3 – It’s the magic number

Hello, Chris here. With a wild and varied idea of my own. An idea I’ve not told Ian about yet. But Ian is in California, so he’s asleep as I type. So basically, I can get away with anything. Mwah, ha ha… etc.

Anyway, seeing as this is BothHandDrive – a voice from both sides of the automotive pond – I thought I’d bring you cars that you can buy over here in good old Blighty for £3,000. Cars that can’t be bought Stateside for $3,000. I’m hoping Ian will have some sort of motoring rebuttal in the form of something from the ’70s complete with a V8. We’ll see.

So here’s entry number one from me – the Renault Avantime. You know, this…

Ahh, those quirky French. They never did subscribe to the norm. Well, apart from the Peugeot 406, but we’ll gloss over that.

If you’re an American reader, you might be looking at this and wondering what the hell you’re being faced with. Don’t worry, when it landed on UK soil we thought pretty much the same. I think the French had it in their heads that because we like odd things, the Avantime would be a surefire hit. It wasn’t. Which is a shame, really. I always liked it. And why wouldn’t I? There’s a lot to like.

Dat ass, as your mum might say.

It was basically an Espace coupe. Because the world was clearly crying out for a minivan with far fewer doors than were really needed. I still, to this day, have no idea how it made it into production, but I’m glad it did. The world needs things that are a bit bonkers. And this, with its two-tone hue, its ‘twisted’ rear lights and its vents, glass roof and more, was definitely a graduate of the school of bonkers.

It did have some redeeming practicalities, too. You could get a 2.2 diesel engine, a 2.0 turbo petrol or a mighty 3.0 V6 petrol. It was vast inside and it wasn’t entirely offensive to drive. Plus, the doors were double-hinged so you didn’t need an abandoned runway in order to let you and the kids in and out. Smart.

See, clever hinges. It’s like driving a French Optimus Prime.

Hinges weren’t enough though. And I’m not talking about in England.In 2002, Automobile Magazine said “Le Quement (the car’s designer) is clearly an outside-the-box thinker, and the product of his vision is a fascinating exercise, but American buyers’ utilitarian expectations of the one-box shape just don’t jibe with the decadence and frivolity of a grand-touring coupe.”

You’re fussy buggers, aren’t you? But then again, we all were in 2001 when it was new. The poor, if brilliant Avantime was only built for two years, and as such, only 8,500 rolled off the production line.

And that’s why you can’t get one. But we can, and we can get one for not-a-lot-of-cash. See…

And if I personally had the money, I would. I so, so would. But you can’t. At least not without importing one, or paying three times the value. But then again, there’s lots of bad-ass old tin (and that better than this, because it was largely plastic) that I can’t buy for cheaps.

We just need Ian to tell us exactly what…

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