Tag Archives: Renault

A small editorial

7 Feb

Me, yesterday

Let me clue you in on some of the thoughts that I had a few months ago regarding my blog. I had finished my master’s degree in September, writing an expansive final dissertation piece on the likelihood of the death of the combustion engine, which to my mind was very good and to the mind of the examiner who marked it was a load of old twoddle – which just goes to show that there’s no accounting for people’s terrible taste, lack of judgement and general stupidity.

Anyway, post-dissertation, I found myself turning into a statistic. Unemployed and with no hope of regular employment, I decided that I would become a freelance motoring journalist and, between articles, would turn Carficionado into a self-supporting blog. I wrote to a prominent freelance motoring journalist to ask for some advice and general pointers. The man was kind enough to write back and tell me that, in his opinion, it was “easier to climb Everest without oxygen” (verbatim quote, right there) than for me to become a freelance car journalist with no magazine experience.

 

Mr G. Gekko, a PR man from a prominent car company who shan't be named,

And so, realising that my ideas were perhaps a little far-fetched, I instead decided to take Carficionado and turn it into a legit car blog, with advertising and various bells and whistles, and legitimise myself that way. A fiendish plan. But to do this, I would need to be in cahoots with PRs from all the major car brands, who would provide me with cars to try. I would then write about the cars, people would read my articles in their thousands, advertising people would think “hmmm, I want a slice of that” in their usual parasitic way, I’d make dollar, become a sensation and be featured in various Sunday newspaper supplement articles about people defying the economic downtown with their entrepreneurial and innovative zeal. Voila, future employment prospects secured. I would be the Mark Zuckerberg of the automotive journalism world.

And so, with the gleam in my eye of a naïve Victorian chimneysweep about to undertake his first job, I began contacting PRs. Some replied, barely able to conceal their contempt for this cretinous little tick who had managed to find his way into their inbox. Others simply ignored me. All the responses said effectively the same thing. “Thank you for your interest” (seriously, let’s form a lynch mob and murder the insipid little syntactician who first stuck those words together) “but unfortunately due to our limited supply of cars and current commitments with various magazines, it would be impossible to fulfil your request. Best of luck in the future. Yours Truly, Bonzo the Wonder PR”.

I can't think why it's taken me so long to mention this but this Renault Laguna is, to my mind, the greatest car of all time. This specific one.

Fair enough really. But being as how almost every strand of ‘lifestyle’ journalism (fashion, interior design, art etc.) has now got its own blogger set, shouldn’t the automotive world have embraced me as The Future™? Apparently not. Only one car company was good enough to give this young dreamer, this veritable automotive Gandhi, a chance. And those heroes were, of course, the magnificent, gracious and benevolent Renault. Well, they didn’t actually give me a car. But! They did invite me to a hotel in Leicestershire to try out their full range of RenaultSport cars, including the Clio RS ‘Raider’ and the Megane RS Trophy. And I’ll be putting my thoughts up about those cars tomorrow…..

In the meantime, thank you for reading and supporting a small blogger!

Alfa Romeo 164 Pro-car and Renault Espace F1: There’s hope for you yet, tiny human

14 Nov

Space Dog!

What images are conjured up when I mention the Alfa Romeo 164 and the Renault Espace? Speed? Dynamism? No. The images being conjured up in my head right now are of a scrap yard. Or a car park in Stevenage. Yet just as a common or garden dog has felt the exalted glory of space travel, and Cinderella was transformed from a common or garden scrubber into a princess, would you Adam and Eve that these common or garden cars were permitted to have a nibble at the crust of the highest heights for any automobile: Formula 1.

The Alfa 164 Pro-car. Comical.

Yes, for reasons now obfuscated by the passing of the decades, someone selected the blocky saloon shell of the 164 and the clunky body of a Renault Espace and shoe-horned some state-of-the-art F1 technology into their unassuming shells. In the case of the Alfa, it built the Pro-car, for ‘tis its name, in 1988 when there was talk of there being a race series to accompany Formula 1 races – which was subsequently cancelled, presumably causing much fist-shaking and “why I outtas!” (in Italian) at the Alfa factory. The car’s figures are…..impressive. It had a top speed of 211mph and an output of 620bhp from its V10 engine. The engine was so strong that there was even an option for Ligier to utilise it in their own Formula 1 cars. That’s right – Ligier, or the greatest racing team ever! No? Just me?

The Espace F1. ROFL.

As for the Espace, that was built by Matra and Williams merely as a technical exercise, and presumably for a small amount of comedy value as well. For what could be funnier than watching an MPV hurtle around a track at F1 speeds? Not much! The Espace was also powered by a V10, the self-same V10 as propelled Monsieur Prost to his 1993 F1 title. 0-62mph was dealt with in a mere 2.8 seconds, despite it having the drag co-efficient of a privet hedge, and it could achieve a top speed of 194mph. I have had the pleasure of driving the Espace F1, albeit on the computer game Gran Turismo 2, and let me tell you something for nothing, it goes like stink (hmm actually, given that no car company PRs seem to want me to drive their products, Gran Turismo reviews may be the way forward…..). Well it was fast anyway.

Well, dear Readers, I hope that this article has given you hope. Your lives maybe sad and pointless now, just as was the case for the Alfa 164 and Renault Espace, but maybe some day, some nice engineer will come along, rip out your boring innards and turn you into a bionic murderous space robot. Fingers crossed eh? Fingers crossed.

You now.

You after the revolution.

Monaco!

14 Jun

So, Carficionado took it upon himself to head to the Monaco Grand Prix. Intrepid little bugger, aren’t I? Frankly, it was absolutely unbelievable, a veritable Disneyland for car lovers – well, maybe second to Ferrari World. Or Goodwood. The thing that struck me the most about being in Monaco was the sound of the engines reverberating around the harbour and up into the dusty hills. And the engines of the 3.5L Formula Renaults and the Porsche Carreras were one thing. But the Forumla 1 cars – you’ve never heard anything quite like it, I assure you. As you enter your designated seating zone (in my case, a very steep hill were you had to fashion your own perch – or Rocher as they grandly put it) you are issued with earplugs. These I scoffed at, thinking them merely a case of health and safety gone mad, symptomatic of the nanny state (or principality…..whatever). Thus I duly gave mine to a mother with a very displeased-looking child, an act of immense altruism which I immediately regretted the moment the first HRT (unfortunate name, really) left the pits.

So, just briefly, a few key things regarding the weekend:

  • I discovered that almost all rich people are very boring. Wealth is wasted on the wealthy as I always say. If you, readers of Carficionado, had as much money as these people, do you really think that the most imaginative automobile you could stretch to would be a red Ferrari California? There were loads of them. I was beginning to despair that all rich people were boring when, after the race had finished and the track was opened I saw, looming into Casino Square, a beautiful blue Bentley soft-top, packed with about 8 British people with a man sat up on the boot playing an accordion, all singing “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean”. Thank God for them!
  • The Renault has the best sounding engine in Formula 1, closely followed by Lotus, Mercedes and McLaren. Ferrari’s was the most disappointing – Felipe Massa’s sounded like a bag of spanners rolling around in the trunk of a car.
  • The red flag robbed us of a spectacular finish. Fortunately Montreal made up for that. Jenson’s looking in fine form at the moment and his driving in both races has been immense.
  • One (admittedly very boring-looking) English bloke turned up in a proper, 1950s, Stirling Moss stylee 300SLR which was absolutely stunning. Pictures to follow…..
OK, so that’s the basic skinny of Carficionado’s first Grand Prix. I had a great weekend, I drank wine, ate cheese, swam in the sea. It was beautiful. So dear readers, get yourselves down to a Grand Prix, it’s highly recommended. Next one I want to catch is Spa, to see those cars flying up Eau Rouge – what a treat!

The Renaults that time forgot: the Vel Satis and the Avantime

17 Jul

Continuing on the Renault theme, today I thought I would tip my hat and raise a glass and say hip-hip-hooray to two of Renault’s forgotten heroes: the Vel Satis and the Avantime. What do those names mean? Well, Avantime in Franglais is, sort of, before time and Vel Satis is, so I’ve heard, the managing director of Renault Luxembourg’s favourite Vietnamese restaurant. Just kidding, who knows what the hell that means. As for the cars, from whence they came I know not. There were Renault, happily plodding along making Scenics and Lagunas and all of a sudden…..BAM! Here you go, have two strange-looking people carrier type cars. Except one is two-tone and only has three doors and the other’s a lofty MPV-cum-limo type thing. Very odd.

But they looked brilliant, the Avantime with its aforementioned 3 doors and slats in its headlights, the Vel Satis with its imperious grille and wedge shaped rear-end. People should have stood applauding Renault and instead, they chased after the Avantime and the Vel Satis with pitchforks and torches, hounding them into an automotive cave where they were left to depreciate alone. Bad news for them but not so bad for me, because whilst Carficionado is not a Wheeler Dealer type of blog, I don’t mind telling you that some of these cars look like quite tasty little second hand motors, lovely jubbly etc. My curious eye has passed over a few in my search for my new old car, and whilst they’re still slightly out of my budget,, I may consider doing a little stretch to get hold of something with so much class and exclusivity. Heading the list is the Vel Satis, both because it’s slightly more practical for what I have in mind and also because only about three Avantimes were ever sold in the UK and thus they are few and far between on the car market. I doubt whether a Vel Satis is an investment piece (well, who knows) but I think it would look most excellent sitting there waiting for me in the morning, ready to offer up its shrugging Gallic comfort on my morning commute. Je l’aime. And you should too. Renault, just so you know, I appreciated your being bold. Just a shame no-one else did.

It’s a Wind up…..geddit?

13 Jul

So, the other day, Carficionado here was having a little perambulate around the environs of Liverpool Street, and happened upon a new-fangled Renault Wind. Bit of an odd one this. A small coupe for 2 people, with a fold-down roof. Sounds fairly standard, but literally, the thing must share it’s floor plan with the Twingo it’s so small. The buggers at Renault should get Stuart Little to advertise it. I had a little peek inside and it looked very cosy, which I actually mean in a nice way, the kind of car that’s really pleasant to get into when you’re caught in the rain an have to run to your car.

Is it too girly for any self-respecting man to drive? Probably. Renault are only offering a turbo 1.2 and a 1.6 at the moment. But, were it to have a little going over from the RenaultSport peeps (and the Twingo got that, so why not?), it could actually be a fairly desirable little thing. Time will tell. All in all though, it looks to be a tidy package from Renault, demonstrating their small car werewithal that has led Mercedes to buddy up with the French car-maker in order to help the Stuttgartians build their city cars. Just a shame it’s named after a fart.

Renault’s new executive zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

11 Jun

Oh my God! Renault have done a big saloon car! I wonder what it looks like? Does it have the robustness of a German car? Is it as involving to drive as Renault’s recent RenaultSport cars? Does it have the style and élan to match the Citroën C6? Oh wait, here comes a picture now, it’s……a Toyota Avensis. I mean the new Renault Latitude.

I mean, come on. The French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, is married to Carla Bruni. Carla Bruni! This man has taste, this man appreciates the finer things. You think he’s going to want to drive around in the back of this? He’s going to choose the Citroën C6 every time. What worries me most about this car is that it borrows styling cues from the Dacia range. These are cars built to satisfy the automotive wants of people who hitherto fore have driven Yugos, FSOs and tanks around Eastern Europe. This is meant to be Renault’s dustbin, the dog food to Renault’s chateaubriand. Not the inspiration, the lifeblood of their top of the range exec saloon. The topflight at Renault must be wondering what they’ve done to deserve such treatment. The Citroën boys turn up to their gala luncheons in their C6s, the Audi boys have their new A8, Mercedes execs get an S-Class or maybe even a Maybach. And the Renault lads get a taxi. The one, solitary, stand-alone, hint of a decent feature that I can see is the Lexus LS profile of the rear quarter, which frankly they’ve nicked. That’s it. And let’s be honest here, the Lexus LS isn’t going to make it into the Museum of Modern Art any time soon. Not even the Skegness Museum of Modern Art.

So, clap clap Renault. After all the hard work your little RenaultSport team have been doing to give you an iota of credibility, you come up with this. Merdeque!

My Top Five F1 Cars, in no particular order. Number 5 – Renault RE30B

4 Jun

So I thought for the last post this week I’d choose a modern F1 car, to show I’m not an old fuddy-duddy. But I am. I would have picked a McLaren from the last five years fyi, but instead I’ve picked a Renault. From the 80s. In the 80s, turbos were being splashed around everywhere. Saabs, Group B rally cars trying their best, and sometimes succeeding, to murder their drivers. But the pinnacle of turbo use in the 1980s came in Formula 1, and particularly in the two Renaults of Alain Prost and René Arnoux in the 1982 season (hmmm, that’s three Prost driven F1 cars in my list. Prost-crush?). The seating position of the Renault, as with most F1 cars of this era, thrust the driver right to the front, whilst a twin-turbo 1.5 V6 projected it very quickly towards walls, armcos etc. It was dynamic in the way that a sledgehammer is dynamic, and hugely exciting to watch. Turbos were eventually banned in 1989, but not before Formula 1 had seen some of its fastest, scariest racing to date. And the pick of the bunch: the Renault RE30B.