It's a fair assumption that most of us on PH spend a lot of time daydreaming about cars we aspire to own. Many will be out of budget (the man maths problem) while some might be more affordable, but difficult to justify (more man maths). My rose-tinted view of Lotus ownership means I fantasise about returning to it daily - but, as you can see, I've spent a good deal more time in the latter camp recently.
I covered less than 5k miles in my Renaultsport Megane 275 Cup-S last year, and that's unlikely to change in 2022. I definitely don't need another car, nor do I really have the space or time for one in my life right now either. But since when has that stopped any of us...
A few months ago I was out with PHer thelostboy in his Huracan Performante, and when I asked him what his favourite car was he'd ever owned, the answer was his Renaultsport Clio 182 Trophy. And while I haven't owned anything else as exotic as his back catalogue to set it against, I found myself coming to the same conclusion.
I've owned three Meganes and four Clios including a 182 Trophy, but the car that has always stuck with me is my 172 Cup. Sure, out of the factory the 182 Trophy with its trick Sachs dampers and Recaro Trendline seats is the better car. But with a few modest adjustments, a 172 Cup is just as exciting to drive - perhaps even more so.
The thinner glass, lack of ABS, air-conditioning and sound deadening certainly makes it feels more raw, and definitely more frenzied when hurled down the nearest B road. My first Clio replaced the Elise, and while the Lotus was sensational to drive, I did find myself being a bit more wary in it. Whereas in a Clio worth a fraction of the value - and with considerably cheaper parts if I were to back it into a hedge - it was much easier to throw caution to the wind. Which does rather amplify the fun.
Enter, then, Renaultsport number eight - a 2003 Clio 172 Cup. This one was owned by a mate who spent a considerable amount on it during his tenure. And in truth, I've been wearing him down for a while on the subject of who the next owner should be. Of course, there's a sense of enormous satisfaction in buying a secondhand car you know very well; it removes much of the trepidation - especially when it's nearly 20 years old. And increasingly prone to rust.
I know for a fact that this car has none of that. I also know that it's going to be used primarily as a toy, so the infamous absence of niceties like climate or cruise control isn't a factor. Values for the 172 - so often at the bottom of the bargain bucket - are generally on the up, although there is a tendency for them to have passed through the hands of people who are disinclined to maintain them properly.
Again, that's obviously not an issue with VU53 SVO. In the last 12 months it has had a considerable amount of work done to it; the more exciting bits being Bilstein B14 coilovers, a K-Tec induction kit, a Pure Motorsport exhaust system complete with a 200-cell sports cat and Recaro Trendline seats from an Evo 7.
I've no immediate plans other to enjoy driving it, which I've done every day since I bought it. Mostly just for the sake of it. Obviously I feel completely spoilt having this alongside my Megane, but while they're both hot hatches from the same manufacturer, they couldn't be more different to drive. More on that next time!
Car: 2003 Renaultsport Clio 172 Cup
Run by: Ben Lowden
On fleet since: April 2022
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