Cold Start: That’s How You Pick A Background

Cs Renaultgasworks

I have to hand it to whoever did the art direction for this 1980 Renault 12 brochure, because I appreciate that, when given a shiny red car and what appears to be, from the background, an extremely verdant, manicured property, they threw a couple of hard hats on the people and parked that shiny red 12 in front of what looks like some sort of natural gas distribution station?

Maybe it’s for irrigation, but there’s some fire extinguishers there, so I bet that’s not water in those pipes. I think it fits. The R12 does have a sort of lay-the-plans-on-the-trunk-and-point-at-the-thing-that-may-explode kinda vibe.

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31 Responses

  1. I do not think it is a natural gas plant, and those are not fire extinguishers, they are full of red. Yes it is a wine processing facility, some of the pipes ended at a duty free wine warehouse in Calais where the ‘wine’ was bottled exclusively for the English. The other pipes went to a factory packaging paint stripper, much needed to feed the insatiable demand, in England, for stripped pine rustic French old furniture

  2. I owned a 1974 Renault 12TL 5 speed in faded French blue with black vinyl seats. It was a surprisingly competent machine except that my short girlfriend could not place the long and rubbery (phrasing!) gearshift in reverse with the driver seat all the way forward.

    The US model Renault had quad round headlamps that looked fine but I pined for those smooth Euro lamps. Other interesting “features” included a glass coolant overflow bottle, tall and soft-padded vinyl-clad seats, and despite the longitudinal FWD layout, generous torque-steer in the lower gears.

    1. Ours was a white station wagon, also a ’74, but with a mere 4-speed. I learned to drive in it. Boy, that was the sloppiest shifter I ever used. And that black vinyl upholstery could and did cause second-degree burns on sunny summer days. We once took it camping in Death Valley. In August. Why? Because it was the off season, and unlikely to be crowded. Gee, I wonder why, mom?

      Somehow it towed one of those little fiberglass trailers that were featured on this site a week or two ago, and we vacationed all over the southwestern U.S. in that rig. We never got anywhere remotely fast, but we always got there eventually. When my kids utter a peep of complaint on long road trips in our 21st century minivans, with their power tinted windows, air conditioning, leather seats, headphone jacks, dual-input flip-down screens that the Xbox can plug into, eighteen cupholders, and dreamy NVH management… I just wanna clobber them. Or take them for a long, sunny, summer drive in a Renault 12 with black vinyl upholstery and no AC, so they can finally appreciate how much character their old man built in his 1970s childhood. The man deserves a medal.

  3. I miss my Renault 12, I had a 1973 1565 cc, 4 speed and it saw much abuse and I spent too much money and many hours on modifying it, it ended up lowered, an “automatic” 1647 cc block, a Lotus Europa head, Weber carb and 5″ wide Gordini wheels. Definitely French feeling trip and a learning experience for me.

    The shifter joint with the rubber insulators giving it the mystery shifting as it aged could be solved with stiffer isolating blocks or a couple of hose clamps. The system was used a lot by Renault, but was for some reason at its worst in the 12.

  4. Yes, but you would have to hold on to those plans with one hand, due to the very sloping trunk lid on the Renault 12!

    Couldn’t it be cooling pipes for a nuclear power plant? I mean, France had a long love affair with nuclear energy (also) at that time, and Renault was state owned, so it’s practically the same people who made it.

  5. Flashback to my Renault/AMC Alliance. The first car I ever bought new. Man was I excited and, after all, it was named “Car of the year” by Motor Trend. How I wanted to love that car and it’s engineering. But, sadly, it just didn’t hold up and became unreliable. The Ford Tempo that replaced it provided many years of service.

    1. The Ford Tempo was the reason I learned what wrist pins were when I was six. My mom’s black 1989 one munched not one but two engines because the wrist pins walked out on the number three cylinder twice. Aparently there was some kind of issue at the manufacturing plant for those two engines. The third one ran just fine though and provided my parents excellent service until my baby sister was born and we suddenly needed another seat.

  6. Oh my god. So many amazing memories of my dad’s dark blue 1977 Renault 12 break. I still check the national records for the license plate regularly to make sure ir’s still active, in the hopes that one day I can track down the owner and buy it back. Not too long ago I almost sent a counter-offer on a decent looking, fully functional 1982 with an asking price of €800 negotiable, just a few miles away. Clean inspection sheet, amazing brown interiors (I didn’t love the somewhat faded burgundy paint job but I could live with that). Some minor dings, just a bit of surface rust on the rear bumper and a couple of easily obtainable chrome trim pieces missing. My plan was to offer €600 and hope they’d lower to at least €700 (but the car remained online for a few months so I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it sold for even less than I was planning to offer). Somehow I had the self-restraint to never hit ‘send’.

    1. Some years ago I may have found my dad’s car for sale online. The license plate was partially covered but the first letter and last digit were visible and matched my dad’s. The interior looked EXACTLY the same black faux-leather as my dad’s, which was not so common in dark blue ones, which often came with contrasting brown or cream interiors. I sent a message to the seller explaining the situation but wasn’t offering to buy, just asking for confirmation. The ad was taken down soon after and he never got back to me. I prefer to think it’s because the license plate didn’t match and he’d just sold it, and not that he was a sadistic motherfucker without an ounce of respect for the people’s emotions and didn’t reply because I wasn’t in a position to buy it.

  7. I love how unpretentious the whole ad is. Neither of these guys are going to be spinning wrenches, so why have them cosplay in overalls and a giant truck? They can wear suits and take the sedan to go read gauges and point at stuff. It’s also nice for the workers in the field, as they know the boss is coming when they see that shiny red sedan pull up. “Jacques! Put out your cigarette and hide ze wine!”

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