He lingered in the background of my shot like a totem to new-age nineties mediocrity. Dressed in the fabrics of a mid-2000s middle school counselor, The Guy continued to blather on his phone while casting sidelong glances that suggested the whole thing was a ruse for his repressed social dysfunctions. After several agonizing minutes we made eye contact so awkward a Scandinavian would be proud. Satisfied with the exchange of inscrutable social status, he moved on out of the frame.
I had approached this candy red beauty with the same sheepish guilt that pervades my attempts at online dating. A few quirks drew my furtive glances, but I foolishly moved on after only a few minutes. Moments later, the friendly owner tracked me down and asked if I wanted to take a closer look. I instantly accepted and was immediately drawn down into the rabbit hole that was this Renault 17.
When you start looking at this car, layers of quirk reveal themselves. Push button doors and peculiar dashboard switches are neat additions the compliment the foreign feel. The owner put Radioshack speakers in the back, 'Just like he had when he was younger'. Despite how that sounds, its actually very clean. In fact, the entire car looks pretty good, especially considering it's roots. A barn salvage, the engine bay was found full of sand, having caught fire and been extinguished via the expedient method of submersion in finely crushed rock.
Once you pop the hood, the depth of strangeness becomes more apparent. The engine is reversed, with the accessory belts aimed at the driver. Across from this is the battery, under the dash. I'm told this is for weight distribution. The coolant tank is glass, affectionately referred to as the 'puke tank' by the goatee'd mechanic. You'll also probably notice the stunningly large air filter assembly. Shaped and sized like a rocket pod, the filter only actually takes about a third of the space. The rest of the unit is filled with a nozzle, for reasons beyond my understanding.
When they sold this car in Italy, the model number was changed to 177 due to superstition with the number 17. That truly expresses the delightful strangeness of this restored French classic.