Renault 10

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Renault 10

1965 - 1971
4 cyl.
960 cc
44/50 bhp
3/4 spd. man
Top Speed:
Number Built:
2 Star
Renault 10
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1


by Johanna Patterson

If you took the time to take more than a casual glance at the Renault 10, you would quickly realise just how magnificiently proportioned and well engineered this wonderful car was, its sleek thoroughbred lines, its discreet touches of chrome. It was beautiful, elegant and restrained, a beauty that was so typically French.

From the broad rectangular headlamps (the Renault 10 was the first car to be built in Australia with this expensive new styling; the new shape providing more effective light for better night driving). It was also equipped with side indicators, in addition to those at front and rear.

However the Renault 10 was not just a pretty bit of coachwork. Under the hood lurked the world famous Renault Sierra 1100 engine with its 5-bearing crank­shaft and 4-speed fully synchromesh gearbox, with ratios calculated to make the most of the engine's superb qualities.

The Renault 10 also featured 4 independently suspended wheels and 4 powerful disc brakes to give perfect roadholding and braking safety. It had four coil springs and four telescopic shock absorbers, - all of which made the car extremely flexible and efficient suspension for a comfortable ride over the worst of Aussie roads.

With its 85 mph top speed, its powerful acceleration and remarkable steadiness on cornering, the Renault 10 was made for fast driving without sacrificing safety to speed, or comfort to performance.

The interior of the car was intelligently designed to combine comfort with safety. There was a padded recessed dash, non-protruding door handles, childproof door locks, lap and sash seat belts as standard equipment as well as heater, demister and cooler system, fresh air vents and the famous Renault seats designed to conform perfectly to your body - soft, yet resilient to support hour after hour and alleviate driving fatigue.

The front seats were fully adjustable and could convert to a camping body if required. The Renault 10 had a rear mounted engine driving the rear wheels. It was a vertical, water-cooled 4 cylinder and had replaceable bore liners - a nice feature at overhaul time which helped keep running costs and complexity low. The sealed cooling system and wet sleeve engine were designed to cope with all extremes of temperature, a real European influence. In the Australian snow country or deserts, the Renault 10 needed no water refills. The four wheel disc brakes were widely acclaimed as being among the best available on any car.

John Ould Renault 10

The John Ould Renault 10 came in three stages of development. Stage one comprised a fully reworked; stage two, Dynospeed cylinder head with polished, lightened valves and matched ports, sports exhaust system, lowered suspension, 2-inch VDO tachometer, sports alloy steering wheel and matt black paint on bonnet and boot lids. Stage two was as stage one, except that a camber compensator was fitted to the rear suspension and a twin choke Weber carburettor replaced the standard unit. With stage three, mechanical specifications remained the same, but 13-inch mag wheels were fitted. At release in 1969, stage one would have set you back A$285 over standard price; stage two A$425, and stage three A$575.

Thus, for not much over A$2600, you could have a Renault 10 almost to the point of being set up for competition. And it was a great setup too. The only criticism we can find came from the writers at Australian Motor Manual, who felt the modifications were let down by the control of fore/aft pitch in the suspension. As they said, it was ... "bad enough to make traversing of broken, undulating patches of bitumen a damned sight more uncomfortable than it ought to be, the pitch problem could probably be easily solved by fitment of increased rate or adjustable shock absorbers. Expensive, but a necessary move for those who haven't developed the horseman's art of rising to the trot."

We don't doubt for a minute that the criticism was justified. But it was a relatively minor point considering the expertly lowered suspension allowed the Renault 10 to corner at deceptively rapid speeds with no body roll - and the nearest to neutral handling then going. There was a camber compensator that worked to keep at bay any tendency of the rear swing axles to display their usual tucking-under vices and the camber changes to the front suspension allowed the car to hold a straight line in a fashion that would have astounded owners of the stock Renault 10.

Unusually the John Ould Renault 10 mods excluded any revision of the brakes. But that was probably because the stock brakes were pretty damned good - Renault using highly efficient discs on each corner, and these were reported to be up to the job of washing off the extra speed resulting from the modified engine. The gearing-down effect of the smaller diameter mag wheels was lessened by the fitment of 155 x 13 Bridgestone tyres, which had a slightly larger diameter than the standard Michelins which were normally used on Renault 10s. However, to travel at 90 mph for anything other than a very short period, you had to have complete faith in the rugged design of Renault engines, as at this speed you would be registering just over 6000 rpm on the two-inch VDO tacho.

Renault 10
Acceleration figures we have found seem at odds with the modifications that were made, the best time we can find for the 0-50 miles-per-hour sprint being 11.5 seconds. Yes, 1969 is a fair time past, but the John Ould mods included a twin choke Weber carby, stage two head and tuned exhaust system. Still, even if the performance did not quite match what it should have been on paper, the vastly improved handling of the Renault 10 made up for any small disappointment. And of course there was the go-fast cosmetic treatment, which included an aggressively colorful exterior treatment and businesslike appearance imparted by the two inches lower profile and wider track.

Square Eyes

By 1968 there was a growing trend to switch to rectangular headlights - particularly on the Europeans. Rectangular lights were the result of research with a view to producing a headlight beam with a very wide spread on low beam. This research found the rectangular headlight did this far more effectively than the round headlight. On the Renault 10, the new rectangular lights managed to spread the light on low beam very well, although it was not so good on high beam. The pattern remained acceptable but lacked sufficient depth - almost the opposite of the round headlighted Renault 10 with the circular headlights, which had average low-beam illumination, but carried a narrower high beam much better.

Renault were not the leader in adopting squared off headlights. There were two other Europeans ahead of the game - Vauxhall with their English Torana (read Viva), and Fiat, with their 125 sedan, which used four square headlights - making it one of the best looking cars of 1967. The Lamborghini Marzal, a Bertone styling exercise, used three square headlights on each side, and these used the then very advanced quartz iodine bulbs. Both these makers, Fiat and Vauxhall, tackled the disadvantages of the rectangular light - lack of depth in the beam - in different ways.

Vauxhall bumped up the wattage of the globes thus giving more initial brilliance to maintain the same beam depth of their circular light. Fiat produced a special set of lights for high beam which could be specially bright - and the lenses could be arranged for high beam work. General Motors-Holden circumvented the problem when they localised the Vauxhall Viva into the Torana by specifying circular headlights. Renault in Australia fitted the then new headlights to the cars in their West Heidelberg assembly plant with the same wattage globes as were fitted to the previous model - 40 watts on low beam and 45 watts on high beam.

The new headlights were the most striking change in Renault's R10 but they were by no means the only change. For example, the wood veneer of the dashboard was changed to imitation teak instead of imitation walnut and the appearance was much better. There was also a revision to the tail-light assembly, along with new parking lights, a chrome strip along the side, rubber buffers on the front bumper, and the wiper switch and headlight switch carried small diagrams explaining their operation.

Under the Hood

Mechanically the rectangular headlighted version of the R10 was pretty much unchanged. It carried over the same four cylinder motor together with the same four speed, all synchromesh gearbox mounted under the tail of the car. The long nose housed only the battery and the windshield washer reservoir. The motor was water cooled, being a sealed system with a catch tank for the overflow. What seems different to the casual observer is the lack of grille. For the R10, the Renault engineers designed a system whereby the air for the motor was taken through a single row of louvres covering a slot in the engine lid, whch passed the air flow forwards through the radiator before being exhausted under the tail.

Twisting the key in the combined steering and ignition lock brought the motor to life and a red light on the dashboard warned of low pressure or excessive temperature. The gear lever on the flat floor between the excellent bucket seats was willowy when thrust towards first gear - but this compliance was required in the linkage due to the rear-motor, rear-drive configuration. The change was spring loaded in the first and second gear and with a little practice, fast gear changes could be made without provoking any protests from the gearbox.

Behind the Wheel

The clutch take-up was light and smooth and the steering - although low geared in its rack and pinion mechanism - was also light. Countering the low gearing, and in part explaining it, was the fact that Australian R10's were shod with Michelin X radial ply tyres. These were not such a bad tyre, but they did increase steering effort at parking speeds - while also increasing steering response when the car was on the move. It took a very steady hand to keep the Renault 10 heading in a straight line due to the extreme sensitivity of these tyres to steering deflections.

Basically, the driver took a line and then let the car follow it - rather than continually fiddling with the steering to keep it on line. Wind and road surface irregularities could cause the car to alter course but it would come back onto line without undue worry. As mentioned above, the R10 featured disc brakes at each wheel, but behind the wheel these forced very heavy pedal pressures on the driver for maximum stopping effort. But for normal motoring, the effort required was not unusually heavy.

On the Road

The R10, fitted with the stock radial ply tyres, was often harsh. Renault minimised this by giving the car very soft spring rates for its all coil independent suspension and large wheel travel, two things which also greatly improved the car's ride over really rough roads. The handling of the R10 was predictable despite its tail heavy weight distribution and radial ply tyres. Lifting off the accelerator when cornering hard caused the R10 to tuck its nose more firmly into the corner and the tail to move out. Again, this was predictable and came with plenty of warning.

On the highway, the car cruised very quietly and comfortably at 75 mph and fuel consumption at these speeds was almost 40 mpg. At around 55 mpg, fuel figures of 45-47 mpg were not unusual. Its disc brakes stopped it safely without fading. Acceleration was brisk with 25 mph, 42 mph and 60 mph forming comfortable change points from the three lower gears. At a time when safety was becoming more important, Renault fitted their car with crushable sun visors (with quite smooth mountings too) door handles inside which would not injure, window winders out of the way and steering gear behind the nose of the car. It was advanced, good looking and - when judged against its contemporaries - safe. Not Volvo safe, but then it was not Volvo priced.

Renault 10

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Also See:

Renault 10 Technical Specifications
Louis Renault
The History of Renault
Renault Car Commercials
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Andrew Burford
Posted Recently
This was my first car; a not very good square eyed example, but for a small car with not much power, it ate up the 1,100km between Sydney, where I was studying, and my home town of Broken Hill. It was just so comfortable. Stomping on the brakes in the wet could be entertaining (for me, if not any unsuspecting passengers), as the fronts would lock up and no amount of wheel turning made any difference to the direction of travel. I wish I still had one though.
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