the Renault File

By Eric Dymock

Published by Haynes, £19.99. ISBN 0 85429 995 5

Few car companies can boast a longer or more varied history than Renault. In their time, the people at Renault have produced tiny shopping cars and luxury limousines, Formula One racers and Le Mans winning sportscars. Given this, I suppose, it was inevitable that in the year of their centenary, someone would attempt to catalogue every car produced by the marque.

Usually I have little time for such works. What tends to happen is that either the result is nothing like as comprehensive as the author would like us to believe, or so little space is made available to each entry that there is insufficient room for meaningful comments to be made. I'm thankful, therefore, that it is Eric Dymock's name that appears on the cover. In fact it's his actual signature but we won't quibble over the details. If anyone is going to do a genuinely thorough job which is worth reading, it is Dymock, and you only have to read his recent biography of Jim Clark to know it.

In the event, 'thorough' barely does it justice. In over 400 admitted small pages are presented not simply all the production cars plus various racers and the famed rally cars in the marque's past but also such historical curiosities as the Renault Vesta 2 of 1987, an economy vehicle which looked even more strange than it sounds and the Etoile Filante, a turbine-powered record breaker which clocked 192.5mph in 1956 and established a class record which still stands to this day.

Other interest comes from generally forgotten facts like when Renault briefly sold Jeeps in France following their acquisition of 46 per cent of American Motors Corporation. The concept cars are interesting, more usually for their outlandish shapes and drivetrains than any particular relevance to cars you and I might chive. Of these, the F1-powered Espace is the prime example. Frankly I can take or leave most entries which understandably major on the road cars and serve to remind how many truly dull motors will inevitably appear over 100 years even from a company with a reputation for innovation such as that enjoyed by Renault. So it is perhaps as well that it is a reference work, not a cover-to-cover read. It works because it is easy to dip into, extract the information you need and retreat without being delayed by the tedious story-telling many such works contain.