Buyer’s guide: Renault 8 & 10

| 27 Mar 2020
Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Renault 8 & Renault 10

Why you’d want a Renault 8 or Renault 10

Renault updated the Dauphine with a shape surprisingly similar to Alfa Romeo’s abortive Tipo 103 – a front-drive small car that was shelved because it was building Dauphines under licence instead.

Mechanically, of course, the R8 was quite different and Renault’s experience with rear engines ensured that it was remarkably quiet, refined and spacious.

The new model developed a keen following and, in Gordini form, achieved considerable success in racing and rallying.

It also donated many components to the Matra Djet and Alpine sports cars.

Built in France, Spain, Bulgaria and Romania (as the Dacia) and assembled as far afield as Venezuela, Mexico, Algeria, Morocco, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (but ironically not by Alfa in Italy), the 8 and 10 enjoyed a 14-year life and were made in big numbers, but survivors are rare and interest is only beginning to grow in their home country.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Renault 8 & Renault 10
Jean Ragnotti shows how to do it on the Monte Historique

Investigate the origin of cars for sale, because not all had the same spec; for example, Spanish-built 8s had rear drums.

All-disc brakes were a rare luxury on such a small saloon, but helped to give it an edge in competition – allied to its rear-drive traction.

The new Cléon-Fonte engine family went on to power Renault’s front-drive saloons for decades; later 5 and 5 Gordini 1397cc units are sometimes found in surviving 8s and 10s.

When the 1100 R8 was launched in ’64, testers eulogised over its brilliant combination of performance and economy and that carried through to later models.

The shape must have been more aerodynamic than it looks, but one of the secrets was the gauge of steel used – the cars were lighter than most rivals.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Renault 8 & Renault 10
Early production models with Dauphines and 4s in 1962

The disadvantage was that when rust took hold, it wasn’t long before it had eaten straight through the thin steel.

Corrosion was invariably worse under the surface than on top, affecting the inner wings, bulkhead and floors – as well as the more obvious sills and outer panels.

Almost all survivors will already have had extensive repairs – check that all are sound and competently done, and protected for the future.

Few have been restored as comprehensively as Steve Cole’s R10 pictured here; membership of the Renault Classic Car Club is vital.

Gordinis are highly collectable and correct engine parts can fetch thousands of pounds. Inevitably, replicas are common and you need to carefully confirm that a car said to be original has the evidence and pedigree to back up its claims.

Images: Tony Baker


Renault 8 & 10: what to look for

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Renault 8 & Renault 10

Bodywork

See above for trouble spots

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Renault 8 & Renault 10
Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Renault 8 & Renault 10

Engine

A new engine family arrived with the 8 that continued to be built up to 2004. They’re robust and powerful, but the alloy head can corrode, so inspect the oil-filler cap for emulsion.

Rattles from timing gear and rumbles from the bottom end, plus excess oil blowing, indicate the unit is nearing the end of its useful life.

Cooling can be marginal due to silting from alloy head corrosion and to modern fuels. It’s worthwhile re-coring the rad with extra capacity; it’s vital to use inhibitor.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Renault 8 & Renault 10

Suspension

The swing-axle rear end is well controlled; inspect for rot and for weak dampers.

Rear disc brakes were great while they worked; lack of use causes seizure.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Renault 8 & Renault 10

Chromework

This is particularly hard to find because jumble supplies are gradually drying up and demand doesn’t justify new production: a good, full set is a bonus.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Renault 8 & Renault 10
Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Renault 8 & Renault 10
Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Renault 8 & Renault 10

Interior

Always exceptionally comfortable, the seats were mostly hard-wearing vinyl; fully reclining was a later option. Cloth can be sourced in France to retrim, as here.

The gearchange was never great and gets worse with wear. Synchromesh on first came with 1100 engine; confirm that it works and none jump out of gear.

The dashboard/switchgear had many production changes and much use of new plastics. The often weak components are hard to track down: check their presence and function prior to purchase.


Renault 8 & Renault 10: on the road

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Renault 8 & Renault 10

Launching a new wet-liner engine with aluminium head in the R8 gave Renault a power advantage over rivals, aided by low overall weight.

Check the engine starts easily from cold, because the automatic choke can be unreliable; carb specialists can help.

The ‘sealed’ cooling system was an innovation shared with the R4, featuring a separate expansion tank for top-up hidden under a removable grommet. It certainly needs checking for level and signs of oil getting in or overheating.

Confirm the specification of the unit fitted: later transplants are common and likely to give more performance, though sacrificing originality. Gordini engine parts are more highly strung – check for condition and spec. 

The rare automatic, with an electro-magnetic clutch operating an all-synchro three-speed ’box, is jerky in operation with quite slow changes.

Light weight meant little self-centring on the steering, so Renault added springs to help, which takes acclimatisation. Inspect the rack for wear, and dampers for weakness.

Cars showing negative camber at the back may not have been lowered: the gearbox mountings are in shear and the wheels splay out when they fail. 

Both brakes and clutch were quite heavy when new and, even with the limiting valve operating correctly, the overly powerful front discs can lock – beware a faulty or missing valve, or poor tyres.

New Michelins are available, but Cinturatos were preferred in period; fitting 13in alloys widens tyre choice.

The handbrake linkage is prone to seizing, as are the Bendix calipers, though rebuild kits are available.


Renault 8 & Renault 10 price guide

1964 Renault 8 Gordini 1100

  • Concours: c£35,000
  • Good: c£20,000
  • Fair: c£14,000

Renault 8 & Renault 10 history

1962 May Renault R8 launched (UK Sept)

1963 Oct R8 automatic available worldwide: Jaeger electro-mechanical operation, 0-60mph 27.5 secs. Standard R8 added: cloth seats, less chrome

1964 Feb R8 1100: torque boost, higher final drive, new all-synchro gearbox; 44bhp, 61lb ft, 0-60mph 18.2 secs, 86mph. R8 de luxe auto only

Sept R8 Gordini introduced: crossflow hemi head, two twin-choke Solex carbs, four-branch exhaust manifold, servo brakes, twin rear dampers, 2in lower suspension, 8in headlights, twin stripes (optional in UK); 0-60mph 13.6 secs, 103mph

1965 Spanish R8 production begins: drum brakes

July 1100 lengthened front and rear and launched as a standalone model, which later becomes the R10

1967 Gordini gets 1255cc, 5-speed gearbox, twin headlights, twin Webers; R8 now has 1100 engine

1968 60bhp 8S added, with twin headlamps, Weber: 0-60mph 15.4 secs, 91mph

1969 Oct R10 gets 48bhp, 72lb ft 1300 unit

1970 Final Gordini versions built

1971 Aug French manufacture stops

1976 End of Spanish production


Also consider

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Renault 8 & Renault 10
Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Renault 8 & Renault 10
An Imp (left) and NSU’s 1000/1200 are alternative buys

HILLMAN IMP

Smaller but scarcely lighter than an R8, the Imp’s alloy ohc 875cc engine made it fun but unreliable and it lacked the Renault’s expandability (998cc unit was special-order). Rot claimed most.

Sold 1963-’76 • No. built 440,032 • Mpg 30-45 • 0-60mph 22.1-14.9 secs • Top speed 75-92mph • Price new £626-785 (’68) • Price now £2-6000


NSU 1000/1200

With an air-cooled ohc ‘four’ and hot versions, the NSU was an interesting choice and lighter than the Imp, but base models had all-drum brakes and all were two-door. Economy poor.

Sold 1964-’73 • No. built 492,379 • Mpg 20-35 • 0-60mph 20.5-12.8 secs • Top speed 80-95mph • Price new £679-840 (’68) • Price now £7-21,000


Renault 8 & Renault 10: the Classic & Sports Car verdict

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Renault 8 & Renault 10

The ultimate exponent of Renault’s rear-engined small car experience, combined with a sprightly new engine, produced a surprisingly refined, spacious, comfortable and lively little saloon that is a pleasure to drive and own now.

But only if you find a really good one, or are prepared to devote a few years to sourcing parts and restoring a poor example.

FOR 

  • Comfortable and economical
  • Lively and practical
  • Good sporting pedigree
  • Beginning to be appreciated
     

AGAINST

  • Severely rot-prone
  • Parts have to be sourced across Europe
  • Rear weight bias is apparent in crosswinds and during hard cornering

Renault 8 & Renault 10 specifications

  • Sold/number built 1962-’76/2 million-plus
  • Construction steel monocoque
  • Engine iron-block, alloy-head, overhead-valve 956/1108/1255/1289cc ‘four’, with single Solex/Zenith/Weber, or twin Solex/Weber carburettors; 42bhp @ 5200rpm-99bhp @ 6750rpm; 52lb ft @ 2500rpm-86lb ft @ 5000rpm
  • Transmission 4-speed, 3/4-synchro manual or 3-speed electro-mechanical auto, RWD
  • Suspension: front wishbones, anti-roll bar rear swing axles, radius arms; coils, telescopics f/r
  • Steering rack and pinion, 3.6 turns lock-to-lock (3.2 Gordini) 
  • Brakes 10.2in (260mm) discs all round
  • Length 13ft 1¾in/13ft 9in (4007/4190mm)
  • Width 4ft 11in (1500mm)
  • Height 4ft 7¼in/4ft 6in (1403mm/1372mm)
  • Wheelbase 7ft 6in (2286mm)
  • Weight 1568-1758lb (711-797kg)
  • 0-60mph 27.5-10.9 secs
  • Top speed 85-108mph
  • Mpg 25-45
  • Price new £706-778 (1968)

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