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Intelligently Engineered: 1970 Renault 16

Oddball 16

How about an oddball? Here is a 1970 Renault 16, also known as an R16. A rare and uncommon French automobile that was actually sold stateside. Who knew? This Renault oozes with 1960’s styling and even calls to mind some cars from the British Television show “Thunderbirds Are Go.” It is certainly unique and looks to be in solid shape. The seller claims this R16 is rust free and has 78,000 original miles, and comes with a parts car making the $3,950 price tag quite appealing. Find it here on craigslist out of Los Angeles, California.

1970 Renault R16

This R16 is an American model. It features bumper over-riders on the front and rear bumpers. This Renault being an American market car makes it rare as they did not sell many here. The R16 was produced from 1965-1979. The R16 was “Voted best new car in the world for 1965.” Even Sir Sterling Moss was noted for saying, “There is no doubt that the Renault 16 is the most intelligently engineered automobile I have ever encountered and I think that each British motorcar manufacturer would do well to purchase one just to see how it is put together.”

Image Courtesy of AutoDrome.fr

Ironically the R16 engine found its way to Britain, and more specifically into the back of the Lotus Europa. Unfortunately there are no engine photos within the listing, and we would appreciate additional information and photos of the car. The engine layout is interesting to say the least. The transmission sits in front of the engine, which is typical of other French automobiles. There were many R16 engines available during the long production period. Displacement ran from 1470cc up to the largest at 1647cc. Power ranged from 59 horsepower up to 93 horsepower. There unfortunately is not enough information in the ad to determine what displacement and power this car may have. But from looking at the condition of the car, and its low mileage, we can imagine that the engine is in a decent state of condition. The seller has stated that the car has had the water pump replaced and that the car has a 4 speed gear box that is shifted via the steering column.

1970 Renault 16 Interior

The R16’s dark colored interior looks quite inviting and comfortable. The vinyl seats looks clean front and back, with little to no wear. The steering wheel, the dash, and door panels, look nice as well. Although it does appear that the headliner is drooping. There is a modern digital face radio installed in this Renault. For it to be so original, and low mileage, we hope the original radio is still with the car.

1970 Renault 16

The paint and bright work look brilliant. The overall condition of the car looks fantastic. The interesting headlights and grill add a certain uniqueness to the car. The seller claims that this R16 has received some recent maintenance despite the fact that it has “been sitting for a long time.” Plus the parts car may be of help with some needed parts for the low mileage car.  So who wants these oddballs? Who wants to have a car that many haven’t seen, or that many cannot even begin to name? Have you seen a Renault 16 before? What do you think of the Renault 16?


  1. RayT Member

    I owned a 1970 R16. Bought it for $150, stripped it down and totally rebuilt it, had it repainted and then installed the five-speed transmission from a Euro-spec R16TX. A five-on-the-tree!

    One of the best cars I ever owned: comfortable, roomy inside, economical and absolutely bulletproof. I even liked the looks….

    If I could have found one of the 1647cc engines, I would have stuck it in in place of the (I think) 1565cc unit which U.S. cars got. The bigger engine had a hemispherical head and made lots more power. All I did to mine was replace the original Solex carb. with a Weber, which helped a little.

    About the time the last R16s were vanishing from the Pick-Your-Part yards (a far better source than the dealers ever were!) a friend offered me a nice Citroen DS-21 in trade for my practical and useful R16. I was dumb enough to accept. Nice as the Cit was, I missed the R16 from the day it left.

    Hopping a plane and making the cross-country flight to acquire this car is a big temptation, but not quite. Parts were already a major problem when I redid my car in 1980, and have to be a bigger problem now.

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  2. Claus Graf

    Last time I saw an R16 was in Venezuela back in the 1980’s.

    My family had an R12

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  3. tirefriar

    This has been listed for quite a while. Whats holding this car back is what you get, what is essentially a not very exciting Euro commuter econbox, and what it will take to keep it going – not too many places that service French car hence can get a bit pricey beyond simple maintenance. It is priced right imho, but its just a bit on a bland side…

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  4. KEN NELSON Member

    The only really smart car ever built by Renault. The 16 was Renault’s challenge to the Citroen DS21 – seats as comfortable, ergonomics as good, but more body roll than a Cit, less space for rear passengers, rusted faster than a DS, and had messier emissions controls on their complex carb than the Weber-equipped Cits, plus not as much power as the 2.1 L DS21.
    Renault’s big problem from my perspective – 53 yrs of Citroens and 10 with Renaults (still have two R16s and a dead R18i) – is they had way too many models, and lousy support for any of tem – even less than Citroen. 4CV, Dauphine, Caravelle, R8/10, Fuego, R12, R17, Le Car – way too many variations. Citroen’s philosophy of “why change a brilliant car that startled the world” (and still does today) more often than every 10 yrs for each model – ’55-’65 = DS19, ’66-’75 = DS21 – is why DSs are still coming out of the woodwork after 60 yrs! You can swap a rear fender, any door, all glass, decklid, roof, all interior designs – and each engine/gearbox good for 10 yrs – from a ’55 DS19 onto a ’75 DS21 quite easily, so parts are not unobtainium.

    The DS also established that an intelligent body design needn’t be changed every other yr like all the other mfrs. What other car these days still shows up in futuristic Sci-fi movies after more than 40 yrs out of production? The R16 was a great car for unfortunately too short a time.

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    • Jean Lecointe

      How I do agree with you Ken.

      I owned one R16 and then several ID and DS.

      There is no comparison.

      Driving, comfort, safety, space and design make the Citroen far ahead of any Renault.

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  5. George Member

    My sister nearly bought a US car in the mid-70s from the failing dealer, but found the steering effort too high

    When I lived in France one of my best friends had one, and the car was incredibly comfortable and practical. I especially remember going up snowy mountain roads in “La Seize.”

    Even in France it was a little difficult to get parts but the car brings back great memories

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  6. Paul Allen

    The R16 is such an oddball car that the wheelbase is not the same on both sides.


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  7. billy de Hulst

    @Paul Allen

    Many cars have a different wheelbase on either side. One is/was the Suzuki Swift/Geo Metro. It was done for reasons of steering response or suspension clearance for torsion bars. One of my Corvair vans had a different wheelbase on the right side from whacking a tall curb. It seemed to handle better after the accidental wheelbase adjustment.

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  8. Grr

    So attracted to French cars, probably because of the Peugeots we had growing up. The headlights on this example are the Euro versions; attached pic shows the US version. Still want to put a tuned 1647cc Gordini version of this motor with a 5-speed in the back of an S1 Europa…

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  9. Paul B

    The R16 was a wonderful car, pioneering the large family hatchback design, and the idea of an affordable, comfortable, economical large family car for Europe. It appeared at just the right moment, as Europeans were becoming more prosperous. It sold well for years. Many people were seeking something a cut above a Simca Aronde, Volkswagen or Panhard, more imaginative than a 404 Peugeot or Fiat 1500, yet not as pricey or complex as a Citroen, an Alfa Giulia or BMW 1800. We rented one in Italy in 1968 and drove it on the highways and through the mountains on our way to Paris; the rental company was trying to get it back to France. I must say that in its day and time it was a revelation, with loads of room, very comfortable ride and excellent fuel mileage. It should have and could have been a solid success in the U.S. But Renault blew their opportunities here over and over with a poor dealer network, terrible service, and, early on, unreliable cars. Someone with adequate nerve and connections to French car clubs and parts should buy this one and enjoy it. It will probably never be worth a lot of money, but that’s not the point.

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  10. Grr

    And another thing: the DS may have been made for ~20 yrs, but the R16 was made for ~15, so it’s not as if it was a flash-in-the-pan. And it wasn’t intended as a competitor for the DS/ID. Quoting Wikipedia:

    “Citroën was designing an extremely similar car in the early 1960s (Projet F), to bridge their own enormous market gap between the tiny 2CV and luxury DS models. When Citroën realized that Renault was introducing the R16, they took the unusual step of canceling Projet F.”

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  11. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    Brian, LOVE the Thunderbirds reference–my ring tone is the theme from the original series!

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  12. KEN NELSON Member

    Renault’s simple solution to making the rear suspension very supple was to use full-width torsion bars for each axle. So to accomodate the extra length vs making each bar short so they’d meet in the middle of the car, the engineers offset one bar ahead of the other – hence the two different wheelbase lengths – Very smart & the extra bar length is well worth the nonstandard wheelbase – near impossible to tell the difference in the ride and the side view. Why can’t more mfrs think like that? Now that’s a real world example of thinking out of the drawer –

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    • tirefriar

      Take it over to your local alignment place using computerized heads and drive the tech crazy…

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    • Tessa Nefouse

      Hi Ken,

      Were you recently listing a lime green 1971 Renault R16 on Craigslist? If you were, I’d love to get in contact with you about it, maybe over email? The listing expired before I got a chance to reach out.

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      • Ken Nelson Member

        Yes, I have a lime green R16 for sale now on CL San Francisco – car is in San Jose, along with my other R16, a 69 runner.

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      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Mortensen Staff

        @Ken Nelson – Please don’t post your car for sale in the comments. Send it in so we can feature it: https://barnfinds.com/sell/ Thanks!

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  13. bcavileer

    Had an R12tl, great ride, peppy motor. Traded for a Gordini, liked it, but really like this oddball. Looks Tre Comfortable.

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  14. alabee

    US market car with European headlights in 1970?

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  15. KEN NELSON Member

    Great idea Tirefriar! Would be fun to watch!

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  16. KEN NELSON Member

    Many Peugeots are in the US with Euro lights – this one could have been swapped in the US or come in thru Canada –

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  17. Ron

    If that’s a non-gray market car, it’s got European headlights. The ones we got had 4 round sealed beams, as in Grr’s post. These were fascinating vehicles. Too bad they weren’t more durable and that Renault completely failed to provide a decent dealer network.

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