Your servant in the Histoire & Collection workshop at the wheel of Patrick Tambay's F1 "Bolide", to be seen in action again in the Renault World Series...
A "dynamic" Collection
Véronique Weghsteen, the Head Press Officer of Renault Belgium Luxembourg invited me for an exclusive individual visit to the famous Renault Histoire & Collection, and organised an interview with Christian Schmaltz, manager of the heritage department and responsible for the collection of not less than 650 cars housed on the factory compounds of the Renault factory in Flins, where presently the Clio’s are built.
It was delightful to meet this friendly, very outspoken and knowledgeable man, who accompanied me together with Véronique the whole day, and such personal attention made my trip unforgettable indeed.
I was quite anxious to see this « rolling » collection, brought to life and transformed from a purely static museum under the impulse of former Renault president Schweitzer.
Housed in a 5 year old building on the factory compounds, virtually all the 650 cars are kept in (close to) running order, waiting patiently for their next outing under plastic dust covers. This is such a photogenic sight that I could not resist sharing it with You here !
A magnificent "Atelier"
Upon arrival, Christian Schmaltz led me first to the enormous « atelier », or workshop/garage, where the last minute preparations are made on the cars which are selected for imminent « starring » in numerous events. « More than 150 operations are organised every year with the goal to show the « savoir-faire » of Renault to the public » told Christian Schmaltz me in his ever-friendly manner. « These events are usually organised by the Renault commercial network and distributors, for example the « collection » will provide some small historic Renaults at the presentation of the new Twingo in numerous cities in France and elsewhere. » he smiled, stroking the bonnet of a Juvaquatre, which is undergoing last preparations for the 70th birthday of that model. To celebrate this, Renault Juvaquatre clubs are all invited to Flins to view the collection.
Christian Schmaltz explains how historic parts are remade in the own "atelier"...
I stared admiringly at a magnificent and diverse array of Renaults, from the 1914 « Taxi de La Marne » to the « Etoile Filante » gas turbine speed record car, a deep blue R8 Gordini and of course a couple of the famous Turbo F1 cars, going out to events in the next few days.
Renault promoted decades ago a lot of French drivers’ talent in their famous R8 Gordini racing series, and it is therefore only fitting that they now bring their historic R8 Gordini’s out again in the « International Gordini Revival »
But the « Collection » focuses now on the 30 year anniversary of the advent of the V6 Turbo F1 on the racing tracks . Christian Schmaltz explained me that the F1 cars are used more actively this year, and he is taking four cars which embody the different V6 Turbo generations of the French marque out to the Renault World Series.
Starting with the 1977 « anniversary » car, the RS01, Schmaltz selects also two RE40’s, who embody the middle of the Turbo V6 era, and the RE60, the representing the pinnacle of the Turbo evolution, with up to 1200 horspower, driven in 1985 by Eddy Cheever en Patrick Tambay.
As the top photo shows, I slid also behind the wheel of one of these historic F1 cars, which was once driven by Patrick Tambay to be exact, and I was amazed by sheer « bareness » of the instrumentation and controls. The steering wheel is in fact nothing more than a MoMo three spoke model of utter simplicity, and has litteraly nothing to do with the sophisticated variants we see now in the hands of today’s F1 drivers. But there was already an electronic display in front of the driver, containing the most essential information. Sitting in the car, I was struck by its narrowness, contrasting with the large wheels which stand out very wide indeed.
This atelier is manned by 20 mécaniciens and my admiration goes to their craftmanship and versatility, which is is truly daunting to say the least. They have to be able to work on a veteran touring car, tackle the restauration and rebuild of a Renault Alpine and set up and prepare a historic F1 racing car. And there are not less than… 55 (yes !) F1 cars in the collection !
The atelier is split up in several sections, a machining section where the old parts are remade or machined when worn or broken, a bodywork, painting and upholstery section, and last but not least the mechanical section. In the machining shop, classic non electronic tools and benches are used, as they are more versatile and more adapted to the materials used.
There are a further 9 staff members who assist the mechanics and organise the logistical and technical aspects of the collection What’s more, these « mécaniciens » or rather magicians have also to be able to drive these F1 cars for warm up and « shake down » runs, and as it happened the day of my visit, 5 atelier staff members were having physical tests and examinations, literally to see if they are fit for the job.
Here You see one of the specialists working on a 1800 Renault Alpine, brought back to original factory specification. "Do not touch please! " says the sticker...
Finally, another 4 members of the « Collection » staff are involved in the organisation of the events and communication activites concerning these events and the role of the « Collection ». They are truly doing a splendid job !
Historic Renaults built up to the 20s have this typical bonnet shape, which truly impresses when the cars get tall and big, the pinnacle being the enormous 40 CV record car, which to me has a monstruous magic about her. I could not resist taking this « Monstre » for my camera lens, impressed again as I was by its enormous locomotive like dimensions and its aggressive proportions. This was the mighty Renault which Louis might have liked the best, who knows. It certainly gave the « Marque » an aura of power, mechanical reliability and « sérieux ». The shape of these big Renaults made this statement, and positioned the make well among the French corporate, financial and political elite.
A story about this 40 CV and its record drives will undoubtedly follow… as its magic never fades.
I show here a picture of the enormous engine of the 40 CV, made ready in the "atelier" for a "sortie" at an event...
Needless to say that I got also very intrigued about the preparation of these F1 cars, and what it takes to run them at events. A lot of internal « house » know-how is involved in this, and I come back on the subject in a later report. Keep looking at this site !
Hans Knol ten Bensel
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We visited the unique "rolling" collection of historic Renaults, the Renault Histoire & Collection in Flins...