Condition: Concours de l’Ordinaire contender
The deliberation process involved in choosing which cars should be on the concours lawn at Festival of the Unexceptional can be surprisingly difficult.
For starters, there’s the case of whittling down probably 150 or more entries to just 50 cars, and that alone invokes the agonising decision of leaving out one fabulously unexceptional car in favour of another.
But then there’s the relatively unscientific but still passionate and educated criteria that each member of the team uses to choose which cars are worthy of a place in the concours. It’s a mixture of the car’s history, specification, the owner’s story, whether we reckon it’d go down well with visitors, and a bit of good old-fashioned gut instinct.
And through all that, we’ve had examples of the Mk1 Renault Clio in the concours for two years running now. Story and spec and gut feel have all played a part each time – the Clio, in the right, low-key specification, is simply the right kind of car for FOTU.
As one of the best-selling cars not just in Europe but in the UK, especially in its early years, the Clio ticks all the right boxes: they were once everywhere, infiltrating almost all aspects of suburbia and supermarkets, yet today they are few and far between.
They’re enjoyably retro now too, both to drive and to look at, while originating from that 1990s sweet spot where, as an ownership proposition, they’re both usable but also simple to maintain. Charming to drive, too. They ride well and handle neatly, and feel more substantial than you might expect. French enthusiast site CarJager did a fun piece several years back on the joy of driving the clattery, slow 1.9D version, which is well worth firing up Google Translate to enjoy.
All of which leads us to this 1994 Renault Clio RN, on sale at a dealer in Surbiton for £2500. Humble of specification, bright of colour, in good condition and well-priced, it’s the kind of car that Francophile FOTU attendees would no doubt give more than a passing glance.
To recap the contemporary Renault trim hierarchy, RN wasn’t quite at the base level – that was RL – so the five-spoke wheeltrims you see here shouldn’t be a surprise (though the fact all four still remain should be). RN spec was the lowest at which you could opt for an automatic gearbox, specced here with Renault’s perky 80bhp “Energy” 1.4-litre engine, and added such features as an extra pair of speakers for its stereo (to a heady four) and a map reading light over the basic RL.
The colour, meanwhile, is Cobalt Blue, one of the solid but still jolly shades available. It seems to have lasted well, as has the cabin, but then the odometer still shows under 28,000 miles. Given the low mileage and the condition, the fairly clean MOT history is not surprising; a reassurance given the advert itself has no information on any service history.
We can’t guarantee that if you buy this Clio RN, we’d include it in the next Concours de l’Ordinaire. But given the other Clio fans that attend FOTU each year, you’d certainly be in good company.