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Cleon-Fonte

Mrs. Cleon's Clio

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I thought I'd start a new thread for this as my existing French car thread is getting a bit cluttered and this isn't technically mine anyway. Hopefully this should be a fairly uneventful and rarely updated thread.

A few months ago Mrs Cleon-Fonte decided to start driving again and with a Renault 4 apparently too scary and a Citroen BX too big, that left a need of a small, economical, hopefully reliable car. Unfortunately finding such a thing these days means spending ages scrolling through pages of bland dredge and poorly written adverts in a desperate attempt to avoid owning something soul destroying. Then, when searching for something else on Autotrader, this Clio 1.4 RT appeared like an oasis in the automotive desert, a viewing was arranged and a deal was done. Two days later we set off on a largely uneventful collection trip around the M60 with @Conrad D. Conelrad, the only highlight of which was the R4's starter solenoid heat seizing on the dealer's forecourt, mandating a push elsewhere to cool down.

 

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Collecting an old Renault with an old Renault is clearly something of a spectacle.

 

Bought new by its previous gifferette owner, the Clio had only done only 67,000 miles in the intervening 24 years. It came with a full service history which reveals it has wanted for almost nothing (it received a new clutch and a pair of new dampers in 2018, for instance). Indeed, aside for some giffer scrapes and some mild rot around the rear arches (seemingly designed to trap as much salt and dirt as possible) that shouldn't be too difficult to sort, it's immaculate.


It's actually been quite a weird experience to have something on the fleet that's been maintained properly all its life and has seemingly been worked on only by competent professionals. I've done a few minor things to it and expected the usual battles but instead it's been fine. So far it's had four new tyres, a new camblelt and water pump, new sunroof seal and a thermostat and mechanically this is all it's really needed. Admittedly like most old Renaults the 'sealed for life cooling system' bollocks meant that things were quite sludged up but a good flush or two has since been carried out and the cooling system's contents are at least now liquid, if a bit brown.

 

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I've come to the conclusion that these higher spec MkI Clios are truly peak car. Compact on the outside but spacious on the inside, with a boot that can accommodate actual luggage (unlike a modern car of this size), easy to drive, extremely well soundproofed to the point you can hear the dashboard clock ticking as you drive around town, capable of cruising along a motorway for hours at illegal speeds, easy to fix and maintain, the list goes on. Being an RT you get plusher front seats than the peasants in their RNs and RLs, which are truly the match of anything Renault was making in the 60s and 70s (did anyone ever better Renault at seat design?) and even come with height adjustment and lumbar support on the driver's seat.  RT spec also gets you all the luxuries you could ever really need: PAS, electric windows and mirrors, column mounted stereo controls, remote central locking, a manual sunroof and front foglights (sadly not yellow, yet).

 

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Overall the Clio drives well, with minimal body roll, little understeer and limpet like grip. The driving controls are all fine, the steering is light but provides plenty of feedback, the gearchange is slick and precise although the brakes are a bit sloppy in typical Renault fashion. For the most part it goes about its business in a completely unremarkable, unfussed manner, but get it on the right road and it comes alive and is actually quite fun.

The one downside is that the ride isn't all that spectacular, the suspension's clearly very soft but lacks the extreme wheel travel of its older counterparts and as a result it does tend to pitch about a bit and can occasionally thump over ridges and potholes. You could never describe it as bad, many cars would be a thousand times better if they rode this well, it's merely not as good as what came before it.

 

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The engine is the 1,390cc Energy unit, effectively the same old Cleon block as the R4 but with a belt driven overhead cam and a crossflow hemi head. It churns out 80bhp and 79lb/ft of torque and loves to rev, you can lug it along on the torque but it feels much happier over 3,000rpm and really comes alive 500rpm after that. It's bloody smooth, too, and the soundtrack is distinctly Renaulty. Single point injection and distributorless ignition put it just at the right level of simplicity, no pissing about with the mixture or timing but no profusion of computers either. It's all pretty straightforward to work on, too, albeit the placement of a few things is a bit French.

 

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Overall, then, a bloody good car. It does most things as well as a modern but manages to carry over just enough old Renaultness to keep it characterful.

Future plans are to get those rear arches sorted and give the cooling system a bit more attention, otherwise all it really needs is a good rustproofing session in the summer.

 

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On 3/7/2020 at 4:57 PM, HMC said:

Wonderful. Looks very original down to those ever so natty and tasteful wheel trims. 

 

They're nice trims but could do with a repaint, although as a hopeless fan of bare silver steelies I'd really like to make them like Spiny Norman's example below, complete with centre caps, but I've been told in no uncertain terms it would look gash, so repainted trims it is.

 

On 3/7/2020 at 5:36 PM, Spiny Norman said:

The first gen Clios were great wee cars, I had two of them, both 1.2s, so not as posh as yours.

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That really is lovely.

 

 

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On 3/7/2020 at 5:39 PM, Kiltox said:

This is the same spec as my 1992 K 1.4 auto that is languishing in the corner of my unit. I really must get it running properly. 

 

Is it just the gearbox that's lunched itself? I imagine if you could find a manual to fit it would be a decent little runaround.

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2 minutes ago, Cleon-Fonte said:

 

Is it just the gearbox that's lunched itself? I imagine if you could find a manual to fit it would be a decent little runaround.

The engine. Don’t think it’s totally dead but it’s not healthy at all. 

33k on the clock!

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On 3/7/2020 at 6:03 PM, Angrydicky said:

Wow that looks right posh!

 

It's like a top of the range repmobile, but shrunken.

 

On 3/7/2020 at 6:03 PM, TheDoctor said:

Nice! I've been won over by mine. Didn't think I'd like it. There's a tidy looking diesel on on FB marketplace at the moment for 595, very tempting

 

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I'm glad it continues to live on and provide reliable service, it would have been a terrible shame if it'd been scrapped. I quite like the basic ones like yours, they have an honest charm to them.

A diesel is on my list of potential replacements should I ever have to get rid of the BX.

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1 minute ago, Kiltox said:

The engine. Don’t think it’s totally dead but it’s not healthy at all. 

33k on the clock!

 

Bloody hell, that surprises me. Still, you won't get many simpler, easier engines to rebuild (the joy of these old Renault separate liner engines).

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1 minute ago, Cleon-Fonte said:

 

Bloody hell, that surprises me. Still, you won't get many simpler, easier engines to rebuild (the joy of these old Renault separate liner engines).

Really struggling to find the fault - it has a misfire / rough idle. Have replaced a lot of the usual suspects. 

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I had a early non facelift Clio 1.4. 

One of my favourite cars. The lack of a power steering rack anywhere in the country (Ireland btw) killed it off after it started to leak and became a NCT failure. Sadly. 

 The 1.4 energy lump is a lovely engine and whilst it's only 80 or so horsepower it's coupled with a lightweight car and limpet like handling you really could get it to get a shift on.  Used to suprise people how quick it could shift. 

I had a slighty newer Starlet 1.3 and the Clio was leaps ahead in refinement and driving. The starlet was basic as all hell. 

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On 3/7/2020 at 4:50 PM, Cleon-Fonte said:

the only highlight of which was the R4's starter solenoid heat seizing on the dealer's forecourt, mandating a push elsewhere to cool down.

It says something about Cleon-Fonte's other uneventful collection trips that he doesn't mention this push was into the coned off route of a city wide cycle race, and right into the middle of a lively community discussion where some locals were debating whether an unconscious man slumped against a wall might be a paedophile or not. We retreated to Europe's bleakest sandwich shop, where they made us sandwiches in the dark. 

The Clio is a delight, though - what a find! They're so rare now, finding a good one with such a great spec is fantastic. 

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I think it's incredible that Peugeot were still selling the 205 for a surprising portion of the Clio 1's production run. The Clio looks positively space age in comparison.

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21 hours ago, artdjones said:

One good thing about Renaults is the way the dash slopes away from you.It gives an airy feel which makes the car nicer to drive 

 

They're a bit like Austin Rover dashboards in that regard, except they don't warp in sunlight.

 

21 hours ago, Conrad D. Conelrad said:

right into the middle of a lively community discussion where some locals were debating whether an unconscious man slumped against a wall might be a paedophile or not. We retreated to Europe's bleakest sandwich shop, where they made us sandwiches in the dark.

 

This all seems fairly normal to me. Perhaps I've been living and working in Glossop's bad bits for too long.

 

21 hours ago, reb said:

I think it's incredible that Peugeot were still selling the 205 for a surprising portion of the Clio 1's production run. The Clio looks positively space age in comparison.

 

It says something for the 205 that they were still competitive right until the end, never reaching duffer status.

Having said that Renault also managed to get the maximum lifespan out of their small cars, these Clios would have shared the showrooms with R4s until 1993/94 and R5 Campuses until 1996, which really must have made them feel cutting edge.

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