Olivier and his Renault 8, a toy for adults

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Xavier Claeys – Posted on , Updated

Olivier Brichet is over fifty and has not forgotten the miniature cars of his childhood. Today, he sees things in bigger and collects real cars, mainly those of the 70s or early 80s. It is aboard a Renault 8 he takes us on the roads of the Ardennes, at Montherme, where he was born and where his grandfather lived who had the same model.

Happy memories

Fault confessed is half redressed. Olivier took the wheel alone at the age of 14/15. First, younger, on the lap of his grandfather and all alone in the courtyard of the house. Forward, reverse, shift and U-turns with the grandfather's Renault 8. First sensations and unforgettable memories that forever mark the spirit of Olivier.
The latter will not have time to drive on the road when he gets his license, the car was damaged some time ago. Another highlight, even older, makes the eyes of the fifties the Renault 8 inescapable. When he is 8 years old, his big brother of about twenty years, takes him, at night, on the rally of the Ardennes. Eyes and ears alert, Olivier remembers a R8 Gordini that was quite a bit of noise and was the admiration of his older brother. At that time, the latter then decided to customize his Renault Dauphine with a small sports steering wheel and a Devil exhaust, just to amplify the sensations.

© Xavier Claeys / France 3 Champagne-Ardenne
© Xavier Claeys / France 3 Champagne-Ardenne

It is in this spirit that Olivier is considering his R8. An "augmented" major, a little less wise and sportier, as would have wanted a young at the time, inspired by the Renault 8S. For lack of being able to compete with the mythical Gordini.

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A super Dauphine

With the 4CV exit after the war, then the Dauphine, Renault goes on with commercial successes. But competition is growing in the small car market. The task is difficult for the new R8 released in June 1962. Its angular line contrasts with that of the Dauphine much more round. However, it is inspired while trying to erase the defects observed by customers on the previous model.

Like its elders, it keeps the engine in the back which gives it a fairly light direction even if it makes it sensitive to side winds. Habitability is improved. It has the advantage of its four disc brakes, a first on a car of this category. It also adopts a new engine, the Sierra engine also called Cleon which is robust and will survive until the 1990s on the Renault Twigo and Clio.

At its release, the R8 does not unleash the passions and some problems finishing on the first models tarnish its image. But very quickly, the declination Gordini He will print an image of a sports car and a "pleasure" car that rejuvenates his audience. The progress of the presentation and the reliability make it know a certain success but which does not however equal that of the Dauphine.

© Xavier Claeys / France 3 Champagne-Ardenne
© Xavier Claeys / France 3 Champagne-Ardenne

Drawn in 30 days

In October 60, Fernand Picart technical director of the Regie Renault calls in catastrophe Philippe Charbonnaux to show him "an extraordinary machine", the prototype of the Renault 8. Extraordinary perhaps but not at all the taste of the commercial service that does not appreciate the aesthetics of the new car.

Philippe Charbonnaux is of the same opinion. Engineers challenge the designer Haut-Marnais to completely rethink the lines of the car in just thirty days, not a day more. The specifications are clear: no references to sports cars, but a small quiet car that must almost go unnoticed, able to seduce all layers of the population. The control room is in a hurry, Simca prepares the release of his new Simca 1000, Citroen his Friend 6, you have to face the competition.

Philippe Charbonnaux works tirelessly with the help of the bodybuilders of the house. No time to draw sketches or do tests in the wind tunnel, it must be done quickly. One month later, at the end of October 1960, the new lines of the R8 are validated.

Slideshow: the R8 in 10 photos

Olivier's car

Four years ago, Olivier had an opportunity: "I was lucky enough to find this R8 in the vicinity of Reims, near the son of a deceased collector, a R8 Major from 1970. The car was 70,000 km long and had already been renovated. have almost nothing to do again. The Major is a better finished and more reliable version than the first models released in the early 60's. It develops 46 hp for a displacement of 1108 cm3.

Our buyer is handyman and has already fully restored other cars. He can not help putting a personal touch to this new racing car. He remakes the roof sky and decides to modify this Major according to his own taste, that is to say with some concessions on the original model, as initiated by his brother.

Wide wheels, a Devil brand exhaust for noise and a small steering wheel are emerging. The next step is the dashboard that will soon be replaced by a R8 S board a little more equipped and aesthetically sportier.

(Embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=orbKvkqDsRQ

Olivier does not hesitate to go out often enough this little toy that he finds very easy and pleasant to use. "The R8 behaves with two fingers, the steering is very light and it starts at 1/4 turn, it's a reliable car on which we can countHowever, it does not start long distance "With the sound of the exhaust Devil it would become quickly tiring".

The noise is part of the atmosphere, when you drive at 80 km / h in this small cabin, it feels like driving much faster.
Olivier, owner of the R8

In his R8, Olivier finds the scent of the 70s. "Every car of this era has a special smell and the R8 is no exception to the rule, plus the comfort of the French thanks to the well-padded seats in which one sinks. . "

© Xavier Claeys / France 3 Cjhampagne-Ardenne
© Xavier Claeys / France 3 Cjhampagne-Ardenne

The R10: the bourgeois sister

The R8 and the R10 are sisters, there is no doubt. They are often confused. The Renault 10 was born three years after the R8. She is taller but keeps the same picture. This is actually an elongated version of the R8. The front and rear engine compartments are larger while the interior volume remains the same. The R10 is more opulent and adopts rectangular headlights on its front. This "bourgeois" sells less than his "little sister" and its manufacture will be suspended in 1971 (1973 for the R8).


La Gordini, the most famous!

We can not talk about the Renault 8 without mentioning the most famous version, the one that remains in the collective memory, the R8 Gordini of course. For fun, a little lesson in driving with former French champion Jean Vinatier Rallies

(Embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQ7U7RK666Q



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