Back in the day, Renault launched the odd curio that sold in small numbers (not always intentionally) only for them to become almost forgotten a couple of years later.
Obscure models almost off the radar already include the glorious Avantime, the intriguingly flawed but mostly unloved Vel Satis, and more distantly, the plastic-bodied, rear-engined Renault GTA, a capable cut-price 911 alternative that's rarely seen these days.
In between that and the Avantime we have the Renault Sport Spider, the mid-engined, alloy space-framed, plastic-bodied limited edition sports car that appeared shortly before the Lotus Elise, in 1996. You never see these now, though one reason is that Renault only built 100 right-hookers, and another that they provide the weather protection of an umbrella in a tornado.
Even if it was built with the optional full-depth windscreen, which at least saves you the bother of wearing a crash helmet, the only roofing arrangements offered were optional, an almost make-shift hood good for speeds of up to… 40mph.
The Sport Spider was really a track car, and used like that you won’t need a roof or a windscreen because you should be wearing a helmet anyway.
The Spider would make a fine device for shaving tenths, I found myself musing the other day, a track toy that’s a little different. And thoroughly sensible in this role. It’s road legal of course, it comes with a built-in roll-over bar as standard, its open body will heighten the exhilaration and unlike most road cars, it was built for this kind of treatment in the first place.
It should be a cheap thrash too, because mechanically it’s essentially a rearranged Clio Williams. That means a tough, 2.0 litre motor that’s cheap to service, much like the rest of it, and being a collectors’ car depreciation should be slight. Admittedly it’s not searingly fast because it weighs 930kg, which is not so clever considering how little of it there is, but it’s fast enough to be fun, and with the engine behind you there’s going to be the odd challenge on track when the back-end starts to get away.
LOOKS AND PRICE
It looks good too, with its Renault-esque face, motorbike-style instruments and upward-hinging doors. But as with so many modern classics now, this oddball now comes at a price. A very low mileage right-hand-drive example is available for a cool £35,000 at present. Lesser ones aren't that much cheaper.
Reasons to want one: Stylish track-day wheels, satisfyingly rare and collectible too.
Why you’ll run a mile: Not that fast, you may not like the blue or yellow colour choice, and what if it rains?