Friday June 29, 2018
2018 marks 120years of the original Renault Voiturette, which provides me with the highly enjoyable challenge of selecting my favourite of their cars. The Dauphine is a model I will always associate with Peter Sellers in A Shot in the Dark and as a long-term devotee of 1950s large saloons, the Frégate looks imposingly municipal.
However, I grew up in the 1970s when almost every Renault had a number rather than a name, which tempts me to select the R8, largely because my family owned a 1964-registered example. So many details are lodged in my memory; the ivory-coloured rocker switches on the fascia, the sound of the 956cc engine and the “V”-dip in the front boot.
Then there is the 16 or the 4, two of the most significant family cars of the post-war era or the once-ubiquitous 12, the sleek 17TS, the 5 Gordini. A 4 Plein Air is utter and total fun (if a tad draughty) but ultimately my choice of La Reggie is a car that utterly mesmerised the younger me. Ladies and gentlemen – the 30TS!
After the demise of the Frégate in 1960 Renault lacked an in-house big saloon and their dealers carried the Belgian-assembled Rambler Classic Six. The utterly wonderful 16TX of 1973 was a step towards providing transportation of the directors’ car park and two years later the 30 was the company’s first post-war six-cylinder car.
The 2.7 litre engine was the result of a joint project between Renault, Volvo and Peugeot but while the 264 and the 604 where handsome and formal looking saloons, the 30TS was a FWD five-door saloon.
From a distance of more than 40 years, it is hard to describe the impact of such a Renault. Firstly, there was the hatchback layout – the Citroën CX had a separate boot and the Rover SD1 would not debut until 1976.
Perhaps the closest British equivalent to the 30TS was another new model for 1975, the Wolseley “Wedge”, a still highly underrated car that deserved far more development than BL could afford – including the option of a tailgate. Secondly, there were its distinctive sleek looks and thirdly there was the list of standard fittings.
Back in the mid-1970s a heater and windscreen washers were as much you as could reasonably expect from an entry level model, whilst around my village various older cars would chug that looked as though they were held together with Sellotape.
Compared with an 18-year-old Hillman Minx, whose rear offside wing was on the verge of parting company with the rest of the coachwork, a 30TS with PAS, all-disc braking electric front windows and central locking was almost unbridled decadence.
By the end of 1975, the 30TS was joined by the 1.6 litre 20TL and in 1977 the 2-Litre 20TS combined most of the flagship Renault’s virtues with a more economical engine. The 20/30 range was replaced by the 25 in 1984 and today there are believed to be no examples of the 30TS left on the road in the UK. Hopefully one will be restored to its full glory, allowing classic enthusiasts to experience this car.
And as for my own favourite aspect of this magnificent vehicle – it is how, as with the 16, the rear seat could be arranged in several ways, including having the backrest suspended from the grab handles. After all, what was the point of convention for its own sake?