Mark! Mark? Are you back from France yet? I know you said something but I just can’t seem to find the memo. Well, even if you are, you’re likely jet lagged, full of Fois Gras, and wouldn’t mind a break. Let’s ease his entry back into a country where they don’t let children drink wine and never really thought Jerry Lewis was that funny. I’ve got some delicacies from a time when the French actually thought they could sell their often odd creations here in America; that was decades ago so like any delicacy sitting in the sun they haven’t aged particularly well.
Friday’s vote between a Rolls and a Jag came down so close that I would suspect either contender could claim election fraud if they weren’t so British and reserved.
Ultimately, the crowd thought that S.W.’s Silver Shadow was more rock ‘n roll and befitting of being driven into a pool Keith Moon-style (but you’d need someone to push you first based on the running condition). I’d personally take that Jag-wire since it’s the most beautiful sedan ever made (go ahead and hit me with Quattroportes and shit, you won’t change my mind) but maybe the Series III XJ6 is remembered more as the car in the opening of LA LAW than something a rocker would drive.
Anyway, on to the Gallic charms to choose from today:
Engine/Drivetrain: 1600cc Inline 4/ Four On The Tree
Location: Santa Rosa, CA
Odometer reading: 180,000 miles
Runs/drives? Runs? Yes. Stops? No
Americans used to refer to vehicles imported from Europe as “foreign cars”, and there is a reason. This 1971 Renault 16 certainly proves that, and as one of the first hatchback sedans it likely must have seemed quite alien when sold on these shores. Introduced in 1965, it might have in fact been the FIRST hatchback sedan ever, and the numerous interior configurations included one which involved hanging the rear seat backrest from the ceiling.
Here’s a video with odd jazzy music playing that shows all of the configurations for real near the end. If you scroll to about 3:50 you can see that I’m not lying about the seats-in-the-air setup that did NOT catch on with future hatchbacks:
“Foreign” enough for you? There’s more! You want to know the wheelbase of this thing? Left side or right? What? That’s right- the front and back wheels on the Renault 16 are closer together on one side of the car than the other, so the left and right wheelbase are different thanks to the rather odd rear suspension configuration. I mean, different by nearly 3 inches! That’s a lot!
This ultra-rare-even-new US specification 1971 model is presented in rather grainy photos which suits the rather grainy condition of the exterior finish. Remarkably, it reportedly does run and is rather free of corrosion, though in this case a rusted floor might be a benefit since you could drop your feet Flintstones-style to stop it; the brakes have “lost pressure” and now work about as well as the entire nation of France during the month of August.
It’s remarkably clean inside, including the column shift manual gear selector; the way the factory put the radio in a big box on the floor doesn’t look like an afterthought at all.
The seller lists “quirky French car” in both the “Pro” AND “Cons” section of his description, which proves his honesty. If it’s a bit to “quirky” for you, here’s a more mainstream French option, if there is such a thing.
Engine/Drivetrain: 1400cc Inline 4/ Four-On-The-Floor
Location: Chapel Hill, NC
Odometer reading: 128.480 miles
Runs/drives? No, but “tries”
The Mark I Golf/Rabbit gets all of the accolades as an “innovative” modern hatchback but the French had them beat by years. The new-for-1972 Renault 5 was a fun-to-drive, super-comfortable-riding marvel of packaging that deserves more recognition than it gets. The R5 was a sales dud when introduced in the US market until some marketing genius decided to put giant “Le Car” decals on the flanks; the resulting dramatic uptick in sales proved how shallow Americans were, and still are.
[Editor’s Note: This is right near me? Who froze the corporate card in ice? – JT]
Our 1984 example is one of the last Le Cars sold here in the US, and the square headlight front end might be recognizable as the star of the infamous Saturday Night Live skit about the “Adobe” car-of-clay.
The finish on this particular Facebook Marketplace example actually resembles the Adobe in it’s dull, dirt-like color scheme; the door jambs show that it was once a lovely bright red that likely suited this cute little car quite well. Apparently it needs “carb, tires and battery” to run, and the carburetor is described cryptically as “trying not installed on vehicle”. What is it trying? Did it try to run away to find a better car to sit on and now wants to return prodigal-son-like to its old manifold? Who knows.
It seems to have dimensional eagle logos on the front doors; did they do this to match the Chrysler brand that eventually included Renault cars?
Moldy sunroof canvas is still in place, and I see controls for the optional air conditioning; if you get that working be advised that it will take about half of the engine’s power when the compressor kicks in. Like the earlier car in our Showdown, this one also places the radio in a stuck-on vertical box like Renault had never heard of car audio until the day before they released the thing. This car is located dangerously close to Jason Torchinsky so I wouldn’t let him know it’s available.
Mark is probably back tomorrow, so we’re all nervous about his reaction to the smoking pile of embers we’ve left his Showdown baby in.
For now, please make a choice between the stinking piles of Gruyere cheese.