(please welcome our latest COALman, Michael Ionno, who has had quite the eclectic collection of cars. Links to all of them at bottom) I was not supposed to be the car guy in my family. My older brother, Chris, lived and breathed all things automotive from the time he could crawl. Coming of age in Ohio in the early seventies he embraced American iron in every form and just the cars he had in high school would qualify for an extended COAL series. His passion led him to oval track and drag racing as a young man and a career as a mechanic.
I followed a less traditional path to what I call car crazy. In middle school I started snow skiing (in Ohio!) forgoing all things football in the heart of Ohio State country. I adopted skiing as my sport. In short order I also started riding and racing bicycles (to, you know, keep in shape for the winters) and by high school I was living the movie “Breaking Away” racing hand crafted European bikes and wearing body hugging cycling shorts that were socially unacceptable.
In my home town of Marion, Ohio turning sixteen was synonymous with getting one’s driver’s license. As a now dedicated bicycle spoke-head who thought nothing of cycling 100 miles in a day and 5,000 miles per year I ignored the social norms and by the end of my sophomore year in high school I was one of the few kids in my class without a driver’s license. A year earlier I had gotten a job in our town’s bike shop, Rocky’s Schwinn Cyclery. The impetus to actually get a license was when Rocky offered me the chance to travel to Columbus, Ohio to attend Schwinn School and become certified as a Schwinn bicycle mechanic.
I quickly took the driver’s test and the week of the training saw me and a colleague commuting daily to Columbus in our boss’ Ford Country Squire Wagon with genuine early ‘70’s faux wood decals.
A few months later I finally succumbed to buying my first car. Ohio’s proximity to Michigan put it near the center of the American car culture. All the other kids in high school had Chevy Nova’s, Pinto’s and the occasional Pontiac Le Mans’ so naturally I bought a 1965 Renault 8.
My boss’s wife had purchased it new. It had about 60,000 miles on it. Winter was coming and I wanted to ski more. The ski slopes were an hour away and having my own car would allow me to ski after school several times per week. Night skiing went on until 10 pm!
I’m an optimistic person by nature when it comes to technology and this first car purchase would establish a pattern where my hopes and dreams reign supreme over facts and reason. The price of the car was $300 and the money would not go to my Boss’s wife but instead to Hero’s Foreign Car Repair, the sole “foreign” car repair shop in town, to pay for the vehicle’s most recent round of repairs.
My Renault 8 was a descendant of the Renault Dauphine that was introduced in 1956. It had a water-cooled 1108 cc engine and a four speed manual transmission. Mine was mostly blue, a very faded blue. As can be seen above, Renault did not believe the introduction of an updated model necessitated a rewrite of the owner’s manual.
Everything you have ever heard about French cars is true. They are idiosyncratic (a wonderful two-tone horn for city and country) and sometimes just plain weird (the jack handle could be inserted into the back of the car and used to crank it in a pinch if the starter or battery failed). With only 50 horsepower on tap it was fortunate that only a few weeks after I purchased the car Congress obligingly lowered the national speed limit to 55 miles per hour at the request of President Nixon.
The Renault was the first manual transmission I’d ever driven and I taught myself on my first extended test drive of the car. I recall it was relatively easy because even a non-car person like me had memorized the shift points of a car rapidly accelerating. Go ahead – tap into your inner child, close your eyes and make the noises of a race car. See, you knew exactly when to shift.
French cars are comfortable cars and the Renault was no exception. The front seats were incredibly plush and the little four-door’s back seats were both comfortable and roomy in comparison to its more successful import competitor, the Volkswagen Beetle. With my acquisition of the Renault I quickly became the designated driver for night skiing that winter. It was no problem to squeeze three friends into the back on these trips. Somehow my desirability to girls increased with my new found mobility.
Consequently, I learned that the backseat was comfortable for two as well. The primitive ventilation allowed the windows to fog up quickly after parking assuring a degree of privacy for a young gentleman and lady.
The Renault had no seatbelts when I acquired it,so for the safety of all I found a set at the local junk yard. The manually adjusted front belts included shoulder harness straps anticipating safety mandates that were still several years away.
Massive body roll on corners was a given for any French car of the era but as this was the first car I had driven extensively I took this as the norm. It was actually this sensation of rolling through twisty roads to and from the ski area that began to move my internal driving meter from indifferent to entertained. While my contemporaries were amusing themselves with straight line burn outs I discovered the psychic beauty of motion under control applied to driving just as it did to skiing. The soft suspension was complemented by skinny 15 inch tires on three bolt steel rims. The combination of modest horsepower and a curb weight under 1700 pounds meant I never felt the swift kick of snap-oversteer that is such a memorable part of the rear engine experience. Surprisingly, all Renault 8’s came with disc brakes at all four corners.
The little Renault’s body construction could best be described as lightweight both in materials and quality. I had acquired a ski rack which was a trunk mount model or, in the case of the Renault, an engine deck lid model. Where American trunk lids used heavy gauge steel crisply folded flat and welded at their outer edges the French approach was to use paper thin stock that was bent into a three-sided box at the edges in an attempt to bring some degree of structural integrity to its flimsy deck lid. Consequently, the ski rack’s clamps failed to live up to their name when applied to the Renault resulting in the rack and everyone’s skis rolling off the car and into a ditch along the side of the road on at least one occasion. The doors were practically weightless and I assume they had no side impact protection. I recall a strong fall gust resulted in a new sheet metal fold at the leading edge of the driver’s door I had left open while fueling the car.
Gas mileage was outstanding for its era. Contemporary American cars of the period were just beginning to break out of the single digits for fuel economy. I was getting about 18 to 20 miles per gallon in regular driving and this likely represented a significant decline from when the car was new. This fuel frugality insulated me from gas prices that soared from $.29 per gallon to $.59 per gallon during the period I owned the Renault.
The $300 repair bill I had paid to acquire the car originally proved prophetic. It seemed almost every subsequent repair mimicked that price point. As I knew little about automotive repair at the time these regular capital infusions to support distributors, alternators, mufflers, clutches and brakes were new to me. Chad Hero, the proprietor of Hero’s Foreign Car Repair, could have retired comfortably if there had been a fleet of Renaults in our town rather than the three or four that actually existed. While the repairs were troublesome they at least followed a favorable seasonal pattern. During the two ski seasons I had the car it never failed me once. It would instead save its regularly scheduled breakdowns until the warmer spring, summer and fall months. I was therefore not overly inconvenienced when the Renault was parked at Chad’s for weeks at a time.
I recall the first repair I was able to make myself. The car began idling poorly and was down on power. Likely with the help of my mechanic brother Chris I was able to determine that there was a gaping threaded hole in the tiny Solex carburetor that had once held what he informed me was a carburetor jet. Off to the junk yard where I eventually found another Solex carburetor that probably only shared two things with mine. The name ‘Solex’ was cast into its body and it, like mine, used tiny brass carburetor jets. I unscrewed and acquired all said jets. Finding one that threaded into my carburetor I completed my first engine repair.
In the end, the Renault went out with both a bang and a whimper. The bang came the summer before leaving for college from a piston attempting to escape its cylindrical prison by bashing a hole in the engine block. Once more to the junk yard where I acquired a used engine for $100. With my inept but willing support my brother Chris installed the new power train over the course of a Friday evening in the alley behind the bike shop where I worked.
We successfully test fired the new lump at 3:00 AM without benefit of exhaust. The minister whose backyard butted the alley on the opposite side told me the next day that he had been keenly aware of the successful test firing as well. I went off to college a few weeks later and the Renault was left parked in the garage at home. I think it still worked fine at Thanksgiving but by winter break most of the horsepower the replacement engine had come with had somehow leaked out. Having used all my engine development tokens (see Red Bull/Renault F1) I sold the car for $50 to Chris’ friend Andy who, like my brother, was drag racing at the time. Andy told me he wanted to use the Renault’s narrow front tires on a drag racer he was building. This was a rather informal sale not accompanied by such established legal traditions as title transfer but that did not prevent Andy and Chris from taking the untitled and assuredly uninsured Renault on one last road trip. For some reason they thought the car could make it to Detroit some 160 miles away. Less than a third of the way into the trip the little Renault gave up the ghost and was left abandoned by Andy and Chris on an Ohio roadside.
Looking back, I remain enamored by the modest Renault to this day. The car’s unconventionality and Gaelic charm won out over its dubious repair record. Its triumph of fun over reliability is at the heart of what it means to be car crazy and to this day I have not found the cure.
Next Week: I downsize to a smaller car.
Michael Ionno’s full COAL Series
“Gaelic” charm? But we know what you meant.
Wonder if my Dad would have any photos of his Dauphin, from before my time? That ownership experience is far enough in his past that I can ask him about it now.
What a fun story! I loved reading this, thank you! Welcome, Michael 🙂
+1 more please.
Your welcome. It brought back a lot of memories.
A very entertaining read, Michael. It’s true. We never forget our first time. 😉
Now we’ve got a series of COAL’s coming that I should be looking forward to. Finally, someone who grew up the way I did – with European sensibilities as opposed to anything red-blooded ‘Murican.
With me, the priorities were reversed. Cycling was king (even tried a bit of racing unsuccessfully), with cross-country skiing as the winter training sport, and my college employer was A. R. Adams Cycling in Erie, PA. Schwinn/Raleigh/Columbia/Astra/Roger Riviere dealership during the Bike Boom. Unlike your employer, mine was too cheap to send me to Schwinn school, so my training was a combination of what I figured out on my own, peppered with Merle’s “how we did it in the 50’s” instruction.
Which is why I still restore antique bicycles today.
Like you, I have a fascination with French cars, at one point wanting to trade my Vega GT in on a Renault 12, however the realization that trading in a car given to me as a graduation gift for something that dad couldn’t understand why anyone wanted to own (he was already perplexed that I passed on a Malibu or Nova) wouldn’t go over well.
Looking forward to the next installment.
I still have my Schwinn Factory Trained certificate. On the wall in my office many years ago I used to have all my bona fides framed on the wall. From lowest to highest the order was BS, MBA, CPA, Schwinn.
These are rare in France now. I’ve never seen one in daily use. My experience is that Renaults generally are less robust than Citroën automobiles and consequently don’t last as well. I just purchased a twenty year old Citroën C15 van and drove 200 miles fully loaded without any problems.
Citroën C15 = the cockroach of compact vans.
And welcome Michael ! Good work, I’m looking forward to more.
I love Renaults. I’m not saying they’re good automobiles, but I probably got more fun out of my R5 than any car other than the Karmann-Ghia that was my first car.
All cyclists of a certain age love “Breaking Away”.The discussion about bike shops takes me back to when they were actually “shops”, with real grease, not the “boutiques” we have now. Ahhh, friction shifters….
And lugged steel frames that were actually hand built, even on the $100.00 bikes.
And bike shops actually repaired broken parts, not just slap a new component on the frame. Do you have any idea how rare a bicycle technician is who can tear down and rebuilt a Sturmey Archer hub?
Now that Sheldon Brown is no longer with us (http://sheldonbrown.com/english-3.html), they are even less common.
Wait, Sheldon Brown has left us?
He gave me so much good advice. Without ever knowing it, of course.RIP.
I rebuilt a S-A hub once. It was a bit challenging, and I was pretty happy to get it all back together and working again.
Sturmey-Archer? I had a 3 speed Raleigh and I think they had S-A hubs.
+1. We used to do that all the time, back then.
I remember when a friend rebuilt his S-A and accidentally turned it into a 2 speed, and semi-automatic at that. Pedal too hard and it slipped into neutral!
me, too. i remember being terrified that i wouldn’t get it back together and i ‘d have to explain to my parents that i had ruined the bike. somehow, missing a ball bearing or two, i got it working again.
When I worked in the bike shop we used to do a good business in dads bringing in Sturmey-Archers that they had disassembled and couldn’t figure out how to re-assemble.
When I attended Schwinn School the test for three speed hubs was to dump the internals of a Sturmey-Archer 3-speed and a Shimano 3-speed into a bowl, mix thoroughly and then re-assemble.
I did an S/A as well and found that most of them came out of the factory with the bearings way to snug.
I did the Sachs 3 Gang (3 speed) as well. They came with coaster brake built in and my riding style required frequent replacement of the brake shoe. Not to mention the tires.
Two years ago I was trying to find a fixed cup for a particular frame. The boys at Skunk River Cycles pulled out a book (yes, paper!) and looked up the possibilities. I knew of French, Italian and English bottom brackets. They introduced me to a bunch more, including Belgian. At that point I said: “I want a Lichtenstein BB!”
This year I will overhaul my Puch Toledo, this year I will overhaul my Puch Toledo, this year……….
At Schwinn school the test was a bowl containing combined parts from Sturmey Archer and Shimano – maybe 75 pieces – that had to be properly reassembled.
“Breaking Away” is one of the great “coming of age” movies. It came out during my Senior year, and perfectly captured that moment as I stood at the edge of youth, facing sudden adulthood.
In addition to earning an Oscar for best screenplay, “Breaking Away” includes great performances throughout, especially Barbara Barrie and Paul Dooley, playing the lead character’s parents.
Yep, great movie. I saw it at the LAW (League of American Wheelmen) Centennial celebration held at URI in 1980, when I was a senior in high school. I could totally relate to both the biking and to the slightly outcast group of friends.
I am always a little surprised at the number of old bikies like Syke here on CC, but perhaps given my own hostory I shouldn’t be. Love my custom hand built lugged steel…
Interesting car and story. The pictures make the seats look so much better than typical economy car fair. It must have been so different to have in Ohio, even than the VWs. Even softly sprung, slow cars can be fun if they are responsive and let the driver know what is going on. Being only 1700 pounds must help as well.
Renaults were known for those seats, back then if you wanted plush seating you went for a Renault, not a Volvo.
A ’62 Dauphine was the first car I ever drove (automatic, in our driveway) which probably has something to do with my love for French cars. A neighbor of our who used to take me around occasionally had an R10 (the R8 with a more modern nose and a few other changes) and it had the luxurious seats, too.
Absolutely. I’ve had some pretty comfortable seats (Jaguar, Saab, Audi) but nothing like the plush couch of the Renault.
My Dad owned a ’68 R10; he bought it after a neighbor’s son totalled his ’59 Bug while it was parked in front of our house….bought it at Almartin Motors (as I recall just down the road from the Burlington Municipal Airport). I can also attest to the comfortable seats, his was a 4 speed manual, remember coming back from a Washington Senator’s game with him trying to drive the 35 miles back to Manassas trying to time the lights so he could minimize using the clutch which went bad. It had a neat spare tire container up front under that bent up “U” in the bumper and a nice vinyl lined trunk out front. Also it had 4 doors (his Bug of course was 2 door), the rear doors had “sliding” 1/2 windows (there was a lock in the middle of the door frame for when the window was closed. My mother never liked the looks on this car (she said it looked like you could get in and drive it frontwards or backwards, in other words it was “too” symmetric).
Sadly, I never got to drive the R10, as my Father traded it for a Datsun 710 (I think he got the 710 so he could have automatic transmission for my Mother, who usually drove our Country sedan wagon, when he wanted to save fuel during the 1st gasoline shortage) before I got my learner’s permit. i think it had all of 22000 miles on it when he traded it in on the Datsun…back then Datsun had their car models ending in “10”…there was 610, 710, and B210 that year…so I guess he owned two “10” cars in a row
I can also attest to the comfortable seats,
There is art to seat design, and Renault mastered it long ago. My R5 was the cheapest car I ever had, and it also had the most comfortable seats of any car I ever owned.
But the absolute best seats I ever sat in were in a US spec R-18 around 81 or 82. Exactly the right contouring. Exactly the right firmness in the right places.
If only Renault had mastered reliability the way they mastered seats and suspension.
Yes, it seems that Renault and Peugeot were known for their seating, too bad we can’t buy either make in the US anymore. I think “pre-headrest” the seatbacks could fold into a bed, kind of like AMC cars were known for back then. They never seemed to have much of a dealer network, and as you mention, reliability was not their forte…I always wondered though why Peugeots were so popular in African countries if their reliability was questionable, maybe it is a case like a model T where they were easy to fix when things did go wrong (and I guess parts availability was OK there).
Our R10 had lots of “odd” side marker lights (I guess they are the same as what would be normal on a car sold in France)…one of them was kind of a split “clear” lens on one half and “red” lens on the other…kind of like a side marker light I guess. My current car
(US Spec 2000 Golf) has the flashing side marker lights, I wondered why they weren’t eliminated on US spec models as I’ve not seen this on other makes.
I think R10 was the last rear engine RWD Renault, didn’t the R16 come with FWD? I guess Renault went with FWD a few years earlier than VW…guess the VW Bug and the Corvair had a pretty big influence in that it seemed to stretch out the availability of rear engined cars for awhile longer than you’d normally expect, given that FWD was not exactly unknown (but not very popular) in the 1960’s.
Our R10 had lots of “odd” side marker lights (I guess they are the same as what would be normal on a car sold in France)… My current car
(US Spec 2000 Golf) has the flashing side marker lights, I wondered why they weren’t eliminated on US spec models as I’ve not seen this on other makes.
I see those sort of side lights on the Mk4 Jetta, which is the same generation as your Golf, on some Bimmers, Mercs, Volvos and Saabs and on the Opel Astra that GM imported as a Saturn. On the newer models those side lights seem to have been replaced by turn signals mounted in the side mirrors.
I think R10 was the last rear engine RWD Renault, didn’t the R16 come with FWD? I guess Renault went with FWD a few years earlier than VW…
Yes, the R16 is front drive. Renault’s first front drive was the R4, which came out in 61. It appears that Renault’s move to front drive was done the cheapest possible way: by moving the entire powertrain from their rear engined models to the front. In my R5, the first two cylinders of the engine were under the base of the windshield and dash. There was a box under the dash in the passenger compartment, between the front seat footwells to enclose the engine. Meanwhile, the transaxle was in front, by the radiator.
Here is a cutaway of the R5, where you can see where the transaxle is.
Here is a shot of an 81 R5 interior where you can see the box in the footwell area that encloses the engine.
“If only Renault had mastered reliability the way they mastered seats and suspension.”
I think it probably all came down to buyer priorities. The French love to sit comfortably (the benches in their public parks!), they like to drive briskly, and the roads there were and are tight, curvy and pretty badly surfaced.
Reliability maybe didn’t play as much of a role there, since most people in France commute by train, and the car for many probably was mostly used for shopping runs or weekend/holiday getaways.
I think the reason for selling them in the US could be summed up as “we can’t have the Germans have that market all to themselves!”
My Dad (the one who bought his R10 new in 1968) died 3 days after my post early this year…little did I know how sick he was at the time (though he was in the hospital at the time).
The R10 replaced a ’59 Beetle that had been wrecked when parked in front of our house (single garage and driveway back then) by the car of the son of our local newspaper publisher, who lived at the end of our street. I think there are 3 reasons he didn’t replace it with another Beetle at the time:
– Even though it was our family’s second car, the R10 had 4 doors and was a bit more roomy than the Beetle, we sometimes had 5 people in the car (not very often, but we could do it)
– The year before my Father had gotten back from a business trip to France, and I think that swayed his choice. He had been in Germany after WWII in the Army, and told me that they often drove beetles instead of Jeeps (this was in early 50’s), so he drove beetles before buying his ’59, but I think he wanted something different.
-My Mother never liked the styling on the R10, but it looked more like a conventional 3 box sedan than the beetle did.
One flashback I had was regarding the seatbelts…they were different than American cars with their buckle being more of a “hook” onto a wire loop connected to the floor, and the latch was some sort of scissors arrangement that hooked onto the loop. They weren’t inertia reels, and had no shoulder belt (I don’t think that was required until the next year in the US). They worked, but were a bit odd to work with if you weren’t familar with them.
Lovely story, entertainingly told. I lol’ed at this line: “Go ahead – tap into your inner child, close your eyes and make the noises of a race car. See, you knew exactly when to shift.”
+1 Looking forward to the rest of your adventures too.
Nice writeup, thanks.
Pretty much everything you said about the R8 (good and bad) applied to the Dauphine as well. My Dad bought a ’67 Dauphine new, thinking he’d scored a bargain over a VW Beetle, but very soon came to regret it. After nearly totalling it in a rear-end accident, and lunching three(!) clutch throwout bearings in a year and a half, the car sat for a lengthy period in the parents’ garage, where it rusted away to the point that the hood fell off when I tried to open it one day. Rusted away, sitting in a closed garage. It was hauled off for scrap with about 22,000 miles on the clock.
I do recall, on the rare occasions when it ran, the comfortable seats and the city/country horn, and that it was pleasant to ride around in on country roads.
The ad copy in the Renault ad is well put for a slower car with a small four cylinder. “a rough, tough engine”. “0-60 in mere seconds”. The car in the ad seems to have a weirdly big radio antennae.
I remember Relaults new in the early 1960’s when they were good they were very good .
Sadly they were not built to handle American use and abuse .
I owned a 1963 Dauphine with the semi – automatic Ferlic clutch , as very disappointing car indeed , it had so much potential .
It’s easy to see how the Series 8 left such a love of French cars on you .
One of Tom McCahill’s more lurid moments came at the wheel of an R8. From the test spec panel: list price $1,748 (about a dollar per pound, the norm for the 60s), 0-60 in 15.1 seconds.
That 0-60 time is actually pretty impressive for the times. Much faster than a VW, and comparable to many six cylinder American cars.
That 0-60 time is actually pretty impressive for the times. Much faster than a VW, and comparable to many six cylinder American cars.
I was comparing it in my mind to 80s GM A bodies with an Iron Duke and automatic: 16+ seconds
Looks like Colin Chapman was right all along, keep it light.
McCahill found a top speed of 84.8, but the car would easily cruise at 70. In my old R5, cruise speed depended on wind direction. With a headwind, it topped out at 55. With a tailwind, it would cruise at 80.
Here’s the last page of the article, where Tom describes the roll, the automatic transmission in the one he rolled, and the performance of the manual transmission model as Renault had provided one of each.
So, like Volvos, a safety car. Yea, right.
Is Volvo really a safety car? I recall reading in CAR magazine’s ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ section that their summary for Volvo was, ‘the second safest car from Sweden.’ US Volvo marketing was all about safety, but they put their name on DAFs in Europe that were far from tanks. The Volvo 66 and 340 were designed by DAF, which was known for making cars as fast in reverse as they were forward, not for safety. Some of Volvo’s core models(240) were in production so long that even the best intentions of 1966, when the majority of what would be the 240 body went into production, were little more than obsolete technology in the ’90s, when Volvo carried on selling the antique on image. Sure, fatality rates were low for Volvos, but they weren’t exactly the choice of street racers. Other cars driven by similar demographics with similar priorities also had low fatality rates.
I shouldn’t take so much pleasure in stories like this, but it somehow feels good to know someone whose car cost him more money than my 63 Cadillac cost me as a poor and stupid college freshman.
If I ever get around to writing a COAL series, it will bore Syke silly, as I was a purely ‘Murcan guy. But I do get a vicarious thrill in watching someone take the chances on cars that I never took, and watching the thrilling and/or disastrous results.
Can we take it that one rule of car buying is to never pay the repair tab that the prior owner refused to pay? Prior owners often know more about a given car than we who come along later.
Trust me. With a couple of exceptions it’s going to continue to go down hill from here.
can’t wait 🙂
Here’s the link to the entire series:
What a lovely story. I always liked the styling of the Renault 8. It is so well proportioned. And they put the creases in the sheet metal just where my eyes want them to be. I once had the pleasure to get a ride in one. We were hitch hiking to Paris, France and in a town on the eastern edge of the metropolis we were picked up buy a young Frenchman. I swear it must have been Henri Pescarolo himself. He was using all three pedals at the same time and shifted so fast and frequently, you thought he was stirring the gasoline with the stick.
It’s absolutely true that it’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow.
I spotted some vintage photos of the R8 in competition at http://alconiandgordinir8.blogspot.ca/
Your vehicle must have been sick, indeed–I recall my R10 getting about 40 mpg pretty much all the time.
Oh, and those magnificent seats!
Most likely the jet from the junk yard carburetor was to large.
It screwed in – at the time I thought that was enough!
And your car ran.
My father picked up a Renault 12 wagon when we were growing up in the 1970’s with some money the previous owner had hidden in the kitchen wall. He found the cash while renovating the kitchen, $200-300 got a decent used Renault back then. We had it for a couple of years and then it was traded for a dodge colt wagon followed by a couple of Subaru wagons and then a ford escort wagon. I asked him about it recently and he said it was a great car to drive but liked to overheat in cold Albertian winters.
My R8 experience was similar to yours in some ways and opposite in others. Never any engine trouble at all. Gas mileage was 30 in town, 40 on the highway. And it could really MOVE on the highway.
Brakes were the problem that finally made the car unusable. The master cylinder failed, and it was rusted so firmly in place that it couldn’t be removed for overhauling. I suppose a Real Mechanic could have solved it, but the car had only cost $100, so that didn’t seem appropriate.
I didn’t try to carry skis, but I did carry several 10-foot lengths of culvert pipe, with the help of rope and bungee cords. No damage to the body.
That was a great write-up Michael, brought back some fond memories. That was the only engine change I ever remember doing where we lifted the engine out and back into the car with nothing more than arm strength. We were young and strong and apparently 50 HP doesn’t necessitate a lot of weight.
Thanks for sending me the article, brother.
Thanks, Michael, for this reminder of my parent’s R8 – in which I had many youthful adventures, on British roads. One of the last European rear engined designs, there was lots of good engineering in these cars. The engines were all 5 main bearing, with alloy heads, and wet liners, and the 4 speed transaxle was all synchro. To feed air to the rear mounted radiator, the air intake grille was cunningly located in a high pressure area on the engine deck lid.
The R8-1100 (the 67 cubic inch version, mentioned by Tom McCahill) was a lively small car for the time, and with the engine noise deadened by the well-upholstered rear seat, could be cruised happily at 80-plus.
In the twisty stuff, though, you did have to remember that its final oversteer could be, as Tom found, final….. in capital letters. The competition – orientated Gordini version had a hemi head, but with the valves still operated by pushrods (sound familar?), plus a 5 speed box, coming initially with 1108cc and 90bhp, and then with 1255 cc and 103 bhp . So, little wonder that they’re always pictured cornering sideways !
Michael, this was a great read. it was just like I was there alongside you. Thanks for the memories.
My mother’s first car was a Dauphine, in 1958. She however did encounter the oversteer and rolled it on a gravel road in the rain soon after she bought it. Apparently the roof was strong enough as she was unhurt. She married my dad soon after and they put the insurance money into a Volvo PV44 …
My Renault R8S, a version that sits under the Gordini’s dashboard !
And the car itself, I actually never drive it it is there, runs and still has its old Italian licence plates
Your R8 is not a Gordini? I am not a Renault expert could you tell me what differentiates your car from a regular R8 and a Gordini. I’ve been looking for an R8 Gordini or a R5 Turbo I that doesn’t cost a fortune.
Very entertaining read,Michael! I do remember your brief foray into football as a seventh grader at Baker Jr High. Ah, your venture into “exotic” sports was the NFL’s loss.
Looking forward to the next installment.
Loved the story, grew up in the next county over.
Very entertaining read–sounds like this will be the beginning to a fantastic COAL series! I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a Renault “in the metal” unless you count the AMC/Renault productions (Alliance, Encore Medallion). I think they had all rusted away by the 80’s. Yours sounds like it was a lot of fun, if not made of the most reliable stuff!
As you may already all know, these were facelifted into being the much better looking (to me anyway) R10.
From the rear.
Also with a different dashboard.
Loved the article It would have been a great read for your Dad.
While Renault was still producing the Renault Dauphine and brought the front-engined FWD Renault 4, part of me wonders whether they considered a smaller rear-engined model below the 4 and 8 along the lines of the Fiat 850, HIllman Imp and NSU Prinz?
Or even something smaller like the Fiat 500 and Fiat 600?