On Sunday morning I always get fresh German sandwiches at the gas station on the Apeldoorns Kanaal. When I got the loot, a man got out of a huge car. From the front I saw that it was a Renault. On the back was Espace… The thing was stretched and wide. And quite low. It was clear: People who speak in awe of Great Classic Americans have missed the boat. A new Renault Espace, that's a big thing! The original was smaller. But boxes had more character.
The Espace was born more than 35 years ago
The history of the Renault Espace actually starts in the States. That's where Chrysler was developing Voyager in the 70s (where have they gone?). Later the Espace's biggest competitor.
Fergus Pollock, a British designer who worked at Chrysler, became interested in the idea and talked to Matra about designing a seven-seater as well. That became the P16 and was later developed by Antoine Volanis into the Matra P18. With that design under its arm Matra went to Peugeot, with which it had already done business in the 70s. Peugeot rejected the design, however, because the company was in financial trouble at the time and saw no profit in a seven-seater concept car that looked like a shoebox. Incidentally, the Fiat 600 Multipla was the first real 6-seater MPV.
Renault wanted to
Matra went one door further to Renault. There was interest in the concept. A cooperation agreement was concluded in December 1982 and the production version of the Renault Espace was presented in July 1984. It was so roughly based on the R18 middle class and had direct bloodlines with the P23 prototype. Matra took care of the assembly of the cars.
The first Espace was built with fiberglass body panels on a galvanized chassis. A nice stainless starting point. In the beginning, Peugeot seemed to be right about the sales potential of the cars. With 2703 units sold, the Renault Espace was not a real high flyer in its first year. This was because the public still had to get used to the revolutionary appearance of this monovolume.
At its introduction, the Espace got a two-liter petrol engine with 110 hp. A few months later, an 88 hp turbo diesel engine was also available. Later still, a 2,2 petrol engine was added. And the man who built a six-cylinder PRV engine in his Espace called his creation 'The Beast'. The car and its owner were both like Templars. During my visit, the man already put away half a bottle of gin. I dropped out for the test drive.
In 1988 the Espace got a facelift with the Matra headlights being replaced by Renault copies. At the end of the first generation Espace, a version with self-leveling suspension was also on sale. By the end of the first generation Espace in 1991, some 180.000 units had been sold.
In 1991 the Espace was thoroughly redesigned and lost its striking appearance
The concept had meanwhile been picked up by the competition. But apart from the Nissan Prairie, Mitsubishi Space Wagon and Chrysler Voyager, there were not many competitors. Renault redesigned the body in smoother shapes. The mirrors blended into the hood, the headlights became slimmer. Matra still built the new Espace on the original chassis.
In the meantime, such an Espace has become a huge container, in comparison with which a pre 1976 full sized Yank tank has become a thin pastry on thin wheels. And isn't that strange?
- The first MPVs: Chrysler Voyagers and Renault Espaces.
- Fiat 850 Familiare ready for 50 years of care by second owner
- Renault Avantime. Just different.
- Mitsubishi Space Wagon
- Renault Espace had almost been a Peugeot
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