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Concept Car of the Week: Renault Espace F1 (1994)

Fri, 07 Mar 2014

Co-developped with Matra, the Renault Espace was launched in 1984 and pioneered the now very popular minivan/MPV segment. The second-generation version appeared seven years later by which time the competition all had developed competitors. 1994 marked the tenth anniversary of the Espace as well as Renault's third Formula 1 championship as an engine supplier. This was the perfect opportunity to get the Espace into the minds and the hearts of the public by presenting the outrageous Espace F1 concept at the Paris Motor Show, something its rivals wouldn't even consider trying to copy.

It appeared at the Paris motor show, alongside the rather more sensible Ludo, Modus and Ameratrice concepts.

Although it appeared similar to the 7-seater, the concept had much more in common with an F1 car. The chassis was made of lightweight carbon fiber, which also used to reinforce the body.

Some elements of the body work were retained from the road-going version such as the glass, roof panel, hood and tailgate but the rest was dramatically puffed out and pierced with enormous slats, grilles and ducts and a huge carbon fiber wing was mounted on the roof.

The design, by Thierry Metroz and Axel Breun also picked up on the emerging trend for Bauhaus-inspired geometry in the lower body that was later seen not only in the brand's Argos and Initiale concepts but also the Audi TT. This grey element also served to reduce the tall car's visual mass.

The heart of the beast is the 3.5-litre, 40-valve Renault V10 engine as used in the 1993 Williams-Renault FW15C, but the power output was increased from 700bhp to an incredible 820bhp, mated to a 6-speed semi-automatic transmission. Weighing 1,300kg, the 0-100 km/h was achieved in just 2.8 sec. With the help of carbon-ceramic brakes, it could accelerate from 0-270km/h and brake to a complete halt in less than 600 meters. Inside, racing bucket seats allowed up to four petrified souls to enjoy F1 performance at the same time.

Eric Bernard, the former Larrousse and Liger F1 driver entrusted with developing the Espace F1 confides that it has a tendency to operate best in terms of grip when cornering on two wheels.

This yellow grocery-getting monster is one of the craziest concept from the nineties. Not only is made of pure passion and enthusiasm, it is also looks fantastic. Hats off to Renault for making this insane idea a reality. Talking of which, let's hope the V6 Twin'Run concept finds its way onto public roads.

First seen 1994 Paris Motor show
Designers Thierry Metroz, Axel Breun
Engine 3,500 cc V10, 40 valves, RS5 engine
Power 820 bhp
Transmission 6-speed semi automatic, mid-mounted, RWD
Length 4,430 mm
Width 2,050 mm

Your author, Flavien Dachet, is a UK-based, French-born car designer. You may know him as the purveyor of KarzNshit, a photo blog that if isn't already in your bookmarks, certainly should be.

By Flavien Dachet