Wednesday October 17, 2018
Reading https://www.howmanyleft.co.uk/ can often be a depressing experience, as you learn how the numbers of cars that dominated your childhood are now in single figures. Recently I experienced a similar shock when looking at the website of the Renault Classic Car Club - http://www.renaultclassiccarclub.com/ModelsRegister/renault_6.html - only to learn just how few examples of the 6 remain in use. In the 1970s they were as much a part of everyday life as packets of Spangles or Michael Barratt looking grumpy as he presented Nationwide.
Renault launched the 6 in late 1968 at the Paris Motor Show, and its relationship with the 4 was akin to that of the Citroën Dyane with the 2CV; the same formula with a greater degree of comfort. The 845cc engine was from the older model, as was the platform, the famous asymmetrical wheelbase and the dashboard-mounted gearchange.
The fascia was almost as chaotically arranged, with switches apparently located at random and a fresh air vent that clanked when you opened it, but the winding windows and the fashionably crisp lines denoted a small car that was more suburban than utilitarian.
The company hoped their latest model would appeal to aspirational 16 drivers - - and by the end of 1969, the 6 was available in the UK.
However, the early examples were not exactly known for their blistering performance. This issue was slightly rectified in 1970 with the introduction of the 1.1-litre version - - although 0-60 in 27 seconds was still not going to break any major speed records. ‘With its excellent economy, the R6 must make a lot of sense to the person who wants to keep his cost per mile as low as possible. Besides, the Renault had more character than any of its class mates’ mused Car magazine in 1972.
And, if you were feeling really extravagant, you could top the £819 asking price with £27.50 worth of reclining seats. A front bench was standard equipment, and I do recall once seeing a 6 containing about seven people careering through Southampton, lurching between Atlantean buses.
The 5 made its bow in January 1972, but the 6 remained in production as it had a distinct niche within the company’s line-up. It received a facelift in 1973 with an attractive new grille, and in 1974 Autocar thought it ‘not perhaps the most beautiful small estate around but certainly the most practical’.1978 saw a further mild update and the Renault brochure for that year claimed it offered ‘ample breathing space for four large adults who will also appreciate the soft padded seats’.
It was indeed a comfortable small car that was able to cope with some inferior road surfaces. French production ended in 1980, but manufacture continued in Spain until 1986.
It is sometimes easy to forget how unusual the 6’s formula was in the 1970s as there were no British-built small five-door saloons; the Austin Maxi was aimed at the Cortina market sector. It was also a car that helped to make Renault one of the highest profile imported marques in the UK – but, today, where have they all gone…?