The Renault 17 is a real head-turning 70s classic car. At the time of its launch at the Paris Motor Show in 1971, Renault debuted not one, but two Coupes simultaneously based on the classic Renault 12 saloon. The Renault 15 and the Renault 17 both had a dynamic appearance in line with 70s coupe culture, characteristic square styling, and the addition of a deep-set rear window. The Renault 15 was the subtler of the two, and the sportier Renault 17 took the top of the range position, available in a TS and TL variant. In 1975, the Renault 17TS was renamed as the Renault 17 Gordini becoming the fastest model in the Renault 17 range. Throughout the cars eight-year production, 305,000 Renault 15 and Renault 17 vehicles had been built.
Nowadays these Renault Coupes are sought after classic cars, and it is thought that there are less than 40 Renault 17 models left on the road in the UK. So, when we were invited to join the awards ceremony at the recent Spring Motorfest at Chetwynd Deer Park earlier this month, we were delighted to see the top prize be awarded to a very striking 1978 Renault 17TS Coupe MKII.
After the show, we caught up with the vehicle’s owner, Antony Louies to find out more about his deserving classic car.
Antony, a self-confessed car nut, credits his dad for sparking his passion for classic cars. Growing up, the family who used to live in Ireland had an array of cars over the years. The collection included a V8 Triumph Stag, Rover P6 V8, 3-litre Ford Capri, a Peugeot 504TI, a Renault 12, and a 17TS, plus many more! But it was the first car that he drove as a learner that caught his attention, his father’s 1976 Renault 17TS Coupe MKII.
Roll forward to 1992 and Antony finds a 1978 Renault 17TS Coupe MKII that has been saved from a scrap yard, complete with electric windows and a very sought after electric powered roof with a hardtop. This is a particularly rare model but has the same specification as the one he learnt to drive in back in the day.
The 17TS was repaired, put back on the road and of course enjoyed. Over the years that followed, cars came and went, but the 17TS remained firmly in Antony’s possession. Eventually, it was given some TLC by way of a full rebuild and resprayed in 386 Jeune yellow by Antony’s dad. The running gear was also upgraded with a turbocharged 1,565cc engine and running gear from the later Renault Fuego Turbo.
Over the course of the next 20 or so years, the car was driven everywhere and used whenever possible, just as a great running classic car should. After a few years of being driven in all weathers, it was again in need of some work. So, in 2013, Antony took the Renault 17TS off the road and stripped it back to bare metal. We must add here, that it only took him a week to strip the car back… great work!
The 17TS was sent off to be media blasted. Antony casually thought the whole project would only take 6 months or so as the bodywork didn’t look too bad…
Antony was in for a shock!
The car returned to him looking like a big metal Swiss cheese! There were holes everywhere. Water had got everywhere, including beneath the underseal. What a mighty disappointment.
The only option was to put the car on a rotating spit and start the long process of cutting out the irreparable areas. Panels were made, and some were sourced from France. “My welding was pretty hopeless, so I found a professional welder, Jason, who made the task look easy!”, Antony tells us.
With garage time limited to weekends only and three years down the line, Antony decided that he would need someone to finish the bodywork and paint the car. A bodyshop in Solihull was commissioned to carry out the work and the car was later returned ready to put back together.
Antony recalled, “I thought this was going to be the easy job… oh how wrong I was! Even though I had cleaned and painted every part ready to fit back on, it was finding the right part that was the problem”.
The headaches continued when Antony changed the carburettor for a modern EFI as various components needed moving or modification for it to fit. New larger wheels were required too as Group 4 Rallye arches had been fitted to the car which had also been imported from France.
The list was endless.
Antony had hoped to take the Renault 17TS on a rolling road, but yet more problems arose. In the end, he had to get a custom alloy pulley / trigger wheel machined to set the car up. More delays!
But, after 5 years, the project eventually came together. With finishing touches added such as retrimmed interior and Renault Boutique stripes, Antony is now able to get out and enjoy the car. Antony says, “Yes, it looks ok, but it still needs some work. But it certainly isn’t a trailer queen, it’s driven! Over its lifetime with me it has broken down twice, once in Eire when the driveshaft broke, and then again in France when the centre of the clutch ripped out!”.
Other than that, this 1978 Renault 17TS Coupe MKII has been very reliable. The longest journey this classic car and driver duo have driven is up to Sweden on a 7-day and a 2,850-mile road trip without missing a beat. “It gets a lot of attention both in the UK and Europe, and as long as I can drive it, I will!”, says Antony.
So, with a great looking car that drives as well as it looks, Antony can enjoy the open road for many years to come. Thanks very much for talking to us Antony, we look forward to seeing you at a classic car show again soon.
All photos provided by Antony Louies.