Renault Clio Williams: Formula One's Greatest Hatchback
Some cars deserve to be put on a pedestal and admired for the rest of time. Others warrant a quiet life of weekend visits to a concours d’elegance. But some beckon to be driven and thrashed to within an inch of their life. This particular car is from the latter group – the Renault Clio Williams. Built in 1993 to homologate entry into the French Rally Championship, the Clio Williams was a blue-bodied, gold-wheeled superhatch that wasn’t actually designed by Williams at all. Renault Sport, the automaker’s racing cousin, developed the car and slapped a Williams’ name on it for marketing purposes, riding on the coattails of Nigel Mansell’s ’92 F1 Championship in a Williams-Renault. It worked, exceptionally. PHOTOS: See pics of the current Renault Clio
Renault Sport supplanted a 2.0L 16-valve four-cylinder – to the tune of 145 hp – onto the nimble Clio chassis, which allowed for 0-60mph in 7.8 seconds. It may not have been a sprinter, but it did gain praise for its handling and aggressive charisma.
The cars moved quickly on the track and through the dealerships. Renault sold the initial 3,800-vehicle production run, added on a subsequent 1,600 cars, and eventually followed-up with the successful Williams 2 and Williams 3 spin-offs for a total of 12,100 cars. Many have been ridden hard and put away wet over the years, but a few pristine time capsules still exist.
PHOTOS: Check out the 2014 Renault Kwid Concept
Much like the Lotus Carlton we featured last week, the Clio Williams didn’t have to make sense or cushion sales figures. It was a car that pushed the important “What If” boundaries, and left buyers with a unique experience rather than a compromise. For the equivalent of $36,000 in today’s money (£13,275 in 1993), that’s a pretty special experience.
Renault was believed to revive the iconic partnership back in 2012 (pictured below), but judging by the recent Formula One split between the two companies – the reboot looks unlikely.
PHOTOS: See pics of the current Williams FW36 F1 car