1969 East Africa Safari Rallye Renault R16 by Hardtuned.com

Featured in Sports Car International Magazine's January 2006 issue - page 77-80

Famous French Rallye Pilote Jean Ragnotti and his trusted local navigator Perku Nathiswaya could have driven a similar R16 to rally glory… Except, Renault never actually backed a Factory Rally effort with the R16. If they had, it might have looked like this.

The specs: 4cylinder, 1565cc with a down-draft weber carburetor. 4spd, on the column shift, front wheel drive, power assist brakes with a dual master cylinder, front discs, rear drums, torsion bar suspension.

Powered by the same engine/transaxle setup that was used by Colin Chapman for his mid-engined Lotus Europa, the engine sets behind the transaxle for a better front-to-rear weight ratio. This Philippe Charbonneaux design was introduced in 1965, as the first real "Hatchback" long before other hatchback imitators.

In 1970, Stirling Moss said: "There is no doubt that the Renault 16 is the most intelligently engineered automobile I have ever encountered and I think that each British motorcar manufacturer would do well to purchase one just to see how it is put together."

click on the photos below to enlarge

The 1969 Renault R16 at full sail

Rare! one of 2,402 Cars built to US Spec in 1969.

left front is pushed in a little - shunt from inside compartment

You can make up a story about some vintage rally mishap when Jean Ragnotti hit a zebra with the left front at some time in the distant past.

Under the hood: The Aluminum 1565cc motor had new pistons / liners / rods & bearings installed just over 5000 miles before I acquired it in August of this year. It was broken in, then switched over to Mobil 1 Synthetic oil. It runs well. Mitch's Muffler Works (El Cerrito CA) installed a rally inspired glasspack and side exit exhaust in September. Issues with the braking system were also dealt with at the same time - the power brake booster and master cylinder was rebuilt, also rebuilt the calipers, installed new pads, and rebuilt the wheel cylinders (rear). All the rubber brake hoses were also replaced. Added functional (low beam) rally lighting to the front. Even the dome light works (when the driver's door is opened), speedometer works, heater works, fan blower, even the original Renault AM Radio is fully functional. There's a new starter in there too - as the original conked out during the Melee, and after too much coaxing, caught fire. I have the hubcaps, and they're in great shape. Tires are good, shocks are great, the horn works and it's currently registered in California through September of 2006!

New starter!!! + This Car sucks graffiti

rear seat + front interior

Working lights, carpet removed in rear, new exhaust

Underneath, cracked window rubber, and spare cylinder head

The images below don't enlarge.


Rumply cowl. Windshield wipers work.

It was the first Renault ever to be awarded the European "Car of the Year" - in its debut year, '65. The rear seats fold and remove exposing enormous cargo carrying potential, and rough roads are a joy with its' super supple ride.

Misc. stuff (pistons, liners, rods are also in here)

Literally a small truckload of spares - 2 front bumpers, all doors with glass + a hatch and right front fender. Sacre Bleu! Here's the list: Rust free drivers side front and rear doors with glass, Rust free passengers side front and rear doors with glass, Rust free spare rear hatchback with glass, 3 spare wheels (two with tires) an extra jack, crank and lug wrench, (2) front bumper assemblies with overriders 1 rust free right front fender, headlights, and surrounds, spare cylinder head, 1 new brembo oem replacement brake rotor, miscellaneous odds and ends.

I'm all about full disclosure, so here it goes:

The electric fan on the motor was designed to be operated by a thermostatic switch. On this car it's wired into a manually operated switch on the dash. It works well, and keeps the car cool, you just have to remember that in traffic you should flip the switch.

Rust. Yep it's got some in all four doors, and under the Renault emblem piece across the rear hatch. Bolt on the spare stuff and you can instantly fix that. The floors are solid, but there are a couple of areas that will eventually require patching. The rubber around the windshield is cracking a bit. A straight fender from the same green parts car the spares came from was fitted, over the damage. The headlamp and front corner were shortened by about an inch-and-a-half. The suspension on that corner was unaffected. The battery tray rusted out, and I welded in a hack-job replacement. It ain't pretty, but it's not falling through any longer.

The turnsignals don't work. The Hazards do.

Another point of interest, mentioned in the magazine article was the fact that someone scratched "This car sucks" into the spare tire carrier under the hood. My guess is that this was done when attempting to remove or replace the starter at some point in the past. It's also part of my elaborate theory that the same disgruntled mechanic cleverly clearanced the sheetmetal with a blunt object to ease the procedure.

The temp gauge always reads cold, and the water temp warning light doesn't come on. I found out about that when at the end of the 1000-mile event, while sitting in traffic for about a half an hour, I forgot to flip the fan switch. It boiled some fluid out of the catch tank - but I caught it in time - hit the fan, added coolant and checked the bleed on the system. All was fine.

Other quirks include a fuel tank that is slightly leaky (and therefore smelly if filled and left to sit) around the top of the sending unit when topped up. It's a large tank -10gallons or more, so running it below ¾ full was my solution. The odometer rolls, it just has its own scale. The last 30-mile trip I took only put about 3 miles on the odometer. Special note on the braking system - the front left rotor has some pitting, you could swap it with the spare. My solution was to run with it. Also, the system is very pitch sensitive - Renaults have a proportioning bar that adjusts the brake pressure at the rear brakes - this is in need of some kind of adjustment- when you've got the car loaded with stuff, and spares, the system takes a quick pump to have good feel on the pedal. When there's nothing in the back of the car, the pedal is fine on the first swipe of the brakes. They do stop the car. Whew, I think that's all that I can possibly think of.


Located in Oakland California

contact J.Glenn at


hardtuned.com's archive of Renault preparation

Learn more about The Renault R16

The Renault R16 site - production numbers, etc

(Perku Nathiswaya is a fictional Rally navigator)

The above article is in the current Sports Car International magazine

The final chapter: On the way to Florida

Au revoir Renault 16!