A serious Francophile in Minnesota has amassed a collection of trois Renault Fuegos et un 17 Gordini. Has a more exciting sentence ever been published? I think not.
Although most of today’s collection is of Fuego variety, we have already covered one of those in 2018. Be sure to head over there for all your Fuego informational needs. Today, we’re all about 17.
The 17 and its lesser twin the 15 were introduced in 1971 as two-door successors to the sporty Caravelle which exited production in 1968. 15 and 17 were less exciting than the rear-engine, rear-drive Caravelle (worth its own Rare Rides), and were available only as front-engine, front-drive hatchbacks.
Underneath the 17 was the same platform as the more upright 12 family sedan, so naturally engines were shared between the two. Base models were called the 15, and used 1.3- or 1.6-liter engines of 59 and 89 horsepower, respectively. The top trim of the 15 called TS shared that 1.6-liter with the base trim of the 17, the TL. Upgrading to the 17 TS (called 17 Gordini 1974 onward) meant access to a slightly larger 1.6-liter engine, with 107 horsepower. The top speed of the 17 with that engine was a heady 112 miles per hour. Worth a mention, emissions regulations strangled the 1.6 in the US, where it made 95 horsepower instead. Renault limited the 15/17’s lower trims to a four-speed manual transmission, but the 17 TS/Gordini used a five-speed.
In the United States, only the 17 was available, though it was not a consistent offering at Renault dealers for its full run from 1971 to 1979. Much of the time, it was a way for Renault dealers to offer a second model in addition to the Le Car. Eventually, Gordini models in the US forced a five-speed manual and a drug-induced picnic-ready cloth roof (below) on their customers, of which there were few.
The 15 and 17 faded away at the end of 1979 and were immediately replaced by the more modern and more successful Fuego. The Fuego benefitted from additional marketing dollars too, since Renault was now very intertwined with AMC. AMC dealers sold the Fuego alongside its domestic-sourced offerings.
Today’s collection of three Fuegos and one 17 Gordini is available in the lakes of Minnesota. The owner reports that all were barn-stored since the late Eighties, so assuredly all of them have seen generations of mice families come and go. Make an offer, if you’re interested. Also, these Seventies publicity photos are all excellent.