Friend of the show, Club PetrolBlog member, Mk1 Renault Twingo owner and Lobster Diecast supremo David Austin asked if he could write some words on his Renault 4 F6. Of course he can, so it’s over to David.
In our formative years, when we were less old and more impressionable, young boys would have pictures of exotica such as Ferrari Testarossas, 911 Carreras or girls playing tennis while wearing implausibly short skirts.
These influences shape our lives and desires as we get older, when that classic sports car becomes within reach. Though it seems that Wendy James from Transvision Vamp, who a teenage David lusted after, still proves elusive.
But the objects of my automotive affection have proved easier to attain. That’s because, unlike the Aston Martins and other exotica loved by my classmates, my bedroom walls were covered in pictures of #FrenchTat. That’s good, because apart from anything else, the running costs of older French cars are far lower than those of more supposedly exotic machinery hailing from Stuttgart or Modena.
And it also goes to explain why the love of my automotive life, well one of them at least, is a Renault van.
Why a van? I don’t know, but I’ve always liked French vans of a certain age. Perhaps it was the family holidays in the 1980s, walking around the typical French street market. Because there, in amongst the baskets of chickens, wheels of brie and enticing mountains of pain au chocolat, there was always an assortment of Citroën H vans, Peugeot J7 vans and of course, the Renault 4 F6.
Bought in 2007, my F6 has history. Apparently it was used in a Robbie Williams music video, although I’ve never seen any evidence. If you think I’ve got nothing better to do than sit through hours of Robbie videos on YouTube then you’re very much mistaken. The van did come from a London-based film production company, so who knows?
Back in 2007 I casually mentioned on a Renault 4 forum (OK, not that casually) that if anyone happened to have a Saviem Blue, late production F6 van in good condition then I might be interested. Needless to say, within a couple of days, one was found and bought, replacing my Alfa 145 QV as the love of my life.
Since then it’s led a relatively easy life. Getting married in 2008 saw it bedecked with ribbons as our wedding car. It has also enjoyed a few visits to its homeland, almost without incident.
Almost you say? Well, yes. The 1108cc motor and four-speed gearbox aren’t happy playmates on the autoroute. After disembarking the ferry at Calais and attempting motorway speeds on the way to the Loire Valley, after about an hour the air adjustment screw on the carb made a bid for freedom and probably still sits at the side of the A1 near Abbeville.
A repair of sorts was improvised with cable ties and a rubber grommet from a floor mat which did enable the journey to be completed where a replacement carburettor was bought and fitted; fortunately we were on our way to a Renault show.
It is, as the more eagle-eyed might have noticed, not entirely standard. Under the bonnet lives a bigger carb – from a Renault 5 TS, no less – which allows an extra 9bhp to flow through its veins. It also sits on Fergat steel wheels from a 1984 5 Le Car 2 Turbo, partly because I like them and they look good, but also because the increased grip actually does make a difference – the F6 was the only vehicle in the Renault 4 range to get front and rear anti-roll bars, so it actually handles reasonably well.
The word ‘reasonably’ is doing quite a bit of heavy lifting here as it’s entertaining rather than the sort of B-road weapon we tend to get excited about. Inside, the standard, fixed-back rear seats were ditched in favour of Mk1 R5 seats with the ability to recline. A Renault 5 GT Turbo steering wheel completes the upgrade, this being the nicest steering wheel ever made, as everyone surely knows.
Back to the here and now. The last 12 months have obviously meant a lack of Renault 4 F6 activity – it has barely ventured out. Our plan to get back to France this summer for the bi-annual ‘4L International’ show has been shelved due to the pandemic. Hopefully we should get to Festival of the Unexceptional (unless a Twingo decides otherwise), before making our indoor show debut at the NEC Classic Motor Show this November.
There’s a couple of little jobs to do and a few bits of bodywork to tidy up before then. Beyond that, the plan is just to enjoy it. I never thought I’d be in a position where a humble French commercial vehicle would become ‘the one’ but there we have it. I can’t imagine parting with it.
Everything needs a score. It’s how it works. So dusting off the old PetrolBlog Score, let’s see where we come out.
Well, yes. Although it should probably be a bottle of red, shouldn’t it? 6 out of 10 I think.
I absolutely adore it and think it looks perfect, so do I glance back as I walk into pay for my super unleaded? You bet I do. Has to be a good, solid 9 out of 10 on that one.
The one thing you find if you own a Renault 4, especially a van, is that they make you a lot of new friends. All of whom tell you that exact thing. The PB scorecard says that if there’s between 10-99 left in the UK then we get 9 points. I’ll take that.
This is a difficult one. You can run a Renault 4 for a pretty small sum and parts availability is pretty good. I bought this back in 2007 for £2000 which was pretty strong money back then. Buying one today will set you back a multiple of that amount so while actual running costs are lowish, it’s the buying one that isn’t.
PetrolBlog’s style guide offers points based on purchase price. So it’s 8 points based on what we paid, versus 6 points if you want one today. I think we’ll need an independent adjudicator to rule on that one.
This is a more emotional thing than anything else. But I adore it and can’t imagine a time when I could sell it so it’s got to be a 10 for me.
We’ll err on the side of caution with respect to the Bangernomics category but that still gives (an entirely self-awarded) 40 out of a possible 50 PetrolBlog points. I’m happy with that. Now, presumably there’s a trophy somewhere?
Big thanks to David Austin for the words and pictures. An AS SEEN ON PB sticker is winging its way to Lobster Diecast HQ. Don’t forget to follow David on Twitter for more French car goodness.