Thursday January 30, 2020
‘She’s a 1978 4 speed TS. The 5 speed came out May 1979, much to the chagrin of my father who bought her new’, remarks Michael Wrigley of his utterly magnificent one family Renault 20.
‘She is a “happy memories” car because she was bought in Guernsey, where she had very little use unless it was a “trip”, to the mainland to see family, on holiday to Europe, on birthdays and so on, so from age eight until mid-teens when we got in that car we were off somewhere fun’.
One of Michael’s favourite photos dates from circa 1985: a roadside lunch ‘somewhere in Germany on the way back from Freiburg’.
Mr. Wrigley Snr. was a bank manager and Michael still owns a copy of The Observer’s Book of Automobiles in which he listed the alternatives to the 20TS considered by his father – ‘The other choices were 16TX (the previous one was a TL) or Volvo 244DL’.
The Lancia Beta was also under consideration ‘, but it was eliminated as it wasn’t a hatchback, thank goodness, as it is one of the few cars that rusted faster than a 1970s Renault!’
And of course, forty-two years ago a 20TS seemed the epitome of style – almost as well-equipped as the 30TS but considerably less expensive at £5,504. Here was executive transport for the sort of family who delighted in their top-of-range fondue set and the finest Soda Stream available to humanity.
This was Acacia Avenue’s interpretation of La Dolce Vita for the late 1970s – a colour television set, a box of Rowntree Mackintosh’s Week-End Chocolates in the sideboard and on the driveway, a car fitted with electric front windows.
The original 20 was the 1,647cc TL, which debuted in late 1975 followed in July 1977 by the TS, powered by the 2-Litre “Douvrin” engine; Renault had the first option on this unit ahead of Peugeot and Volvo.
In the UK, the 20TS appealed to well-heeled drivers who might otherwise have considered the Princess 2200 HLS or the Rover 2300 SD1.
Renault also believed that its chief market would be fleet buyers – a formidable challenge in an era when the company car of choice for management was the Ford Granada Mk. II.
However, in 1978 the Renault became the inaugural “Car of Year” for What Car magazine - ‘To our minds, it is a much better buy than its V6 stablemate, the 30 TS which costs £1,100 more’.
Car evaluated the Renault opposite the interesting line-up of the Saab 99 GL and the Alfa Romeo Alfetta 2000, concluding ‘for motoring into the 1980s the Renault is probably best of this bunch’.
The 25 succeeded the 20/30 range in 1983, and XPB 478 Y eventually became the car Michael ‘learned to drive in. She was mine from around the last year at University. The best aspect is the ride; it’s like they’ve remade all the roads’.
The Wrigleys are evidently Renault devotees; ‘before the 20 there was a 16. Mum had an 8 and a 10, Dad’s Mum had a couple of 12’s, and a 9, and my sister had a 5 Mk. I. After the 20 they bought a 25, then after ten years that was replaced in 2000 with a Laguna 1 that they had until 2017 or maybe 2018 when they bought a Scenic’.
Today Michael owns ‘an Espace Mk. I and an Espace Mk. 4 plus a number of other largely eccentric old cars’. In recent years he found that ‘the public probably don’t really care on the whole but motoring enthusiasts recognise and appreciate the love that I have for her and the hard work that has gone into her’.
As with all fine vehicles, owning XPB 478 Y brings forth inevitable challenges – ‘currently, she is sitting at work in our warm and dry prep building as her sunroof is stuck open. I know she also needs rubber fuel lines as ethanol has done what it does.’
But soon other road users will be able to appreciate the Renault that is ‘so obviously from another era in gold with brown velour’.
And who could resist a car where the backrest for the rear seat can literally be suspended from the grab handles?
With Thanks To: Michael Wrigley
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