The white Gordini

There is nothing quite like driving a ‘new’ car for the first time, and this time the car in question is from a very short list of cars that I haven’t heard my Dad say ‘I’ve driven one of those’ or ‘I used to own one of those’. This is even more impressive given the fact that he used to be a Renault mechanic in his youth and is something of a Renault nut.

We collected this Gordini yesterday afternoon after purchasing it over the phone at Anglia Car Auction’s most recent classic car auction on Saturday. I’d been to view the car the day before the auction and whilst the description listed it as having an MOT, it did look a little sorry for itself, with plenty of surface corrosion all over the body and inner wings. Despite this the car appeared to be quite solid, with only a couple of small holes that I’ve spotted so far. I did the unthinkable at an auction and left without hearing the car run or checking the paperwork, although I already knew that we were interested in buying the car just for the sheer rarity.

This is the second Renault 17 Gordini that we’ve bought, with the first being the green example that we bought at a CCA auction nearly two years ago. When we bought that car it was described as being one of only two known examples of a RHD R17 Gordini left in the UK. That car was a one owner car that hadn’t been on the road since the 90s and was a non running example. It now runs but in the intervening period its been a project that has been tinkered with in between other work and hasn’t been on the road, and we’ve been debating whether to restore it fully or just to tidy it and preserve some of its originality.

This isn’t the first time we’ve bought a car from ACA and risked driving it home, and I can remember plenty of journeys home in a wide variety of cars (although we had usually seen them run through the auction earlier the same day and knew that they were running, driving, and the old man had a good chance to listen how healthily they were running). One of my favourites was probably the BMW 1602 which is one of the most enjoyable cars I have ever driven. Usually the cars have little fuel and we stop at the nearby petrol station to fill up, which also gives us a chance to decide if the car is driving correctly and running well enough to make it home. In this case we had half a tank of fuel and considering how well it started, we decided just to stop at the half way point to home, where we leave the B-roads and join the A11. Fortunately we got there with no issues, and the little Renault appeared to be driving very well.

At this point we swapped over and I got a chance to drive after figuring out the switch arrangement (which makes a great deal of your controls available to your right hand without removing it from the steering wheel). The knob to turn up the dash lights has been snapped off so I would be driving without being able to see the instruments, though luckily I was being followed home and we agreed that he would flash his headlights if I went near 70mph. The steering wheel is large but feels slim (though more solid than some similarly aged cars), and slightly squidgy. The lack of PAS isn’t bothersome and once the car is rolling the steering feels smooth. The pedals are reasonably positioned although the brake pedal is set quite high and requires a little adjustment from the driver for smoother progression. The brakes themselves had more bite than I was expecting, which is a pleasant surprise when driving an old car (especially one that is relatively unknown to you).  Though this car is badged as an injection model, it is fitted with a carburettor and the fuel injection set up is in the boot, along with a box of other parts. We’ll investigate this at a later date along with the other restorative works that need to be completed.

Mostly I kept the speed fairly low and stuck with the HGVs during my trip down the M11, and the car quite happily settled down. When pushing on a little more the Renault proved to be happy with motorway speeds, and provided more acceleration than I expected it to. The engine of this car feels very strong and happy to rev, which is always pleasant.

My driving experience was mostly on the M11 and M25, so I didn’t get to fully experience the driving characteristics of the car, but I did leave the motorway a junction early to take the back roads for the last leg of the journey. Whilst not a B-road ‘weapon’, the little R17 proved to be very enjoyable to drive on a country lane. It still needs to be handled with care and corners approached with caution as any old car does, but it is still a car that is capable of being enjoyed fully at reasonable speeds. If I needed any more convincing I’ve spent most of today itching to go out and drive, and that tells me all I need to know about how much I like this car.

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A very rare badge these days. One of only a few RHD cars still surviving.

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A brief pitstop, but Starbucks was closed early.
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Unlike most of our cars, this one isn’t a heavy drinker
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Such a stylish interior, and those seats are very comfortable!
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The radio works! Pretty sure the radio station was from the same period as the car though!

Renault 17 Gordini – running at last!

Its now been 13 months since I updated this page and the little Renault has been in storage for all of that time and not been touched while other projects have been completed. Since the old man picked up a new Alpine for himself he’s been reinvigorated to get this project started and so the car was brought out of storage early this week. Everything has been gone through and checked to make the starting process as painless as possible, just so we would know how well the car runs and what sort of condition the engine is in.

As it turns out the engine is actually quite sweet and sounds fairly throaty! Looking forward to getting this car back on the road and having a drive, and happy that we’ve finally started it too!

Our Week: 6th – 12th November

Its been something of a hectic week here, with new cars arriving, others being painted and our lovely MK1 Escort Mexico replica being sold.

First up is our Sunbeam Alpine, which is now being built back up after being repainted, and I was a little wowed when I saw it come out after being painted, as it really does help to complete the car, which is sure to be a head turner. I can’t wait to get out for a drive in it and share the end result with anyone who is happy to read my ramblings.

Also in the workshop is our very low mileage Pre HE Jaguar XJS which I’ve nicknamed ‘The Penguin’ (I’m sure you can appreciate why). The car was in long term storage with its original owner (which is how it accounts for the low mileage) before being sold and the new owner ‘recommissioned’ the car to a fairly low standard before we bought it. There were a lot of imperfections in the bodywork and paintwork which are now being corrected. This is going to be a fantastic car and they engine bay is receiving the same treatment, as well some much needed attention to help cure a misfire.

We finally pulled the Renault Alpine GTA out of storage to send it off to paint only to find out that no one wants to touch the glass work or even the rubber seals, as they are impossible to find for these cars, so the project has been delayed somewhat. If you know of anyone who specialises in Renault Alpines then please let me know.

I was very excited by the arrival of three (long awaited) American pick-up trucks, who are to be sold on behalf of a long time family friend. The last time I saw these trucks was when they were bought around five years ago, and I know that they haven’t done much since. All three vary greatly and to me, that is a fantastic thing. I’ve only managed to drive one of them so far but it surprised me by how well it drove. That truck is the 1935 Dodge KC 1/2 ton pick up that is fitted with a later Slant-6 engine and even NOS! The other two trucks are also special, with the hot-rodded Chevrolet 3100 Stepside catching the eye – and ear – very easily, I can’t wait to take it out for a drive. The final truck is a rat-rod International Harvester that is also very modified. A full description for each truck can be found on our current stock page.

 

There are also three other new listings on our website. An MG B convertible project that is very solid and should be going for an MOT at some point in the near future, it needs attention to its paint and bodywork but runs and has a good interior. Also listed is a rather fun MG B V8 ‘track car’ that is road legal and will also be MOTd before being sold, it looks pretty special too, so its worth having a look at the photos. Finally we have my favourite of the listings in the form of this stunning 1970 Fiat 124 Sport Coupe, it is a fantastic little car and drives just as beautifully as it looks.

I managed to spend a day at the NEC at the Lancaster Classic Car Show yesterday which proved to be even more enjoyable than expected, even if most areas were rammed to the rafters. There were some simply fantastic cars on display and it was great to be able to catch up with our friends at The Market (www.themarket.co.uk) and I even managed to chat with the man who looks after George Harrison’s old Mercedes 500 SEL.

To cap off what has been a pretty great week our MK1 Ford Escort Mexico replica has just left for its new home, and more importantly it is going to the right home where it will be loved and enjoyed. I’ll certainly miss this car and plenty of my colleagues will too. I hope you’re all having a fantastic weekend!

 

The Renault 17 Gordini

Now you may not recognise this car, and I would be willing to bet that you probably haven’t ever seen one in the flesh either (I certainly hadn’t). I saw this car come up for auction with CCA (Classic Car Auctions) when they were at the NEC in Birmingham and decided it was worth a look due to the rarity and that fact my Dad is a big Renault fan. Continue reading “The Renault 17 Gordini”