(first posted 12/18/2012) The winners of the 1966 COTY award on the two sides of the Atlantic reveal much about the state of the two continents then. The long and low personal-coupe 1966 FWD Oldsmobile Toronado was extravagant, but an evolutionary dead end. The Renault 16, on the other hand, was a brilliant forward-looking car, the first medium-sized FWD family car with a hatchback, roomy and variable interior configuration, four wheel discs, and a superb ride quality. It became the template for what soon became a raft of (European) mid-sized hatchback cars, including the VW Passat and so many others. And in the US, GM eventually saw the light too, and adopted the R16 formula for its Citation hatchback.
Like many Renaults of the sixties, the R16 was clearly inspired by Citroen. But Renault was consistently more pragmatic, the result being cars that found greater favor and acceptance in larger numbers. Unlike the long, low and swoopy DS, the R16 foreshadowed the future with its tall, boxy and highly space-efficient passenger compartment.
It essentially combined the best of a station wagon with a sedan, in a highly variable configuration that was essentially unknown at the time.
The R16 formula (but with transverse engine) swept the globe, and eventually found its way to GM too. The 1980 Citation had excellent space utilization, and the hatchback body style was madly popular, for a few years anyway. Eventually, Americans decided they liked conventional trunks better. Whatever.
Like the Citroen and the smaller Renault R4, the R16 still had the “classic” fwd arrangement of a longitudinal engine behind the front wheel centerline and transaxle. It did have the advantage of better weight distribution, but the penalty was the intrusion of the engine into the front passenger compartment. Not a huge deal, since no pretense was made for three-across seating, but obviously, this configuration was an evolutionary dead end.
The R16 eschewed the complicated Citroen hydropneumetic suspension, but still had a superb ride quality, thanks to very long-travel suspension. At the rear, the wheels were not directly opposite, due to the transverse torsion bars, resulting in two different wheelbases, like the R4, 5 and 6. The R16 also had excellent four wheel disc brakes.
The R16 was the counterpoint to the more conventional and conservative RWD Peugeot 404, and undoubtedly the 404 was the more rugged and durable of the two.
The R16 was not very successful in the US, and only sold here from 1969 – 1972. But the R16 had a long life in Europe, and was built until 1980. But its influence has not ended, as mid-sized hatchback cars are still predominant in Europe and other parts of the world, and are beginning to make inroads in the US again.
More: CC Renault 16 by Roger Carr
I’d forgotten how luxurious the interiors of these cars were. My LeCar that I had in the early ’80s had a comfortable ride, even though it was a tiny car.
French cars of that era were built for comfort sailing down long straight French N roads at moderate speeds not at high speeds with a hard ride like the Germans.
I remember those!
Why would a transverse torsion bar force the two sides to have different wheelbases? Was it diagonal?
The rear suspension consisted of two trailing arms (one for each rear wheel), the front end of which was connected to a long transverse torsion bar. They would have interfered, so the passenger side unit was placed slightly ahead (2.76″) of the other one. A slightly odd but very pragmatic solution.
Interesting! Thanks for the image.
I love the French way of slightly odd but very pragmatic solutions. If that’s what it takes, then, mon dieu, different wheelbases it is. That would never do in Germany. Or any other country, I’d imagine…
They could of course have used centered torsion bars on top of each other, like the ubiquitous Beetle solution. But that would’ve meant intrusion into the cabin and a higher non flat load area.
The 16 had what the Honda Fit and HRV today have: a flat floor in the rear compartment, including under the back seat. In the 16 you had to remove the seat to take advantage of this. The Hondas do it by putting the gas tank under the front seats. The Renault, with the engine behind the front axle line, had room for the spare tire under the hood. The gas tank was under the trunk floor.
I imagine that mounting the trailing arms at different heights would have more effect on handling than the different wheelbase lengths
It also may have cost more…pragmatism again.
The R16 inspired a little brother, the R6 an hatchback derived from the R4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renault_6 ended in 1980 in France but the R6 got a longer lifespan in Spain and Argentina ending in 1986.
And here a vintage R16 French ad from the mid-1970s when the R16 was around 10 years old http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OzSaziIIXY
That car in the top pic is so stylish. They are really cheap, if you can find one. I’ve been looking out for one and they are between 1-2000 dollars or so. Maybe double that for a restored car or one in mint condition. They will never be regarded classics like the R4 or the DS, so the remaining ones will still be cheap. I’ve been thinking about one as a beater classic.
They were very popular with my parents communist/intellectual friends in the 70’s. They really were the step up from the more utilitarian R4, the quintessential Rive Gauche car.
I knew a guy who had one in LA back in the late seventies; great ride. But I haven’t seen one over here in decades. I’d be pleasantly surprised if I ever do.
I saw a clean and straight lime green R16 on the freeway in the San Francisco Bay Area about 6 months ago. First one I’d seen in a LONG time.
Glad to see a non-American car for CCOTY. I think these years saw a lot of advances that influenced global design, as well as cars that became globally popular and spawned future CC’s. For 1967, the Volvo 144 comes to mind; for 1968 the BMW 2002 (or Toyota Corolla); for 1969 the 6 cylinder 2500/2800 BMWs, perhaps more significant than the 2002 in the long term as they started moving BMW upscale into the position it has today in most countries. There’s an early 2500 that sits curbside in my neighborhood for extended periods, but is still driven (or at least moved to beat parking rules).
Those late 60s BMWs were just chasing Triumphs place in the market and were very similar in spec and performance, hardly class leading at all.
All change on the launch of the 2002. .. then the 2002 Ti. No contest.
Triumphs were for middle income buyers who wanted some thing with more class than a Ford not for saloon car racing.
Actually, the main evolutionary dead end of the r16 was the rear seat itself. I never understood how after the flip-fold seats of the r4 which gave a van-like cargo area, the r16 had a rear seat that contorted itself in every way except a flat-fold unobstructed cargo area. The seat back was hinged at the top rather than the bottom, so to use it like a hatchback, you had to strap the seatback to the roof.
Indeed, really, there is no real car of the future, only each manufacturer building on the previous one’s ideas. One could say that the later Simca 1100 and Austin Maxi were the real prototype of the hatchback. I’ve never had a Simca, but I did own a Maxi and for all of its stubbiness, it WAS the template for the modern hatchback- from the Citation to the Escort to the Focus.
That’s not to say I don’t love the r16- it is beautiful and ugly at the same time in the way that only the French could master. Just a shame about the rust.
I can imagine that quite a few people traded these on Saab 99 and 900 combis when the body rot finally got to them, as they seemed to attract the same type of owners.
Good point. That seat back arrangement was decidedly odd. And I agree with you, it’s almost impossible to pin down the car that set the template for the future. But that doesn’t seem to stop me from trying 🙂
One British writer said it was because Renault was concerned that it would be seen by regulators as a “commercial vehicle”. Interesting since everyone now is scrambling to get their hatchbacks under the “light truck” heading for CAFE and so they can ship with dark tint.
That’s not to say I don’t love the r16- it is beautiful and ugly at the same time in the way that only the French could master.
There’s actually a French word for that: joli-laid, literally “pretty-ugly.”
Oh, please don’t stop trying, Paul, as we are learning so much useful history from you. But looking for “the” ancestral car is sort of like looking for the “missing link.” Just like nature doesn’t care if you survive, or even your particular species, it only cares if life survives-and it does so through natural selection, and by not putting all of its money on one bet. So, same with cars-multiple attempts are made by multiple teams and individuals working for multiple companies over time, looking to find the best solution to a particular transportation need (hopefully, at a profit!). The best solutions tend to survive and be carried forward, while the rest fall by the wayside-or become Curbside Classics, if they are lucky!,
Neat car, and decades ahead of its time like so many French cars.
Peculiar dashboard, instruments seemingly randomly placed with huge blank spaces of “wood”. Was there really enough room for the driver’s right leg in there? Or is the driver basically riding sidesaddle, facing the offset speedo?
Too bad they didn’t try a boxer 4 instead.
A boxer 4 would be worse, here you just need to deal with the width of the crankcase. I can’t comment on space as I’ve never driven one but doubtless ok for the average-sized driver by 1960’s European standards, which means that the tall may well struggle.
R16’s engine is behind the front axles. A boxer 4 is short enough to be ahead of the front axles, leaving plenty of leg room. Subarus are the best known examples.
I can imagine a boxer four under the front seats with a driveshaft going forward to the transaxle. That would be weird. Thus irresistible to French engineers.
It’s the same arrangement as in a Citroen DS 21. The in line engine was not wide enough to intrude into the pedal area, even in the narrower (I guess) Renault. I had one and I’m 5’11 and there was no problem fitting.
No, room for the driver’s feet was fine for my size 11 1/2s.
I would argue that the R16 wasn’t the way forward, that it is an example of an end as dead as any. This was yet another silly midengined, FWD car from France. It is an idea deader than disco, and for good reasons. Cars with this configuration lack the packaging efficiency of transverse engined FWD cars. They have about the worst winter hill climbing capabilities of any car of comparable weight and power, as their engine’s mass starts out behind the center line of the front wheel and then just continues to shift weight towards the undriven rears and off the fronts when acceleration is attempted. The proof is in the pudding. Even the French don’t do it like this anymore, and virtually nobody else adopted this layout. Cord and Miller pioneered it, but only the French saw anything in it after the Depression.
The way forward comes from the body design, not the driveline layout, which had been used before. Apart from the intrusion of the engine the packaging efficiency is the same – it may struggle in modern cars with a more extensive hvac system etc in the dash. The low cargo area floor is still present.
The hatchback combined with a folding seat and FWD came from the 1964 Autobianchi Primula, which also had the benefits of a transverse engine. It was the way forward, and it led to generations of Fiats with the same layout. I’m not sure why you think the packaging efficiency is the same, when the passengers have to share the wheelbase with the entire engine in the mid-engine cars. Also, the driver and front passenger have their footwells crowded with hot engine, which is far from nice from any comfort perspective.
Yes, the Autobianchi was slightly ahead of the game, the problem was it didn’t sell. 75 000 cars in five years, vs 1.8 million cars in fifteen years for the R16. While the R16 took the hatchback to the mainstream. It paved the way for others to come, often with better solutions. In earnest, you could say that Autobianchi was Fiats skunk works, and their testing of the concept led to Fiat making a complete voltafaccia with the 128-concept.
it’s like that, the Primula was a sort of “test-car” for what would have been the real deal some years later, the 128…the R16 was never successful in Italy, from this point of view its biggest mistake was using the hatchback formula for an upscale sedan, people with the money for a car like this all went for something sportier like an Alfa or something more traditional like an Opel Rekord
“I’m not sure why you think the packaging efficiency is the same, when the passengers have to share the wheelbase with the entire engine in the mid-engine cars.”
I don’t – I clearly mentioned that drawback!
The R16 had a sporty cousin which was really quite a handful on wet and snowy days.Had supremely comfortable seats and a bodyshell which rotted so badly i t triggered legislation about vehicle durability.
Dead end? I dont think so I have a French FWD car the engine is transverse and is tilted back so all the weight of the powertrain is within the wheelbase the only traction problems it has can be solved by lifting your right foot or shifting to a higher gear, The weight distribution is front heavy not rear heavy and combined with passive rear steering gives roadholding nothing else could match.
Don’t forget SAAB. They had the same layout until the second-generation 900, which used GM’s Vectra platform.
Saab had anything but the same layout. The 99/900’s engine was directly above the front wheels with more than half the engine’s mass ahead of the axle.
I find the styling of these cars very agreeable. Certainly they had the most comfortable seats I’ve ever experienced in a car, and that includes the Citroen D-series of which I was briefly part owner. As I remember, Renault sent these to the USA in 16TL trim. For those Regiephiles who wanted more power, hop up parts were available through Mercury-Kiekhafer to bring them up to 16TS spec.
Why through Mercury-Kiekhafer? What was the connection?
I wholeheartedly support the nomination of the R16 as ’66 Car of the Year. It looks gorgeous by my admittedly very utilitarian aesthetic preference, it’s brilliantly space efficient, rode over rough roads better than any mass-market Deutsch, Italian or Swedish offering could’ve hoped and handled better than anyone would’ve expected a large FWD to behave in those days.
And in addition to its obvious influence on following cars, the R16’s character is still readily apparent in modern Renaults, famous for their comfort and versatility. The same cannot be said, sadly, for today’s mundane Citroens and dynamically mediocre, fragile Peugeots.
I’ve rented a handful of non-US-market cars in Europe in the last 10 years, and the Megane Diesel that we drove over 1000 miles around France and Spain in 2004 stood head and shoulders above the rest. Roomy, comfortable, and weird looking … a veritable modern day R16!
Meh, and the people in the US who cared about the R16 in 1966 is a # smaller than the faculty at a major university.
Toronado for sport and the Imperial to show the world you were a serious human being.
I have to wonder, though, about the “classic” FWD layout’s dead end. Suppose the engine was limited to 4-cylinders, arranged in a “VR” layout, a la VW and old Lancias. I think one could end up with an FWD car with genuinely symmetrical axle shafts and space for tires to articulate significantly more, versus with a transverse layout. So you get a tiny turning circle and avoid having the engine being slung ahead of the axle centerline (a problem for transverse vehicles bar the Toyota IQ).
There is still the drawback of having the front of the crank buried in the middle of the car, making some maintenance operations and the accessory drive more difficult – but if everything is powered by electric motors you’d only have the alternator I suppose, and that could be replaced by a flywheel type or geared to the flywheel, or use a Toyota hybrid setup.
Does lack of space actually restrict the turn angle of the front wheels more than CV joint limitations?
R 16s used to be a common sight but Ive not seen one in ages Renault build quality is to blame for that the cars were good apart from that propensity to disintegrate.
I can’t put my finger on it, but there is something about the way American manufacturers do hatches that just makes them unpalatable.
Never cared for them, but I had a drive of one of these once and it was like driving an armchair. An armchair that rusted away very quickly. I have no idea how you managed to find one that is still intact Paul.
I haven’t; these are pics from the web. Whenever we hav eour own original pictures, then there will be a “CC” or “Curbside Classic” at the head of the title.
One of these popped up on another site I look at recently. It ‘survived’ by breaking over forty years ago and spending the intervening years in garaged storage.
My aunt’s boyfriend had one in the 80’s. It was the higher spec model (TS?) without the hubcaps, and had a column shift and bench front seat. I loved it and it remains the best car in which i’ve ever been transported. My grandfather had a Rover 2000 TC at the same time but this was much better.
I grew up riding in a white 1970 R16. Man we loved that car. It outlasted the R5 we got when I was six and in fact outlasted real Renaults in the US.. till at last there were no competent mechanics left in Miami and we transferred the flag to a Honda Civic Wagon.
Great to read all the comments. I just bought the R16 that was mentioned in one of the posts that had been stored for 30 years. It will be my 4th. I think the cars are brilliant, great to drive, comfortable and able to carry a lot of people or stuff. The drive train was used in Lotus Europas ( of which I have 2) and is quite durable and reliable. As for space efficiency, the transaxle forward layout is not as efficient as the transverse, but I would point out that the spare tire and the battery are both in front so that 100% of the space behind the firewall is for you and your stuff. I agree that the seat folding does not yield a flat floor, but point out that the rear seat back and bottom can both be removed in 1 minute without tools, With the long travel rear suspension, the car can carry a big load. So I am looking forwrad to using the car on tours and as a paddock support vehicle at the vintage races. I drive a Lotus Europa S1 and my wife drives a Rene Bonnet D’jet, so the R16 will be perfect.
Actually the midengine FWD in R16 layout is quite efficent. It allows a very long wheelbase, which you can see if you compare with the GM? product, very little car in front of the wheels, and a longer portion between the wheel and the front door. Your feet is in about the same position, just behind the front wheel, like the GM? car.
However, the engine needs to be very narrow, so the R16 never came out with anything bigger than 1.6L.
As a matter of fact, Magnus B, the 5-speed R16 TX came with a 1.8 L engine with 93 HP on tap if I remember correctly. I was, and still am, a HUGE fan of the R16!
Engineering a great little car was something Detroit didn’t wish to do after the Corvair fiasco. Everyone there knew how much work and effort and money it cost GM to do that. It was so much more profitable to make Falcons, Chevy IIs, Rambler Americans and Valiants, why do another Corvair?
So, while it seems wonderful for Renault to create this cutting edge small car, we have to remember that the market environment for the R16 was necessary to first germinate it. Just as the French can give us fabulous wines, they make lousy Coke, Dr. Pepper and Fritos. We can admire the R16, we have to also recognize that it wasn’t the failure of Detroit to create a vehicle that was similar, it wasn’t failure at all – rather, it was a reflection of a completely different auto market.
The US wasn’t impacted by the same limitations as was Europe. We won WWII. We built an Arsenal of Democracy that shifted into an Arsenal of Consumerism in order to catch up with Post-Depression/War demands. It took an arsenal of 24/7 production to make up for what we lost between 1932-1945. America was stiffled for a generation and it’s natural growth and economic growth was not natural when viewed historically. By the 1960s, the US Market had twenty years of booming domestic growth. Consequentially, the auto makers in Detroit were producing vehicles that were in demand within the domestic marketplace. The Interstate Building Boom was underway, and Americans could not get enough of big luxury automobiles designed to fly down freeways at 80 mph via cruise control, auto headlight dimmers, power brakes and steering and giant luxury interiors suitable for day-long commutes. Income was growing quickly, and it wasn’t long before car brands such as Lincoln and Cadillac, gracing the driveways of frugal blue collar driveways. Thanks to union wages, health insurances, and a thriving domestic market consuming a thriving domestically produced products, Americans didn’t see any need to limit what they were driving.
The R16 is an ingenious vehicle for a market needing ingenious ways to circumvent the limits placed upon automobiles in a European market. The French today have fabulous expressways and transportation, yet the French also saw their colonial empire collapse and their French global impact lessened. Not only did they personally experience an enemy invasion, they saw Algeria become a seperate nation and a need for Charles De Gaul to return to save them after an ugly constitutional crisis. French auto makers knew they had a domestic market that was rebounding after these transformative events, and the R16 provides French consumers with a vehicle that balances both their finances and their family needs.
The R16 is evolutionary, just as the Oldmobile Toronado. Both vehicles reflect their market environments. The fact that the Renault gets to where the US eventually ended up fifteen years earlier isn’t a sign that Detroit was unable to produce something similar. It is more correct to understand that if an American manufacturer produced an R16 in 1966, even as the Corvair was failing in the Market, and the Falcon-esque Mustang was struggling to meet demand, there would have been a lot of heads rolling in corporate offices to fire the management producing such a car.
It took the 1958 US Recession to finally birth the compact car, and it took the Malaise years to birth the modern US front wheel drive compact car in the States. Europe got their first.
I personally find the frond end of the top spec TX model to be much more agreeable with it’s four squared lamps and slightly less prominent beak, as shown by the red model in front. The TX also did away with the strip style speedometer and wood trim, and replaced those items with round dials and silver colored metal.
It’s been said on the pages of CC before that it’s hard to find an ugly ’65-’66 era car, and the R16 expands the portfolio of attractive cars that I’m aware of.
With different a different regional bias, I have some different thoughts on the ’66 cars of the year.
The majority of what made up the Olds Toronado became an evolutionary dead end – a very large, heavy coupe low on utility and as well as gas mileage. But, it served a purpose, even if somewhat accidently, for GM. It became an ambassador for FWD to the large car buyer that was GM’s bread and butter. There was a quick spread to Cadillac, and when the Riviera E body took on a FWD drivetrain in ’79, there was a happy trio of successful and profitable GM cars that said FWD is okay – and good in the snow – not inconsequential to a large portion of North American drivers. Where GM dropped the ball was with the quality of the transition to FWD, ranging from reliability to styling.
The R16 certainly portended the taller is better architecture of modern cars, but has a lot of oddities and compromises that didn’t make the cut over time. The manufacturer cutaway trying to show the utility of the interior has about two times too many supposed configurations – and really demonstrates the compromises of a hatch back – the R16 comes perilously close to being a wagon, and the failure to become a true long roof really cuts into its utility. A lot closer to today’s CUV / SUV as the mainstream car than the Toronado, but still a long ways off.
As much as this will draw ire from some, I’d argue that the first four door Ford Explorer really set the mark for U.S. buyers of what the future would be. Suddenly, Americans could not get enough of a tall wagon, and the general configuration spread like wildfire as the defacto “car” that continues in the U.S. stronger than ever.
My 7th grade French teacher drove a blue R16 (this would have been in 1972); not sure what year it was. In east central Saskatchewan, where I grew up, a Renault would have been a completely off-the-wall choice of vehicle for anyone living in this wheat belt area. The closest dealer and service was 100 KM away. I’m sure it’s front-drive layout made it practical in winter, however. This was not my first exposure to little French cars on the Prairies. Prior to this, I can recall neighbours who had friends from Saskatoon that drove an R8 and I remember both a Simca Aronde and a Renault Dauphine were daily drivers in my community around the mid-to late 60’s. In 1973, my 9th grade art teacher was driving a Renault 15 (which he subsequently traded in on a Chevelle Malibu Classic the next year). I’m pretty sure that was the end of the road for French cars dans ma petite ville des Prairies.
I remember riding around in the back seat of a red R16 all over Europe for 2 months when my dad was transferred there temporarily back in the ’70’s. As a ten year old, I couldn’t appreciate its soft supple ride. All I remember was how hot the non air conditioned car with its black vinyl upholstery got in the summer, and the weird shifter that came out of the dashboard. My brother and I had fun climbing in and out of the spacious rear luggage area during those long road trips. One other interesting memory was how I was awestruck one day by the Plymouth Valiant that we followed around on a rough country road in Switzerland, and watching the leaf-sprung Valiant’s rear end violently hopping up and down made me think that the Plymouth’s suspension must have been so much better than our Renault’s!
“Like many Renaults of the sixties, the R16 was clearly inspired by Citroen”
Renault and Citreon have had a competitive and yet symbiotic relationship dating back to when they were owned by their namesakes.
When Citroen toured Renault’s new factory in the late 1920’s he said basically “I am screwed”.
I am sorry, but I do miss a lot of things that should have been mentioned, like the need for Renault to develop the 16, the technical desginer Yves Georges of the brand new aluminium alloy engine and a ode to Phillippe Charbonneaux who designed the 16
The fact that at Sandouville west of Paris at the river Seine in Normandy a whole new factory was built just for the 16, the 16 became the second car to win the car of the year award and the faster TS and TX versions, the Ta which had an all new electronic automatic gearbox.
The reason Renault decided for the 16 was that they were not successfull in the Peugeot 404 / Citroën ID/Ds class. Renault had nothing since the rather unsuccessfull Frégate, and the Frëgate which had a more or less similar shape like the 404’s pre-decessor the 403 but the Frégate was not a good car at all compared to the 403!
So Renault had to be bold to create a successor.
They hired Phillippe Charbonneaux who had already been responsible for the design of the Renault R8, the successfull successor of the Dauphine.
Renault gave Charbonnaux and Georges more or less carte blanche and they created a not a very large but very roomy Renault 4 inspired car, a car with a real good Cw value and a 1470cc engine, much smaller then its competitors, the 404 Peugeot had a 1600 engine and the Citroen even a 1900 cc engine.
The Renault did not outperform both cars but could cope with them, the engine perfomed quite well and being brand new by design it had an automatic radiator cooling fan driven by an electric motor which was quite new.
The car also received the fully enclosed cooling system of the 4 and it also had no grease points, all more modern then its competitors.
Although the 404 and ID were higher up the ladder, the 16 gave more value for money, it was as roomy as a 404, and it actually was more modern as a ID/DS in some points; but the most interesting part of the ‘seize’was it variable luggage space, it had the looks of a ‘normal’ car but the practicality of a station wagon.
Dad who had given his loyalty to Peugeot Diesels after having had a horrible Mercedes heckflosse diesel, turned to the 16 and he was hooked on his ‘seizes’
He had four 16’s in a row, unfortunately never choosing the hot TS.
The TS came in 1968 to broaden the range to the top, it had a nice Jaeger dash a slightly bigger engine and two additional Cibie drivng lights
There was also a Super TS with an all leather interior and an electric sunroof.
The design of the 16 was so good that Renault decided to launch a completely new niche back in 1973 called the TX autoroutière (autobahncrusher I guess)
The TX had an engine with a bigger displacement as the TS had had, a five-speed gearbox, tinted windows, central door locks and electrical frontwindows and a small rear spoiler with a wiper washer on the rear window.
It had quad-headlights, a different grille and steel sports Gordini wheels.
The car gave the whole 16 concept a boost, it boosted sales of the 16 again, one could call it a renaissance, this was a very practical, economical and comfortable cruiser.
Remember, this was 1973 justr after the fuel crisis and the demand for economical cars was enormous, the TX used less fuel then the TL or TS thanks to the five speed gearbox and a different engine displacement.
In 1980 after a prduction run of over 1.8 milion copies and a good 15 years it was quits for the 16 and it was replaced by the rather poor 20 and 30 series.
But the truth is, there actually was no successor for the 16.
That car only came with the introduction of the Renault Laguna series, back in 1994 !
I’d have a TX as an everyday car in 2016, no problem.
Thank you, Rammstein, for providing a lot of added value to the original article. I was in high school when the ‘seizes’ roamed the roads. I am still in love with this bold design. Until now my knowledge was limited to some specs. You just showed me how much I missed. Phillippe Charbonneaux had a great eye for style and proportions. I love both the R 8 and the 16 and had no idea they were penned by the same designer. It’s amazing what can happen if you let a great designer/engineering team work on their own.
Phillippe Charbonneaux did not create the styling of the 16; it was Gaston Juchet. Renault themselves credit him for the design.
I have no reason why I hould not believe you, just one question : How do you know this ?
Charbonneaux was involved, but most of the styling came from the pen of Juchet. Have a look at this website under ‘4. Renault’. There is still the question of its Citroen origins, but considering these ‘abtract impressions’ as well as the other more realistic renderings that show the shape progressing, I’d say cjiguy is correct.
I have a lot of auto related literature. Something I picked up at one point talked about the 16’s development, and the name you brought up seemed off. A quick search of Renault’s own press releases confirmed it indeed was Juchet:
The Design Patent for the R16 styling was in the name of Gaetan de Coye de Castelet.
I’d say : Merci to all of you !
My only interaction with any French car was with one of these at the dealership I worked for at the time. While the “styling” was rather odd, to my eyes, driving it was something else compared to the Oldsmobiles I was selling.
However, the most memorable impression I have is of the ride comfort for such a “small” car by 1969 U.S. standards. The seats in particular struck me as THE most comfortable ones I had ever sat on in any car I had ever driven! 🙂 DFO
My Dad had a couple of them and as much as anything it clarified the difference there can be between 2 slightly different versions of the same car.
My Dad bought a US R16 for his wife when they were living in New Jersey (both Americans) and imported it to England when he got transferred back there. LHD and all. His wife loved it, no power steering, 4 speed manual and all. He eventually got a RHD R16, TS, as a company car. I drove both a little bit on visits and the difference was night and day. The US spec car to me, drove like a dog. Slow. A car can be slow but somewhat peppy, but this one was not, it was just slow with heavy slow steering. I’m odd enough I regarded the wrong side steering as an irritation, but no more. His company car, the TS, was an entirely different animal, more power (did it have early FI?) power steering helped, but it was light on it’s feet. Peppy bordering on fast in early 70s England, more than capable of regular passing on two lane roads, handling felt good, it was a nice car, I enjoyed driving it. It’s more pedestrian sister not so much, actually not at all.
Of course above all else, it was a French car, meaning nice seats and comfy ride.
The US car would have had the emissions clean air pump which would have been a power drain ,a bit like an a/c pump plus all the over mandatory kit so that alone would have killed some performance.
I drove a Euro spec Spitfire 1500 .75 hp. US version with single carb ,milder lift cam, smog pump ..etc..Only 55 hp!.
My family got a Peugeot 504 in 1970, but I was always fascinated by the R16. Alternative universes…
The Pugs of the time were conventional and robust .They were not called the French Mercedes for no reason.
Since when did the R16 have four wheel disc brakes?
With a 2.7″ wheelbase variance, left to right, what was the sound/sensation like when crossing railroad tracks?
And I believe that the post lacked an illustration of the mechanical layout, with the engine behind the gearbox. used with great success at Cotroen in the 30s and 50s, it was used in the Renault 4, and later in the 16. With the launch of the Renault 12/Ford Corcel the position was reversed. And this also proved to be a transitory situation. This until practically universalizing the transverse engine, which already existed before.
Has any non-French auto had only three lugs? Screams danger to me, one loose lug and the wheel could come off?
An old observation, but it strikes me again looking at this car how differently North Americans and Europeans have seen vehicles over the years – what cars are for, both practically and psychologically, and what they are seen to communicate about their owners.
In the mid-1960s this Renault would have looked embarrassingly, almost unbelievably, ungainly and awkward to the average North American, to the point even of calling into question an owner’s manhood. Whereas in Europe it was likely seen as a clever and thoughtful package that did the job.
Globalization of markets has perhaps led to some balancing, whereby good engineering is now given more of its proper due and it may be the 20-foot-long pick up trucks that inspire questions about virility. 🙂
I remember having a good look over a 16 as a kid. Someone visiting my grandparents had bought one, and (being raised on British and Australian-American cars) I was amazed at how different it was, yet all the differences seemed quite logical when you stopped to think about them. While Dad seemed politely impressed, he stayed with Ford; parts and service everywhere.
The downtrodden “Citation” pic halfway down the article made me sad.
As the owner of a R12, I can attest to a fine ride and handling. But for me the reason to dump the car as fast as possible was the buzz and drone of the unbalanced 4 cylinder, (which I imagine is the same as the R16 engine?). At certain speeds the resononts were unbearable, and it made for a miserable driving experience. I went back to a ordinary Rambler American with the L head six, pure luxury and relaxation compared to the R12. The R12 only achieved 18 MPG, and parts availability were terrible.
My Dad bought a new ’68 R10, not sure why he wouldn’t have bought one of these instead. His prior car was a ’59 Beetle, and though both were intended as a commuter car, he did use it for family as well, and the R16 would have been roomier than the R10. We lived in Vermont (1st of 2 tours there) when he bought the R10, by his 2nd tour he’d sold the R10 and was looking for a replacement that would be good in the snow, ended up buying a new ’76 Subaru DL which was his first FWD car. The R10 was probably not too different in the snow than the Beetle, but 10 years later FWD cars were still not too common, and still a bit pricey (for a 2nd car). Not sure if he considered a Le Car, but I know he looked at a Datsun F10 and got spooked by a vent on the hood that looked to him to be a last minute engineering change. He didn’t consider a Fiat since I had a recent bad experience with a 128, VW and Honda were selling for a premium.
He had the R10 for 6 years and probably put fewer miles on it than any car he ever owned…I think it only had about 22000 on it when he gave it up in 1974 (weeks before I got my learner’s permit, so I never drove it).
The R12 had a smaller engine than the R16. I owned firstly a 16TS in which I did 109,000 miles. When I sold it, the rear tyres were the original Muchelin X. This car had a 4 speed column change box. It cruised poor French roads at close to 100mph doing between 30 to 38 miles per gallon. The aluminium engine had liners. A superb car. I followed with a 16TX. 5 speed, electric roof and windows.
At other times have owned 3 Renault 4, 1 Renault 6 , 1 Renault 18.
I buy Japanese now! The 16TS is still my favourite ownership experience