A Deadly Misadventure

DTW recalls the alliance between Renault and American Motors Corporation that proved highly damaging to the French automaker and had fatal consequences.

1988 Eagle Premier(c) blog.consumerguide.com

American Motors Corporation (AMC) was long the plucky underdog of the US automotive industry, always struggling to compete on equal terms with the ‘Big Three’ of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. AMC had itself been formed from the 1954 merger of Nash Kelvinator Corporation and the Hudson Car Company(1). This was a merger driven out of weakness rather than strength, as neither partner had the financial or technical resources to continue independently.

With a market share of just 4%, AMC was still a fraction of the size of the Big Three, but there was a larger plan in play, devised jointly by George Mason, President of Nash-Kelvinator, and James Nance, President of the Packard Motor Car Company. Packard would Continue reading “A Deadly Misadventure”

Oh Nicole!

File under (Renault: B-segment: Good – not great). At least the ad-campaign was memorable.

(c) autoevolution

Ask anyone about the 1990 Renault Clio and amongst those who remember it at all, most will cite the long-running UK advertising campaign, featuring the somewhat clichéd antics of comely young Nicole, getting the slip on her somewhat louche papa at their somewhat clichéd Provencal retreat. Meanwhile Papa, displaying equally duplicitous behaviour (all French men of course routinely have affairs), was fomenting assignations of his own.

Risible of course, but it played to cherished English preconceptions of French mores, and was instrumental in cementing brand-Clio in the minds of UK buyers. It worked too: the Clio proving a thirty year success story for the French carmaker, but the first-generation model, unlike its ad-campaign, was not what anyone would Continue reading “Oh Nicole!”

Going Pear-Shaped

The Renault 14 had the potential to be a great success, but it did not turn out that way. DTW investigates.

(c) auto-forever

The 1976 Renault 14 was the end-product of an unusual and protracted development process. It began with a memorandum of understanding signed in April 1966 between Renault and Peugeot for the joint purchase of materials and co-development of mechanical parts that would be shared between the two manufacturers, to reduce costs for each.

Another more controversial aspect of the agreement was, allegedly, an understanding that each manufacturer would design models that did not directly compete with the other. The agreement was driven by the ambition of Pierre Dreyfus, CEO of Renault since 1955, to Continue reading “Going Pear-Shaped”

A Failure of Nerve

In 1966 Peugeot and Renault formulated an ambitious plan to take on the incumbents in the luxury car market. Sadly, both companies got cold feet and their dream went unrealised. DTW recounts the story of Projet H.

Image: Christopher Butt

With the successful launch of the 16 in 1965, Renault had a large five-door FWD hatchback to complement its (not so) small 4 model. The range would be augmented with the medium-sized 6 in 1968 and completed with the 5 supermini in 1972 . These hatchbacks sat alongside its rear-engined 8 and 10 saloons for more conservative customers.

However, the company lacked a large and prestigious car as a flagship for its range. Likewise Peugeot, where the largest model was the well-regarded 404 saloon, launched in 1960. Both manufacturers eyed Citröen with a degree of envy. The Double Chevron’s large DS model, although already a decade old, had been so advanced and futuristic at launch that it still looked handsome and prestigious.

It was a fitting ‘halo’ model for the marque, notwithstanding the idiosyncratic appearance of Citröen’s smaller cars. The DS was also the choice for official transport at the Elysée Palace, giving Citröen kudos that was jealously coveted by both Billancourt and Sochaux.

Both manufacturers were allegedly nervous about the market potential for a large and luxurious car bearing their marque names, so they agreed in April 1966 to Continue reading “A Failure of Nerve”

Lucky Seven

Four into five equals seven. A brief look back at a uniquely Iberian Cinq. 

(c) stubs-auto.fr

A mainstay of the European motoring scene from its inception in 1962, Renault’s rear-engined R8 saloon was also (it’s stated) assembled in the former Eastern bloc, North Africa, Laos, South America, Australia and New Zealand. The French state-run carbuilder ceased production at the Flins plant, outside Paris in 1973. Renault never directly replaced the 8 – well actually, that’s not entirely true.

The early 1970s witnessed a period of profound change and consolidation for many carmakers, who were keen not only to Continue reading “Lucky Seven”

Coupé à la Française

DTW recalls the 1971 Renault 15 and 17, La Régie’s distinctively French take on the sporting coupé.

Renault 15 & 17. (c) stubs-auto .fr

The 1969 Renault 12 saloon was an immediate hit for its manufacturer. It was praised by European motoring journalists for its styling, spacious and comfortable interior, and good performance and fuel economy. It was based on a new platform that placed the engine longitudinally ahead of the front axle and gearbox. On Renault’s existing FWD models, the 4, 6 and 16, the engine was positioned behind the gearbox, necessitating a distinctly unsporting high bonnet line and dashboard mounted gear lever.

Renault had not offered a coupé in its range since the demise of the Dauphine-based Caravelle in 1968, and only 9,309 Caravelles had been sold in the last three years of its production. Moreover, the European coupé market had been transformed by the launch of the Ford Capri Mk1 in 1969 and Opel Manta A a year later. The new coupés were closely related to their mainstream saloon siblings, the Cortina Mk2 and Ascona A. More significantly, they were styled to look aggressively sporting, masculine rather than demure in character.

Renault decided that it could usefully Continue reading “Coupé à la Française”

One Last Push (Part Two)

DTW concludes its brief history of the post-WW2 rear-engined Renaults.

Renault 8 and 10 models. (c) lautomobileancienne

By 1960 the Renault Dauphine, while still popular, was beginning to look somewhat dated. The front-wheel-drive Renault 4 was at an advanced stage of development and would be launched in 1961. This would be the first of four identically formatted models, with engines mounted longitudinally behind the front axle, the gearbox placed in front, necessitating a gear lever mounted high on the dashboard, with the linkage passing over the engine.

The 4 would be followed by the large 16 in 1965, the mid-size 6 in 1968, and the supermini 5 in 1972. All would be hatchback designs with five doors, apart from the 5, which would initially be available only as a three-door.

Notwithstanding these plans, Renault still believed there was life in the rear-engined saloon layout and set about to Continue reading “One Last Push (Part Two)”

One Last Push (Part One)

Today DTW remembers Renault’s post-WW2 series of rear-engined cars.

1954 Renault 4CV Brochure (c) autoweek.com

The post-war worldwide success of the Volkswagen Beetle* encouraged manufacturers as diverse as Fiat, NSU, Renault, Rootes, Skoda, ZAZ and even General Motors to emulate its mechanical layout, with varying fortunes. In doing so, many appeared to miss the point that the Beetle was successful despite rather than because of its rear-engined layout.

A rear-engined design typically involves many compromises with regard to packaging for luggage space, engine accessibility and cooling, and handling and stability. The smaller the car, the less important these compromises are, but the layout becomes increasingly unviable as the design becomes larger and more powerful. Porsche spent the best part of sixty years engineering out the instability** caused by having a heavy weight mounted aft of the rear axle on the 911, while General Motors suffered huge reputational damage because of claims of dangerous instability made about the rear-engined Mk1 Chevrolet Corvair.

During WW2, Renault was controlled by the occupying German forces and was under orders to build only military and commercial vehicles in support of the Third Reich’s war effort. Renault’s Director of Design, Fernand Picard, anticipated that, after the war, France would need a small and economical car to Continue reading “One Last Push (Part One)”

Stuck In Neutral

How Billancourt was presented with an unexpected proposal for an ultra-basic car, not by the product committee, but from the mighty French labour union.

Renault Neutral proposal. (c) Conceptcarz com

The mid eighties were tough times for Renault. Georges Besse had become CEO in January 1985 and was confronted with an alarming financial situation: between 1984 and 1985 losses were spiralling – amounting to in the region of 10 billion Francs. Furthermore, the alliance in the USA with American Motors was costing enormous amounts of money, with little headway to show for in return. In an effort to Continue reading “Stuck In Neutral”

Against all Odds (Part Two)

As part of Groupe Renault, Dacia has carved out a distinctive niche as a manufacturer of competent if unexceptional budget vehicles. Today we examine how this strategy has evolved over the past twenty years.

2018 Dacia Duster Mk2 (c) Dacia UK

In 1997 Renault Chairman and CEO Louis Schweitzer visited Russia to gain an understanding of the market and Renault’s prospects there. To his surprise, he established that the ancient Fiat 124-based Lada was market leader despite its antiquity. The prime reason for this was its bargain price, equivalent to US $6,000 when the cheapest Renault sold in Russia cost twice that.

Flying back to France, Schweitzer set down the requirements for the design of a basic but not minimal modern car which could be sold profitably worldwide at the Lada’s price of $6,000 (€5,000). His brief, written on an airline napkin, stated the basic tenets in three words: modern, reliable, affordable, with the codicil that “everything else is negotiable.”

Long serving Renault R&D manager Gérard Detourbet, was given the task of developing a car to meet Schweitzer’s brief. Led by Detourbet, engineering teams in France and Romania would first Continue reading “Against all Odds (Part Two)”

Against all Odds (Part One)

Before it became part of Groupe Renault, Dacia survived enormous political, social and economic upheavals to remain in business for over thirty years. Today we look back at its remarkable history.

The first Dacia 1100 being presented to Nicholae Ceauşescu (c) autoevolution.com

Although subsumed into the vast political monolith of the Soviet Union following the Second World War, the countries that were signatories to the Warsaw Pact tried to maintain at least a veneer of independence from their Soviet masters. In the vanguard of resistance was Romania. Nicholae Ceaușescu, who became the country’s leader in 1965, refused to participate in and openly criticised the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Ceaușescu’s independence of mind initially won him widespread support at home and he leveraged this to Continue reading “Against all Odds (Part One)”

Sighting and Seeing

A Laguna Coupé ought to be both a rare and welcome sighting. But it doesn’t do to look too closely. 

Image: the author

The Renault Laguna, especially in its third and final iteration was a popular car in Ireland. Not popular in Passat or Avensis terms, but sold in quite respectable numbers nonetheless, notwithstanding Irish motorists’ long-standing distrust of the larger offerings from our esteemed French neighbours.

This was all the more surprising really, given the frightful reputation its immediate predecessor earned over its lifespan – riddled as it was by electronic gremlins which cost the carmaker dear, both in market share and in warranty costs. But then, Renault’s Irish importers were (perhaps through grim necessity) somewhat generous when it came to sales incentives. Continue reading “Sighting and Seeing”

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 Continue reading “Photo For Sunday : La Gamme Complète”

Fire Without the Spark

The French Capri?

(c) stubs-auto.fr

The Spanish word for fire, the Renault Fuego was somewhat unusual in 1980 in that it was in receipt of a name rather than a numeral. The nationalised French carmaker’s numerical system, which had been in place since the ’60s was already showing signs of unravelling, but would take almost another decade before being abandoned with debut of the Clio in 1990. This made the Fuego something of an outlier in the range, a status the car maintains to this day.

To those who Continue reading “Fire Without the Spark”

“Sit thysen down fur a bit: hev a glass o’ cowslip wine!”

It’s Sunday. Again.

Mk 2 Renault Espace**

Today’s text has nothing to do with the Espace (above). I wrote a whole other article and scrapped it after Eóin had gone to the trouble of deleting the expletives and formatting it for consumption. What I decided to do with this version of the article was to Continue reading ““Sit thysen down fur a bit: hev a glass o’ cowslip wine!””

The Dreaming

The Renault 9 was deemed blandness personified. But one of the design proposals was, who shall we say, over the Rainbow? 

1981 Renault 9. saripahmunaek.blogspot.com

Occasionally, when one is presented with a rejected concept for a well-known car design, one experiences a frisson of regret, a sharp sense of opportunity missed. More often however, one is reminded of the essential rightness of the production concept chosen. But once in a while, one finds oneself staring in disbelief, wondering what were they thinking? But let’s not Continue reading “The Dreaming”

Take Five

Remembering a memorable Renault.

(c) stubs-auto-fr

In 1976, Renault introduced the 5 GTL, a version of France’s best seller which was intended to appeal to more economy-conscious customers. Powered by a detuned version of the 5 TS’ 1289 cc engine, it was a low-revving, relatively unstressed power unit, aimed at reducing fuel consumption – in a rudimentary manner perhaps, predating BMW’s more elaborate attempts at achieving a similar goal with their ETA engine programme the following decade.

At the time at least, it went against the orthodoxy of using a smaller capacity engine to Continue reading “Take Five”

The Persian Bodyswappers

Novels such as ‘Vice Versa’ and ‘Freaky Friday’ have inspired a long list of films about body swapping, but in the rare cases the automobile industry has resorted to the practice, it hasn’t exactly resulted in any award-winning performances.

(c) Pedal.ir/Flickr/Gomotors.net/Pakwheels.com

Since the Ayatollahs assumed power, Iran’s relationship with Western nations has been complicated. This has not stopped the country from developing a thriving automobile industry however – after oil and gas it is the third in economic importance – and to achieve licensing deals with a number of major car manufacturers such as Peugeot, Citroën, Renault, Nissan, KIA, Chevrolet and Cadillac. In some cases, this has lead to results that can only be described as bizarre. Continue reading “The Persian Bodyswappers”

Metropolitian Glide

A chic city car concept from Renault: Denied again.

(c) myrenaultzoe

For mainstream European carmakers, despite the diminutive profit margins they typically engender, small cars have always been big business. But finding a recipe that is equally acceptable to pan-European palates is no minor matter. The ongoing mission to come up with the required blend of practicality, utility, style and indulgence at a price that would attract the urbanite and rural dweller alike might just be the toughest gig in car design. Continue reading “Metropolitian Glide”

Pardon The French

Peculiar and of dubious aesthetic merit though its products are, DS Automobiles’ output at least possesses one commendable trait

Citoyen No1, photo (c) autoplus.fr

It’s rather easy to ridicule DS Automobiles. After all, it’s yet another car brand created in vitro, whose main claim to fame is a name that references one of the greatest creations in automotive history, without paying any respects to it whatsoever.

Casting aside this truly overbearing issue though, paying some attention to the brand’s design proves to be rather more worthwhile than a first glance would suggest. Of course, DS’ range of cars has so far mostly set itself apart through a sheer overabundance of stylistic tropes, many of which are rather less than inspiring (shark fin b-pillars, double badges). However, amid all the cacophonous excess, there are some interesting details to be found. Continue reading “Pardon The French”

Le roi est mort, vive le roi!

The proud, if patchy tradition of the French grand tourisme didn’t quite end with the Citroën SM. 

(c) Houtkamp.nl

The French relationship to automotive luxury is similar to how Germans deal with fine food. Just as those stemming from east of the river Rhine tend to be more willing to spend a fortune on engine lubricants, rather than extra virgin olive oil, their more occidental counterparts usually gain more pleasure from visiting a fine auberge on a regular basis than a car showroom or garage. How he or she gets to said auberge is a secondary concern, too.

Yet, just as there are Germans who care deeply about fine food (Fritz Eichbauer being a particularly striking example of this), the French aren’t totally immune to the charms of decadent motoring either, as the erstwhile success of proud names like Bugatti or Facel proved. It was only some time after the war, and due in large part to stringent domestic luxury taxation, that the French GT found itself on the wane. Continue reading “Le roi est mort, vive le roi!”

Mr. Warburton Writes a Letter

Analysts Bernstein Research rediscover a lost art, but in doing so have they shifted the paradigm?

(c) grandprix247

Something unprecedented has happened. It’s probably too early to tell whether it will prove to be an isolated occurrence or a sign of a wider shift in the manner in which the industry operates, but the implications could well prove to be far-reaching.

Max Warburton, the senior automotive analyst from Wall Street financial analytics firm, Sandford C Bernstein, and leading soothsayer on matters pertaining to the motor business wrote an open letter last week to Renault Chairman, Jean-Dominique Senard, suggesting he Continue reading “Mr. Warburton Writes a Letter”

Romping Home Into Eighth Place

Now the fine powdered debris has settled, I thought I’d gather up some third party opinions on the mooted Renault/FCA merger.

2018 Renualt Espace: Renault Germany

I’ve decided to amalgamate three sources of information. They are the Financial Times, the New York Times and Autocar. My own view is that the merger is a re-run of the value-incinerating union of Chrysler and Mercedes twenty years ago. But what do the other commentators say if Renault and Fiat Continue reading “Romping Home Into Eighth Place”

“To The Detriment of His Supreme Imperial Majesty – Hurragh!”

Oh, dear more actual news at DTW. 

Reduces stress
2019 Fiat 500L: source

Without wanting to drag Brexit into this**, I have to note that Larry Elliot at the Guardian is now visibly wrong about another big thing, the Renault-FCA merger (if it is even a realistic prospect). For your information, Elliot has been at the very least tolerant of the lunacy of Brexit. Now he is suggesting that the mooted, hinted, suggested alliance of FCA and Fiat is even worth considering.

The core of his recent article is that “Frosty relations between France’s Macron and Italy’s Salvini could scupper talks over £29bn merger”. It sounds so knowledgeable but Franco-Italian relations are 800 km beside the point.

Second, it’s not 1976 any more, a time when national leaders could push around large corporations as de Gaulle did with Fiat and Citroen. But the problem is so much more fundamental: the idea of FCA linking to Renault is as insane as suggesting someone should consider marrying a syphilitic zombie. In this instance Renault-Nissan is the “someone” and FCA is the “syphilitic zombie”. While Renault has had its downs and up, the F in FCA has been only able to Continue reading ““To The Detriment of His Supreme Imperial Majesty – Hurragh!””

Fade Away and Radiate

Renault has made a name for itself as a monovolume specialist. This must change.

(C) DTW

Recently, we highlighted Ford’s retreat from the Euro-minivan sector, amid a rapidly contracting market for such vehicles and FoMoCo’s own fiscal woes across the region. However, the blue oval is far from alone in viewing this segment with jaundiced eyes, with news breaking more recently that owing both to falling sales and the advent of the newer and more crossover-ish C5 Aircross CUV to the market, Citroen is ceasing production of the short bodied SpaceTourer (aka Picasso).

Having previously declared the compact MPV sector for Renault’s Scenic, further study however reveals that the real 2018 winner was in fact the VW Group, who arguably had the good sense to Continue reading “Fade Away and Radiate”

Classic Road Test: 1979 Renault 14

“Renault Revised!” was the headline in what might have been a period review of the R14 by veteran motor writer, Archie Vicar.

This article may have first appeared in Motoring & Driving, December 1979. The original photos were by Dooulgas Land-Windermere (sic) but due to fouling with the filing cabinet, stock photos have been used.

Ah, Renault, perpetually playing second fiddle to Ford, Peugeot, Opel and Austin in the dull-but-worthy stakes. Or second fiddle to Citroen and Alfa Romeo in the odd-but-strange stakes. Renault, somewhere in the middle of it all, with beret, Camembert and Gitanes ever at the ready but never sure whether it is a European firm or just a French one.

Example number one must surely be the Renault 14. If you want to Continue reading “Classic Road Test: 1979 Renault 14”

Water For Sky, To Swim In The Sunken Forest, Among Bare Branches Dark

There’s a new Clio on the way. We play spot the difference.

Images: Autocar.co.uk

This very much a case of incremental change. Autocar reports “The Clio 5 is the first Renault to be built on the group’s CMF-B platform. At 4048mm long, it is 14mm shorter than before, with a 6mm-shorter wheelbase and a roof that’s up to 30mm lower. The body-in-white is 22kg lighter.” The question is whether one can really Continue reading “Water For Sky, To Swim In The Sunken Forest, Among Bare Branches Dark”

Such a Little Tear

As affairs go, it was short-lived. We bid adieu to the Twingo – from these shores at least.

A brace of refreshed Twingos, amid some concrete. Yesterday. (c) autoblog.md

Barely pausing for breath following the announcement of a mid-life revision to their entry-level Twingo, Renault subsequently announced that the refreshed model will henceforth be withdrawn from these islands. Citing the intention to simplify their offer, a Renault spokesperson told Autocar this week that the carmaker will refocus upon a new range of models and drivetrains over the coming year as part of Renault’s Drive The Future plan, which will include a new iteration of the top-selling Clio model.

But for all of its unquestionable sales success, it’s probably fair to say that the B-sector Clio has not truly entered the emotional consciousness of the buying public. A thoroughly competent and attractive proposition by all accounts, but a car which has evolved in such a manner that it is neither as compact, nimble, nor sufficiently easy to Continue reading “Such a Little Tear”

Into The Silences Like Mists Do Thoughts Of Her Flow

Of a little more substance than the photo earlier we have a Renault commercial van. Driven To Rrite is almost beside itself with pleasure to have a chance show this fine specimen, from about 1984-1991.

Renault Express

They named it Express for the N. European market; for German-speaking nations they badged it as the Rapid. The UK and Ireland knew it as the Renault Extra. Whatever you call it, it’s a bit of a treasure, like Opel’s Combi but smaller – the 1986 Combo “A” was Kadett-based and then Opel decided to Continue reading “Into The Silences Like Mists Do Thoughts Of Her Flow”

1976 Renault 5 GTL Review

This looks very much like an authentic period review of the 1976 Renault 5 GTL by revered motoring writer Archie Vicar.

1976 Renault 5 GTL: source

The text first appeared under the headline “Another New Renault” in The Amman Valley Chronicle and East Carmarthen News, June 5, 1976. The original photographs were by Douglas Land-Windermere. Due to the effects of xylophagic fungi, the original images could not be used.

Renault, Renault, Renault. This firm does try hard and is to be commended for its efforts to keep up with trends sooner or later. That means they are once again on the “hatchback” bandwagon, or staying on the bandwagon in the case of the 5 tested here today. The 5 appeared on the market in 1972 and the firm is sticking with the formula of front-drive and a hinged opening panel on the rear of the car in place of a proper separate boot.

It remains to be seen if British buyers can Continue reading “1976 Renault 5 GTL Review”

Lead Us To The Fifth Empire, Oh Sovereign Sebastian

Extremely recently I noticed a Renault Grand Scenic. It’s a big and imposing car. So is the Espace. Is there any real difference between them apart from the price tag and the Espace’s motorized glove drawer?

2081 Renualt Espace: Renault Germany

Maybe the Espace is simply an advanced form of brougham, much like the poor old Opel Senator: a Rekord with a different nose and tail. If the similarity of the Megane Scenic to the Espace is too small maybe people simply must Continue reading “Lead Us To The Fifth Empire, Oh Sovereign Sebastian”

That Isn’t What We Think You Really Want, Des.

We have had 23 years to come to terms with the Mk1 Renault Megane. That much is easy to state. What’s harder to express is why this design’s strangeness didn’t come across until recently. 

When I say strange, I don’t mean bad strange. I mean good strange, the oddness of the original and the idiosyncratic. The q-word doesn’t apply here though because this is not like an Ami or Multipla. It doesn’t jump out at you so much as whispers.

The start point of this little rumination is what happens when you Continue reading “That Isn’t What We Think You Really Want, Des.”

Le Tour de Tours

It’s not every day we get our hands on a best-seller. A recent trip to the Loire however, garnered DTW a Renault Clio. What did we make of it?

All images (c) Driven to Write

It’s close to half past seven in the evening as the TGV eases into la Gare de Tours, terminating its one hour and eighteen minute journey from Paris-Montparnasse. The station, a grand edifice dating from 1898, and a designated monument historique, feels as though it’s winding down for the evening, as indeed does the historic city of Tours itself.

The Avis car rental office certainly has, the Chef de Gare being called upon to process our documentation and release our pre-booked hire car. It has been a diverting past time during the train journey to Continue reading “Le Tour de Tours”

Re-1998 Part 5 : Kangoo and Berlingo

If you’d asked me in 1998 what were the most important car design trends I’d have thought it was MPVs and vans serving as family transport.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Cars like the Berlingo and Kangoo fall into the second category. And interestingly, if I Continue reading “Re-1998 Part 5 : Kangoo and Berlingo”

Re-1998 Part 2 – Ford Fiesta Versus Some Other Cars

We carry on our saunter down memory avenue with this look back to the champions of the summer of 1998. Where were you then?

1998 Renault Megane Scenic**: source

I don’t want to talk about it. It was the second worst time of my life. Times weren’t good at Mercedes either. The A-Class had been moosed and that took some of the attention from its revolutionary cheapening of the Mercedes name and its quite hideous styling.

Continue reading “Re-1998 Part 2 – Ford Fiesta Versus Some Other Cars”

Summer Reissue – La Cinq

Our editor in-chief briefly takes up the reins.

Image credit: (c) centerblog

I seldom like to visibly intervene in the daily activities of DTW since I find such matters rather unbecoming. Furthermore, the hostility from various embittered car clubs (step forward the Albanian Morris Minor Club) is often too much for me to bear. However, now that the annual exodus of Driven to Write’s editorial staff is upon us, I find myself once more cast into a role I find distasteful.

While the vain Herriott disports himself (en famille) across Northern Europe in a Opel Astra C Landaulet commissioned for this express purpose, and the deluded Gorfe has Continue reading “Summer Reissue – La Cinq”

Anticipation Creeps Headstrong Towards Us

We ought to rename this site Le DTW. After yesterday’s Peugeot review we now have a whole slew of early 90s French cars under the spotlight.

L’Automobile, Sept 1991

In 1991 L’Automobile ran an article assessing the comparative strengths of the main three French brands, Renault, Citroën and Peugeot. It was a huge group test: 24 cars.  The magazine passed judgement on the main classes and in this article I will pass judgement on the 1991 verdict. Were  L’Automobile’s assessments in line with mine? Or indeed yours? Continue reading “Anticipation Creeps Headstrong Towards Us”

A Sixteen For Sunday

Recently I failed to challenge the DTW readership with a “mystery car“. I might has well have taken a photo of the car’s badge you guessed it so soon: Renault 16. What’s so good about them?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Normally one must track a 16 down at a car show or find one for sale if you want to view an example. Seeing such a car by chance is an event and one I didn’t have much time to savour, alas. These photos (above) got into my iPhone in under three minutes, something of a pity as the car merits careful examination – three minutes is just not enough.

Despite the impression ** given by this article here DTW actually likes the Renault 16 so it’s pleasant to be able to Continue reading “A Sixteen For Sunday”

Word on a Wing

On the surface, Renault’s 1983 Gabbiano was simply an innocuous concept, but could it also stand as a metaphor for a decades-spanning rivalry?

1983 Ital Design Gabbiano. Image: Weilinet

Following former head of Citroën bureau d’études, Robert Opron’s move across Paris to head Renault’s styling studios in 1975, design responsibility appeared to remain an in-house arrangement. However over time, a decision was taken either by senior management or by Opron himself to Continue reading “Word on a Wing”

Mégane à Trois Volumes

Advance apologies to the Délégation générale à la langue française et aux langues de France and their eagle-eyed cohorts regarding the title header. 

All Images: Driven to Write

Earlier in the year I spoke at some length about Renault’s Mégane Grand Coupé offering, a car which is not only unavailable in drear old Blighty, but also (somewhat surprisingly) within Renault’s homeland. Introduced to the Irish market earlier this year, the Mégane sedan (sorry, but it’s neither grand nor a coupe) appears to have taken off here, with my highly unscientific visual survey suggesting Continue reading “Mégane à Trois Volumes”

Ashtrays: 2002-2014 Renault Espace

This is a peculiar one. There is a very large cubby inside which are two cupholders. One of them can hold an ash-cup.

That reminds me of a perfume package.

Much about the 2002 Espace impresses, especially in the top Initiale trim. The interior is coated in leather with contrasting stitching. It creates an air of luxury that is not flouncy or over-wrought. Renault went to a fair amount of trouble to make use of the dashboard volume. Not one but two large glove boxes lurk under the dashtop. The main masses and details hang together very well indeed too. The same goes for the back seats as well. One can see that Renault put on their thinking caps when trying to provide an alternative to the big, family saloon. Yet the car is only 4.6 metres long. Continue reading “Ashtrays: 2002-2014 Renault Espace”

The Rush and the Rush and the Stop

This pleasantly painted Twingo caught my eye in Flensburg.

1993 Renault Twingo exterior

I had a longer look at the interior which had very playful use of colour. The door handles and window winders were highlighted in yellow. Buttons on the dashboard used the same plastic. The doors had body-coloured paint visible with the door cards inset and made of robust plastic. They made the most of economy, it seems. The design is very contemporary for 1993, the year of the launch. This kind of modernism is in short supply today. Continue reading “The Rush and the Rush and the Stop”

Charbo Sbarro Renault

Philippe Charbonneaux is known for this work on the Renault 8, the Renault 21 and the Renault 16. In 1984 he teamed up with Franco Sbarro to produce a proposal for a Renault 25-based limousine.

1984 Charbonneaux R25 limousine: source

Charbonneaux showed the car at the 1984 Paris automobile salon. Sbarro fabricated the showcar while Charbo (hereafter) conceived the theme – an antimodern limousine. If the actual Renault 25 is a study in French design rationalism, the limousine version seems to be a study in undoing most of that concept.

In revising the R25, Charbo sought to make a car that would Continue reading “Charbo Sbarro Renault”

Not Alone Is The Winter’s Chalice Replenished

Very clearly the work of one person’s vision, Michel Boué, the Renault 5 impresses with the clarity of its concept. This example shows how it could be more than a basic conveyance.

Renault 5 TX automatic

In this instance we have here a really tidy, timewarp example with very little sign of tear or wear. We’ll get to the interior in a moment, with its comfortable sports seats and very inviting ambience.

Continue reading “Not Alone Is The Winter’s Chalice Replenished”

Theme : Rivals – The Light and The Dark

We look at two proud Frenchmen who were really quite similar and so very different.

Renault, left and Citroën, right

There are certain notorious rivalries in motoring history. Many of them were sporting ones, in the Senna-Prost mould, which sometimes went beyond good sense and risked the lives of those involved. But there are also rivalries that at first seemed less visceral, but that had equally grim endings.

One such is that between André Citroën and Louis Renault. Neither were self-made men from humble backgrounds in the vein of Herbert Austin or, even more so, William Morris. Both had comfortable upbringings, André’s possibly less stable due to the suicide of his father. Born within a year of each other, they actually Continue reading “Theme : Rivals – The Light and The Dark”

Theme : Brochures – The Myth, The Truth & The Alternative Truth

Deluded though the Brochure often is, what lies behind it can be equally deluded, albeit differently so.

kangoo-brochure

Back in 2009, we bought a Renault Kangoo Estate for work. It replaced a series of similar vehicles, starting with a Mark 1 Kangoo, then two Citroen Berlingos in succession. When I first visited the showroom, the New Kangoo had just been introduced to the UK and brochures had not been printed so, in response to my request for a brochure, the salesman gave me instead a full 55 page print-out of the ‘Distance Learning Guide’, a dealer sales briefing for the then newly introduced Mark 2 Kangoo. This made interesting reading alongside the public brochure that eventually arrived. In essence the brochure showed the usual, gurning, happy, young, lifestyle types of high-functioning humanity whereas the dealer briefing identified the Kangoo’s potential owners as ageing, low-ambition losers. OK, I’m exaggerating … but just a bit. Continue reading “Theme : Brochures – The Myth, The Truth & The Alternative Truth”

Well isn’t it Grand for Some?

Renault’s latest Megane Saloon is grand all right, but a coupé? We investigate.

Excessive eye makeup. Image: carwitter
Excessive eye makeup. Image: carwitter

The automotive landscape in the Republic of Ireland is broadly similar to that of the UK but there are, as one might expect, some exceptions. One of the notable ones, is a long-standing, if diminishing (according to my sources) preference for three volume saloons over hatchbacks. Of course, as Irish motorists increasingly follow their UK and European neighbours into crossover CUV’s, they’re discovering they’re being sold hatchbacks by stealth. Continue reading “Well isn’t it Grand for Some?”

Middle Class – 1986 Renault 21

There’s nothing terribly exciting about this class of ’86 Renault, but does that mean there’s nothing to say?

1986 Renault 21. Image: Auto Evolution
1986 Renault 21. Image: Auto Evolution

Some cars arrive with a flourish and leave a lasting legacy in their wake – for good or ill. Others live out more self-effacing lives then die without a whisper. Today we profile one of the quiet ones that simply went about its job until such time as its maker chose to replace it. Continue reading “Middle Class – 1986 Renault 21”

Micropost: 2002-2009 Renault Megane

Ostensibly I am writing about the Megane. Really I am concerned with something else.

2002-2009 Renault Megane
2002-2009 Renault Megane

Earlier this week contributer, Chris lamented the sameness of midsized family cars today. This Megane looks like nothing else and only looks better with age. Alas, its durability does not live up to the standard set by the aesthetics. I’m not going to write about that though.
Continue reading “Micropost: 2002-2009 Renault Megane”

Ashtrays: Renault 4

We are very proud of our focus on this aspect of car design: ashtrays.

Renault 4 ashtray- closed.
Renault 4 ashtray- closed.

This one serves in a Renault 4. The quattrelle had a three decade production run; it’s not fanciful to wonder if it could have endured as long as the Defender had it been marketed as slightly separate to Renault’s modern range. Continue reading “Ashtrays: Renault 4”