Home » Gaull-ing Gallic Garbage: 1971 Renault 16 vs 1984 Renault Le Car

Gaull-ing Gallic Garbage: 1971 Renault 16 vs 1984 Renault Le Car

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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.

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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:

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1971 Renault 16

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.

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16a D
source: Renault

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:

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“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!

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Source: Wikipedia

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.

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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.

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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.

1984 Renault Le Car

Engine/Drivetrain: 1400cc Inline 4/ Four-On-The-Floor

Location: Chapel Hill, NC

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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Paint-Drinking Thundercock Harvey Park
Paint-Drinking Thundercock Harvey Park
9 months ago

It’s reassuring the R16 won this in a landslide.

10MM Socket
10MM Socket
9 months ago

Has anyone ever seen a race prepped Le Car (Renault 5)?
It’s really quite excellent! This is a ’82 example.
https://imgur.com/a/pDSQBT6

Flinched
Flinched
9 months ago

A running, original, almost completely rust free, mostly one owner on its original California blue plates for $800? The Renault 16 is a very easy choice.

Sklooner
Sklooner
9 months ago

I had a lecar an 87 that was imported to Canada- purchased it from a member of the Renoir family, grandson of the scupltor, so I owned a genuine Renoir at one point. Quirky and French, odd thing is the muffler is inside the left front fender for some reason

Angry Bob
Angry Bob
9 months ago

The Le Car had three lug wheels. Weird.

1961ford
1961ford
9 months ago

Dude!
That Le Car is sweet!

EricTheViking
EricTheViking
9 months ago

I chose 16 for one specific reason: I had a crush on my third-grade teacher at the deaf school in the Black Forest in the early 1970s. She had a 16 and often gave me and my brother a ride home as my family house was on her way to her home. One of the most comfortable and serene rides ever.

In the late 1980s, one of my high school classmates bought a Le Car with four-speed manual gearbox because it was so cheap and “ran”. Inexplicably, he bought it, having no idea how to shift, and assumed it would be very easy to learn how to shift. Yeah, right…

Several futile days later, he begged me to teach him the proper technique. I demonstrated the clutch-pushing, throttle-feathering, and gear-selecting techniques while I was driving. Then, it was his turn to try his luck so I pulled the handbrake up so forcefully as the brake shoes were really thin. Consequently, the handbrake got very stuck with no more room to lift up a bit as to disengage the handbrake.

He lost his shit there and walked away. His car was stuck in the middle of a residential street. A neighbour had a car jack trolley so he came to help me push the car out of the way.

A day later, he gave me the title to his Le Car and told me to do whatever the fuck I wanted with the car. My brother and I fixed a several things on the cheap then sold it for nicer sum…

Alex Kwanten
Alex Kwanten
9 months ago

I’m breaking my lurking habit to wholeheartedly endorse the 16.

A solid weekend of wrenching and that 16 will be back on the road, and it has what seems to be a full history. Also, while you do have to be more patient for things than if you have a Mustang or an MGB, parts aren’t really that hard. You can get all the things this 16 needs without too much hassle.

Without seeing photos of the underside of the Le Car, I’d be wary.

Regardless of whatever it’ll take to get it to run again (which it clearly hasn’t in a long while), R5s are really good at hiding rust. I’ve seen more than a few that looked really good on top only to be dissolving like an Alka Seltzer underneath. This doesn’t look terrible, but that moldy interior and crusty passenger side sill aren’t great signs. It could be fine … but without an in-person closer look? Non, merci.

Last edited 9 months ago by Alex Kwanten
Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
9 months ago

Ugh, I have to vote for the Renault 16 because its shape always makes me think it’s a VW Type 4 until I look closer. I’ve been faked out so many times, grr. I get so excited! No one ever posts 411s or 412s! No one! Then it turns out to be a Renault. BOOOOOO. Hope is dead and optimism is a lie anyway.

Weirdly, I trust its seller more for listing “quirky French car” as both a pro and a con. So, begrudgingly, I must give this one to THE 411 IMPOSTOR.

Bison78
Bison78
9 months ago

I have driven both. In fact, I learned to drive in a Renault 16 TS. I later owned a Renault 5, which I did virtually no maintenance on, but sold for more than I paid for it.

Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
9 months ago

“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!

The Renault 4 also used this rear suspension setup. About 5cm/2in in the Quatrelle, but to be fair the Renault 4 is also considerably shorter than the 16. It’s one of my favourite bits of trivia about it.

Another Renault with different wheelbase on each side? Well, look no further than the Renault 5/Le Car, which brought the wheelbase difference down to 3cm (a little over 1 inch).

Last edited 9 months ago by Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
9 months ago

Oh shit, I cannot possibly vote in this one. The correct answer is the Le Car, make no mistake; parts are still abundant in Europe, and as much of a bad reputation on reliability as they had in the USA, they were actually quite well loved all over Europe, and the one thing that basically killed them in the USA in that aspect – the complete lack of knowledge about these tiny European engines and how to properly keep them running forever – is now at the tip of your fingertips anywhere in the world where there’s an internet connection.

As for the 16, that poor thing. That’s heartbreaking. There’s very little stock of parts left to properly restore a 16 even this side of the pond. That thing has a 99% chance of rotting away in the backyard of its next owner. But I cannot bring myself up to voting agains ANY classic Renault. Not possible, sorry.

TheWombatQueen
TheWombatQueen
9 months ago

Le Car?

They beat the “an car” meme to the punch by more than 40 years

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
9 months ago

Did I miss seeing prices in the column or did you forget to include them? Yes I saw them in the header but I like them in the copy so I can scroll up and down while comparing. I voted 16 because 16 is better than 5. And $800 is less than $1200. Yep that is my sole reasoning on the cars built by people who made products where water produced more power than an automobile.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
9 months ago

I fart in the general direction of today’s shitbox twins.
Fight me.

Opa Carriker
Opa Carriker
9 months ago

The 16 looks like a solid candidate for a reasonably complete detailing and refresh of the necessary mechanical repairs. Were it a bit closer to Kansas I would definitely be interested in this car. Whoever does score this tasty French pastry is going to be very glad they did.

Would like to see a follow up on this car by the new owner!

Guillaume Maurice
Guillaume Maurice
9 months ago

I’ll go for the R16…

the moldly, not running, R5 s a no go.

And yes in cars of that era the radio was an aftermarket thing in most French car models… It wasn’t even a factory option.

You had to buy the radio, the plastic box to hold it, the speakers, and then spend time doing all the cabling. ( and finding somewhere where to pick up the 12V and the ground in the existing cabling without messing anything. as there was no precabling )

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
9 months ago

Renault 16…although I’d rather have the Silverado next to the moldy Le Car

Last edited 9 months ago by Freelivin2713
Nlpnt
Nlpnt
9 months ago

I’m afraid the Le Car’s fate is sealed if even Torch passed it up.

Andrea Petersen
Andrea Petersen
9 months ago

My dad gave my mom a Renault Le Car as a gift and that is what I came home from the hospital in, so naturally that’s what I picked

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
9 months ago

Your poor Mom two questionable things at one time. JK I am sure she was happy with the LeCar.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
9 months ago

I went 16 because it’s both more interesting and more classic

Cyko9
Cyko9
9 months ago

I don’t know if I could pull off the style of the 16, but it’s the better option here. If the prices were swapped, I might be able to overlook some of the Le Car’s faults.

BobS
BobS
9 months ago

Drove my sister”s LeCar during one winter in the lates 80s, I think it was the “black beauty special edition. I remember it being great in the snow (when it ran) and the giant canvas sunroof made a great turret for my co-pilot to launch drive-by snow ball attacks as we drove around town

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