Extra, Rapid, Express. Those three words sound well together. All of them did service as the badge of this Renault 5 spin-off.
For the UK and Ireland, the car bore an Express badge. In France, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Japan, Taiwan people knew them as Express. And if you lived in Germany, or Austria you had to learn to call it a Rapid. The front of the car is all Mk 2 Renault 5, a car unique in Renault nomenclature for carrying the same number over 2 generations (almost). Should you require replacement door, the parts numbers will be for those used on the five door Five. They are a bit shorter than the three-door version.
Many of them had fewer glazed panels than this veritable greenhouse of a car but only some had the ‘giraffe hatch’ for taller loads. All of them had a 15 cm longer wheelbase compared to the normal Five.
Like many commodity cars and commercials, the Extra Rapid Express enjoyed a long production run: fifteen glorious years from 1985. Renault seemed to go the extra mile with this car, giving it independent suspension all around (Macphersons fore and trailing arms aft) and I have learned that Ford bought in the rear suspension for its 1990 Fiesta Courier.
That leads to a nice pub quiz question, “What Ford used Renault suspension parts?” I presume that the use of dead axles and leaf springs (Caddy, Combo) is not an unforgiveable sin since it allows for quite heavy loads to be carried. And Volvo demonstrate that dead axles can be made to achieve impressive results if sufficient brain-power is applied.
Today’s car looks like a Phase 3, from 1994. You can tell because it has the ugly jellybean lamps and less plastic on the rear doors. It must be one of few survivors: I found one for sale on Mobile.de. The rest have been driven into the tarmac – that’s the fate of commercial vans.
29 thoughts on “Monday, Monday”
Good morning, Richard. One of these resides in my area, just like a C15, Citroën’s offering in this segment. I think these were called Express in The Netherlands. Not counting the local car, I don’t think I’ve seen one of these for ages.
Reminds me of a hearse for small occupants, in black of course otherwise why all the
There was a passenger version of it, if I remember correctly. These were also used a lot to transport people in a wheelchair.
Yep, I remember many wheelchair carriers with the tell tale conversion at the rear to allow the chair easier access. An acquaintance of my family had one she’d conversed to a camper van. Unpretentious, unromantic and very likeable.
In France you still can see this car quite often at the weekly markets, together with the Citroën C15.
Even the owner of french vineyards are driving them, besides a Landrover or a Mercedes SUV.
Nowadays the market of french country people is a Dacia territory.
Good morning, Richard. Its hard to dislike vehicles like this, modest but immensely practical with no pretentious to be anything other than a box on wheels. Incidentally, did Ford buy in the rear suspension assemblies from Renault, or just licence Renault’s design? Either way, it’s surprising that a company such as Ford couldn’t design and build something as apparently straightforward as this for itself.
On the subject of commercial vehicles, I stumbled across this yesterday:
I assume the reason for turning this Panamera into a van was fiscal rather than practical!
The same absurdity applies in Denmark. A regulation meant to make it cheaper to run a family estate as a van applies to Porsches. You´d think they would have an engine size or horsepower cap. Nobody needs a Porsche “van”.
Hi Daniel. I think that two-seat “commercial” Panamera is someone’s attempt to use a legislative loophole by removing the rear seat and re-registering it as a commercial vehicle.
Something like that but in reverse and in a large scale was what Ford did in the US when they imported the Transit Courier van from Spain. In order to get around the infamous “Chicken Tax”(*), they woud import the passenger version of the van and then proceed to remove seats, seatbelts, cover windows, etc., in order to convert the van into the cargo version.
In any case, going back to the Panamera van, with the way the average “white van man” drives, the last thing he needs is another 350hp!
(*) The Chicken Tax is a decades old US 25% import duty on pick ups and light commercial vehicles coming from Europe to counter the stiff tarifs set by some European nations to stop the flood of cheap, industrially grown, chicken from the US. At the time (post WW2) the US had developed the techniques to produce chicken massively by industrializing the process, whereas in most of Europe, chicken was still produced traditionally (and some would say healthier and more humane, etc.) and thus, more expensively and at a great disadvantage to the US sourced chicken. It’s actually funny how the humble chicken could create such global trade mayhem.
These cars once were quintessentially French.
Once you passed the border you knew where you were simply because this kind of cars was omnipresent, often in blue with ‘La Poste’ stickers.
Renault 4 Fourgonette, 2CV AZUL, Simca 1100 VF were passenger cars with a kennel at the rear.
Italy had similar but smaller cars with the 127 Fiorino and all kinds of Apes.
One fun thing with these express vans is that you can easily transplant the engine and suspension from GT Turbo into them, making the ultimate practical/ridiculous hot hatch.
Nice, do agree that more could have been done with the Express down to incorporating the Supercinq sliding doors one-off by Heuliez for an earlier Kangoo.
The French wiki link claims the original Twingo shared the same chassis as the Express, together with the Supercinq and original Clio that appear to be part of a bigger family that included the 11/9, 19 and original Megane plus Scenic.
Not sure about the twingo sharing the platform of the r5, but the clio was basically a reskinned supercinq, so lots of parts are interchangeable – the clio f7 engine and subframe fits right in, and was a popular mod, in addition to the stiffer rear torsion bars from the sportier clios.
Rather dubious of the Twingo connection to the Supercinq, Clio and bigger family myself.
Sharing of engines and other parts or carryover items on the hand was indeed the case, have seen online images and videos of modified Twingos with 1.4 Turbo and Volvo 400-Series sourced 1.7 Turbo engines. Raising the question of how the original Twingo could have rivalled the Saxo VTR/VTS, if the Energy engine could not fit under the bonnet (thereby necessitating the development of the D-Type engine).
This is a true Sports Utility Vehicle!
I just walked past the one that is in my area. A 1.2 RL panel van version.
That is a Fiat Group quality ‘facelift’. Those headlights are awful.
It’s a pity Renault didn’t take up on Heuliez (?) offering of the Supercinq with raised roof and sliding rear doors. It could easily have been spun off the same extended platform as this and Renault would’ve had a Golf+ kind of vehicle twenty years ahead of Volkswagen.
Were you thinking of this one, Ingvar?
They seem to have promoted the Express quite heavily in Spain, with a number of special editions. It was sold as a versatile, ‘fun’ vehicle and the giraffe hatch is much in evidence in the ads, too.
Charles: thanks for that link. That one is new to me. It looks useful and fun.
@Charles, yes that one! I always loved that concept, but I see now the sliding door is only on the right side. But anyway, they were on to something! Something in between the Espace and the Megane Scenic and the Peugeot 1007 with its sliding door. It’s a pity Renault wasn’t brave enough to go through with that concept.
Damn I see now even the front doors are assymetrical! The right door is the standard 5-door front door while the drivers side left door is the standard extended door from the 3-door car. How utterly quaint and so very very French!
The Supercinq Heuliez is from 1985.
In 1984 Renault was deep into red ink and maybe had other problems to fix than making this a production reality.
Symmetry is so overrated. Seeing the Heuliez concept made me wonder if there had been any other Renault van concepts and there are loads of them, from the 1997 Pangea to 2004’s Trafic Deckup.
It’s clear that vans are quite a big deal to Renault and the Express once had nearly a fifth of the European market, according to Renault’s own history of the model.
Funny: reading this article (nice find, Richard!) made me realise I practically grew up in this concept: after our first 2cv4 was crashed (3 weeks from new) we had a 2cv Fourgonette as a loaner (no backseat, mind) which in my 2-year-old logic was called a “Kamereend”. Kamer means room, Eend being the Dutch nickname for 2cv, describing it exactly for what it was. Later followed a Renault 4 f4 and 4 f6, a Renault Express and a Citroën Berling HDI, all in ‘Combi’ version. They were true family cars in that they were really part of the family, able to absorb a full size bicycle within the ground plan of what would be smaller than a VW Polo nowadays…
Joost, I do so agree – there is no longer anything comparable on the market; certainly not here in the UK. Probably the last of the breed was the Peugeot Bippa Tepee. A stupid name but if it really offended there were Citroen or Fiat versions instead with slightly less silly names. The rear seats could be easily removed to free up even more space if needed and even a 4WD option. A vehicle of true versatility – what more could you want?
Fun fact: the Express’ dashboard (a horribly utilitarian piece of grey creaky plastic) was taken over into the Campus, a cheap run-out version of Supercinq.
The Express was very popular in Spain, my father bought a 1.1 in 1991, sold it in 2010 and until a few years it was still running.
The trap door in the roof next to the rear doors was a big advantage because you could get a ladder or a long item through it.
Despite being always very dirty inside I liked to drive it every now and then because I wanted to remember what was “steering feel” before everything got power steering.
Believe or not it was available with factory installed air conditioning.
That leads to a nice pub quiz question, “What Ford used Renault suspension parts?”
Well, there were these, the Ford Corcel, Ford’s version of the Renault 12 for South America appearing before the R12 itself did in France. ( The only Ford with 3 stud wheels)
And that might be the connection. Ford made the Courier, a pick-up version of the Fiesta in Brazil, I imagine they based the van on that.
The Ford Corcel.(s)
Another fun fact… The internal code for the Express was F40. When armed with the 1.9l oil burner it was rather quick too. Not Ferrari fast, but indecently fast for a fridge. White paint added to the top speed of course, especially within the Périphérique where a well aimed boxy projectile commanded a certain respect. They were the pool car of choice for the cognoscenti at La Régie for years!