Super-Rare Renault Sport Spider In California

Who can argue with the vendor, who says, “This car is pure driving fun!” It’s as cute as all-get-out, and a model that it’s safe to say is rarely seen in the U.S. It may seem oddly familiar, but that’s because, from the front, it looks kind of like a Toyota MR2 Spyder with larger headlights. But no, it’s a mid-engine Renault Sport Spider from 1997 with just 8,790 miles on the odometer. And after 25 years in Europe, it’s here on Craigslist in Orange County, California with a $69,990 price tag.

According to Classic.com, the average price paid for one of these Sport Spiders is $42,451. The high was $59,388, placing this one right at the tip-top of the market. It is very low mileage, however. From 2017 to 2022, the site registered only seven of them sold–globally.

As you may know, cars that are 25 years or older are exempt from federal standards, and can be freely imported into the U.S. Renault has been out of the American market since 1992, when the Eagle Premier bit the dust. Rumors of its return have surfaced from time to time, but safe to say that in 1997 there was no thought of federalizing the Renault Sport Spider.

The little roadster with the Gullwing-type scissors doors was produced by Renault’s Sport division from 1996 to 1999, powered by a 148-horsepower 16-valve two-liter four (sourced from the Megane) that was probably pretty lively. The motor, mounted transversely as a mid-engine, could be safely revved to 6,800 rpm. Cup racing in a dedicated series (like the Miata) was part of the original intent, and the competitions were held for several years as support for other races. A special Spider Trophy version was built, with 180 horsepower.

It was always a very exclusive car, even in France—just 1,800 of them were built, of which 100 were right-hand drive. The British got only a version with a full windshield, though there was another version with a tiny aeroscreen. The built-in roll cage is cool.

These cars followed the Colin Chapman rules about lightness. They had an aluminum chassis and a plastic composite body. The burden of a roof was eschewed—you apparently got wet when it rained. Curb weight was just 2,050 pounds. Further technical details from the owner: “All wheels are individually suspended, at the front on double wishbones and at the rear on wishbones and trailing arms. There are stabilizers on both axles. At the front, the spring struts are installed horizontally to allow for a low height of the body.”

The seller of this well-maintained car is the original owner, or it was purchased from same. Buyers are cautioned that the car cannot be registered in California because of DMV rules there, though it’s fair game in the other 49. The purchaser will have time to study the interesting history of his or her purchase, because at the time of the ad’s posting the car was in transit from Bremerhaven “and will be in L.A. in about six or eight weeks.”

Comments

  1. angliagt angliagt Member

    I find it interesting that this dealer’s in California,
    but can’t legally sell cars like this to California residents.

    Like 6
    • alphasud Member

      Something also tells me this will be sold and be driving around the streets of California with Montana plates.

      Like 17
      • Oldog4tz Oldog4tz Member

        A California resident non-dealer can’t even buy it. Thus a Montana LLC.

        Like 2
    • frank knieriem

      I can sell to anybody. The car can not legally be registered in California.

      Like 5
  2. jnard90 jnard90 Member

    Why do the last few photographs show a different interior? The seats and steering wheel are different from the first few photos.

    Like 14
    • Derrick S

      Your right. The dash as well. It looks like the last photos show the aeroscreen version of the car. Makes you wonder why they do that. I can see it if you don’t have access to a vehicle and you are trying to show a representation, but there are other pictures of the interior there, so that’s not going to be the case.

      I love the look of this. It would be a tough choice between an Elise, and this car, if I was in the market.

      Like 3
    • frank knieriem

      That was my bad. We sold a pretty much identical car with wind deflector and no windshield to a collector in Yokohama. Before departure, I took a lot of pics for later use. When I did the new website, not sure if I can mention it here, I mixed the pictures for the ad, since both were in my Renault folder :)

      Like 4
  3. Jack M.

    That’s a very cool car Jim! Which one of our readers sent in the tip?

    Like 2
  4. James Quinn

    Does every car maker in the world have a “Spider”?

    Like 1
    • SubGothius

      It’s a generic term for a small, lightweight, open-top sports car, derived from early carriages built for speed with spindly frames and few or no body panels, which made them somewhat resemble actual spiders.

      BTW, the Italian variant is nearly always spelled “spider”, whereas the “spyder” variant originated in Germany — which may explain why the sole exception to this rule is the Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder produced after VW-Audi bought Lamborghini.

      Like 8
      • Gabe

        There is no Y in the Italian alphabet, hence it’s spelled Spider. ;)

        Like 6
  5. Ricardo Ventura

    Respectfully, that’s a lot of money for a French car. Respectfully.

    Like 8
    • Carbuzzard Member

      Bugattis were made in France.

      Like 5
    • frank knieriem

      And a lot of nothing too. Pay more for less :)
      No ABS
      No power steering
      No power brakes
      No ESP
      A whole lot of NO. But the most fun I had since driving a Smart Crossblade.

      Like 1
  6. TimS Member

    I’ll say about this what the snobs say when a clean old survivor sedan comes along. Rare does not equal valuable.

    Like 2
    • frank knieriem

      You got to compare apples with apples. There are only 1493 Renault Sport Spider.

      Like 1
  7. Keruth

    Lambo doors!

  8. Sebastian X1/9

    The third gen MR2 is about $10,000, and a Lotus Elise is $40,000. This looks like a cartoon car.

    Like 4
  9. CCFisher

    I could sell tickets to me getting in and out of this thing.

    Like 11
    • MikeH

      That’s the best line I’ve seen in a long time. And so painfully true.

      Like 3
  10. larry

    WAY overpriced.

    Like 2
    • frank knieriem

      You are right. But cool toys are always overpriced. Currently there are only two cars that meet requirements for import. Not trying to be cocky, but why sell for less? The end of the day, we all need to make a living.

      Like 4
  11. Jay McCarthy

    While it looks like a Johnny Cash song, it’s still a Renault and worse it’s a Renault that has made the journey across the Pond and there is something about ocean voyages and French automobiles that is caustic to them, Peugeot, Citroen, Renault all failed miserably here yet do well overseas

    Like 2
    • frank knieriem

      You do know that Renault owns Nissan! Which is the reason, you don’t see Renault in the US.

      Like 3
  12. Rick

    That can’t be a Renault. It has five lug wheels, and Renault was famous for a three lug arrangement.

    Like 1
    • SubGothius

      As was Citroen, both a looonnng time ago when engine torque was modest enough it didn’t matter.

      Like 1
      • MikeH

        And Peugeot.

    • Concinnity

      Worse. It’s 5 x 108 pcd, so the same as Ferrari, (and Volvo.)

  13. Howie

    I like, i want, yes a bit overpriced. Anybody in CA can buy this, but you will not be able to register it through the CA DMV.

    Like 5
    • douglas hunt

      Just what is the Cali DMV reasoning behind the ban?

  14. Allen L

    There was another yellow one for sale in Quebec earlier this year, can’t remember the mileage, but the price in Canuck bucks wasn’t this high. Must have sold, can’t find the listing.

  15. frank knieriem

    Exactly, anybody can buy but you can not register any 25 year old or older import in California. I clearly pointed that out in all my ad. :)

    Like 2
  16. chrlsful

    nuttin’s stoppin Cali’s from them drivin them (& others) around the state. Enuff already. Let’s further clean up our cars so more of these types can B driven here.
    And
    the ’93 MR2 we just sold was not near 10K$ altho a number 2 (auction, yes, sorry).
    Like all mid engines. Would like to see more~

  17. Mitch

    Renault made fun cars like Megane RS the legend Alpine and its well
    made relaunch or the Clio Trophy.
    The latter with 280hp (non-tuned) and sequential gearbox was not
    aimed for road driving then more for circuit racing.
    Americans like it big and loud would this small racer fit? Loud
    probably could fit but big definitely not.

  18. Claudio

    Mr2’s and Elise are way more affordable and serviceable than this and have a better looking rear end than this

  19. BCB42

    From the front this has to be one of the prettiest cars, ever.
    From the rear, however, mon dieu, not so much.
    Cool lil ride though!

  20. charlie Member

    As the Hertz agent told me, in Amsterdam, where I had opted for a VW GTI “or similar”, “the French make beautiful cars, but they are not very good mechanics”. This is after the Renault (new) they had rented to me had the driver’s door almost fall off. Upper hinge was very loose, door could not be closed on the primary latch, hung on by the “safety latch”, rain came in around it, road splash from underneath, and it rains a lot in the Netherlands. It was fun to drive, though, quick, easy to park, and enough room in the back seat for two adults.

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