My mother bought the first R16 in my life in 1971 (the year I got my
licence, coincidentally) - they were still fairly new to Australia then,
and tended to be bought by professionals and university types. The
chances were, if you owned a 16 you had a bumper-sticker about some
environmental cause of the day on it, drank wine instead of beer and
voted Labor. There was not a lot of difference between R16 owners and
Peugeot 504 owners in that respect (Renault and Peugeot were then always
sold by the same dealers here, a fact that used to surprise visiting
Its versatility, economy, comfort and speed were astonishing by
Australian standards then (it wasn't until the mid-70's that Holden and
Ford discovered the radial tyre and the non-bench front seat, and as for
hatchback, front-wheel-drive or independent rear suspension, what are
you, some kind of communist?). I inherited my mother's car after her
death and it became the first of many in my life. I remember driving
from Grafton NSW to Canberra (600 miles, I guess) in a single day in
1973, on those long NSW highways where you could sit at 70 or 80 mph for
hours. A couple of years later I got too clever on a dirt road and
rolled it over the edge - no small stupidity in such a forgiving car -
and even after a 360 rollover you could still open all four doors,
though alas it was still written off. Afterwards my then wife and I
bought a1968 model, tannen green, (still just the ordinary 16) which
took us faithfully everywhere for 9 years until I thought we should
modernise and traded it in on a 12 (1.4l) wagon. When we got hit by an
oncoming car 3 years later, I went back to the 16 with no hesitation - a
mustard-coloured, 1976 16TS. I rebuilt its engine totally myself,
successfully, and got hold of a 5-speed gearbox for it - pure heaven -
and later replaced the rear suspension bushes (familiar story?).
But a 4WD came through a red light without braking six years ago, rammed
the driver's side B-pillar, and totalled the 16 and came close to
killing me. My marriage was breaking up at that point, so - thinking I
wouldn't own a 16 again - I never tracked down the wreck to find the
5-speed gearbox, to my present considerable regret.
Our children must have childhood memories of nothing but Renault, I'm
glad to say (hasn't stopped my elder daughter buying herself a
Toyota!). My younger daughter, now 22, frequently borrows my car (which
she thinks of as "our" car) to go rock-climbing in western Victoria with
her uni club - her friends are always amazed by how comfortable and fast
such an old car is.
This one is a 73 TS model, not in the best condition rust-wise, but
mechanically sound (one of the previous owners had the engine rebuilt) &
still a wonderful long-distance car, workhorse, trailer-puller etc.
It's taken me to Canberra and back, sometimes through the Snowy
Mountains, to visit my father. I don't have the money to fix the
bodywork yet, but thanks to this discussion board I've bought some good
2nd-hand panels which is a beginning. That familiar noise from the rear
suspension bushes has just started, but I know from experience it sounds
much worse than it is and doesn't need fixing just yet.
These days in Australia if you own a 16 you are usually either on a
nostalgia trip like me (maybe nostalgia isn't the right word - there
simply isn't another car as versatile and as capable of becoming a
member of the family) or someone young who's picked up some cheap
transport. Even in this dry country many cars have rusted away, and it
is getting hard to get parts even from wreckers.
Incidentally, my present car is the first I've owned with a Bosch
distributor, rather than Ducellier. My impression is that (even though
I've replaced the capacitor) it chews up points and therefore goes out
of tune quicker than the Ducellier. Any comments?
Thanks for getting in touch, and thanks for reminding me about that piece I wrote, which I came back to with pleasure. Alas, the R16 is no longer with me - in early 2006 it had a spontaneous meltdown of most of its wiring, so I gave it away for parts and (needing a cheap Renault in a hurry) bought an R18 estate instead. Nothing like the wonderful car the 16 was. Since then I have changed again - I now have my first non-Renault ever, a Citroen Xantia, which I enjoy as much as I used to enjoy the 16s. You can see I can't get away from innovative French cars!