The Lotus Elise is 25 years old next year; don't forget the Spider is, too…
By Matt Bird / Wednesday, December 23, 2020
Given it's nigh on impossible to discuss the Renault Sport Spider without also mentioning the Lotus Elise, let's get that out of the way first. In principle, they were remarkably similar: mid-engined, two-seat, four-cylinder roadsters first shown to the world in 1995 (the Renault at that year's Geneva show, the Lotus at Frankfurt) and released for sale in 1996.
But, as is well known, that's where their respective trajectories changed somewhat. The Elise saved Lotus and is still being made to this day; meanwhile the Spider is little more than an interesting footnote in Renault's long history, with around 1,800 made in three years and just 96 right-hand drive cars believed to exist. To think there must have been 96 different Elise special editions over the years…
Though the Renault clearly had weaknesses when measured against its Lotus adversary (a 200kg weight disadvantage not least among them), the timing of its launch must have affected its success as well. It was a similar situation to that which Lotus had experienced a few years earlier, its front-wheel drive Elan M100 never likely to capture the imagination when the Mazda MX-5 had already done a better job of evoking the manufacturer's storied past.
A quarter of a century later, the Sport Spider is a rather different proposition. Because anyone after an Elise is going to buy an Elise – particularly with nice S1s available for half price of this Renault. Instead the Spider is a collectible curio, looking and driving like nothing else on the road. We've had however many years of hearing about what the Sport Spider isn't, so maybe it's time to celebrate what it is. Because it still weighs less than a tonne, and is still powered by a Clio Williams engine driving the rear wheels. It might not be the mid-engined sports car doyen that the Elise is, but it is still a mid-engined sports car. And one that looks a good deal of fun.
As a UK supplied Mars Red car, this must be an exceptionally rare example even by Sport Spider standards. With the Chromodora race wheels and white roll bar fitted, it's perhaps as smart a Sport Spider as there ever was. Yellow looks a tad obvious and blue quite plain by comparison.
Having covered less than 30,000 miles in more than 20 years, the car presents really nicely; it's come from a Renault collection in fact, something its condition attests to. There is history to back up the slender mileage, though it'll want a good fluid refresh now given the last recorded service was in 2016. That this car has also been fitted with a marine-grade stereo implies it's been used exactly how you might expect: roof left at home, sun shining, engine blaring and some tunes for company on the boring bits when you can't play at being in the Sport Spider Cup like Jason Plato. Even in a car considered someway short of perfect, that doesn't sound a bad way to spend the day. It's for sale at £29,995…
SPECIFICATION | RENAULT SPORT SPIDER
Engine: 1,998cc 4-cyl
Transmission: 5-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],000rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],500rpm
First registered: 1997
Recorded mileage: 27,000
Price new: £25,950
Yours for: £29,995
See the original advert here.
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