That’s right. It was the Renault! Strange you might think as more than 1.8million examples of the five-door 16 were built, and to most the car is considerably less glamorous or aspirational than the other classics sharing parking space.
However, whilst the other cars mentioned were rare, more expensive and exotic than the Renault when new, a far larger proportion of these limited-production sporting machines have been preserved, and are now a common sight at almost any classic car show. By comparison, the once commonplace Renault workhorse has now become an exceptionally rare breed, with just 65 or so remaining registered on British roads today. No wonder it was attracting so much attention.
Once popular, but now rarely seen surviving ‘ordinary’ family cars, such as the Renault 16, seem to bring out a nostalgic streak in all of us. While briefly inspecting the Renault, fellow show-goers could be overheard making remarks such as “My Dad had one of those,” “they were incredibly comfortable,” and “I remember my head master scraping his on the school gates.”
Whilst older Ferraris, Jaguars, Porsches and other prestige marques are universally celebrated and cherished, the old humble family saloon is largely forgotten and ignored. Sure, there are owners and enthusiast clubs for the ‘grey porridge’ cars we all grew up with, the Ford Cortinas, Austin Maxis, Vauxhall Vivas and the like, but they tend to be small and often frowned upon compared to the clubs catering for the more exotic machines.
Owning and running an older maligned mass-produced car can be a challenge these days as well. If you are restoring or regularly use a classic Jaguar E-type, MG B, Triumph Stag, Porsche 356 or Ferrari Daytona, for example, there is a strong and mature network of dedicated parts and restoration specialists to assist and support you.
However, try and keep your aged Hillman Hunter, Fiat 127 or Morris Oxford on the road today and you may well struggle, having to resort to auto jumbles, online auction sites or dedicated clubs for those vital hard-to-find parts, with many spares now being frustratingly unobtainable.