I’ve developed a newfound love for bad weather since the Clio took up residency in a Hertfordshire barn. This time last year its Racing Blue skin was covered in wet leaves and tree sap, and not long from being dented by a tow-bar wielding bozo. But since November, it’s been sheltered from all of that stuff, wearing its tightly fitted Classic Additions cover indoors to remain as spotless as when it first drove in, no matter the chaos unfolding in the world outside. Not worrying about a weathering hot hatch has done wonders for my sleep.
Not that a lack of use has completely halted progress on the 182. In preparation for a valiant and very lift-off oversteery return to the world when the winter road salts have blown away, the car’s biggest blemish, a dented bonnet, has been rectified. Initial plans to bin the damaged part for a fibreglass replacement were quickly quelled when it became clear the bill would be twice that of a repair. Given the depth of the dent and the softness of Renault body panels (both the metal and the plastic ones), it’s a remarkable save – literally and financially – and the front end looks genuinely younger. The pictures really don’t do the shininess justice.
My excitement for the car’s refreshed face has, however, been somewhat dampened by repeated goes in the PH Fleet RS Megane 300. Those of you with older cars may know the feeling when you jump into a younger machine and discover the fruits of progress. Not the dash infotainment kind, but that of the chassis - or in the case of the Meg, the front end. Because ongoing use of the 300 has revealed just how hooked up, how on its toes and how eager for your inputs the hatch is. As a complete package it’s far from perfect, but when on the limit, there’s something very track-ready about it all. I’ve become obsessed with injecting the Clio, a car that’s already pretty darty on the nose, with a Megane-level sense of urgency.
It’s an inspiration-influenced route I’ve taken before with the 182; those back seats and the harnesses went in (or out) pretty swiftly after a jaunt in the sublime Megane 275 Trophy-R. But it’s arguably the toughest ask yet for the car; the latest Meg being technically more advanced in every avenue. Yet with former Clio owner Ben L in the office to pass on words of praise for Pure Motorsport’s strut brace, not to mention the dozens of forum posts promising the same, I’ve used the pennies saved from that bonnet repair and ordered the metal part that eliminates flex between the front struts. I shan’t bother with the rear brace, the Clio structure is said to be so inherently stiff (it was a top segment performer in NCAP tests back in the Thierry Henry Va Va Voom days, you know?) that it’s a waste of money.
The brace won’t be going on straight away, mind, because with polybush front anti-roll bar bushes to go on too (they’re ready and waiting) I’d like to add the bits in a staggered order to try and sense the incremental improvements offered by them. Nerdy, I know, but vital if I’m going to give a fair verdict in future reports. Plus, delaying the addition of improvements will help slow the rate at which I inevitably buy more new bits. Such as the deep-dish wheel I’ve also decided is entirely worth it thanks to the great steering wheel position of the Meg. I’ve got my eye on the OMP Corsica wheel, which has a 95mm dish and is 330mm in diameter - my kind of measurements. The same can’t be said about the price Moreover this is the year I’ll fit another Recaro Pole Position in the cabin, promise. The lack of symmetry has been driving me mad for too long.
Although not quite as mad as not being able to drive the car, it should be said. The temptation to go and take the 182 for a spin is enormous, but on days it’s looked dry and sunny outside my south London abode, I’m assured it’s remained greasy and bitterly cold on the country lanes of Hertfordshire. Handy, because otherwise I know I’d have caved. The car shall therefore stay parked until the warmth of spring returns and those Dunlop Sport Maxxs can certainly be brought up to operating temperature. Roll on March.
Car: 2004 Renault Clio Renaultsport 182
Run by: Sam Sheehan
Bought: May 2011
Mileage at purchase: 74,457
Mileage now: 128,480
Last month at a glance: Resting Clio receives a new bonnet and front-end bits