Tuesday, September 8, 2009

1974 Renault R12 Station Wagon - A Survivor

Wow. Another car you rarely see here in the US. R12s were officially imported, but few people cared.

I've actually driven a few R12s. Many years ago I had a friend who, for whatever reason, was really into Renault R12s. He would buy up virtually every one he saw for sale (That's not as big of a task as it sounds. With so few imported and many winding up in junkyards, it was rare, even in the mid 1980s, to see used ones for sale). If the car he was buying was a runner, he'd call me and I'd take the trip with him. He'd drive the one he just bought back home while I followed in one of his R12s.

I remember the cars being very comfortable for a smallish car, having minimal amenities, and being painfully slow.

The station wagon version of the R12 looked relatively normal compared to the sedan which had an odd sloping trunk to it. The interior was the same on both and was typically French-bizarre. The dash has sort of a tuck and roll type of vinyl along the bottom of it and a long row of vents along the top. There are three separate stalks coming off the steering column... 1 each for the lights, wipers and turn signals. Not being used to driving the car, I often turned on or off the lights when intending to use the turn signals.

The 1600 engine was a fairly durable engine if given regular maintenance. The bottom end was bulletproof, but the valves, on cars that were not maintained, would start to go at around 100,000 to 120,000 miles. Still, that's not bad for a 1970s car.

The shifter has a rubbery feel to it, but there's not much you can do about that. It came that way from the factory.

The problems with these cars included rust, "iffy" electrics and an appetite for CV joints. Stock exhaust systems were made of something like tin foil, but by now any surviving R12 has had its exhaust system replaced with something better.

Built from 1969 through 1980, Renault sold a lot of these cars in Europe. Parts, while hard to find in the US, are easy to source from Europe. (The R12 was also built in Romania by Dacia and called the Dacia 1300)

This car is a survivor. That's really the only reason to buy it. It would be a unique car to bring to any car show.

Click here to see the eBay listing for this hard-to-find R12.

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