Thursday, November 15, 2018

1978 Renault R17 Gordini - The Renault You Need To Own

Wow. Just wow.

Most likely everyone reading this post has an automotive regret. One of mine is selling my 1979 Renault R17 Gordini. I bought it in 1981. I traded my 1975 R17 Gordini in on it. The '75 R17 was a nice car, but the '79 was so much more refined. I was enamored with it the minute I drove it off the lot. It was a wonderful car. It looked great. It was fun to drive and reliable. There really was nothing wrong with it.

In 1983 I was at a Renault dealer picking up an oil filter for the R17. Somehow I got talked into buying a Fuego. It made some sense at the time. The Fuego was based on the R12 / R15 / R17 line of cars. It had a turbocharger. It had the big cloth sunroof, like the R17. It had super comfortable, supportive seats, like the R17. It had a modern body. It should have been at least as good at the R17. It wasn't. (Lesson learned. As Joni Mitchell sang, "you don't know what you got til it's gone.") There is just something about the R17 that makes it special.

The R17 Gordini is based on the same platform that gave us the R12 and the R15. The 1600cc engine gave it adequate performance and it's suspension had a great combination of handling and ride.

The interior was, in my mind, the best ever from Renault. The later (1977 - 1979) cars had a well laid out dash and Recaro seats. A giant cloth sunroof (insulated and power operated) gave it an almost convertible like feel. For the cooler months Renault provided a fiberglass hardtop to cover the sunroof, making it as warm and quiet as any hardtop.

Renault never sold many of these cars in the U.S. Until they merged with AMC they had a tiny dealer network. The Dauphine - and all the problems it had in the U.S - was still fresh in many people's minds. They were also expensive by Renault standards. ($7,000.00 plus, if I remember correctly.)

I have not seen an R17 Gordini this nice since... Well, since I owned mine 35 years ago. This car is remarkable.

According to the seller is was a one owner car. It has 69,000 miles on it. He says it is "completely original accept for the exterior paint and the upholstery on the seats." The seller says it needs exhaust work and a respray. Other than that, there is really nothing wrong with it.

I wrote a post in 2009 about an R17 Gordini and titled it "The Renault You Want to Own". I'm changing that a bit. If you have the space and cash, the R17 Gordini is the Renault you need to own.

Located in Knoxville, TN, click here to see the eBay listing.


Max Power said...

First of glad that you are back. This is easily my favorite car site on the net as it somehow has tapped into my very narrow love of quirky cars.

In 1977, I was in junior high school and wanted a black Trans Am and listened to Styx (ironically I did not see Smokey and Bandit until about ten years ago...meh). In 1979 I was in high school and my tastes changed to Renaults, Fiats, Alfas, etc. and King Crimson...clearly I 'matured' LOL. And I tried to convince my dad into getting a R17 Gordini.

I still can remember seeing it in the showroom in a gorgeous metallic light blue with the optional cloverleaf-like wheels. My dad was more interested in a LeCar and he ended up getting neither but he did get a VW Scirocco S which would eventually become my first car.

I cannot remember the last time I have seen a R17 as well....

Another Renault Guy said...

This R17 was owned by a mechanic in central PA (Lancaster to be exact) and was stored indoors. It was not originally red, and you can see that it is not a high quality recoat. Otherwise, a rare car in pretty remarkable condition. The current owner (well known in the Renault crowd) has had it for less than a year, if I recall. Interestingly, there is a guy in Colorado with several really nice R17s...he too acquired a nice original R17 from darn near the same area of central PA last year! I have some R17s in my collection...not roadworthy at the moment, but someday...:)

Just A Car Geek said...

Hey Max! Yeah, I'm writing it again. I'm not going to do it every day like I was. I'll just write something when I see something I like. I'm keeping it low key.

My '79 R17 was that light blue metallic.

Good move going from the Trans Am to Renaults, Fiats and Alfas. And it was an especially good move going from Styx to King Crimson! ;-)

Unknown said...

Hi I have a Renault 17
And I'm interested in buying a sunroof kit
Where to get

Crazy_Elwin said...

Just found your article. In 1985, as my 1st car I found on the back lot of a dealership for $800, I bought a 1976 R17 Gordini, in a suburb of Chicago.
I loved that car, well, until I had to fix something and found parts Super Expensive. I had learned then, that version of the car was built for 5 years and only 2,000 were sent to the United States.
Being the U.S., they couldn't run on Leaded fuel at that time, so from Renault, those were referred to as R17 Gordini California and recommended Unleaded 94 Octane.
As an 18 year old (fool) that enjoyed driving fast, I did fill half the tank with 100 didn't mind.
In the end, I had to move on as replacement parts were too pricey for me at the time.
It was a damn fun car to drive, glad it was my firat.

Unknown said...

The R17 was my first new car when I purchased it in 1973. Saw the car on display at the mall. I was getting ready to buy something. At that moment, I knew what it would be! I loved the car. When I did need a part replaced, however, it took 6 weeks to get it. Mechanic finally found it in Canada. He wasn't happy I was tying up his rack for 6 weeks. I wasn't happy being careless for 6 weeks. But when it was running, it was the best! I totalled it in 1976. I was extremely upset about that. I really did love that car!