Our Cars : Renault 18 – 500 miles on

Keith Adams

Renault 18 (1)

A few weeks back, and after much prevarication, I bought myself a lime green Renault 18TS. My rationale for buying such a car was simple – I wanted a vaguely classic shaped car from the late 1970s that I could press into daily use – and practice what I preach about old car ownership. You can read the Renault’s introduction to the AROnline fleet in my first update – it was a lucky find, and pretty much fitted the bill, but still bought pretty much on a whim.

But then, that’s how I usually do it.

Many readers have commented on the rarity of my Renault 18, and it’s true that taking the How Many Left website‘s data at face value, there are 46 Renault 18s left taxed on the road, seven of which are TS models like mine. So, it’s definitely rare – and more so than the Talbot Solara or Morris Ital that this could easily have been had there been one on sale when I bought this. It does cause some for concern – parts availability, or the lack of.

But nevertheless, I’ve been using the Renault 18 pretty much exclusively as my daily smoker since I bought it, and have found it utterly desirable. Mainly. The seats are as comfortable (and soft) as your favourite armchair, and as soon as I jump in and drive it, I’m sinking in, and adopting a slouchy, slightly lazy driving position. Compared with the stiff, Teutonic style seats we’re all used to in new cars, this is a real culture shock, and one that takes some getting used to.

Renault 18 (4)

Once underway, the long throw gearchange feels nicely mechanical, if a little vague and notchy compared with something like a Cortina, and offers stress-free ratio swapping. Only when dropping into reverse is it a bit hit-and-miss. The unassisted steering is reasonably accurate and not too heavy – and it only really causes concern when parallel parking in tight places. And the instrumentation is an object lesson in clarity – and minimalism.

There isn’t really a lot of equipment in the TS – no rev counter, no central locking, no electric windows. In fact, all there is to worry about on the dashboard are the rear foglights,  heated rear window, and hazard warning switch. The wipers, lights and indicators are controlled by three slim column stalks, with the indicators on the right-hand (and correct for RHD) side. Adding to this feeling of Issigonis-like minimalism are the slim pillars, and light, airy cabin, which make town driving an absolute delight.

Performance is leisurely, of course, but in non-competitive town and extra-urban driving, it’s more than adequate to keep up with the flow. What Car? magazine tested the R18TS back in 1979 and recorded a 0-60mph time of 13.8 seconds and a maximum speed of 96mph. It doesn’t feel out-of-order slow because the gearing is low, and the venerable 1647cc pushrod engine delivers its best at low-to-mid revs.

Renault 18 (5)

But there is a pay-off. Head for the motorway, and the Renault 18 feels a little less in its comfort zone. It’s lively up to 50mph, but keep the throttle pressed, and it begins to feel painfully undergeared. Because there’s no tacho, I’m unsure just how many revs it’s turning over at 70mph, but I’d reckon it’s around 4000 – and that’s enough to have it feeling thrashy and a bit disconcerting initially.

Still, it’s not the end of the world, and I’m soon used to it. And in a couple of 300 mile days, the Renault 18TS actually starts to impress. Yes, I’ve been sticking to the 70mph limit, and at that speed, there’s a reassuring lack of wind noise or mechanical vibration, and it feels like it could do this all day long. Not only that, but those soft seats and lack of apparent lumbar support do not manifest themselves in the form of backache – something I’d been fearing. And if nothing else, that is a big advantage over the Vauxhall Cavalier, which does its best to make the driver feel like his leg’s been stabbed repeatedly with a knitting needle.

Handling, too, is pretty good. It’s a safe FWD set-up, so I find myself barrelling into corners without any real worries. It rolls a fair bit, but it’s well damped and doesn’t feel sloppy, and it’s always consistent. So, it’s a win all round, and ever lasting love is the result? Certainly compared with my last one – a Renault Fuego 1.6TS that I owned back in 2005, it’s much more satisfying. But I suspect, because I had much lower expectations. But it’s not quite perfect, and there are niggles to sort.

Renault 18 Carburettor

The most annoying aspect of the Renault 18 is its automatic choke. And basically it doesn’t work. You need to churn and churn – and churn some more – on the starter, and on cold mornings, it’s not really likely to start at all. I’ve found the best way to get it to start within a minute or so, is to pull off the air intake from the carburettor (above), press the throttle to unstick the auto choke, then close the inlet flap with my finger. Then, jump back into the car, and churn and churn – and it should eventually go.

Once it’s running, the it idles cleanly and smoothly and runs a dream from cold. Like butter wouldn’t melt in its mouth. I’ve already made a couple of enquiries about manual choke conversions – and so far, you guessed it, no one Istocks a kit for my Renault. Might have to fix the problem by stripping the carburettor down, after all. It is annoying, and  there have been a couple of moments I’ve thought ‘sod it’… but I do have my Saab 900 T16S as a back-up when it does fail to proceed.

The second issue surrounds the electrics – or what little there are of them. I suspect it needs its fusebox re-soldering – the heater fan stops blowing when you sling it in reverse or pop on the heated rear window. I can also see the alternator light dimly glowing at night. Oh, and on my last trip to Heathrow, the flashers stopped flashing, which is probably down to a duff relay, which I am now hunting for.

So, we have one very annoying fault, and a couple of niggles. Once licked, and on the assumption that I’m not going to use the Renault for repeated long distance motorway drives, then it’s a delightfully quaint and idiosyncratic car to live with on a day to day basis. It’s always in the back of my mind that it’s so rare, and where do we get parts from? And there are some rusty bits that need addressing.

But all in in, it’s halfway to worming its way into my affections. And isn’t that what old car ownership is all about? Ask me again in a couple of months’ time.

Renault 18 (2)

Keith Adams


  1. My parents had a metallic silver TS estate from 1980 to 1987 MNK159V. It was an automatic and I think we went through at least one gearbox! Those armchair front seats were legendary. The analogue clock stopped circa 1985 and the silver plastic trim strip on the dash had to be superglued back a few times. Rust was an issue around the rear tailgate and beneath the front bumper. Other than the gearbox, I don’t recall any other mechanical problems which was in stark comparison to the bronze Ford Granada it replaced LRO941P.

  2. I nearly bought one of these in 1990, a burgundy coloured one, some sort of limited edition. Very comfy on the test drive, but in the end I bought a 1986 2.0 GL Sierra Estate instead

  3. Nice, they do have a certain amount of character, these old Renaults.

    What is the parts situation like in it’s native France? After all, the survivorship of French cars over there is (not surprisingly) much better than is the case here.

    Is a conversion to 5 speeds on the cards if you could get a suitable gearbox?

  4. ” But all in in, it’s halfway to worming its way into my affections. And isn’t that what old car ownership is all about? ”

    Yes indeed!! I’ve grown very attached to my ZR. I appreciate the ZR for being minimal,relatively old in terms of basic design and actual age. I appreciate it for being so much from a low development fund. Its age but great condition give an appeal not found in a new car. It stands out more in the car park than cars several times its monetary worth.

    In years to come when it’s time for a replacement I think I’ll be hunting out an even simpler BL>Austin Rover of some kind.

  5. Do I detect a two band radio in this Renault to complement its four speed gearbox non PAS steering? I do think a modern CD stereo spoils the look of these cars inside. I used to live in North Shields for a while and there was an immaculate Rover P4 with a sixties Radiomobile radio.

  6. The lack of spares for these can be partly explained by Renaults attitude to their older vehicles. A number of years ago my cousin who works for a Renault dealership was asked to collect all old Renault parts from several dealers so it could all be crushed. Brand new parts for 18, 4, 12, Fuego etc were collected and crushed, new wings, boot lids, doors, trim etc. A total travesty, but to Renault this stuff was of no use. I’m sure an independent specialist could have bought it all up but none were given the chance.

  7. Takes me back to my mk1 Renault 5 which I owned in 1991. Back then spares were not a problem. The car had been very popular and their tendancy to rot meant that scrapyards were full of mechanically sound 5’s which had failed the MOT due to crumbling sills etc !

    I’ll be keeping my eye out now to see if I can spot an 18 about to meet the crusher.

  8. You can quite easily fiddle with old radios and connect mp3 playersor mobiles to them, and hide them, gifing you a huge library of music, or even FM radio, so you can listen to Radio 2 🙂

  9. back in the 80s my mate’s parents got divorced and his Dad bought him a Renault 18 Turbo to cheer him up (he was a wealthy lawyer or something). I wonder how many turbos are left?

  10. Sounds typical Renault 1647 cold-starting procedure, my R17TS was very similar, fitted a manual choke conversion and upped the mixture strength, to significant improvement.

  11. Keep the tape deck, buy a tape adaptor. This connects into anything with a headphone socket (mp3 player, mobile, CD player etc), runs through the tape deck and uses all speakers.
    The FM transmitters are another option but only if the Renault has FM on the radio and the aerial gets good reception.

  12. It had to be my pathetic joke that prompted the change from a comma to a hyphen. I hope you weren’t offended, Keith.

  13. @15 – it’s a hobby, basically – some people like golfing, some people run marathons, some people restore tractors, some people enjoy motoring aith older cars (and the associated foibles)! 🙂

  14. Great to see you’re enjoying it. To be perfect I’d want the 5 speed box and a tacho — or a Fuego better still. 🙂

  15. Keith,
    We do France a lot, so if you ever need any specialist parts, or some simple translation, please give me a holler.

    The French hold onto thier cars forever and a day, the choice of wine with dinner is more important than keeping up with the Jones or Smithes.

    I may well have upset Merlin, I would like to say I am sorry, but Im not. I am sorry if I have upset you or the more balenced forum readers/writers.

  16. I had 2 of these in the 80s.

    The choke never gave any trouble

    It was operated by pushing the pedal to the floor through a distinct detent, releasing it, then it started normally, every time.

    Was raging when the new renault 19 had a manual choke!

  17. Maybe cars last a lot longer in the south of France because the climate is wamrer and drier. I would imagine even a Vauxhall Victor, had it been popular in France, would still be running now. Yet it is interesting over here, as Nissan Datsun conquered their rustproofing problems in the early eighties, how many old Bluebirds and Sunnys still pop up as mechanically these cars were as tough as a tank.

  18. My Dad bought a 1.6 TS Renault 18 in 1982. Mainly because one of his big customers owned a Renault Dealers. I was livid as I wanted him to buy a Triumph Acclaim. As Keith said it didn’t have Rev counter, electric windows, central locking ect. All my Dad ever looked at was car dimensions and engine size in terms of value for money. I learned to drive in it and what I remember was everything felt soft and rubbery gear change, seats, suspension. However the brakes were anything but totally non progressive and pretty wicked in their operation. He said he liked it I but coull not wait until he sold it.

  19. My dad had an 18TS in an odd shade of matt green, XAH29X. The seats were the most comfortable ever, although it had an odd diagonal shaped roof lining which sogged oddly due to the aftermarket pop-up sunroof. It also started to rust at the base of the windscreen at about 4 years old.

    Also, I’m sure it did 104 mph. When you’re doing playground top trumps you remember these things!

  20. What I like about the Renault 18 is the left-hand ignition switch and the location of the column stalks – wipers on the left and two more stalks on the right, the short one for the indicators and longer one for lights and horn.

    From memory to operate the wipers: down once for intermittent, down second for slow speed, down third for fast speed, and pull the stalk towards the steering wheel for the washers (the wipers will also come on for one cycle with the washers).

    For the lights: turn the end of the stalk once for side lights, turn second for dip beam, move the stalk up for high beam. Pull the stalk towards the steering wheel to flash the head lights. Push the end of the light switch towards the steering column to sound the horn.

    I think the blower motor operates on four speeds and if you switch on the hazard lights or dip beam lights, you can also activate the radio (which I believe doesn’t work with the ignition switched off?).

    All that is just from memory, does your 18 differ at all to any of the above?

    The 18 is a brilliant car, super soft seats, lively performance. It really puts a lot of younger cars to shame!!

  21. I have an 18TS in my garage!! It’s been there for nearly 9 years. I also have an engine and gearbox from previously owned 18s plus doors, electrics, seats…nearly everything. The car did run last time I tried, 3 years ago, and has 5 hardly used tyres. Anyone interested in making me an offer for the lot?

    • Hi there
      Still looking and interested in panels and parts for renault 18.
      you can contact me on 07976610434 many thanks

  22. Hi Good to read about the 18. I have two gts’s one is a 1979
    model and the other a late 1985 one. I’m looking for panels like doors and boot lid. most of then 1979 one is together as it only covered 42th miles but the 1985 one has cover a faithful 192th miles since I bought in 1994.
    If any one can help that would be a massive help.

  23. Keith what happened? Why haven’t you posted any more updates con tour 18? Did you sell it? I’m about to buy one so please at least let us know what happened in the last year…

  24. I had an 18GTL with the later 1647 engine in 1985 and loved it, central locking and power windows, superb. It was a company car, and my partner and I bought a 14TL for him which is what the Allegro should have been like, rust problems solved by the time we bought it, and it soldiered on superbly after the company folded and was our sole transport, finally sold it to our postman who ran it for years.

  25. My Dad have an 18 from 1980 to 83.

    I was a mixed bag, it drove well but my Dad thought the bodywork was a bit thin & tinny.

    Also the electrics could play up in cold or damp conditions & the interior was getting brittle by the time he swapped it for a Mk2 Vauxhall Cavalier.

    As for the 14 my Mum’s friend had one, followed by a Citroen Visa & AX.

    With the non-standard PSA engines Renault never seemed to do much with the 14 once is was in production, & seemed to start with a clean sheet of paper for the 9 & 11.

  26. That’s a 3 stud ’18 TS so the engine is 1565 not 1647. The 3 stud GTS had the 1647 engine with a 5 speed gearbox. Boy but that ’18 brings back so many memories. Half my childhood was spent on a blue copy of that ’18 TS.
    In 1981/2 the ’18 got an upgrade, white front indicator lens. 4 stud wheels, some sort of fibre plastic bumpers and interior changes such as the radio speaks were moved from the door trims to the bottom of the pillars (less damp) and the instruments, in particular the speedo got a better needle,,,, the R12 and the early 3 stud ’18 had very cheap instruments to the point that sunlight used to make the speedo needles bend upwards so on an R12 they recorded 30mph max! There was always a good bit of comedy with Renault electrics and instruments.
    So anyhow the R18 TS didn’t get the 1647cc engine until the 4 stud upgrade. Also you could tell a 3 stud ’18TL compared to a TS because the TL had the same wheels as a ’12 whereas the TS has the wheels as seen here.
    The boot lid hinges were different on the 3 stud compared to the later 4 stud as well, That unique sound a Renault 18 boot lid makes!

    Anyhow one memory of flaky Renault electrics (at the time anyway) was how on an Uncles 3 stud ’18GTS, had central locking (with the little red indicator on the door where the lock button was on the TL or TS) control switch mounted beside the rear screen de-mister, which always meant one of the switches was broken back into the dashboard!
    Anyhow me and a couple of cousins were sitting in the back of his 3-stud 18GTS unattended so we started mucking about by bouncing up and down on the rear seat to make the car bounce. The heater plug lamp would light up on the instrument panel when we got a particularaly good synchronized bounce of the rear seat!
    I’m not kidding, the ’18GTS was a petrol car but the diesel heater plug ‘pig-tail’ came on when we bounced the rear of the car hard!

    The ’18 was a legend around my neck of the woods, everybody had one, or several, it was said, ”..if ye lifted a stone there were two of them..”
    The ’18 was known for good economy (except the 1647GTS or later TS – there was the 1647GTL which had a different cylinder head which did give good mpg) and compared to the cars the ’18 replaced at the time, Marinas, Escorts, Avengers etc the ’18 seemed like a way much more reliable, economical car and could do a much greater mileage than the Fords, Hillmans and Austin/Morrises the ’18 invariably replaced.

    So they were a well liked car and apart from the electrics, indicators + brake lights + rain = Renault christmas tree! They were a good car, They could do 200,000 miles with basic servicing. That one my Dad had gave one heck of service in its life and that 1980 ’18TS had a hard hard life. It died in early 1991, CIL 3590, I salute you.

    But the engine is 1565 in a 3 stud ’18TS. They were good on petrol. I don’t recall my Father having any issues with the auto choke but I do remember about 1987 the ’18 wouldn’t start and all a mechanic did was hold his hand over the tail pipe while my father cranked the engine and she fired up. That was the one and only time that ’18 ever failed to start.

    Compared to the Marina that the ’18 replaced, it was like going from a Model-T to a Rolls-Royce in one step.

    There was talk of a BL/Renault tie-up in the 1970’s I believe? Maybe…just maybe that could have been the way to go.

  27. Is this car for sale?
    I’m looking for an Original Renault 18 saloon.
    Notice the MOT hasn’t been updated for about 2 years ☹️

  28. Interesting how Keith has commented on the lack of central locking and electric windows on the Renault, even a Cortina Ghia didn;t have these in 1980. The Renault 18 in TS form probably had what most family car buyers wanted at the time, push button radio, fabric seats, lighter, demister and clock. However, I’m sure from the photos, it looks like the Renault has tinted glass, which was highly desirable at the time.

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