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Renault 12
Also calledRenault 1.4 Litre (Australia)[1]
Renault Virage (Australia)[2]
Renault Toros (Turkey)
Dacia 1300
1971–1994/95 (Argentina)
AssemblyBoulogne-Billancourt, France
Guarda, Portugal
Santa Isabel, Argentina (IKA)
Heidelberg, Australia
Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, Quebec, Canada (SoMA)
Los Andes, Chile
Duitama and Envigado, Colombia
Ciudad Sahagún, Mexico
Mioveni, Romania
Valladolid, Spain (FASA-Renault)
Bursa, Turkey (Oyak-Renault)
Mariara, Venezuela
Haren-Vilvoorde, Belgium (RIB)
Thames, New Zealand
Body and chassis
ClassLarge family car (D-segment)
Small van
Body style
LayoutFF layout
Wheelbase2,440 mm (96.1 in)
  • 4,345 mm (171.1 in) (saloon)
  • 4,410 mm (173.6 in) (estate)
Width1,616 mm (63.6 in)
Height1,435 mm (56.5 in) (empty)
PredecessorRenault 8 and 10
SuccessorRenault 18

The Renault 12 is a mid-size family car introduced by French automaker Renault at the Paris Motor Show in October 1969[3] and produced in France until 1980. Available as a saloon (Berline) and estate (Break), it was also produced under licence in many countries around the globe into the early 21st century.

In its first few years the 12 received praise from the European press for its spacious, comfortable interior, its styling, its performance and its low fuel consumption. However it fared worse in the North American press: in a test of the 1974 model, Road & Track was critical of the engine's "obtrusive" noise, and called the heavy, non-power steering "a serious design flaw". They also gave it "very poor marks" for the ventilation system.

Renault 12 production and sales ended in western Europe in 1980, but the model continued to be produced and sold by Renault affiliates elsewhere. The last R12 was produced in 2000 in Turkey, while Romanian automaker Dacia continued producing the R12-based 1310 saloon and estate until 2004 and the R12-based Dacia Pick-Up until December 2006.

Commercially the Renault 12 was a successful car, selling 2.5 million units.[4]


In January 1964, the Styling Center begins the design of the 117 model.[5] This was a new model to bridge the gap between the Renault 8 and the Renault 16. The demands for Project 117 were:

"The car had to be economical, not very sophisticated. It had to have a roomy interior, and a large boot, and a small engine will suffice. The car had to be easy to produce, so it could be made all over the world. It had to be reliable for the export markets, and comfortable enough for France. It should be usable as a base for multiple variations."


The Renault 12's design dates back to the genesis of the Renault 16; indeed, some initial R16 concept designs resemble the R12 more than the ultimate design of the R16. However, the R12 was technically quite different from either the R16 or the smaller Renault 4. Like all new Renaults at the time (and in common, by now, with more than 60% of the cars produced in France) the car had front wheel drive,[6] but the R12 had a very different layout from Renault's existing fwd models. The engine was placed longitudinally ahead of the front wheels, while it was behind the wheels on the R4 and R16.

At the time of its launch in October 1969 at the Paris Motor Show, the Renault 12 was only available as a 4-door saloon, in L and TL specifications. The more expensive TL featured two separate reclining front seats instead of one front bench seat, armrests on the doors, lights in the boot and glovebox, a heated rear window, and extra warning lights.


It would have been a simple matter to install the light weight engine from the Renault 16 in the Renault 12, and this was later done for some high-end versions. However Renault had successfully built market share since 1945 by competing aggressively on price. In the closely contested 1300cc category it was left to the new Peugeot 304 to attract customers willing to pay a premium price, while for the Renault 12, at launch, the aluminium block of the Renault 16 was rejected on cost grounds.[3] Instead, Renault specified an enlarged version of the iron Cléon unit, used since 1962 in the Renault 8/10.[3] The engine's size was increased to 1289 cc for use in the 12.[3] Listed power output was 60 hp (45 kW; 60 hp) SAE (54 hp (40 kW; 54 hp) DIN) which provided for a respectable top speed of 145 km/h (90 mph).[3]

The new version of the five-bearing engine initially fitted on the Renault 12 retained the removable cylinder liners that Renault had long favoured.[3] It rejected the "oversquare" cylinder dimensions that had become fashionable with some European auto-makers during the 1960s.[3] Many components, such as the oil pump and the distributor were unchanged, while others, including the cylinder head, the valve gear and the engine block itself were only minimally updated.[3] The only completely reworked elements were the cylinder liners, the connecting rods, the pistons themselves and the crankshaft.[3] In the 1962 version of the engine the cylinders had been unevenly spaced in two groups of two, but in this new application they were equidistant in order to allow for the cylinder diameter, here increased to 73mm, to be combined with space for sufficient coolant to circulate around the cylinders.[3]

The longitudinal placement of the engine, most of its mass positioned ahead of the front wheels, allowed the R12 to have a very simple design of the gear-selector that was placed on the floor of the car,[3] and not on the dashboard as with the R4 or on the steering column as with the R16. On the early cars the handle to operate the handbrake was placed under the dashboard. The handbrake was later relocated to a position between the two front seats.


The R12's suspension also differed from that of the R4 and R16, using a rigid (but light) rear axle as opposed to four-wheel independent suspension. The use of a rigid rear axle from a manufacturer that had championed all-round independent suspension for twenty-five years was seen by many commentators as a retrograde step.[6]

Later developments

Break, post 1975 facelift
Break, post 1975 facelift
The iconic Renault 12 Gordini.
The iconic Renault 12 Gordini.
"Service" (van) version
"Service" (van) version

In 1970, two new variants were introduced. The estate was launched with the same trim levels and engines as in the saloon and a high performance Renault 12 Gordini model was introduced equipped with the all-aluminium 1565 cc block from the R16 TS fitted with two double-barrel Weber carburettors producing 125 PS (92 kW; 123 hp), a reinforced crankshaft, a five speed gearbox, ventilated disc brakes on the front wheels and normal disc brakes on the rear wheels, as well as a tuned suspension. The Gordini was able to reach 185 km/h (115 mph) and was sold with paint schemes comprising a solid pastel colour (there were several to choose from) with double white stripes added on, the most famous combination being French Blue with stripes. 2225 Renault 12 Gordinis were sold in 1971 but after that sales began a free fall. Renault stopped production of the Gordini in 1974 after 5188 had been sold (compared to 11,607 Renault 8 Gordinis).[7]

In October 1972, the more upmarket R12 TS was introduced. It used the same 1289 cc engine as in other R12s, but was equipped with a single, double barrel Weber carburettor, which increased power to 64 PS (47 kW; 63 hp) and raised the top speed to 150 km/h (93 mph). Aesthetically, the car was distinguishable from other R12s by its special Gordini-style wheels, a chrome strip along the side of the car, and in some countries, two extra headlights. The TS also featured integrated headrests, a tachometer and a cooling-fluid temperature gauge. October 1972 was also when the hand brake lever was relocated from a position ahead of the driver to a floor-mounted location between the front seats.[8] This became possible because now, even on the base "L" version of the car, after the front bench seat was replaced by two individual seats.[8]

In October 1973, the R12 TR appeared. This model slotted between the TL and TS, and had automatic transmission as standard.

The whole range was facelifted in 1975 with a simplified grill, new rear lamps and dashboard. The Renault 12's successor, the Renault 18, was launched in 1978, but French production of the Renault 12 continued for two more years in spite of its successor's instant popularity.

Across the world

A turquoise Renault 12 sedan parked in the Medina of Casablanca.
A turquoise Renault 12 sedan parked in the Medina of Casablanca.

The 12 was a global car, built in at least a dozen countries and marketed across all continents. It was even the basis for the GNW Duiker, a stillborn sporting convertible with a fiberglass body intended as the beginning of a Rhodesian national car project. The bankers disagreed and the plug was pulled in late 1972. A few examples seem to have been built.


1973 Dacia 1300
1973 Dacia 1300

Dacia acquired the tooling and basic designs of the Renault 12 and manufactured it in various body styles in Romania, as the Dacia 1300, between 1969 and 1979. Also, the successor of this car, named Dacia 1310, was based on Dacia 1300. The production of the 1310 started in 1979 and stopped in 2004.

The 35 years of production saw the manufacturing of a total of 1,959,730 vehicles plus, between 1975–2006, a total of 318,969 vehicles belonging to the range that came to be known under the generic name of Dacia Pick-Up.[9]


A Renault 12-based car was made in Turkey by Oyak-Renault between 1971 and 2000. The earlier models were similar to the original R12, then the car underwent a facelift in 1989 and was marketed under the name Renault Toros until it was discontinued due to stricter European emissions standards coming into effect. The name "Toros" has a dual etymology: one is the Taurus mountains(Turkish: Toros dağları), the other is the submodel designation TS. Sold as a sedan or a station wagon (TSW), it has a 1.4 litre carburetted C1J (Cléon) engine with 61.5 PS (45.2 kW) and came with either a four- or a five-speed transmission.[10]


Renault Virage Wagon (Australia)
Renault Virage Wagon (Australia)

The Renault 12 won Australia's Wheels magazine's Car of the Year award in 1970. It was built at Renault Australia's assembly plant in the Melbourne suburb of Heidelberg from CKD kits. Various components such as seats were sourced locally.

The Australian range generally followed the UK models, including the facelift (which arrived in 1976) but, from about 1971, when new Australian Design Rules were introduced, had to have a special local wiper mechanism with a conventional right hand drive pattern (parking on the passenger side). This also affected locally assembled Peugeot 504 and Triumph 2.5 models.

In October 1976 the 1,289 cc engine was replaced by a larger capacity 1,397 cc unit,[11] and this new model was marketed as the Renault 1.4 Litre.[1] In May 1978 it was renamed again and became the Renault Virage.[12] This was identical to the 12, but incorporated twin round headlamps. It produced a modest 49 kW at 5750 rpm, with a maximum speed of 150 km/h and returned around 9 litres / 100 km on open roads. Production in Australia ended in 1980.

New Zealand

The 12 was assembled from CKD kits at importer Campbell group's own assembly plant in Thames, New Zealand, which later became a Toyota NZ factory and is now used to recondition used cars imported from Japan. The NZ 12s had about 50 percent local content (glass, upholstery, tyres, carpet, paint, radiator, battery, etc.) with one trim level and both sedan and wagon were made.

North America

The American-market Renault 12 came in three trim lines: 12, 12 L, and 12 TL, ranging in price from an inexpensive US$ 2975 to US$3448. It was a slightly larger car than most European imports, and the longitudinal front wheel drive layout contrasted with most. The engine, an R16 all-aluminum 1.6 L (1,647 cc) unit which produced 65 hp (48 kW; 66 PS), was specific to the U.S. market. It was upgraded in 1975 with hemispherical heads and a higher compression ratio for 72 hp (54 kW; 73 PS).

South America

Late Renault 12 Estate in Argentina
Late Renault 12 Estate in Argentina

In Brazil, a version of the 12 was sold as the Ford Corcel and later the Ford Del Rey, when Ford do Brasil acquired the factory and rights to build the car from Willys-Overland, which had jointly developed the Brazilian version with Renault in the late 1960s.[13] The Corcel was in fact launched in Brazil in 1968, before the Renault 12 was launched in France.[14] [15]

The Renault 12 was popular in Argentina and Colombia[citation needed], during the 1970s and 1980s. In Colombia, this car was assembled at the plant of Renault SOFASA between 1973 and 1981, from CKDs that came from Argentina and France. In Argentina, the local versions being made at the "Santa Isabel" plant of Renault Argentina in the province of Córdoba. Production ran from November 1971 to the same month of 1994 (1973 to 1992 for the Break); totaling around 450.000 units.

Drivetrains began as 1,289 cc, switching effectively to 1,397 cc for all versions in 1977, with a last increase in bore and stroke in 1992 reaching 1,600 cc. In Brazil, Ford offered the 1,600 cc version with its Corcel II in 1980, which later offered an ethanol version of this engine with a 12:1 compression ratio. Gearboxes were four-speed manuals until 1988, and five-speed boxes thereafter. The R12 had a slightly higher status in this country than other places, given the fact that the Argentine Renault cars lineup was narrow at the time (R4, R6 and Renault Torino). This caused the factory to add extras such as air conditioning and quality upholstery to close the gap between this car and the Torino until the arrival of the R18 in 1982. For this same reason, virtually all of the estate models (Break) were built with the TS's mechanical and comfort features.

The Argentine Renault 12 also saw competition success in South America, with a celebrated class (up to 1,600 cc) win in the 1978 South American Marathon with Argentinian driver Jorge Recalde and co-driver Jorge Baruscotti. Recalde finished before any of the cars in the two-litre category, and Renault 12s occupied the first six positions in their category.[16]

R12 Alpine
R12 Alpine
Renault 12 Alpine

The R12 Alpine was a sports version designed to improve the marque's image at local rallying. The main features were the 1397 cc engine from the R5 Alpine (built locally with imported parts), bulbous fiberglass bonnet, competition-tuned suspension, and custom paint schemes. The engine turned out 110 PS (81 kW; 108 hp), giving the Alpine a top speed of around 175 km/h (109 mph). The new suspension was also as good as the power plant, being rated at the time as "outstanding" and "Goes like on rails" (CORSA Magazine). Renault was not interested in volume production, though, and only 493 units were made between 1977 and 1980 (sold from 1978 onwards). Plus, the Alpine's hand-building process and imported parts made it cost about 40% more than the basic TL version. R12 Alpine parts were sometimes used by rallying R12 TS's, as they gave the car quite desirable characteristics but, like the R12 Alpine itself, these parts were rare.


  1. ^ a b Advertisement for the Renault 1.4 Litre, Wheels magazine, January 1978
  2. ^ The Red Book, October 1989, page 171
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Automobilia". Toutes les voitures françaises 1970 (salon [Oct] 1969). Paris: Histoire & collections. Nr. 31: Pages 40, 44–47. 2004.
  4. ^ see Roberts, Andrew (September 3, 2007). "Classic Car: Renault 12". The Independent. Archived from the original on April 9, 2018. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
  5. ^ Style Auto 2/70
  6. ^ a b "Automobilia". Toutes les voitures françaises 1970 (salon [Oct] 1969): " nombreux observateurs (techniciens ou simples visiteurs du salon [Paris, 1969]) comprennent mal, même sur une traction avant, l'adoption d'un essieu arrière rigide par un constructeur qui a bâti exclusivement sa réputation depuis vingt-cinq ans sur des voitures à quatre roues indépendantes.". Paris: Histoire & collections. Nr. 31: Pages 5. 2004.
  7. ^ Glon, Ronan (March 23, 2010). "From the Dauphine to the Twingo: Amédé Gordini's work with Renaults". Archived from the original on March 26, 2012. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
  8. ^ a b "Automobilia". Toutes les voitures françaises 1973 (salon [Oct] 1972). Paris: Histoire & collections. Nr. 92: Page51. 2008.
  9. ^ "Dacia manufactured its last commercial vehicle derived from the Renault R12 model". December 8, 2006. Archived from the original on September 8, 2010. Retrieved November 6, 2010.
  10. ^ Özenen, Hakan, ed. (December 1996). "Türk pazarındaki otomobillerin teknik verileri" [Technical data for Turkish market automobiles]. Auto Capital (in Turkish). Istanbul, Turkey: Hürgüç Gazetecilik A.Ş. (1): 113.
  11. ^ Green Book Price & Model Guide, Sept. - Oct. 1984, page 73
  12. ^ Pedr Davis, The Macquarie Dictionary of Motoring, 1986, page 402
  13. ^ Castaings, Francis (October 21, 2003). "Páginas da História - R12 francês, sucesso mundial". (in Portuguese). Archived from the original on December 25, 2011. Retrieved March 16, 2009.
  14. ^ Castaings, Francis (2000). Fabrício, Samahá (ed.). "Carros do Passado - O cavalo brasileiro". (in Portuguese). Archived from the original on December 7, 2000. Retrieved March 15, 2009.
  15. ^ Francis Castaings; Fabrício Samahá (March 4, 2016). "Ford Corcel: uma família que atendeu a muitas outras". (in Portuguese). Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved April 9, 2018.
  16. ^ "Vuelta a la América del Sur" (in Spanish). Club Renault 12. Archived from the original on December 30, 2012. Retrieved September 23, 2012.

External links

This page was last edited on 16 October 2020, at 20:36
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