Photo For Sunday : La Gamme Complète

Renault 82, it says on the cover. 

Image: The author

The image you see here is taken from a 1982 brochure prepared by Publicis Conseil (Renault’s long-standing communications and advertising agency) for Ireland’s then distributor, Smiths Distributors LTD, who also assembled Renault 4s in Co Wexford for the Irish market. More a pamphlet than a brochure, it nevertheless provided a well-produced and reasonably comprehensive overview of what the nationalised French carmaker had to offer the Irish motorist some thirty eight years ago.

Aside from its composition and moodily gloaming-like setting, there are a number of striking aspects to the headline photo. The first being the choice of Renault 5 as focal point of the image; a curious choice given that it was neither the most prestigious model in the range, nor indeed the most up to date. (That honour fell to the Fuego, which here appears to be lost in a veritable sea of R20s). Perhaps the art director decided that the Cinq’s frontal aspect was sufficiently different from its stablemates to throw out the neat composition of the photo?

A more curious anomaly however is the absence of the Renault 9 from the brochure. Introduced in the French market in 1981, the 9 didn’t arrive in right hand drive form until the Spring of ’82, yet this sales leaflet (clearly marked 1982) still lists the R14 in its final 1360 cc LS specification. Perhaps they were simply clearing stocks.

What we see then, is a document of a carmaker in transition. The once ground breaking R16 had only been finally laid to rest in 1980, following a 15-year run. In 1983, both the R20 (which had been intended to replace it) and its haut de gamme R30 sibling would be no more, replaced by the more comely and better received R25.

’83 would also mark the debut of the R11 hatchback – 1984, an all-new SuperCinq. 1986 on the other hand would bear witness to the death of the seemingly eternal Quatrelle – the shortlived Fuego having been axed the previous year. By then, of the models photographed here, only the 18 would still be in production.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

14 thoughts on “Photo For Sunday : La Gamme Complète”

  1. I see two Fuegos in the picture. The fourth car from front at the left row and the third from front at the right.

    1. My first visit to Ireland was in 1993 when my wife & I spent a couple of weeks making leisurely progress from Dublin to Galway and around the west coast to Kenmare before heading east through Cork and up the coast to Dun Laoghaire for the ferry home. A delightful country where we were made to feel very welcome; we’ve returned several times. Among the many delights were the numerous Renault 4 vans in use by An Post and other utilities (and it was clear that they were a popular second-hand choice for subsequent owners). There was something endearing about the Irish postal service choice of van at a time when the Royal Mail was still associated with the Morris Minor; I then found that they were assembled in Wexford and all became clear!
      But is there any truth in the claim that the Renault 4 body shells sat on the Wexford waterside before being painted, collecting a layer of salt-spray? Certainly my father’s last 4, new in 1983, corroded away beneath otherwise un-marked paintwork…. it was still one of the best vehicles ever produced by Renault!

    2. In the late Eighties/early Nineties I was a regular visitor to Dun Laoghaire because I had a business partner there.
      I have fond memories of staying in the Royal Marine Hotel, using the DART train to Trinity College in the evening(s) and having dinner at McGrattan’s restaurant (French chef) off Baggot street. Of the rest of the evenings I don’t remember so much because they were mostly spent at places like O’Donoghue’s.

      At one evening my business partner invited me for dinner at a restaurant some twenty miles south of Dun Laoghaire with a fantastic view over the Irish sea. When he wanted to drive back home he complained that he couldn’t open his car. His wife then commented that it wasn’t his car because his car was a yellow Vauxhall and the car he tried to unlock was a blue Ford.
      The drive back home was very interesting…

    1. There’s a coincidence guytonyglavin. I learned to drive in a 1986 dark blue gtl. 771 BZU was the reg. Not sure where it was assembled. It was purchased second hand in ’88 by my Mum. Taking corners a little too fast with 5 teenagers on board created alarming body roll. The dash mounted change was very slick if you exerted just the correct pressure. The choke was quite finicky and required about 5 adjustments going from cold to running temperature. My strongest memory though is the weak battery. If you needed the radio, headlights and fan simultaneously whilst stationary a little pressure was constantly needed on the accelerator.

    2. Irish R4 production finished in 1984 with the 845cc TL “Legend” special edition model so unless your model was old stock I would imagine it was produced in France.

    3. Having checked my sources, I can concur with Eric on the timeline of R4 production in Wexford. Mind you, Quattrelles continued to be built until 1994 in Slovenia, apparently. When home market production ceased I cannot say.

    4. The production of R4s into the 90s in Slovenia would explain why I saw so many of them still in daily service when I visited Slovenia and Croatia in 2006. There seemed to be more of them than of any Zastava / Yugo. Renault were still doing strong at this time, with a lot of Symbols (Clio saloons) on the roads.

    1. Right first time, Guy: learning to drive involved many a quarrelle(sic) I would imagine!

    2. With a generous spirit, one can see the merits of the 30 and indeed later versions had a lovely interior. Large Renaults can be divided into the bland and the bold. The 30 is in the same group as the Safrane and Talisman. I wouldn´t mind owning and driving one yet I recognise this is just next door to the contrariness that would lead one to seek out a Tagora to purchase.

  2. Good morning Eóin. The 20/30 is something of a forgotten car these days. The 20 never seemed to recapture the appeal of the 16, which probably explains why the latter remained in production for five years after the 20’s launch. The 30, possibly because, twin headlamps apart, it was identical to the 20, lacked the unique identity and prestige to be a serious competitor. They were still rather handsome cars:

    I remember thinking at the time that the 9/11 was a very dreary looking replacement for the avant-garde 14. The 11 had the interesting glass hatch, but was hampered by Renault’s inexplicable (to me) decision to fit it with the American-style small twin rectangular headlamps, which were a bit fussy for my taste.

    Anyway, here’s a nice early 14:

    One interesting feature of early 14, 20 and 30 models was the ‘upside-down’ exterior door handles, as seen on the 14 above. They looked a bit odd, but were highly ergonomic in use: you extended your arm, hand palm down, put your four fingers down behind the handle and pressed the perfectly-placed button with your thumb.

    Sadly, these were replaced by a more conventional handle, as seen on the 20 above, when these models were facelifted.

  3. One could argue there was a real vogue for a product design led approach in the latter part of the seventies, considering the number of strictly rational hatchbacks that appeared around that time: R14, Ritmo, Panda, Austin Maestro… (Stretching the timeline on that last one I know, but then it did reach the market rather later than intended!) Was this a reaction to the oil crisis, or an attempt to replicate the success of Giugiaro’s original Golf?

  4. The R20 has one of the most beautiful headlights ever made,
    they made it look so much more distinctive than the
    essentially same looking R30.

    The R14 was a design masterpiece.

    The air in Dublin literally tasted sweet, I recall, and the Dubliners
    are good looking and well-mannered.

    Always a joy to visit.

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