Since lockdown kicked in, the Clio has covered only five miles. Its use for the fortnightly ‘big shop’ has just about kept the battery topped up, but aside from the 20 or so minutes of urban road use, it has been tucked under its cover. While its Speedline Turinis have barely turned the car has actually been receiving plenty of attention, with a couple of new additions and even a bank holiday weekend’s worth of TLC that – even if I say so myself – has really injected some youthful vitality back into its cheery French face.
By far the most rewarding lockdown modification has been the addition of the quick release steering wheel boss that I mentioned in the last report. It was easy to fit, requiring only an Allen key and a set of nuts and bolts, attaching directly to the existing boss extension so the wheel now sits at bent elbow’s length. With the added 50 ish millimetres, my wrist now sits on the top of the wheel when my arm is extended straight ahead, an ideal positioning for comfort and control. The other major benefit is, of course, that I can take the wheel off when I park the car, Mr Bean Mini-style, enhancing security.
While my drive to the supermarket with the boss fitted was, to be frank, slow and short, the improvement was obvious enough. It’s so satisfying being able to comfortably cross your arms around tight turns without stretching them; I know from experience of other cars – Porsche is particularly good at nailing this stuff – that it really does make a difference when at pace. If there’s a negative, it’s purely aesthetic. The impressive gold colour of the hub clashes with the silver trim of the cabin; as such, I’ve ordered a made-to-measure carbon fibre piece to cover it. Fingers crossed it fits…
Another job which has had a greater-than-expected impact is the painting of the front grille. It’s long been looking faded and tatty, appearing more greyish blue than black. But rather than replacing, I opted to paint the original for two reasons. One, the original factory sign-off sticker is still stuck on its uppermost part, under the bonnet. And two, it’s much cheaper than buying a £70 (!) piece of plastic. So, after three days – one for prepping and primer application, two for painting and day three for clear lacquering – the nose has a black and slightly-shinier-than-intended front grille. Along with the recently resprayed bonnet, it’s taken a decade off the front; a similar improvement has been made under the bonnet with a lick of OEM-ish silver paint on the engine cover. Happy days.
It’s that freshened up face, along with the realisation that the car is now 16 years old, which has made me alter my plans. I’ve a newfound desire to preserve some originality in its lightweight panels, so after calculating that the 15kg worth of back seats only shrinks power-to-weight by 3hp per tonne, I’m planning on putting them back in. Alongside that, I’ve just received a new black harness (a Willans three-pointer) that’s more discreet than the present blue one. I’ll thread it through the back bench to the present ISOFIX bar hole on the floor so it’s discreet. Long term, I plan on getting the Recaro Pole Position cushions re-trimmed to match the original Renaultsport dotted design.
The sudden quest for originality has provoked a hunt for an original Elf rear window sticker. The foolish 21-year-old me peeled the original off because I preferred the ‘clean’ look back then, but now it’s become a difficult-to-replace piece of the puzzle. Apparently, nowhere outside of Renault’s factory lines have ever stocked the sticker. The following 197 received a different one, as did the earlier Clio 16v models, including both Williams models. The designs of those are available online, but the 172/182 design is not. Thankfully, I’ve tracked down the original measurements for the sticker and even sourced a digital design of it (turns out others have sought the same thing), so now it’s just a case of enquiring about getting it custom made. Bit nerdy. But so satisfying.
Aside from that, I’ve ordered a pair of steering column polybushes, following the helpful advice of PHers on my last report (thanks, chaps!). I can’t wait to get them fitted – particularly because the stiffer front anti-roll bar bushes have made a significant difference – but given that recreational drives are unlikely to occur for a few more weeks, my attention is now firmly cast on the aesthetic tweaks. When freedom returns, I want the Clio to look as good as I know it’ll drive.
Car: 2004 Renault Clio Renaultsport 182
Run by: Sam Sheehan
Bought: May 2011
Mileage at purchase: 74,457
Mileage now: 128,615
Last month at a glance: A steering wheel boss and lick of paint keep up the progress in lockdown
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