Re­nault Twingo

It may have been largely ig­nored for more than a year, but work has fi­nally be­gun on this util­i­tar­ian French clas­sic

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week - RICHARD KIL­PATRICK PROD­UCTS ED­I­TOR

After a re­cent project reshuf­fle emp­tied the work­shop, a small and for­lorn face peered out of the dark­est cor­ner. Former ed­i­tor Keith Adams’ mys­tery project, I’d taken it on at the same time as my Jaguar XJS, an­tic­i­pat­ing a need for a small warmup prior to tack­ling a V12 cylin­der head. As it hap­pened, the XJS was a much eas­ier fix, and the Twingo just sat there, wait­ing, as other cars came and went.

It’s worth re­mem­ber­ing that al­though this Twingo is a 2002 model, it was in­tro­duced a decade ear­lier. An econ­omy that still sup­ported ba­sic-level cars (pro­duc­tion of the Citroën 2CV6 had only ended two years prior, and the Re­nault 5 Cam­pus was still a best­seller) meant that the lit­tle Re­nault was on­point for stylish yet ba­sic trans­port, and be­ing left-hand drive only, feels ex­otic in the UK. A re­cent trip to France re­vealed that Paris is los­ing much of the au­to­mo­tive colour that once made it feel so dif­fer­ent from the UK, yet a lit­ter­ing of Twin­gos pro­vided a lit­tle bit of in­ter­est among the Audis, Kias and Škoda diesels clat­ter­ing around Gare du Nord.

Glanc­ing at the slim pil­lars and panoramic glass roof, it struck me that it would still be a cheap and eco­nom­i­cal lit­tle car, even if I had to pay some­one to fix it. It had come in to the work­shop with a mis­fire fol­low­ing cylin­der head gas­ket fail­ure be­tween cylin­ders two and three, ver­i­fied with a borescope and by the pres­ence of a lot of oil.

That felt a bit de­featist, though; this car is about as ba­sic as they come, so why couldn’t I do it? I set my­self a tar­get of do­ing one hour of work on the car, ev­ery day, un­til it was done.

As I stripped the engine bay, it be­came clear that there was more wrong with the car than I first thought; the ra­di­a­tor was gummed up with foul grey goo and there was oil all over the back of the engine. The his­tory file shows that the re­quired km/h to mph adap­tor has been in­stalled, mean­ing the 127,000 units dis­played could largely be miles – it has spent a lot of time in the UK. Was it re­ally worth all this ef­fort?

A brand-new new-old-stock Re­nault engine from Ren­parts, a spe­cial­ist breaker near Don­caster, pro­vided the an­swer. At £475 with a 12-month war­ranty, com­pared to fork­ing out £100 for gas­kets, £100 for a tim­ing belt, and fit­ting it all to a rusty, high-ish mileage block, it was a no-brainer. With a new clutch fit­ted at the same time, the lit­tle Twingo should be good for years to come. Mean­while, I’m us­ing those planned hours to re­move and clean the old engine’s an­cil­lar­ies and rust­proof the in­ner wings.

Paus­ing to fold all the seats flat, and gaze up out of the huge glass roof, it seemed re­mark­able to me that peo­ple have been so quick to aban­don cool cars like this for hor­ri­ble closed-in minia­ture tanks like the Nis­san Juke.

Ba­sic in­te­rior has re­sisted 15 years of wear and tear very well.

That’s a lot of oil, most of it where it’s re­ally not sup­posed to be, ei­ther.

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