Right, made it. I took the long and pretty way home, through Abergavenny and up to Brecon then over the beacons and down the Neath valley.
1976 Renault 16TL by Skizzer, on Flickr
1976 Renault 16TL by Skizzer, on Flickr
The car drives very well indeed. Idles very smoothly, stays in the right part of the temperature gauge, still no clonks. Seats are great: lots of back support and although the squab feels soft it didn't lead to any aches or pains after two and a half hours of driving.
It's not a fast car. Acceleration is leisurely, though just about adequate for getting out of junctions and on to major roundabouts. Comfortable cruising speed is about 55mph; 60 is ok; 70 is unpleasantly noisy. A TS or TX with the crossflow head and another dozen or so horses would be a much better motorway proposition - but I don't really need to do motorways in this car, so I'm not bovvered.
The unassisted steering is very heavy at parking and manoeuvring speeds, fairly meaty on twisty back roads and beautifully weighted on fast sweeping curves. It's very well connected to the front wheels though - much better than the Rover SD1 - and the car is very easy to place into corners. Grip is also good, even on a damp road, and the brakes are excellent - firm but progressive and highly effective.
The ride is as good as the hype: cat's eyes, road patches and the ridges in concrete roads more or less vanish. I expected a lot of body roll and a boat-like swaying motion, but actually it's a lot more stable that urban myth would have you believe about French cars d'un certain ÃƒÂ¢ge.
Another surprise is how well engineered it is. The doors fit perfectly with no sagging hinges, and clunk solidly shut. There are no trim rattles, either: none. Just a bit of a squeak from the top of the steering column. The sun visor hinges are chunky metal things, nothing is warped or wobbly, and the switches all have a positive click to them (once you've figured out which combination of pull/twist/tweak/shove/yank the designer intended).
1976 Renault 16TL dashboard by Skizzer, on Flickr
The inside is in great nick, from carpets (beige) to seats (very beige) to headlining (likewise - it seems to be made of the same stuff as the tights armed robbers used to wear over their faces). The door cards are made of yummy Caramac and the dashboard looks like an allotment shed, being a random collection of approximately joined together bits of something else, but that's how it came out of the factory. The ergonomics are equally eccentric but everything appears to work. The stereo is a 1980s Panasonic: on a 16 it's mounted vertically near your ankles, so good luck tuning that on a twisty road. Fortunately it's already on Radio 4 so I'll have something to shout at while I drive.
1976 Renault 16TL interior by Skizzer, on Flickr
Outside, there are quite a few dings and scratches, which I'm not at all worried about, but the paint, good from 10 yards, has worn thin in various places and so a respray might be on the cards soon before surface rust sets in. There's also evidence of filler and a paint brush around the front wings, which isn't surprising, but everywhere else appears solid.
1976 Renault 16TL keys by Skizzer, on Flickr
There's a pretty good file of papers - owner's and workshop manuals, HBOL, old MOTs and recent receipts for a bunch of fettling. The seller, a very nice gentleman, had done some research into its history and had been in touch with some of the previous four owners; the mileage, at 55,700, stands up. Original dealer sticker is a great bonus:
1976 Renault 16TL Goscote Services by Skizzer, on Flickr
I like this car a lot. I'll stick some better photos up later in the week.
Oh, by the way - no petrol station shot because it came with two thirds of a tank on board. Told you he was a nice gentleman. Also, it has tax until February because I bought it today instead of Wednesday.
Then comes the entitlement. I have 200 quid, I want a car that has a MoT, five years of tax, is not red, blue, yellow or green, has enough space to ferry my three obese bastard children to the nearest McVomit, aircon is a must (in England, of all places), and it must be guaranteed to be reliable, so it mustn't be old. And it must impress my neighbours. Because I'm born. Hence I'm entitled to this. I forgot, it must also be good on ye olde OMGMPG, so it must be a diesel with lots of power, otherwise overtaking might be risky.
Went to Daytona Speedway last Friday and took the opportunity for a 3 lap ride along with Richard Petty driving experience. For about $140 you get 3 laps of the circuit and hit speeds of 170 mph along the back straight. Must say I was grinning all the way round. If you're feeling really flushed with cash you can sign up to drive a car too.
Here's me trying to climb into the Chevy thing, which isn't easy when they make you wear a neck brace and you can't move your head at all.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, not the other thing that CBT stands for. Fake 'prescription' pads for prescribing CBT only some bell end had okayed 'perscription' instead. The senior manager was actually gutted which made the laughing even more satisfying.
I've been wearing my new 'Ipswich park & Ride' clip-on bus driver tie to work today, every meeting I have been in has had 10 minutes lost out of it while folk check it out, have a laugh at it, ask why/where I got it, and think up 'amusing' work situations in which it could participate. Been in 4 meetings so thats 40 mins of work time that I have been able to chill out and bask in the glory of rocking the bus driver look. YES