Tested : Austin Maxi vs Renault 16

Two family cars which changed the face of motoring… forever.

First published in Classic Car Weekly in September 2005, KEITH ADAMS pitted the Austin Maxi against the car that arguably sparked off the family hatchback revolution, the Renault 16…

Family feud…


WHAT decade gave us the best cars? It’s a long-running debate in the classic car scene – and in truth, we’ll probably never reach a definitive answer, because as long as there has been a car industry, the best manufacturers have always introduced exceptional cars.

But hang on a second – why are we talking about exceptional cars in a shootout between a mid-range Renault and its British rival?

To fully understand why we think the Austin Maxi and Renault 16 are both exceptional cars, you only have to look at what they could offer in terms of accommodation and features compared with their contemporaries. We may now take features such as the hatchback, front wheel drive, positive steering and keen roadholding for granted now, but at the end of the Sixties, these were real novelty points.

Both cars were the creation of single-minded designers, who were given a carte blanche to produce something new to fill a specific market niche for their employers. For Renault, it was upward expansion. The company had been doing good business with the Dauphine, Floride and Renault 8, but it lacked a top of the range model to sate the demand of increasingly affluent buyers. Renault designers were tasked with producing the car, and because Citroen’s ID offered masses of space, comfort and style for the money, he came to the conclusion that the new Renault needed to offer something genuinely new.

His solution was to produce a hold-all; a cross between luxury family saloon and estate car – offering the buyer the option of two cars in one. Little did he know how much influence his idea would have… When the first pictures of the car appeared in the press in the autumn of 1964, people didn’t know what to make of it – was the new Renault a saloon or an estate car? Either way, the front wheel drive hatchback aroused huge amounts of interest in France, and buyers anticipated its launch the following year.

Unsurprisingly, French buyers went mad for it – the Renault 16 had no domestically produced rivals, and it hit the spot. Sales were keen, Renault had a hit on its hands, and crowning glory came later that year when it was awarded the then prestigious Car of The Year award.

Just like Renault’s 16, the Austin Maxi was created to plug a gap in the British Motor Corporation’s (BMC) range of cars. Designed to replace the popular, but fading range of Farina bodied saloons, the Maxi was intended to strike fear into rival producers of mid-range cars. The adoption of the hatchback rear was an accident, though, and one created by BMC’s accountants. In order to save money, it was decided the Maxi should use the same side doors as the BMC 1800, and in order to make the car significantly shorter than the existing car, the rear end was shortened – and the best way of doing this, was to add a hatchback door.

Penned by Sir Alec Issigonis, the legendary designer of the Mini and Morris Minor, the Maxi had it all – independent suspension, a five speed gearbox, huge interior and Hydrolastic suspension. How could it possibly fail? And yet it did…

It may have been an accident of design, but the similarities between the two cars were striking. Both were launched with 1.5-litre engines, and both quickly gained more power in the search for more buyers. Both were launched in the Sixties, and produced into the Eighties – and both were replaced by saloons. Go figure…


TO the casual observer, the chances of either car scoring highly here might seem limited. After all, these are mass produced family cars – and front wheel drive ones at that. But dismiss these cars at your peril, because they both offer the spark of genius that separates them from their more humdrum opposition.

First off the Renault – who would have thought that it would be possible to make a two-box design look avant-garde and interesting at the same time. And yet Renault managed it. The R16’s styling has a flamboyance and that marks it out as something special – and just like the Renault 5, VW Golf and Peugeot 205 that came after it, there’s a classless quality here that allows the R16 to fit in anywhere.

The Maxi, on the other hand, is a bit more gawky to look at, and has an awkwardness unknown to the Renault. But what it lacks in natural style, it makes up for in practicality and engineering excellence. It might not look quite as comfortable as the R16 on the French Riviera, but the Maxi is able to please in many other ways.

It’s a very clever car, and drives far better than it looks.

Think of the Maxi as the school swot – the person whose homework we all cribbed off but didn’t really want to hang out with, and you’re not too wide of the mark. The Renault, on the other hand, would be the captain of the rugby team – frighteningly clever, and popular, too…


LOOK at the figures and you might think this is a Renault walkover; it has a 6mph top speed advantage, and easily outdrags the Maxi off the line. Acceleration from rest is particularly impressive, with the 0-60mph run being dispatched in a flighty 12 seconds.

A new high flow aluminium cylinder head is much of the reason why the R16 TS (which stands for a very romantic sounding Tourisme Sport) performs so impressively. Its adoption adds extra top end zing to the unburstable engine. That makes it a car, which responds well to being driven hard.

The Maxi, on the other hand is a much more sedate beast. At low to mid-revs, it’s very refined, and makes the Renault sound altogether more agricultural. It also delivers a solid slug of torque, which means you can change up a whole lot earlier , and still maintain reasonable progress. This gives the added bonus of sparing it high revs – something the Maxi dislikes in single carburettor form.

But let’s face it neither of these cars will be bought for their sprinting ability, most owners preferring a relaxed and effortless drive to stomach churning acceleration. And it is here that the Maxi scores heavily, thanks to its easy going and torquey nature. It’s quick enough at low revs to maintain a semblance of civility – a world apart from the Renault, which begs to be thrashed.


THE Austin might look frumpy and unexciting, but its chassis has a touch of that Issigonis magic that marks out the Mini and 1100 as such fun cars to drive. For a start, it inspires immediate confidence in the driver as soon as you hit the twisty stuff. The combination of positive steering, and low roll angles mean that within moments of setting off, even someone unfamiliar with the Maxi will end up tacking corners at speeds unheard of in conventional rivals such as the Ford Cortina and Morris Marina.

Body roll is contained nicely, but there are no nasty surprises if the driver gets over confidence. Bends ultimately end up an understeery experience –a very safe state of affairs. At no point will the Maxi slide at the rear – and in daily driving conditions, it’s nigh on unbeatable.

The Renault runs it surprisingly close though. Being French and a child of the Sixties, it does like to lean over in corners. And not just a little bit – after the flat Maxi, the R16 actually feels like it could topple over, given half the chance.

Of course, it never does. And just like legendary Frenchies like the 2CV and Renault 4, familiarity with the R16 will soon have the keen driver leaning on it in corners, and finding impressive levels of grip. It’s sensitive to tyre choice and pressures, but when you get these right, the R16 is a real hoot to hustle around corners.


BOTH cars set high standards, but the Maxi, as soft and controllable as it is, has to give its best to the R16.

Ride quality is possibly the single most exceptional feature of the R16, and even though the TS is nominally the sporting model of the range, it offers that magic carpet experience unique to French cars. For such a light car, the way it dismisses surface irregularities , such as cat’s-eyes, is truly impressive – the only indication for the driver being a muffled thump.

The Maxi is considerably firmer, but still soft by most standards. Ride is affected by indifferent damping, which seems to be a feature of many Hydrolastic cars, and the up-down motion, which suspension interconnection brings can be annoying to some people. However, it’s still a very comfortable ride, and preferable to many drivers, who may find the Renault’s softness can induce car sickness in their passengers.


IT MIGHT take time for the average driver to find himself at home with a column gearchange, but once acclimatised, it doesn’t take long to appreciate just how good the R16’s gearbox is.

Initially, there’s a little vagueness, but once rolling, the shift is quick and positive in action, and better than some direct floor shifts that we could mention. Strong spring-loading is an issue for first-timers, too, but it gets easier with familiarity. In fact, after even a short period behind the wheel, one soon begins to wonder why column shift are the exception rather than the norm – it’s probably a fashion thing…

Gearing is a little odd, with first to third being close ratio, then with an appreciable jump to fourth. The longish fourth is befitting of a car so happy at speed, but one can’t escape the conclusion that a five-speeder would transform it.

Which is where the Maxi comes into its own. It might have a rubbery, and less than accurate gear change, but get onto the motorway and slip it into that mildly overdriven fifth gear, and much that is wrong with the Maxi’s gearbox can be forgiven. Not all though. If you’re a town driver, the hit and miss nature of its gear selection might drive many to the pits of despair. But with long-term familiarity, the driver soon learns that things can improve if changes aren’t rushed and patience becomes the order of the day. But in the Maxi, you’ll not be changing gear for the fun of it…


THE Renault 16 received larger brakes when it was upgraded to TS specification. The already effective disc/drum set-up benefited enormously from this improvement, and a keen brake action is befitting of the car’s lively performance. Stopping power is impressive, but pedal feel is worthy of note. It would take a very clumsy driver to lock the front wheels on the R16 – even in the murkiest winter conditions.

The Maxi is also an effective stopper. The pedal may feel slightly more ‘dead’ than that of the R16, but its still confidence inspiring, and an object lesson for other manufacturers who delivered sub-standard braking at the time. Both cars can be progressively slowed down, and both also perform well in emergency stops, proving that classics can stop as well as they go…

Cabin and Controls

IF YOU’RE in any doubt that these cars are very different beasts, a couple of minutes sat behind the wheel of both will soon have you convinced that BMC and Renault had very different design philosophies. Without a shadow of doubt, the Renault is a very charming place to be. It’s difficult not to fall in love with the Renault’s silver dash and racy looking chrome rimmed instruments. It’s a real taste of the sporting life, French style – and it even comes with a rev counter, a real luxury in 1970.

Ergonomics are effective, too, with all switchgear falling nicely to hand. It wasn’t always the case – with R16s running to a manual choke, you had a bit of a stretch to get it going on a cold morning. There is still the awkward handbrake to contend with, but on the whole, the Renault is an object lesson in simply effective dashboard design. Even the electric window switches are obvious and well-planned – slap, bang in the middle of the dashboard…

The seats are soft and luxurious, too – you sink into them, as you would your favourite beanbag. Experts on anatomy might complain about their lack of lumbar support, but we don’t think the driver will struggle at all with comfort on longer runs. Visibility is excellent, and the view out front is commanding, thanks to the high-mounted front seats. Shame about the windscreen wipers, which are set up for left hand drive – a real pain in the neck for taller drivers.

The Maxi is a whole lot more workmanlike in its approach – and surprisingly, a much warmer experience for it. The experience is dominated by the wooden dashboard, which if not exactly the last word in Rover or Jaguar-like luxury, does add a certainly homeliness. Perhaps it is British buyers’ obsession with tree-lined interiors that is responsible for its addition to the Maxi armoury, but it is a welcome one in our eyes.

Whereas the Renault interior seems to ooze character, the Maxi is actually dull inside – the dashboard is a flat plank of wood with a few cutouts in it, and compared with the well-stacked Renault, it’s lacking a little in the equipment stakes. There’s no rev counter, and no electric windows for a start. There is an upside, though – if you want to squirt the screen with clean water, you don’t have to mess around with the silly floor mounted switch as found in the French car…

The seats are clad in vinyl, but even this doesn’t detract from the favourable impression made by the truly cavernous interior. The amount of space inside the Maxi is truly awe-inspiring, and if thought the Renault commodious, the Maxi takes the game on to an entirely new level. It is no exaggeration to compare the legroom with upmarket opposition like the Triumph 2000. The payoff is there though – upright seating positions front and rear. Somehow, sitting upright and sensible suits the Maxi, though.

Luggage Space

AT LAST – a decisive victory for the home team. And how.

Considering the Maxi was created to plug a gap in the sprawling BMC range, and there was an element of panic in its design, it is hard to look in the boot and not be impressed. The hatchback door is huge and reaches right down to bumper level, and presents a huge and uncluttered boot, thanks to the joys of the space maximizing Hydrolastic suspension layout.

Obviously, you can remove the luggage cover, and fold down the rear seats. The mechanism is refreshingly simple – pull a lever, lift the rear seat squab and fold down the backrest – and the result is a vast luggage area that puts most medium sized estate cars to shame. If the Maxi had one reason for being in life, its enormous and practical boot would be it. We just wonder how many ex-Farina or Cortina owners would have put it to good use. Perhaps the lumpy double bed facility also offered was more up their street…

In absolute terms, the Renault does pretty well, too. There are various seating and load space permutations you can go through, but none of them are remotely logical, or simple to achieve. There is no simple way of folding down the rear seat as you would in the Maxi – one option is to suspend part of the rear seat from the ceiling. Hmmm.

Once mastered – or at least understood – it is roomy enough. Not in the Maxi class, but acceptable nonetheless.

Running Costs

FUEL consumption on both cars is on the right side of acceptable, with between 25 and 32mpg easily achievable in both. The advantage of the Maxi’s five-speed gearbox does not equate into a real world consumption advantage – unless you spend all day on the motorway. The main difference in terms of running costs would appear to be more about servicing and repairs. The Maxi’s parts availability is good – and the wide level of interchangeability with other BMC and BL cars means that finding servicing items is easy and cheap – especially if you go through the various owners’ clubs.

The Renault also has a high level of parts commonality with other cars in the range – it’s just that they’re all pretty rare in the UK, and finding a sympathetic mechanic isn’t the work of a moment. Get plugged into the Renault Owners Club, and the situation improves dramatically. But not enough for it to score well against the Maxi.


DESPITE being close on paper, these two cars are poles apart. There may be lots in common between them, especially in terms of size and usefulness, but once you get behind the wheel, huge differences begin to emerge.

The Renault is almost impossible not to fall in love with. It has a vivacious character that engages you quickly, and has you getting up early to take the long way to work. It’s a family car that is enjoyable to drive and in the right colour, will turn heads wherever you take it. There is no danger of seeing another one on your travels…

The Maxi has all the ingredients to crush the Renault into the ground, though. The engine, boot and interior is altogether bigger; it is a clever fusion of Issigonis engineering, and solid design values. It’s truly enormous inside, has an advanced spec sheet, and can cover ground surprisingly rapidly.

Objectively it’s a damned fine car, and one that was sadly overlooked by too many buyers – the sort that couldn’t look beyond its Plain Jane looks and see its overwhelming list of practical positives.

So the Maxi walks it then? Sadly not.

It falls behind the Renault for being too clever for its own good. One gets the impression it’s a ruthlessly efficient piece of engineering, designed to shift families and their luggage with the minimum of fuss. However, when Issigonis and his team put the Maxi together, they forgot to add the most important ingredient of all – charisma.

It’s a good car, but the Renault is a great one – and that’s why I’d be the first in the queue to take this French temptress home with me. It’s one of the true greats.

At a glance

Scores out of ten

Austin Maxi 1750 Renault 16TS
Cabin and controls
Luggage space
Running costs


How they compare

Maxi Renault
Actual car tested 1972 Austin Maxi 1750 1971 Renault 16TS
Top speed 92mph 100mph
0-60mph (secs) 15.0 12.0
Economy 28.0mpg 30.0mpg
Fuel tank 10.0 gallons 9.5 gallons
Engine 1748cc 4-cyl OHC 1565cc 4-cyl OHV
Power 84bhp at 5000rpm 87bhp at 5750rpm
Torque 105lb/ft at 3000rpm 87lb/ft at 4000rpm
Gearbox 5-speed manual 4-speed manual
Brakes Disc/Drum Disc/Drum
Steering Rack and pinion Rack and pinion
Dimensions 13ft2.75in x 5ft5in 13ft10.5in x 5ft5in
Weight 2139lb 2279lb
Unleaded fuel? No, needs head conversion or additive No, needs head conversion or additive
Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and watched it steadily grow into AROnline. Is the Editor of Classic Car Weekly, and has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, Classic Car Weekly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

19 Comments on "Tested : Austin Maxi vs Renault 16"

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  1. David Dawson says:

    The Maxi almost seemed to be forgotten by it’s maker. I am aware ot the gear change issues and relative lack of power at launch. However, these issue alone need not have lead to it’s life long low sales – As I recall the Allegro and Marina were always well above it in the What Car? top sellers list.

    The car had so much going for it, so many innovative features. Why wasn’t it pushed harder, tweaked slightly, marketed differently to acheive greater sales? They never seemed to make enough effort with it. I recall the Maxi 2 – Ok, funds were limited, but so many low cost changes, additions could have been made to increase its appeal but they were not. They did not even add a clock or headrests (needn’t have stopped the bed!) as I recall. This was a big deal back then – remember ‘Ford Gives You More’. Wow! The Cortina 1.6L now has a narrow side rubbing strip!

    Overall, how could you possibly fail to make more out of such an innovative practical car. It was even quite attractive in a functional sort of way, especially a ‘2’ in a good colour. ‘Those Doors’ didn’t harm it that much.

  2. John says:

    “Both were launched with 1.5-litre engines, and both quickly gained more power in the search for more buyers. Both were launched in the Sixties, and produced into the Eighties – and both were replaced by saloons. Go figure…”

    But the Maxi was replaced by the Maestro…

  3. Jonathan Carling jonathan carling says:

    …and the R16 wasn’t dropped until the R14 and R20 had been launched.

  4. Mikey C says:

    The R20 was the replacement for the R16, as the conservative R18 was more the replacement for the conservative R12!

  5. didierz65 Didier Ziane says:

    The R16 was produced many years alongside the R20, which can be considered its replacement, albeit, a notch above in size and price, the 20’s smallest engine was the same as the top engine in the 16TX.. Renault plugged the gap with the 18 being available in 1,4-1,65L form, leaving breathing space for the 14 in the 1,2-1,4L below, so the duet R12-16 grew in a 3 prong range, helping old/agricultural R6 (which was no more than a “posh” R4…)lower in the range as well, whereas the R20 received modern 2L and diesel upmarket.
    My uncle had numerous R16, I fondly remember his last TX, in aubergine, it was so much quicker than my dad’s Autobianchi… Dinitrol was the magic word for those, as they rusted badly and very quickly, especially what we call in French the front “legs” (longerons)of the chassis (that’s the two beams supporting engine and suspension anchors) and the torsion bars anchors at the rear.
    He replaced it with a 20TS but didn’t keep it long and never bought a Renault ever since…

  6. Jemma says:

    Thats the problem with Renault engines – they dont tend to spit oil everywhere like others that will remain nameless. Saves the driveway to be sure, but doesnt really help with rust protection.

    The TX was the top of the range with some fairly interesting features. Electric front windows & central locking (the same system latterly fitted with the PLIP infrared remote – invented by a chap called Paul LIPshutz, hence the name). I think it was also available with an electric sunroof too. In 1977…

    Thats not to mention the 6 up seating in most models – helped by the dashboard mounted gearshifter. Oddly enough the top TX model came (as standard) with two separate front bucket seats reminiscent of those in the 17. It also had quad Quartz Iodide headlamps.

    I stayed on a exchange trip with a french family that owned a metallic blue example – oddly enough the identical colour to the R25 I learned to drive on about 3 years later.

  7. Stewart says:

    @2 No the Meastro replaced the allegro, the montego replaced the Maxi

  8. rovamota says:

    The Ambassador replaced the Maxi…

  9. Paul says:

    @7 – No the Maestro replaced both the Allegro and the Maxi. By the early 80s the Maxi was a similar size to the likes of the Mk3 Escort and Astra/Kadett. The Montego replaced the Marina and Princess/Ambassador. Shameful that BL didnt develop the Maxi properly. It would have made far more sense to recloth the Maxi with a modern hatchback body along the lines of Roy Axes Alpine rather than replace the landcrab with the Princess. Rover could have looked after big car buyers.

  10. Chris Baglin says:

    Agree with Paul. Even if they’d only make cosmetic differences such as oblong headlights and a more stylish front grille it may have made the ‘plain jane’ Maxi that bit more desirable.

    It seems ludicrous now that the Maxi was forced to be built around the 1800 doors, when other major components such as the engine and gearbox were newly designed (and built at the wrong capacities for the market).

    Seems a shame that Issigonis’s ego was not held in check, so that his cars could be properly styled- very few of his cars were beautiful- not a failing in a Mini (as it was unique) or the Minor (which was reasonably stylish for the time and its ‘retro looks’ made it popular long after it stopped being built); but most of his other cars looked very bland and awkward- as in the case with the Maxi. His unwillingness to allow stylists to do their job cost an awful lot of sales.

    The Renault above, as with the Peugeot 404, 504, and 505, show that an attractively designed vehicle can sustain very long production runs without dating excessively. I’d quite like a 16. There was one rotting away in a front garden in Gloucester for years- if I’d had the budget I’d have loved to have rescued it.

    Nice review Keith.

  11. homerdog says:

    A fair review but I’ll always go with the Maxi. We towed our ‘S’ all over the place with two HL’s,both the twin carb versions. Only blew one clutch and we did give them an awful lot of stick and fitted comp bump stops to the rear The only thing we cried out for was self leveling headlights, dread to think how many Owls we scared.Happy days.

  12. david says:

    most sensible manufacturers of the period updated the engine or the body not both

  13. Richard.Allen. says:

    R16 The great original .BMC bought a 16 and the Maxi was their attempt at the same formula. Keith Adams assessment is pretty fair, the Maxi did some things better than the 16 but it lacked the panache and charisma of the Renault. The Renaults formula was new, the styling was avante garde and it was full of new technology most of which is now common place in todays cars .The sales figures say it all, the R16 outsold the Maxi at the rate of 4 to 1.Look at classic car journalism inside and outside the UK and you will see that the Renault 16 is regarded as a landmark car and true classic, the Maxi as an also ran. My own 1970 R16 owned for 38 years has covered 270,000 miles, mechanics are bullet proof ,but the 16 Achilles heel is corrosion, the reason why few are left, however find a good one and it’s one of the few cars from the 60 s that is at home with todays traffic, transporting you in supreme comfort.

  14. Kev Sharp says:

    IMHO the Maxi’s styling wasn’t too much of an issue. Admittedly the small tweeks to the grill and bumpers for the 71 MY made for a much improved frontal aspect but I think what let the Maxi was the bare bones interior and lock of model choices. OK the gearchange even in Rod form was never slick but most FWD cars back then had gearchanges of questionable quality. Two (later three) engines and one (later two) trim specs was never going to make a sales success especially with archaic features even for the day such as manually operated windscreen washers, dynamo charging and bugger all in std eqpt. The Maxi as we knew it throughout most of the 1970’s was an ideal entry level poverty spec (City) model with its wipe clean seats and minimal kit but the lack of a range progression such as L (cloth seats, rear wash/ wipe ) HL, featuring single carb with triumph style wood cappings in the doors , radio/cassette, tinted glass with a Twin carb HLS versionand maybe a warmed over stiffened up S model would have worked wonders. The 1500 was criticised for it’s lack of power but I believe this was down to the manifolding.
    Some Maxi enthusiasts have combined the twin carb Maxi’s exhaust manifold with a Maestro 1600 inlet manifold and carb and say it transforms the Maxi 1750 engine. I think we can all agree the Maestro manifolding in question is not exactly space age so I find it hard to believe a similar manifold configuration could not have been developed back then . We could have then had the 1300cc E engine with the same characteristics as what the 1500 did. Yes no ball of fire but more acceptable in a 1300cc than a 1500cc. A 1600cc version with identical manifolding could then have been performing as the 1750cc did. Again adequate, not fire breathing but more than acceptable given the engine size. Perhaps a twin SU’d 1600cc engine complete with front mounted rad and a fruity cam would have been a good halo model with Special Tuning developing a fuel injected/ 16V model claiming the 1st Hot Hatch title. Oh well they say hindsight is a wonderfull thing.
    In response to Mr Allens comment (no 13) I have a std 1981 1750 L Maxi and until last year was using it everyday in all weathers clocking up 13000 miles a year regularly commuting between the UK and Germany . I’ll admit it was a bit noisy but it sits on motorways at 75/80 mph no problem , handles very well, is comfortable to sit in and I have yet to find a 2wd car that is better in the snow. In short The Maxi is another 60’s designed car that can still punch above it’s weight in 2013.

  15. David Raynes says:

    Well I had both, 16 & Maxi, started with a 16TS which did 116,000 high speed miles before I sold it for a TX.

    The 16TS is still the very best car of any sort that I have ever owned, in over 50 years and a million miles of motoring. It was a flying and very quiet armchair. Superbly comfortable.

    I can remember on one of those long straight French ‘yellow’ roads cruising at near 100mph with no strain at all and coping with the steep camber without drift. I loved the column change. The brakes were strong and progressive It was astonishingly good compared to what else was available at the time, at that price range.

    My TX broke its gearbox, an oil leak, so I do not remember it with quite the same fondness but the 5th Gear and better lights were good as was the electric sun roof and electric windows. It was a real luxury mid market car.

    The one snag with the TS was a tendency to ice the carb in high mists and freezing fog, odd in a French car.

    A permanent cure was an old cylinder vacuum cleaner hose, rammed in the hole in the end of the large air filter with the length coiled round the engine bay and the other end wedged over the exhaust manifold. Otherwise the TS was faultless and when sold at 8 years old, still had the original rear Michelin X tyres, only part worn, but with tired sidewalls.

    The 1750 Maxi HL, I inherited at 80K miles and 16 years old from a parent who had bought it new and it was mainly used by a daughter at University. It was astonishingly stable on the Motorway and in really atrocious weather, wet or snow say, the worse the better, would steam past BMWs and leave them for dead. It did not have the quality feel of the Renault though and was nothing like as quiet. I was probably the first to run that particular car at more than 60mph, I doubt the aged parent did. It rusted away and after doing Bristol to Cheshire at very high speed, I was surprised to find a large hole under the carpets in the rear. I never drove it as fast again.

    The 18TS which succeeded the 16TX had the same basic engine as the 16s and was faultless.

  16. My father also had one of each. The Maxi 1750 was in what my mother called “mucky army lorry green” (tundra) with yellow inside. I remember the manual pump for the windscreen washer, something the HLS replaced with an electric one! Inside was huge but the seats were hard and unsupportive. The hatch squeaked incessantly against the rubber.

    I loved the R16 we had. In a maroon sort of colour it was the lowest spec (below even the L) but was so comfortable. Again huge inside, we loved the squashy front bench seat, the lack of transmission tunnel or centre console, and the way the backrest of the back seat could be hinged upwards and hung from the grabhandles with straps or moved forward into “holiday position” if you needed more boot space. My headmaster, who lived next door but 2, had an R16TX which was clearly several steps up from ours; it had a sunroof and tinted glass!

    If I could find a good R16TX I would love to buy one. Perfect for the UK’s decreasing speed limits.

  17. Chas says:

    I had a 1500 Maxi first, and in isolation it wasn’t that bad performance wise when you considered the space advantage offered over other cars at the time.
    I also had a 1977 1750 HLS and what a transformation performance wise.
    However, the manifold cracked and poverty at the time meant that I couldn’t afford to replace it so had to keep bodging with Gun – Gum !!!
    In the end, a job change and a house move to Bristol meant that I sold / Part exchanged it for a 1.0 Metro – a good car but never the same.
    How I wish that I had kept the Maxi, the body was perfect with no rust whhatsoever.

  18. Ferodo says:

    “…the R16 actually feels like it could topple over, given half the chance. Of course, it never does…”

    I’m afraid it does. My father (who wasn’t one to drive very exuberantly) rolled his 16 TS onto its side on an empty Autobahn one night some 40 years ago. He was alone in the car and had swerved when he realised he was in the wrong lane at a junction. Some other drivers stopped and rocked the car back upright again and he was able to continue the journey; the roof was slightly shifted to one side, however.

    It was only after this incident, that we realised that the rear wheels of all R16s are offset – one is further back than the other. Does anyone know why? It was presumably designed like that with LHD in mind and I don’t think they changed it for the RHD versions sold in the UK (just like they plonked the handbrake and heater control over next to the driver’s door and had the parked windscreen wipers sticking up slightly in front of the driver). So maybe they were inherently unstable with just the driver on board.

    We had three in all, a 1967 GL, a 1973 TS and a 1977 TL. Very comfortable and – this probably sounds stupid – friendly-looking cars.

  19. Finishthat says:

    The offset rear wheels are due to the differing wheelbase side to side- this was
    the result of the rear torsion bar sprung suspension arms design – other Renaults had this feature too – it had no impact on stability – these cars had a long (average ;-0) wheelbase.
    My parents had one and I had 2 lastly a TX which was fantastic.

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