The Mk1 Renault Twingo. There comes a time in a man’s life when he has to stop going on about something and blimmin’ well doing it.
For some, this means doing something genuinely worthwhile. For others, perhaps something less noble yet still admirable. For me, it means to stop going on about owning a Mk1 Renault Twingo and buying one.
After spending many hours perusing far too many French and German classifieds, a relatively simple plan was hatched: locate a suitable car in a warm and dry climate, then travel on one of Mr Ryanair’s sky buses to collect it.
In fact, to flesh this out a bit more, I wanted to find the right Twingo in either the South of France or Spain, and then drive back via Route Napoleon and the Route Bleue – a sort of French Route 66 with fewer Cadillacs and more Citroëns.
And I spent many winter hours on this plan – ferry crossings, airports, routes, etc. I even worked out my desired Mk1 Twingo spec: Coriander Green, ‘93/94 model year and a fabric sunroof.
And after all that, I bought one in the UK instead. In blue.
Because despite all that planning, I managed to overlook the legalities of the actual process: chiefly, insurance.
You see, there’s no problem with the whole flying, buying and driving bit, but a UK resident to cannot insure a French-registered car in France if they don’t live in France.
Plenty of insurers could insure the car on French plates once it was back in the UK, but nobody was interested in insuring the car while it was in France (and trust me, as my phone-bashed ears can confirm, I spoke to them all).
That left a couple of options: just drive it anyway or stick it on a trailer. The first option seemed to be offering too many risks of ending up in Le Jail, so that was discounted, and the second was just too expensive to keep the whole project within any sort of reasonable budget, which left me at an impasse.
So it was rather fortuitous to receive an email from a serial Renault botherer in Dorset who had a couple of Twingii he would be happy to rehome. After a flurry of emails, pictures and phone calls – and an assurance that it was a good ‘un – I boarded an incredibly small plane for the flight to Southampton for the Twingo collection.
And one month on, what’s the Mk1 Twingo like?
Despite the first Twingos being 25 years old, they still feel modern. One of the most surprising things is the spaciousness: not just the feeling of space created by all that glass, but the fact that it’s actually amazingly roomy inside.
If I had a barrel of cats, I could swing them at will. Although obviously, I wouldn’t…
From the driver’s seat, it’s striking how adept this compact, city car is at covering long distances. Obviously, it’s not going to be troubling 604s and CXs on the Autoroute, but you can exit the car in complete comfort after a long stretch without requiring the services of a chiropractor.
Spend time looking at it and it’s the small details that are the most pleasing: the hazard warning light ball atop the dashboard, the spaciousness of the dash itself (although fans of cupholders will leave disappointed), the radio aerial mounted on the door mirror, and the fact that it looks so damn cute.
One month in and I think I’m in love. Despite it being ‘Cadbury’ blue – the colour was the one thing I sort of accepted I’d probably end up having to compromise on – Twingo life is fantastique.
After a good polish and fitting of the obligatory yellow headlight bulbs, I’m now thinking what to do next. The Clio Maxim alloys are lovely, but I think they might look better in anthracite, while the steering wheel, also from the aforementioned larger sibling, isn’t really ‘Twingo’ enough for me.
A trip to a French scrapyard might be in order so that a few fancies can be located, as there were a vast array of options available when new.
I just need to find a friendly Monsieur de Caisse Auto to spend a happy hour or two mooching around piles of time-expired French Tat before handing over a hopefully small pile of Euros for an extensive collection of new Twingo treasure. Still, you know what they say about the best-laid plans…
You can follow David on Twitter at @LobsterDiecast. Go ahead and do it.
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