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Slightly Modified 1979 Renault 12

I don’t know if clothing fashions differed significantly between France and the US in 1979, but automotive writers sure had different viewpoints about the Renault 12. French auto writers loved it and US writers, well, not so much. This 1979 Renault 12 is listed here on eBay in Ridgeway, New Jersey and there is an unmet starting bid price of $8,000 listed and no reserve after that.

I love the design of the Renault 12 or R12, it was a perfect Jan Brady (middle child) between the somewhat frumpy Renault 8 and the sleek, or somewhat sleek for the time Renault 16 – which was related to the Feugo, at least visually. The unusual sloping rear window and trunk on the R12 would have looked good as a two-door sedan but they only came in four-door varieties, other than a two-door cargo-type wagon. The wheels are from an R18 GTX. The seller has provided a video here on YouTube.

This particular Renault 12 appears to be in outstanding condition both inside and out and the color can’t be beat/beaten… The seller mentions that this particular R12 is originally from south of the border (no, not New Jersey – Mexico) and it’s not an original car, having been modified a bit with a lowered suspension and hotter engine with double the original horsepower. This one doesn’t have any rust and has been repainted once in its original color while still in Mexico.

As expected, the interior looks great, too. The seats both front and back look perfect and I love the wood steering wheel, even if it wouldn’t have been what would have been in this car from the factory. Some things inside show some wrinkling as you can see but hopefully it’s nothing that can’t be smoothed out. They say that new door cards were ordered in Mexico and will be shipped to the new owner, that’s fantastic.

The engine would have originally been a Renault 1.3L inline-four with 54 horsepower and it’s now a 2.0L with over 100 horsepower. That’s a nice upgrade, to say the least. Visually, those rectangular Weber carburetor air cleaners are bad news, at least for me, and I guess if a person were going to dress this one up they may want to coat that exhaust manifold and do a couple of other things but it runs great. Have any of you owned an R12?


  1. Blyndgesser

    The coupe versions were the Renault 15 and Renault 17. Both were far more handsome and significantly more expensive than the 12. Just as weird, though.

    Like 2
    • local_sheriff

      Well, there really was a coupe version based on the R12, it was just not wearing the Renault badge. In Romania the Dacia 1300 was in production for 35(!) years and during its production run it saw numerous facelifts and versions but was still based on the same R12 body shell from ’69. Versions never available from the original Renault manufacturer but available from Dacia were a UTE and a 2door coupe (Dacia 1410)

      Like 3
    • local_sheriff

      I did some research after posting and it turns out Dacia made 2 generations of their coupe. While the 1410 Sport looks more like a traditional 2door coupe with long doors, the first version 1310 shared doors with 4door cars to save on tooling. How did they make it look right…? Well, they built the coupe as a shorter WB version – and this could apparently be justified for a car built in some 5.500 examples!
      To give the rear portion of its roofline a sleeker profile a windshield was fitted to serve as a backlight

      Like 1
  2. mike

    Nicely done.Not perfect but a good project driver.

    Like 1
  3. Big Al

    Why am I in the mood for Butterscotch ? mmmmm

    Like 4
  4. Martin Horrocks

    I have had 3 R12s, two of which were in Mexico. The Mexican 12TS was unique to Mexico, having a 16TS engine with twinchokje carb and 5 speed gearbox. Almost a R12 Gordini with about 90 bhp It was long geared and went very well on drives between Mexico City and SoCal.

    This isn’t one of those, which was fitted with central console, but does have the hump in the hood which was fitted to the Mexican 12TS and R12Gordini.

    Like 5
    • Martin Horrocks

      Having now read the ebay listing, I can add to this. I see that the mods are a bit more radical than the write up suggests, the engine and box being from Renault 18GTX, which used the later, heavier 2 litre Douvrin engine. Hope the suspension/brakes have been upgraded as well, beyond just getting “stance”!

      And yes, I also had a SW 18GTX later in the UK which was very relaxed car, torquey and smooth. That engine in a R12 should pull very well. R18 was a different generation of car, so this is a fairly radical, but subtle build.

      I now live in Spain. R12s were built here too and you still see them on a regular basis (weekly if not daily). Very well preserved examples cost about $4000 or less. The 2 door Dacia coupé is a curiousity, but I think all Renault-built 12 Staion wagons were 5 door shells.

      Like 2
  5. Allen L

    For those unfamiliar with the R12, it is front wheel drive, and didn’t have the engine mounted transversely, as is common now.
    They sold well in Canada, a high school classmate’s family had one, and we had one particular adventure with it, involving having three people sit on the hood, for extra weight over the front wheels, to travel several miles on a very muddy dirt road, on our way to a school outing at a lake delta university research center. Good times!

    Like 5
  6. Steve Clinton

    I hated Renaults in the 60s, I hated them in the 70s, I hated them in the 80s (remember the Encore?). And I hate them now.

    • Dlegeai

      …’re a Clinton, no wonder…..😂

  7. Solosolo Solosolo Member

    They were plentiful in South Africa as there was a Renault factory building them. The one I owned went well, was economical etc. but if there was anything plastic in the car, it broke! Window winders especially.

    Like 2
    • Bakes

      Amen to that! Renault used the most brittle plastics possible. Next door neighbor had one and cut their hand wide open when cranking the window and the winder snapped.

  8. Bill

    The cam drive looks like it’s touching the radiator. What engine do you think it might be.

  9. Rick in Oregon Rick in Oregon

    Narrowly dodged the R12 bullet when a small herd of them showed up in a local tow yard, 2 sedans a wagon and a pair of Fuego’s. Price was right for a bulk purchase but decided I needed them like a hole in my head. They did sell locally but I have not seen them since so hopefully they have found a good home. The sheer amount of rodent infestation was my deciding factor in all of the cars, they clearly had sat for a very long time and I have enough mice on my property now.

  10. DelBoy

    My father bought one, a 1972 model I think; in shamrock green with a beige vinyl interior. He was never one to care what he drove. The seats were supremely comfortable, the understeer horrific. Driving myself and five friends at 50mph on a long left hand curve, we slid four lanes to the right in the 500 yards turn. A fair few green faces after that event. I fitted Perellis the following day and problem solved. The gearbox jammed in reverse in the parking place, so off to the scrappy it went.

  11. Mike Hawke

    I think Renault licensed the designed to a communist country in the 1980s. A bad car became worse.

    • local_sheriff

      While I do know of one R12 wagon sitting around I haven’t seen one on the road for decades – totally agree with you on the bad car become worse claim. I remember one of my childhood friend’s family had an orange one when these were new and I always found it looked horribly ugly AND made an extremely annoying almost whining sound.

      However, the Dacia actually hit the market 9days PRIOR to the Renault 12 and the Dacia’s production also outlived it’s Renault forefather with some 25 years. Anyone who saw TV reports from the Romanian revolution and the Yugoslav wars will have seen countless Dacias in the background and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them on the streets behind TV crews covering the current ‘peacekeeping operation’ in Ukraine as well

  12. Mark Mitchell Member

    I wouldn’t exactly call the Renault R8 frumpy – maybe “purposeful” would be a better word. I’ve owned three different R8 Gordini’s, which is the factory performance model: I have also owned a nice Renault Caravelle, a couple of Estafette window vans, and currently own a wonderful 4CV “Resort Special (Jolly) by Ghia (1 of 50 built).

    Like 1
  13. SubGothius

    The Renault 16 link in the writeup links to a pic of the later R18, which replaced this R12 in their model lineup.

  14. taxijohn

    I had a couple of these years ago, comfortable, economical, reliable & performed as well as anything else in their class. Yes i agree the plastic used was brittle, but apart from that a good little car. I like them & i’d have another now as a daily driver here in the uk. I particularly like the colour.

  15. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Auction update: this one sold for $8,000.

    Like 1

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