When it comes to sports cars, the French have always had a somewhat tumultuous love affair with them. Any sparks of automotive brilliance which did emerge from our ‘amis’ across the channel were too frequently short lived, under-appreciated and quickly extinguished. Let us not forget that this is a nation which conceived icons like the Citroen SM, Alpine A110 and Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic.
Anyway, over the last 25 years, the majority of French car manufacturers have been synonymous with creating affordable cars for the masses. Bulbous MPVs to cart your family around in or compact city cars to navigate congested town centres. That is, apart from Renault.
Renault has always had their hand in the motorsport pie. Be it through rallying or Formula One, from the 70s through to present day, Renault’s motorsport presence has also benefited from a conjoined road car offering.
In the late 90s, Renault had just emerged from state ownership and were keen to showcase their second generation supermini, the Clio, to the world. Buoyed on by a fresh injection of cash and a seemingly bottomless marketing budget, Renault under their performance division Renaultsport, decided to launch a one make race series to promote it. They tasked Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR) of Jaguar Le Mans fame to prepare the car and the end result was a little more than most had bargained for.
The car was sliced in half with a brand new rear subframe installed where the back seats used to sit in order to house a race tuned 3 Litre V6 engine. Power was delivered to the rear wheels with a comprehensively reworked chassis and suspension setup. The finished product harked back to the Renault 5 Turbo of the 80s. Bulging wheel arches housed huge 18inch wheels while substantial intakes to the rear of the car allowed the engine to breathe properly… and the Clio V6 was born.
Unsurprisingly the racing series was a huge success. So much so in fact that with the blessing of the Renault management board, the green light was given to build a road going variant.
BUT … in typical French fashion, the Clio V6 had some issues. When the first generation road car was launched in 2001, early press reports declared it a handful to drive (particularly in the wet) owing to its mid-engined layout and very short wheelbase. Furthermore, the turning circle made oil tankers look agile and it wasn’t particularly fast either owing to the substantial amount of weight added through the rear subframe and engine. A French journo is even reported to have sent a press car to an early grave when their half consumed Gauloises slipped out of their hand on the move and was ingested by one of those mammoth side air intakes mentioned earlier… oh mon Dieu!
All of its quirks didn’t seem to dampen prospective buyers appetites however and followed by a spirited launch drive up the Goodwood Festival of Speed hill climb by a then still baby-faced Jenson Button, Renault managed to shift 610 units (256 phase 1, 354 phase 2) of their hyper hatch to the UK market from 2001-2006 with a list price of around £25,000.
The rose tinted spectacles didn’t last long though and a global recession combined with a general lack of practicality saw Clio V6 prices take a nosedive. In fact, if you had been brave enough to pull the trigger on one of these between 2010-13, you would have paid somewhere in the region of £13-15k for a tidy phase 2 example (hindsight’s a lovely thing!).
Fast forward to present day and the Clio V6 has gained a cult following akin to Ferrari F50’s and McLaren F1’s. Its flaws have been long forgotten and at time of writing, it is possibly the hottest modern classic on the market right now. Prices have inevitably skyrocketed and good, low mileage phase 2 cars are changing hands from anywhere between £60-80k. A delivery mileage example in a rare colour is now a six figure conversation.
“But why?” I hear you ask, “it’s a Renault Clio”. You see the V6 was spawn in a time when you could still smoke in the office and Concorde roamed the skies. The reality is, in today’s penny pinching, nanny state, neither Renault nor any other mainstream manufacturer will ever have the chance to make a car like the Clio V6 again. Yes there are faster, better and newer cars you could spend your money on, but that is somewhat missing the point. Not only will it put a smile on your face every time you see it, but in the turbulent world we currently live in, it is a great physical asset to park some cash and we firmly believe prices have a lot further to rally.
Written by Greg Evans from Contemporary Classics for Charles & Dean Finance.
“Contemporary Classics is an industry leading Car Investment Dealership created to highlight the value of modern cars as a viable alternative investment. Using fundamental and technical analysis of cars and their valuation curves, our goal is to enable enthusiasts and collectors alike to invest in modern cars which we believe possess the traits to make them future classics as well as appreciating assets. At the same time, we believe cars are meant to be driven and want to make sure that all the cars we consider investments are also being enjoyed by their owners on a regular basis.”