By on November 2, 2020

Today’s Rare Ride is equally at home on a track or on a road. Lightweight and minimalistic in its approach, the Renault Sport Spider has only the things you need to drive, and nothing else.

Let’s check out this bashful looking sports car.

Renault had a difficult time in the latter part of the Eighties. Financial troubles meant the company had to focus on core product, and not successors to more niche performance vehicles (like the R5 Turbo, for example). By the turn of the Nineties, Renault had restructured itself into a leaner and meaner state-owned company and sold off wet blanket AMC to Chrysler. It was time to bring back the excitement!

Subsidiary Renault Sport was tasked with the Projet de Création d’Excitation or whatever it was called and set to work. The new car was designed from the get-go as a racer and a road car. Renault created an aluminum chassis to make the car as light and strong as possible and then chose body panels made of plastic. The exterior looks were penned by Renault’s chief designer Patrick Le Quément, who also had a hand in the slightly important Ford Sierra, and the very successful Renault Twingo. Scissor doors were a flamboyant standard feature.

The engine and manual transmission of the Spider were a single unit, mounted transversely in the middle of the car. Inspired by airplane design, the package was fixed in an oscillating hinge. This feature eliminated engine vibration within the chassis. The engine itself was a 2.0-liter mill as used in the Clio Williams edition and made 148 horsepower and 129 lb-ft of torque. Not a huge power figure, but the Spider made up for it with a curb weight of just 2,050 pounds.

After a couple of years in development, a concept was shown to the public at Geneva in 1994. The Spider went on sale in 1996, shortly after it entered production. All Spiders were built by Alpine at their factory in Seine-Maritime and were the first car to wear a Renault Sport badge. Initially, there was no windscreen available, but a slim “aeroscreen” was created for the right-hand drive UK versions of the Spider, of which 100 were made. In 1997, a regular windscreen became available and was fitted with that utmost luxury: a wiper. Around 1,800 Spiders were made in total, and Renault also made a few racing examples that took part in the one-car Spider Championship. The Spider raced between 1995 and 1999 before it was retired, which was also the last year of standard Spider production.

Today’s Rare Ride is Sonic the Hedgehog blue and is one of the no windshield versions. Legal for import to Canada, the Spider asks $58,164 USD or $77,492 loonies.

[Images: seller]

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13 Comments on “Rare Rides: The 1997 Renault Sport Spider, Track Car for the Road...”

  • avatar

    “a curb weight of just 2,050 pounds” (using aluminum and plastic).

    The Model T had a curb weight of 1,200 to 1,650 pounds (using a steel frame, steel body and cast iron engine block).

    [Lunar Roving Vehicle had a mass of 460 pounds (but could carry 1,080 pound payload).]

    (1922 Model TT had a curb weight of 1,480 pounds but could carry a 2,000 pound payload.)

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      If memory serves, my 1968 Karmann Ghia had a curb weight of around 1500 lbs., with a steel unibody.

      • 0 avatar

        @DC Bruce:

        Your memory is incorrect.

        The Karmann Ghia, like the Beetle, wasn’t a unibody. Or all those old late ’60s Meyer Manx and Fiberfab kits couldn’t have rested on a Veedub platform chassis pulled from dead Bugs in the scrapyard. The Ghia’s body seams were lead-filled between panels to get those smooth lines, so it weighed about 1830 pounds compared to the Beetle’s 1700. With 36 blatting horsepower, the thing could hardly get out of its own way. And it was expensive, $1000 more than the Beetle.

        A racer it wasn’t. So why it should spring to mind compared to this Renault is beyond me.

        When I was a teenaged car nut in college in the early/mid ’60s, we used to laugh at Karmann Ghias. You get could get an MGB in 1963 that would fry its arse for the same money. The Ghia was a poseur’s car which showed the owner had no car clue and had a rich daddy if female.

        By contrast, here’s a link to the original 1995 Renault Sport Spider brochure. Its chassis is built like a tank with the added advantage of not having totally crap suspension, skinny tires and drum brakes.

        Hydro Aluminium, Norway’s prime aluminum company, supplied the extrusions.

    • 0 avatar

      Are you suggesting that these lighter vehicles have the structural rigidity of the Renault or are similar in their performance, safety, or mission?

      Or are we just having unrelated figures time.

      • 0 avatar

        If you were going for structural rigidity, you’d probably want a roof – a roofline like the 2019 Golf Sportwagen SE might be ideal. (Fully optimized using modern engineering and materials science, that vehicle has a curb weight of only 3,051 pounds.)

        • 0 avatar

          An F1 car weighs something like 1,455 pounds (without driver or ballast) – right at half the weight of the 2019 Sportwagen, and remarkably similar to the Model T (and TT).

          It would be interesting to compare the torsional rigidity (Nm/degree) of the Model T, the Sportwagen and the F1. One source stated that later Model T’s used the frame rails from the Model TT truck, and another source said these were something like 0.20″ steel? (1/5 of an inch thick, seems crazy)

          An excellent background article (bonus – why rivets aren’t ideal):

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I would say the list of “things you need” in an automobile include a windscreen/windshield. If I wanted a car for street use without a windshield, I’d ride a motorcycle.

    • 0 avatar

      Especially on track. The cars in front of you kick up all kinds of crap – mostly “clag” / marbles, little bits of discarded rubber. Those things hurt if they hit you at speed. I’d like more then just a visor on my helmet between me and that stuff. I realize open wheel racers and bikers deal with this all the time but a weekend warrior enjoying a track might want a bit more comfort. Also it does rain on track days so the whole topless thing might be a problem as well.

  • avatar

    Gentry Lane (the Toronto Lotus dealer) has a pair of these for sale, for $50k CAD each, which seems like a relative bargain, although both are the soft, overweight windshield-equipped models. Then again, they’ve also got a 1st gen Elise for $40k, which seems like the “better” (inasmuch as 1 ton of late 90’s European sports car built of aluminum and the faint hope the thing will hold together can be a good buy) choice.

  • avatar

    I didn’t even know these existed, but I’m super tempted to buy one now.

  • avatar

    Gullwing doors? When these came out in the Lamborghini Countach they were called scissor doors.

    For gullwing doors, see the original Mercedes-Benz 300SL or the Delorean.

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