Nowadays, racy sports coupés are unfortunately no longer part of the model portfolio of French carmakers. That used to be different. With the Caravelle and Floride, for example, Renault had two beautifully styled offerings starting in the late 1950s. This was followed in the early 1970s by two model series that were visually different but technically very closely related. We are talking about the Renault 15 and Renault 17, which debuted at the Paris Motor Show in October 1971. The latter car was called Renault 177 in Italy because 17 is considered an unlucky number there. In the U.S. market, it was known as the Renault Gordini Coupé Convertible, a name that referred to the large fabric sunroof that remained optional in Europe. Both were built between 1971 and 1979, a total of around 305,000 units. The chassis of the R12 was used as the technical basis. In addition to the production site of the Société des Usines Chausson in Maubeuge, France, the R15 was also built in Palencia, Spain.
From today’s perspective, the Renault 15 would be considered an estate coupé. Translated into common language, it is a two-door car with a long roof, large side windows and a relatively steep, big tailgate. Unlike the R17, there was no sunroof option for the R15. Under the body was a front-wheel drive chassis with engines from the Renault 12 and Renault 16. The R15 TL had a 1.3-liter inline four-cylinder engine with 40 kW/54 hp. Alternatively, there was the R15 TS with 66 kW/90 hp from 1.6 liters of displacement. While the front wheels were individually suspended on double wishbones with telescopic shock absorbers and coil springs, a rigid axle with trailing arms and a central wishbone was used at the rear. Deceleration was provided by disc brakes at the front and drum brakes at the rear. In March 1976, the Renault 15 received larger headlights, a slightly modified rear end and, as TL, higher-quality basic equipment.
Apart from the headlights (round twin headlights instead of the rectangular lamps of the R12), the frontal view of the Renault 17 was the same as that of the Renault 15. The view directly to the rear is also identical. In profile, however, clear differences are noticeable. Where the R15 has a large, rear side window, the R17 has two smaller windows. The front one can be lowered by a crank and the rear one is hidden behind a grille. In keeping with the larger model number, Renault deliberately positioned the R17 a bit above the R15. Thus, the R17 TL received the same 66 kW/90 hp engine as the R15 TS. Above it, the R17 TS with D-Jetronic injection system had 79 kW/108 hp. These performance figures were taken over by the R17 Gordini between 1974 and 1977. The R17 TS then returned to the range, but again with twin carburetors and only 72 kW/98 hp. In addition, the model was updated in spring 1976 with larger headlights and a modified rear end. The R17 was also used for some rally events.
Rare today, but still inexpensive
In the spring of 1980, a successor model to both series appeared in the form of the Fuego. Although more than twice as many examples of the R15 were built as of the R17 (209,887 to 94,969 units), both vehicles are really rarely seen at classic car meets or shows. The main reason for this is the tiresome subject of rust, which affected a large part of the stock. It is therefore all the more surprising that well-preserved vehicles are still available today in the price range between € 10,000 and € 20,000.