This week’s BOTW is quite a rare find. The Renault Sport Spider could still be put into a hall of classic Ferrari’s and Porsches and draw in a curious crowd. It was such a milestone not only for Renault but the automotive community as a whole that any serious petrol head should recognise one at twenty paces and can probably remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when the Spider was launched. Built to promote and launch Renaults sporting brand ‘RenaultSport’ and also a one-make racing series, the Spider is one of those cars that reminds you of a timewhen manufacturers weren’t restricted by the powers that be. That freedom turned out some memorable machinery and thankfully the Sport Spider still remains one of them fourteen years after its debut. Built from 1996 to 1999 only 1685 Spiders were made and around forty of them in right hand drive, so trying to track one down today is almost impossible.
I thought I’d raised the bar too high when deciding to go in search of a Spider as my quest took me to the Renault Alpine Owners Club, an enthusiast’s site for all French rarities including the lovely GTA. Lo and behold with such an obscure search came a clear answer, still the RAOC seems a friendly place to spend an hour or so but don’t expect to find some of Renaults heyday models up for grabs. Most remain in cherished hands.
Forget the local’s too. The most you can expect is a clapped out Clio for £500. Back to my friends at Google, then.
Typically after a few minutes of searching the three I’d found in the UK were already sold. My search for Renaults mysterious Spider seemed to have come to end. I made a few phone calls and was hoping that a couple of favours might avoid frustration but with a week gone by and no voice mails it wasn’t looking good. With the deadline looming and no BOTW to write about I finally admitted defeat and went for Plan B.
The saying goes that Sods-law always turns up at the wrong time, and it couldn’t have been truer in my case. With BOTW 10 in the bag I get a call from a trader friend of mine with some good news. Turns out he’s got a contact with a Sport Spider for sale after the previous buyer pulled out with financial cold feet and now he’s looking for a second bite at the cherry. Perfect. This is a one owner car from new (1996), it’s in RHD which means it comes with a full front windscreen (the left hookers were only fitted with a wind deflector) and had covered just 11,000 miles.
Fitted with the 148bhp Clio 2-litre 4-pot the Spider isn’t what you would call a turbocharged fury, but as the chassis is made from aluminium and with a no frills, two-seater menu, it‘s no slouch. With a thin canvass roof for storage purposes only, you have to drive the Spider roofless. Combine that with no luxuries what so ever and you have a perfect sports car recipe. In fact, I can only think of one other car at the time that copied Renault’s formula, and that was the Lotus Elise. Although some said it would never catch on, you couldn’t get a Spider for love nor money back in 1996 and the same would appear to be true today.
Despite its basic formula, I seize the opportunity and ponder for a moment to decide whether the misses and I would actually like spending a Sunday afternoon behind the wheel of a Sport Spider? It only takes a persuasive friend at the end of the phone to take advantage and get me to spend the £17,800 necessary to own this superb classic. Because of its location I can’t get up to see it in the metal, so to speak, and although I have never driven one before I feel as if I’m about to embark on a journey only reserved for the very privileged. A call to the current owner gets me even more intrigued so with a final push and an email containing all of documentation, I’m on the way of not only finding my original BOTW but becoming the owner of one.
With a deposit arranged, twenty four minutes after getting the original call and talking with the owner, I’m about to transfer the £1,000 down payment. Trouble is it looks like I’m too late. With the car already advertised on the internet, I’m now one of ten potentials all keen to own a piece of Renaults past. It’s confirmed, the owner has had a string of phone calls in the time it’s taken me to speak with the bank and at least two are prepared to stump up the full amount straight away.
Not only was I really excited to find one, but the dream of actually owning one seems to be teetering on a cliffs edge. The nervous call back keeps me on the edge of my seat and having spilled the beans to the other half and showed her why I’m keen to part with half of our house extension fund, my mobile rings.
It may only be a Renault but the Sport Spider is a very rare find and still remains a classic today. Losing out is a bitter pill to swallow, even more so as the summer is coming up and I could of had another show piece in the still one-car stable. Anyway, at least for half an hour I could see me (oh, and the other half) going without our extension and instead lapping up the benefits of this unique ownership experience.
At least I fulfilled one ambition: Finding a Renault Sport Spider. I think I’ll make it easier for myself next week when the quest continues for another bargain convertible.