My Forbidden Foreign Fruits: The Renault 16 – the thinking mans Maxi?

Something I have not admitted until now… Of all the French cars of yesteryear, this one is my all time favourite – the Renault 16. The car that put Renault well and truly on the map in Britain.

renna 16 early side
An early 1550cc 16 in all its splendour… Isn’t it lovely? 

Old French cars, there’s just something about them. A soft cossetting ride, charming styling, nice to drive and rotten bodywork with shocking electrical gremlins. That said, if you look back over your shoulder some thirty five years or more, you need to ask yourself if we actually built anything better. Of all the cars from across the English channel, it was Citroen who floated my boat but I did then… and still do adore the thinking mans Maxi… the Renault 16.

Renaults family hatchback fitted five at a push, had a huge boot and offered a level of comfort that was simply astonishing. Suspension came in the form of torsion bars front and rear, such was the design of this the wheel base track was longer on one side than the other. Unlike our British rival, the Maxi, the Renault 16 had its engine and gearbox fitted in-line rather than transverse.

I had a chum who owned one and steered it like he’d stolen it. I remember almost wetting myself at the tyre squeal and body roll… but it cornered like you wouldn’t believe

Incredible as it may seem the 16 despite its bean bag soft seats and suspension with more vertical travel than the lifts in the Shard, had a limpet like grip in the bends. Just like the Citroen 2CV, it rolled so much you could almost scrape the door mirror on the tarmac. I had a chum who owned one and steered it like he’d stolen it. I remember almost wetting myself at the tyre squeal and body roll… but it cornered like you wouldn’t believe.

 

renna 16 slide
A late 1650cc 93bhp 5 speed Renault 16TX. Despite the long travel and marshmallow soft suspension, its good weight distribution and precise steering gave impressive grip in corners albeit with alarming body roll that scared the willies out of passengers and onlookers. – Its how the French rolled!

 

“Good enough to be voted the 1965 European Car of The Year, it went on to sell almost 2 million units during a production run that ran for just over 15 years”

The idea was to add some front / rear weight balance to assist the handling. To combat the intrusion into the passenger area space owing to the drive-line layout, Renault used a column gearshift to clear the front floor area. The engine was an all new design with what was then a lavish specification. Compound angle valves, all alloy construction and a camshaft mounted high in the block gave good performance and economy, the later 16TX 1650cc was especially lively.

Good enough to be voted the 1965 European Car of The Year, it went on to sell almost 2 million units during a production run that ran for just over 15 years. Whereby the Austin Maxi was crude, noisy and heavy, the 16 was light on its toes, amazingly comfortable and styled in a such a way that it still stood out amongst the crowd upon the deletion of the model in 1980.

  • Produced from 1965 to 1980
  • 1470cc  1565cc & 1647cc engines 63 to 93bhp
  • 3sp auto – 4 & 5sp manual transmission
  • Total produced – 1.9 million
  • Replaced by the Renault 20

 

4 comments

  1. Hells bells the super 16.

    My Father owned two of them including a late TX complete with yellow fog lamps. I can still hear that Jaeger electric clock ticking when the engine was switched off.

    You have really taken me back this morning 🙂

  2. Owned one of these from new which I bought in 1978 from West Bros of Cambridge. By far the most comforting bus to drive but rust killed it by 1983. Traded up to a new Cavalier SR from Murketts which was also put to bed early with corrosion. Good to know that both dealers still exist over here too.

  3. Gorgeous cars.

    A friend’s dad owned a copper coloured TX and went on to own a 9, 18 and 25. Would like a pound for every lift to and from school and the baths in an old Renault.

    An excellent memory jerker article MORE PLEASE.

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