Let’s check out this bashful looking sports car.
Renault had a difficult time in the latter part of the Eighties. Financial troubles meant the company had to focus on core product, and not successors to more niche performance vehicles (like the R5 Turbo, for example). By the turn of the Nineties, Renault had restructured itself into a leaner and meaner state-owned company and sold off wet blanket AMC to Chrysler. It was time to bring back the excitement!
Subsidiary Renault Sport was tasked with the Projet de Création d’Excitation or whatever it was called and set to work. The new car was designed from the get-go as a racer and a road car. Renault created an aluminum chassis to make the car as light and strong as possible and then chose body panels made of plastic. The exterior looks were penned by Renault’s chief designer Patrick Le Quément, who also had a hand in the slightly important Ford Sierra, and the very successful Renault Twingo. Gullwing doors were a flamboyant standard feature.
The engine and manual transmission of the Spider were a single unit, mounted transversely in the middle of the car. Inspired by airplane design, the package was fixed in an oscillating hinge. This feature eliminated engine vibration within the chassis. The engine itself was a 2.0-liter mill as used in the Clio Williams edition and made 148 horsepower and 129 lb-ft of torque. Not a huge power figure, but the Spider made up for it with a curb weight of just 2,050 pounds.
After a couple of years in development, a concept was shown to the public at Geneva in 1994. The Spider went on sale in 1996, shortly after it entered production. All Spiders were built by Alpine at their factory in Seine-Maritime and were the first car to wear a Renault Sport badge. Initially, there was no windscreen available, but a slim “aeroscreen” was created for the right-hand drive UK versions of the Spider, of which 100 were made. In 1997, a regular windscreen became available and was fitted with that utmost luxury: a wiper. Around 1,800 Spiders were made in total, and Renault also made a few racing examples that took part in the one-car Spider Championship. The Spider raced between 1995 and 1999 before it was retired, which was also the last year of standard Spider production.