After a full ViaRETRO week dedicated to all that is French, you’re either so feed up that you’ll swear never to eat baguettes, moules marinières, frog legs or crème brûlée again, or we might just have ignited your inner Francophile and you’re now desperate for more. Me? – I fall explicitly into the latter group. So with a chilled glass of Chablis at hand, I went searching through the French classified ads.
I took due note of Dave’s warning about the demise of engineering, character and quality in the current French offerings, and thus searched only among their classics. Hmmm… I have sneaky suspicion that would have happened with or without Dave’s wise words anyway…
There was plenty to tempt as I trawled through various French websites – after all, how better to purchase a French classic, then finding one in France and then tying in a visit to the country with a pleasant roadtrip home again in order to get to know your new French toy…? Let’s see, a three-box rear-engined Simca? Or how about one of their charming little Fourgonnette workhorse vans? A René Bonnet would be super cool, but jeeez… have they become expensive! Ah, there it was. The quirky Renault that soooo wanted to be a wedge, but was just a little too upright to ever achieve that dream…
Renault launched two brand-new coupés at the Paris Motor Show in the autumn of 1971. The two coupés – dubbed the 15 and the 17 – had plenty in common, so it was a financially clever way of introducing two new models into their program. The underpinnings were borrowed from the oddly proportioned Renault 12 which had entered production two years earlier. The base 15TL equally sourced its 1.3-litre overhead-valve 4-cylinder engine from the R12, while the 15TS and both the 17TL and 17TS (which was later renamed the Gordini in 1974) were given the larger 1.6-litre overhead-valve 4-cylinder engines from the successful R16. The top-of-the-range 17TS was even treated to fuel injection, bumping the output of the 1.6-litre engine up from 90hp to a quite competitive 108hp.
The bodies of the 15 and 17 had plenty in common, but the rear quarterpanel and the accompanying rear side window differed hugely. The 15 was given the more conventional look, while the 17 received a very unique design with a pillarless opening into the cabin pushing a wide and heavily angled B-pillar further back behind the side window for the rear seat. The vast rear quarterpanel was then broken up by a peculiar triangular louvered third side window. In theory it sounds terrible, but in some wonky seventies French way, it actually really works! There’s no arguing that it’s weird, but I’ve always really liked the very individual look of the Renault 17. Last but not least, the more sporty pretensions of the 17 were underlined by replacing the 15’s two rectangular headlights by four round ones. All in all, it’s a typically angular seventies design – so angular in fact that I’m compelled to call it a wedge, only it’s not really. It’s too tall and upright for that. But it certainly is crisp.
With the 15 looking a little dull and frumpy, it simply has to be a sharp-dressed 17. The particular car we’ve come across here is a relatively early base Renault 17TL with the 90hp carbureted 1.6-litre engine. It presents in suitable metallic olive green shade, which I reckon could very well be a factory colour for the 17. Door shuts and engine bay appear to be the same colour, so there’s even a decent chance that it’s the original colour for this car. The Renault is up for sale with what appears to be a classic car dealer, who explains that the coupé has recently come out of long-term dry storage. It’s got 165,000 on the clock (equating to approximately 100,000 miles) and is claimed to be free from any corrosion. It’s seen some refurbishment including some new parts for the fuel and ignition systems, new brakes and even a respray. Furthermore, it’s been kitted out with the fabulously funky seats from a later series 2 Renault 17. Those high-back front seats with individual under-thigh bolsters truly are all the rave – it’s just a shame that they are covered in black vinyl or leather, when a thick tan velour would have been so much more period and pleasing to the eye. But Luckily the series 1 dashboard has been retained which looks brilliant, and the stock steel wheels including some pretty bizarre wheel trim adds plenty to the whole seventies vibe! Personally, I would just want to swap those awful plastic door mirrors for a more appropriate set of chromed mirrors.
Here are a few pictures borrowed from the advert:
The dealer is in Le Muy in the very south of France, so you’ll have the opportunity to cruise the Côte d’Azur in style before heading home. First of course, make sure to give the Renault a thorough pre-purchase inspection and then there’s of course the Euro 12,700 asking price, currently equating to £ 11,200. For the full advert follow this link: 1973 Renault 17 TL
With our Saturday instalment of Prime Find of the Week, we’re offering our services to the classic car community, by passing on our favourite classic car for sale from the week that passed. This top-tip might help a first-time-buyer to own his first classic, or it could even be the perfect motivation for a multiple-classic-car-owner to expand his garage with something different. We’ll let us inspire by anything from a cheap project to a stunning concours exotic, and hope that you will do the same.
Just remember – Any Classic is Better than No Classic! We obviously invite our readers to help prospective buyers with your views and maybe even experiences of any given model we feature. Further to that, if you stumble across a classic which you feel we ought to feature as Prime Find of the Week, then please send us a link to firstname.lastname@example.org