FRANS, NETHERLANDS, 2002

A long long story from Haarlem, Neherlands (les Pays Bas).

Except from a short period (1957-1976) in which our country produced a
Variomatic-driven tiny little car called DAF, there is no national automobile industry here, except from a factory that builds up the Volvo V40 / S40 and Mitshubishi Carisma.

While 99,8 % of the French (especially in the 50's - 80's) seem to buy
exclusively Peugeot, Citroen or Renault, the Germans suffer in VW's, Opels and Mercedeses and the Italians find themselves most of the time next to or under their Fiat, Lancia or Alfa-Romeo, here in Holland there has always been a mixture of brands.
Which doesn't mean that the market is (and in the past even more claerly: was) indifferent to the manufactor of a car. It only means that in our country there was no Nationalistic argument to drive (or, sometimes rather more: to hate) a specific car.
For as far as the DAF is concerned: that car had the "imago" of a Geriatric car (although from a technical point of view it was very interesting with the Variomatic) in which only your grandmamma would be glad to drive. The DAF (even the sportive DAF 55 Marathon) was almost as silly as the LADA 124 or SKODA 105. There were funny jokes about it and driving a DAF ment you had to accept a constant pityful smile from anybody. The funniest
thing about the DAF was that cou could drive it backwards as fast as forwards...

However, there Dutch market in the late '60-s and througout the '70-s was
clearly divided; the camps were (soory for my black and white thinkig without nuance):
- the German cars were driven by rationalists (Mercedes), political right-wing
(BMW) and Biedemeier types (VW, NSU)
- French cars attracted savoir-vivre types, alternative (2CV4 and R4) and
cultural interested people
- Italian cars like Lancia or Alfa Romeo and swedish Saabs and Volvo's were
bought by architects, dentists, doctors.
Due to the British Leyland catastrophy the share of the British industry was
reduced to almost zero. Japanese amd USA played a minor role.

This has all changed in the '80-s and '90-s.


And I am sorry to say that the Opel Kadett (Astra) was the #1 car for over 30
years here.


As far as the R16 is concerned, it was not as extravagant ass the DS / ID, but was certainly concidered as a revolutionary and controversial automobile, typical French. The Peugeot 404 (later the 504) was the conservative alternative for he or she who wanted to drive a large French car but was a bit to shy to buy an R16 and did't dare to give his life in the hands of the hydropneumatics in the DS.
In 1968 the #1 automobile journal (Autovisie) held an investigation amongst the R16 useres in Holland. Over 500 respondants answerd on questions about reliability, drivability, critical points and motives for buying the R16. The over-all tendency was a very good report for the R16. As we still can understand!! (I have a copy of that article, in Dutch...).
A big Roadtest in thesame year with 12 middle class cars like Fiat 124, VW 1600, Morris Marina, Audi 60, Peugeot 204 pointed out the R16 as a undoubtable winner on almost every issue.

In Holland the R16 was conciderd as one of the finest cars to drive in. But
there was also
the running gag about the R16, it rusted already in the advertisements. French
and Italian
cars (Alfa Giulia!) were famous for that. And you'll have to admit; ever seen a
Renault 6
lately? Or a Alfa Romeo Alfetta?

Nowadays there are less dan 300 R16's left in The Netherlands . Most of them are
original
French, and were imported by R16 enthousiasts. An original Dutch R16 is very
very rare.
There are some original Dutch 1978 - 1980 TX and TL's left and a few 1965-1970
series.
There is a R16 specialist ("Centre 16") and a 'unofficial' R16 club Tilburg with
loads of
parts, most of them even new in the box. (see www.renault16.nl )
In our contry there is no road-tax for cars of >25 years of age. When you put a
LPG (GPL)
tank in such a car you have a very cheap way of transport: no tax, low
insurance, it keeps
it's value, fuel is cheap. The maintainance is the main point. The purists hate
this kind
of abuse, but I don't mind. The 1565 cc engine is very good on LPG.
This has led to a relative explosion of 1960 - 1975 cars, of which the Citroen
DS / ID,
the Volvo Amazon and 140-series, the Peugeot 404 and the Mercedes 200- series
are the
favorites. I think there are more Citroen DS-es in Amsterdam than in tout
France.
The R16 is the best kept secret in this world, to my opinion. It has the comfort
of the DS
(but, especially whith the TX gearbox, is not that noisy and hey, at least the
hydrolics
dont rust in a R16 :-D !). The 16 is reliable like the Volvo's and Mercedeses,
but is
unbeatable in drivability. And if you play double bass (like I do) you can take
it with
you. Dont try this in a Mercedes 220 D if you like your double bass.
That makes the R16 the surprising car. People are amazed by the comfort and
space, and if
I tell them the car they are in is 36 years old they won't believe me. A Citroen
DS addict
I took on a trip to Luxembourg had to admit that the comfort in the R16 is at
least on
thesame level as the DS, if not better. The difference: the 16 gets you there on
it's own,
in a DS you need God's help and lots of fuel. But it's still a beauty, that DS,
sure.

Almost everybody has good memories about the 16. I am often told that people
remember the
car as one of their favorite long-distance automobiles. Confessions like "my dad
had five
R16, but all of them were completely rotten after 3 years; still -- what a
lovely car it
is!". I fully agree.

Funny that you take your children in your R16. We do thesame. My 12 year old
doughter
prefers it above the Audi A4 Avant of her 'new' daddy (the guy is OK, don't get
me wrong).
It is our only car, a white 1966 GLS with a TX gearbox and TL engine. We bought
our 16 in
1996, drove it for 5 years on LPG (15.000 or 20.000 km a year) and never had
serious
problems. Last year we got some major engine troubles, we had it replaced, the
car is ok
now, except from the rusty body due to our climate. The chassis is still very
OK, it was
protected with Dinitrol.

For me, driving the 16 is a way to relax. On motorways never faster than 120
(real) km/h
in '5', radio on, cigar, smoothly gliding next to boring Opel Astra's or Toyota
Corolla's.
Voilà !

A little confession in the end: next to my R16 I would like to have a NSU RO80,
once.
Amazing design, in my opinion.

Quite a story...

 

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