Old Renaults, Messi and pigeon English in Spain

The recent trip to Barcelona to review the new SEAT Leon SC had it all. A break from the miserable British weather, some of the best roads I’ve ever had the pleasure of driving on and a pretty good car to test. The only thing missing was a selection of PetrolBloggy motors to gawp at.

Only they weren’t missing – it just required a little patience. On the trip to Florence I only had to wander around the airport car park for my PetrolBlog kicks. It was a similar story in Lisbon where I was able to name the city as the Shatchback capital of Europe. Barcelona was a little different. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there would have been a wealth of brilliance in the city, but we were heading up to the hills.

I did catch sight of an immaculate Renault 11 in the suburbs but there wasn’t an opportunity to stop. Fortunately I was having too much fun in the Leon to worry.

But then, in a quiet backstreet, I chanced upon a rather lovely Renault 4 TL, complete with period Renault-Elf sticker in the rear window. Not immaculate, but the Spanish climate had clearly been kind to it. Just look at it – lovely!

Renault 4 TL in Spain

Then, as I turned around to get back into the Leon, I caught site of something old and green heading my way. No, not Kermit the Frog, but a delightful little SEAT 600. This was the car that got Spain moving again after the horrors of the Spanish Civil War and nearly 800,000 were made between 1957 and 1973. It was a joyous sight – I’d love to know how many have survived…

SEAT 600 in Spain

After lunch I stopped outside a dilapidated but somehow majestic Spanish villa to make some notes, not realising that this was a prelude to one of the greatest roads I’ve had the pleasure of driving on. It covered such a vast area of landscape and contained so many hairpin bends that would be impossible to photograph it without the use of a helicopter.

SEAT Leon SC outside derelict building in Spain

In the 20 or so minutes I searched in vain for a decent photo opportunity, only two cars and three bikes went past. It was bliss. For minutes it would be eerily dead quiet, only for the silence to be broken by the distant sound of an engine.

Like this lovely MK2 Volkswagen Golf which looked quite good from afar. As it rolled past me I reckon it was running on two cylinders – the hills of Spain had clearly taken their toll on this old timer.

MK2 Volkswagen Golf

I thought that would be it for treats, but then I chanced upon a stunning Renault 8 parked by the side of the road.

Naturally I stopped to take a few photos, at which point I noticed the back end of a Renault 25. By now I had attracted the attention of the garage owner who came out to confront me.

Renault 8 in Spain

Fearing I was in for a telling off, I began to pack my camera away and head for my Spanish-registered SEAT. But far from telling me to clear off the garage owner was keen to show me around his Renault 8.

It turned out the 8 was one of the Spanish-built cars manufactured between 1965 and 1976. Such a fact was highlighted by the little badge on the boot.

Sadly all other details about the car are a little vague. My grasp of the Spanish language is poor to non-existent and the garage owner’s English was equally as bad. But I was invited in to see more of his collection. At least I hope that’s what he said.

Renault 25 in Spain

Inside I was greeted with the sight of, amongst other things, that wonderful Renault 25, a Dauphine, a tribute to the Clio Williams and a Volkswagen Beetle. This was introduced to me as ‘Hitler’s car’. Well, quite.

Renault 25 and others

For five minutes we engaged in a conversation that consisted solely of arm waving, shoulder shrugs and nods of appreciation. I loved his cars and he appreciated that. Clearly operating a roadside assistance business in rural Spain makes for a lucrative business.

As I left I wished Barcelona good luck for their match with Paris St Germain that night, at which point he reeled off the names of Spanish greats – Messi, Xavi, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Ramos, etc, etc. My pitiful mention of David Beckham was greeted with stone cold silence.

Renault Dauphine in Spain

Just goes to show though – across borders and without a grasp of each other’s spoken tongue – football and cars present the perfect grounds for friendship. That is unless he was muttering ‘stupid Englishman’ as I made my way back to the car.

As I left there was one last glorious sight to behold – a lovely old Citroën Visa. Simply wonderful.

Citroën Visa in Spain

I’m off to Italy next week for another new car launch. Stay tuned for some more typical PetrolBlog fodder…

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Gavin Big-Surname
The chief waffler and founder of PetrolBlog in 2010. Has a rather unhealthy obsession with cars from the 80s and 90s, and is on a one-man mission to collect the cars nobody else wants. Also likes tea and Hobnobs.


  1. April 28, 2013

    Hi there, I would just like to point out that…er… Barcelona is in -northern- Spain, not southern (it is the capital of my little country within Spain, Catalonia – a bit like Scotland within the UK).

    Apart from that… what a great blog you have! Is there an e-mail address to which I could send you (if interested, of course) pictures of old bangers I’ve taken in/around Barcelona?

    My friends -as well as my wife- call me a geek because I stop to take pictures of Renault 9’s, Citroen C-15’s, MK1 Seats Ibiza -to name a few-… if I ever put them all together (they are scattered across my entire 50.000+ pics.library) I will send them!

    I now live in France, in the Haute-Savoie (between Geneva and Chamonix) – and the French also have this true love for good old (and rusty) 80’s superminis 🙂 I really find impressive to see Peugeots 205 that sleep under tons of snow year after year and are still up and running…


    pd: any chance you could write about the Mk3 Ford Escort? It is the first car I remember in my family… at one point my dad had a red 1.3L one, my uncles a black 1.6, and my grandparents had a metallic blue posh 1.6 Ghia. (I remember these details and yet I was 5 years old back then!!!!)

    • April 28, 2013
      Gavin Big-Surname

      Hello Eduard. Thanks for the geography correction. I’m afraid I was still remembering my recent trip to Malaga. Apologies.

      Would absolutely be interesting in seeing your pictures of bangers in and around Barcelona. Sounds very much like something we’d like to see!

      50,000 pictures?!

      You live in a lovely part of France. Would love to see a couple of 205s under a ton of snow! 😉

      And MK3 Escort? Consider it done. Probably the most PetrolBlog Escort of all time…

  2. April 30, 2013

    Love that Renault 8, so very much.

    I’ve found scraping together the motivation to restore my own “Hitler’s car” quite difficult so far, I think I’m the sort of person who prefers having an old car to drive, rather than having one to restore. But it’ll be nothing like the difficulty of wondering what cool old car to replace it with. The Renault 8 is up there but so are Karmann-Ghias, old American muscle…


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