I guess it’s funny that the Clio has returned from barn-exile at precisely the same time we’re all supposed to be self-isolating. Thankfully, cars - even used French ones - are immune to the effects of COVID-19, so it was directly to the MOT station with our 128k-old hot hatch on Saturday. Since the car’s battery had been kept warm and on a trickle charger in the house, this involved none of the usual jump start faff. With it reconnected the electronics clicked into life and the F4R engine started on the button, as if it had been parked for four hours, not four months.
It looked it, too, with the Classic Additions cover having kept all dust off the paintwork – including the shiny, just-resprayed bonnet I mentioned in the last report. Weirdly, the interior seemed dull, but perhaps that’s just the airborne dust settling after such a prolonged period of stillness. The Yozzasport exhaust sounded much louder than I remembered, too; probably the result of living with unmodified, WLTP’d press cars over the winter.
Still sounds the nuts, though, on the short blast to its MOT booking at TD Autos in Cheshunt (a place my old man’s been using for his cars for donkeys’ years). Garage owner Tony and his team noted that the car’s condition still doesn’t resemble its mileage, which was nice - although not nearly as nice as news that it passed its annual test with flying colours. Always good to know there are no hidden gremlins waiting for the most inopportune moment to rear their ugly heads.
Save for the impossible-to-detect one, which appeared Gizmo-like on the drive home. Or most specifically - and luckily - when the car had been back home for half an hour, and I went to move it. The starter was turning the motor over, but it wouldn’t catch. What it did do was stink of petrol. Lo and behold the fuel was spurting out of the connecter between the line and the rail and had covered the inlet manifold. I dread to think what would have happened if the connecter had popped off when the engine was hot.
Turns out the plastic sleeve that holds the high-pressure fuel line to the rail had cracked, presumably because it had gone brittle with age, releasing the line like an out-of-control fireman’s hose. Cable ties to rescue. With one directly replacing the ring and another providing perpendicular support, I’m convinced this bodge job is better than the original solution – but I have, of course, ordered a new line to go on.
Not wanting to let that near catastrophic incident hamper the day’s productivity, I set about tidying up the interior. I bought some Velcro strips to tidy up the harnesses, removed the lightweight sub from the boot and pulled all the wires out to go with it, and went around tightening screws on the rear of the interior in an attempt to reduce trim rattles. I also made use of the boot net that had covered the sub and attempted to make it imitate the red netting you get in a Trophy-R. It fills an area of unused space, but I’m unsure of whether I’ll leave it there. It might look crap. Ideally, I’d like a proper motorsport net in black, but that’s one for the future.
With the fuel now aimed appropriately and the interior looking almost as tidy as the exterior, I went for a quick blast. You know, just to check. Sure enough the front end does lack the initial turn in that I know it should have, no doubt because those sagging anti-roll bushes have sent the tracking out (they're next on the to-do list) but Clio still loads up brilliantly mid corner and there’s no questioning the eagerness of the fully-rested engine. The 182 remains immensely exciting to drive, even if I do say so myself.
It’s also not on fire, which in retrospect is the best thing to report. Next up, those ARB bushes and a front strut brace. And maybe a period of me self isolating on a long drive somewhere nice…
Car: 2004 Renault Clio Renaultsport 182
Run by: Sam Sheehan
Bought: May 2011
Mileage at purchase: 74,457
Mileage now: 128,580
Last month at a glance: Wakey-wakey, Clio...