As a rule, I don’t do jealousy with cars. Yeah sure I feel mildly envious with certain steeds some people have bought purely because I like them too – but jealousy? not me. But as the opening gambit states. I did say ‘not as a rule’ and my favourite cars are as eclectic as you can possibly get, so why did I feel so pleased and jealous as hell when Keith Adams texted me a short while ago heralding his new purchase – a 1980 pea green metallic Renault 18?
My sentiments were made known to him on the phone soon after he collected it from way down in the South West, I yearn for a retro car – and the 18 is the epitome of the word.
Some things are meant to happen in life, and just as a work colleague almost begs me to sell him the Xantia after he stole a fling round the block in it, Keith decides to move the Renault onwards because he needs a bigger estate kind of car. My mind springs into action… here is a car that is simple to run and work on, known for its placid ride and of course oozes charm from every angle.
Some mental sums are calculated, the idea is sold to ‘er indoors, said work chum is qualified for his viability – all systems go, the phone call is made to Keith saying ‘I want the Renault’ and 140 miles later, its resting outside.
Modern Renaults do nothing for me, In my opinion they lost the plot after the 25 was axed and future cars though always driving well as French tin does, have proven to be spectacularly unreliable and more recently – lacking in popularity. Collecting the car from the eastern corner of Northamptonshire and jockeying it down to leafy Horsham went without a hitch.
That was until I approached Surrey and drove through some snow storms and heavy winds even Sir Edmund Hillary would wince at. After pausing at the new Cobham services for a dash ‘n’ splash, I exited the services and found myself heading the wrong way round the M25.
Well… I got home eventually after some truly windy blizzard conditions you would find challenging in modern metal let alone an old Renault. So daylight has come and what exactly have I bought and what genuine condition do I find it in and more to the point, how do I feel now reality has set in.
I knew the indicators were faulty – they only flash if you switch them on and off, I had been warned about the mild brake judder and Keith showed me the knack of starting the car from cold thanks to a misbehaving auto choke – YES the car has a carburettor and a choke!
Let me say this for the record (or eight track even) the little thing drives superbly, and whereby an equivalent Marina 1.7 with is comparatively modern OHC engine feels crude and unrefined, the 18’s pushrod all alloy 1647cc plant runs quietly and smoothly.
No crashing or wallowing suspension with lever arm dampers and cart springs but double wishbones and coils at the rear give the Renault a long travel but well damped suspension that’s almost Xantia smooth once up to speed. Sure it rolls around during spirited cornering, but it grips like a limpet considering its laughable 13in wheels with skinny profiles.
So what about that legendary French build quality then? No squeaks or rattles, no thumps or knocks either – it’s amazingly refined if you stay below 70mph. The lack of wind noise around the doors is such a contrast from the British Marina or Ital too, you can understand why so many of us walked away from BL in the late ’70s in droves.
Effective heater and sensible ergonomics along with spacious interior with pillow soft seats make for a car that feels like it was built in the late ’80s rather than a decade before. The drive home genuinely was a hoot rather than a horror.
Smoking about town today caused plenty of glances and smiles – and of course that’s what retro driving is all about. Never mind fuel consumption and running costs – retro motoring is valued only in smiles per mile than MPG. So after taking stock of the situation I have found a few items requiring attention along the lines of the flasher unit is kaput and the recent exhaust is blowing from every single joint. Nothing major and of course it needs a bit of tidying up but I love it and even the original AM/LW Blaupunkt wireless trills away through its single speaker – my kinda Bangernomics!