    2. It was certainly from Opron’s minimalist period, but I feel the car needs reappraisal. You mention the Monorace (I think) seats, and I also recall that the rear wheels were placed further back than the conventional proportions of a saloon dictated, in order to maximise rear seat width. A car that maximises habitability deserves credit.

  2. I have fond memories of the Renault 11. The father of a friend who lived two doors down from us had one and we used to play in it. The top of the dashboard was nearly as flat as a tea tray, I recall. It also seemed unusually spacious.

  3. The 11 was known as the Encore here in North America and had VIN numbers beginning with 1, so made in US, not Canada. Factory was in Kenosha Wisconsin. References – Wikipedia and TTAC.

    There were several things that stood out about these vehicles. The first was that Renault had managed to come up with sheet metal no thicker than tinfoil, so durability was nil. The rust worm feasted on them. The second was the heater core explosions that poured scalding hot water on the front passenger when it burst, and caused many injuries. The third was the super-fantastic quality CV joints.

    If ever there was a vehicle which showed how pathetic French cars were compared to Japanese under North American conditions, this thing and the companion 9 Alliance were it. A disposable bag of wind.

    That was the end of Renault over here. Fiat had died five years or so before, Peugeot groped along for a few more after, and Rover/BMLC in one of their periodic fits at selling cars here, brought us the Sterling, which it never was.

    It always amazed me that apparently none of these manufacturers gave any thought whatsoever to producing cars fit for the market they were exporting to. No, it was a virtually unanimous case of not caring, and assuming that what was fine for tootling about the city streets and back lanes of Europe with the occasional blast on a motorway to visit Auntie Elsa in Harrogate would be more than adequate for North America.

    After all, one look at mobile Americana in photos and the Europeans instantly knew that good taste was missing – unfortunately they neglected to appreciate that the bad taste was in fact made durably enough to be fit for purpose – that of being a car that didn’t expire before the loan payments did. Hubris. By comparison, the much-derided Chrysler K Car made at the same time as the 11 was a virtual tank without weighing much more.

    1. The performance and reliability of European cars in the US market always puzzled me. The discrepancy is bigger than the difference I observe in the driving conditions. The R11 did alright in comparison to other cars of the same type. I think the production and quality in the US factory was poor which is a cultural managerial matter. It’s the start of a good discussion!

  4. The North American R9/11 was built in Wisconsin, not Canada. Renault’s Canadian factory never produced a Renault-badged car, the Americanized R25 it was built around being sold as the “Eagle Premier.”

  5. Hi: Thanks for the corrections. I’d assumed all Renault’s rubbish in N America emerged from a spigot in Canada. Wisconsin is surely a silly place to make cars.
    Welcome to DTW, by the way, Joe. What brought you to our little nest of scholars? I’m never less than amazed how much people know about this stuff. Did you see elsewhere here that Lancia were charging more for the Prisma than Renault wanted for the R9/R11? Who was overcharging?

    1. No – Kenosha is on the Great Lakes and I suppose connected by road and rail to supply sources. I didn’t exactly know Wis. was right there. But it is and has been for a long time now.

    2. You may end up wishing you’d never asked, but it was incidentally another error that brought me to your site. Roughly a year ago my brother referred me to an article on here by one of your colleagues, lamenting the demise of of column-mounted gearshifts, and including a statement along the lines of “the column shift lasted in America until the 1980s,” which my brother presumed to be an error, and wanted me to clarify. Assuming we’re talking about manual gearboxes, I would have guessed that it hadn’t been done by a US manufacturer since the ’40s, but our mother confirmed that her parents did, in fact, have a ’50s Chrysler product with a column-shifted manual. But I’m reasonably confident they weren’t offered much later than that–the photo in your colleague’s article is of an *automatic* gear selector in an ’80s Jeep Cherokee, and I’m guessing that similar confusion over incredibly clunky US automatic gear selectors also lead to your colleague’s statement about “old pickups in Hollywood movies.”

  6. Hi Joe- do you know what’s funny about that? I’d assumed Sean was talking about any kind of gearshifting device mounted to the column. My thoughts turned to the column-mounted auto shift on my Buick Century. While the car was a study in robust mediocrity, that aspect of it was great. I could drive about with my then girlfriend and now ex-girlfriend parked against my shoulder on long drives or have the elbowrest deployed. That car was an ’84. I had blurred that with the French column shifts which were manual. Does the fact of the US column shifts matter much in terms of the resultant utility? You get a bench seat out of the arrangement.

  7. God’s own way of changing gears, along with the dash mounted changes of small Renaults and Citroëns.

    The Vauxhall Victor FD (’67-72) had “three on the tree” as the entry level transmission option fot its entire production life – “four on the floor” was an extra.

    A surprsing number of European cars had column changes and no option: Citroën DS, Saab 96, Peugeot 404, Renault 16 (correct me if I’m wrong here). The Peugeot 204 was suppied in its home market with a column change, but the company presumably decided that British people wanted no such Continental nonsense and devised a floor shift.

    Please pardon the digression. As you were…

  8. Richard, you’ve reminded me of the other benefit of column and dash shifts – being able to convey two girlfriends in the front seat. No wonder the French – and Aussies – liked them…

  9. Are there any disadvantages to a gear changing control being located on the column? Are paddles a modern version of this? And once paddles are accepted why not get rid of the centre console? I know airbags work only if the occupant is located properly; that only means work is needed to find out how to make airbags work for three abreast as they indeed do on Honda’s 3times2 car the FRV.

    1. I suppose there aren’t really any inherent disadvantages to a gear changing control being located on the column. But we’re all a product of our environment, I suppose, and thus I came to be disdainful of column-mounted gear selectors because (even though my parents had a Jag just like the one pictured in Sean’s post) I associated them primarily with awful American cars and their awful automatic transmissions. They do enable bench seating, but I see this as something of a mixed bag–increasing seating capacity by 50% does wonders for the utility of a pickup truck, but otherwise bench seats only serve to make a car less fun to drive fast, less comfortable to drive long distances, and less safe. And people (at least here in America) seem far too willing to overlook the safety aspect. It’s not just about making the front airbags work as intended; seatbelts alone can do little to enhance survivability in side impacts, but an occupant strapped into a well-bolstered bucket seat fares much better. Of course, in the last couple decades, side airbags have made the biggest contribution to the survivability of side impacts, but their effectiveness is compromised if the occupant they’re trying to protect is getting sandwiched against the B-pillar by several hundred pounds of other people’s upper bodies sliding across a bench seat. And, historically, the middle seating position of front bench seats provided just one more opportunity for someone to be killed in a frontal impact for lack of a 3-point seatbelt. As horrible as Detroit’s refusal (until 1990) to provide 3-point belts for rear seat occupants was, the lack of a shoulder belt is even more likely to prove fatal in the front.

  10. Hi James:
    That’s a strong case against. Rather than see it as definitive I see it as a set of challenges. Some cars deserve two bucket seats and others seem to ask for the bench option. In the future autonomous vehicles might be so equipped.

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