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A glorious failure - a brave attempt by Renault to create a new idea - but one niche too far. The Avantime was only in production between 2001-03, before the plug was pulled due to poor sales.

In the late '70s Matra, then a Chrysler affiliate, were designing a replacement for the Matra-Simca Rancho, a fwd car based on Simca mechanicals, with the looks of an off-roader - totally cosmetic - do I hear RAV4 or CR-V?

Rancho :



Matra decided on the idea of a people carrier, known in the US as a minivan. Is it coincidental, that Chrysler were working on the same idea, at the same time?

Anyway, Chrysler's European adventure was none too healthy, and they decided to sell their UK (Rootes) & French (Simca) holdings. The buyer was PSA (Peugeot-Citroen). Unfortunately, for Matra, PSA were not interesred in the new vehicle. Matra then had to find another partner - they could not afford the develepment on their own - a white knight, in the shape of Renault, rode into view.

There was a catch. Renault were concerned that the recently introduced Murena, was too close a competitor for their own Fuego & Alpine-Renault - the cost of Renault's assistance was the canning of the Murena.....

Anyway, in 1984, the new car appeared - badged the Renault Espace - bodied in glass-fibre as per usual Matra practice. All went swimmingly, Espace I was followed by Espace II and then Espace III. Espace IV brings us to the Avantime. For the 4th generation, Renault wanted the body to be steel, and therefore, needed to take over production of the Espace in one of their own factories.

As a sop to Matra, the Avantime was conceived, based on the mechanicals of Espace III. The problem was, even though the car gained good reviews in the press, the buying public were not convinced that a two door minivan/coupe hybrid was what they really needed & sales were dire..........after only two years, production ceased & the Matra factory was forced to close.

After all the waffle, some photos of the car itself - it will be properly appreciated in due course.






Both the Rancho & Avantime are Norev models.

Cheers,

Steve
 
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