New Crate Engine! 1975 Renault R12 Wagon

As we know, I have a history of buying and attempting to revitalize obscure projects. Those days are behind me – mostly – as it’s just too much work to nurse oddball cars back to life, and usually for very little gain on the financial side when you throw your hands up and sell out of frustration over yet another part being long out of production. The seller of this unusual 1975 Renault R12 wagon has done the Lord’s work in terms of keeping this oddity on the road, even managing to find a NOS engine in the dusty confines of a shuttered Renault dealership. It’s listed here on eBay with an opening bid of $2,469 and no takers yet.

Despite seeming like a gray market import, the R12 was actually intended for sale in the U.S. market. Not unlike other foreign makes looking for a foothold stateside, Renault’s tiny dealer network and lingering doubts about build quality did nothing to inspire confidence in this relatively roomy compact wagon. The R12 was actually a decent success for Renault in other markets, with healthy production volume spurring it to find a home in many European driveways. Those results didn’t translate to success in the United States, however, and the R12 disappeared without anyone really noticing.

French cars in general have not had impressive track records in the U.S., and it’s unfortunate that models like this didn’t find more support. I understand why, however, having owned a 1988 Peugeot 505 wagon for a short time. They are endlessly interesting cars with better build quality than they are given credit for, but the lack of trained mechanics and solid parts supply scare many potential owners away. Now, you can find parts for cars like these, as evidenced by the seller’s incredible luck of finding a brand-new crate engine in an old New York dealership, but you have to work at it. Nothing comes easy with owning a car like this, so you sure as heck better love the thing.

The seller reports that while the Renault does roll and steer, it is a non-runner. Even with that engine dropped in, there’s plenty more work to do. The listing reports that there is miscellaneous electrical work that needs to be sorted out, but it doesn’t go into specifics. Coolant hoses and fuel lines all need to be installed, along with various electrical connections. Overall, it sounds like the engine was installed but the finish work never happened. Bodywork is obviously a work in progress as well, but at least the interior is in decent shape. One curious upgrade? Someone ditched the four-speed for a five-speed box, so you have that going for you! Do you think this rarely seen R12 will find a new home?


  1. nlpnt

    The R12 strikes me as having been designed as a wagon first, and the truly awkward sedan “styled” by way of two flourishing sword cuts to a 1/4-scale clay model.

    Best of luck to whoever takes this on, and I mean that non-sarcastically!

    Like 5
  2. Jack Gray

    I bought a used ’73 R12 (?) wagon in 77 after trading off an R10 4 door sedan at a former Orlando Renault dealer. From what I was told, this was the first year for the front wheel drive. Within the 1st 6 weeks, the transaxle seals blew and had to be replaced. They were replaced 2 more times and I would have to go to a Union 76 gas station to have gear oil put in every 2 weeks, but for some reason the seals wouldn’t hold. After somehow breaking a bolt holding the valve cover and Jerry rigging it to keep oil from blowing all over, I had had enough and traded it as fast as I could for a new ’79 AMC Concord, but that’s another story for another time.

    Like 1
  3. taxijohn

    Continued to be manufactured by Dacia, certainly to the late 80’s & possibly beyond, comfortable roomy & economical, would cover distance with ease. I liked them.

    Like 4
    • Solosolo Solosolo Member

      Great little car in South Africa where it was known as an R12 Wedge. Mine rusted away long before I had any trouble with it! French cars, no thanks, unless it’s a Citroen SM that is!

      Like 1
  4. Martin Horrocks

    When living in Mexico in 78-83 we had 2 R12s, a 1300 wagon and a 1600 TS sedan.

    Good cars if a bit bland. Bigger engine was better

    Like 2
    • Solosolo Solosolo Member

      I forgot about my Renault 16TS. Now that was another kettle of fish altogether. It was very comfortable, could do 100 mph and very economical, however, rust got it again so I swapped it for a 24″ TV! I have owned Renaults R8, R10, R12, R16 TS, Fregate, Dauphine, 4CV etc. Great cars but they ALL rusted away as you watched them as I lived in Durban on the Indian Ocean coast.

      Like 3
  5. chrlsful

    yes, the Dauphens (had semiphores) and 10, but no on ownership for this. Would have loved to have one as its a waggy & I go by wagonman (not my choice ofa name) round here

  6. Richard Kirschenbayn

    The equally gorgeous sister of Catherine Denuve died when she lost control of a rented R10 in the classical situation all rear engine cars can get into: on a freeway ramp. She burned ugh! I had a 4CV but the wheelbase was so short that the problem never presented itself. Also, it just wouldn’t go that fast.

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