Three men and a little trophy
Blog alert !! The only trophy worth having
I’ve had a soft spot for Renault’s little hatchback ever since I first saw the advert featuring Nicole and Papa, it was just so effortlessly cool and perfectly French. So when I was finally old enough to drive I scraped together every penny I could muster and started scanning Auto Trader for my little piece of French cool...
After a few minutes I find it and excitedly phone the current owner to organise a viewing. I can’t believe my luck, the little 5 door high mileage multiple owner car in a similar blue to the revered Clio Williams (the only thing that made me want it) is still for sale and all for the princely sum of 1200 of my hard earnt English pounds. I hurried round and handed over the asking price, but not before making all the crucial checks that one should when making the second biggest purchase you can make in your life. It’s blue - check, and I can drive it away today - check. And with that, my journey into the world of cars began.
I had many eventful outings in that little car, some good and some not so good, but as we all know, even the bad experiences can (in time) be looked back as a good thing and they’re all part of the great automotive learning curve that us petrolheads must experience in order to appreciate the upper-end of motoring nirvana.
Track day time
After several more adventures in an array of vehicles I realised that I had never managed my end goal of obtaining the fantastically exotic Clio Williams, which always seemed out of reach due to the cost of the car itself, or the sky high insurance policies that come with it. So just recently I decided that I wanted to replace our current car with the iconic hot hatch, however when I approached the boss (fiancee) and suggested changing our quite grown up Alfa for a small 90’s hot hatch with gold wheels, I was met with that disapproving look that you get when you go down the pub for one and are then found slumped against the neighbour’s door at 3 in the morning complaining why the locks have been changed.
Instead, I started looking at other hot hatches that might prove easier to convince the fiancee were a good idea, and whilst researching I came across a Youtube video of Harry Metcalfe explaining how he had fallen for the Clio Trophy when testing for Evo on ECOTY (Evo Car Of The Year), and how he had promptly contacted Renault and set about buying that very one. This was all I needed to convince myself that this was the car for me and so I started scouring the ads to find one that was in good nic and in budget.
Whilst trying to find the perfect one (and warm the fiancee to the idea), I received a phone call from one of my Le Mans buddies who had some interesting news. He told me that he knew of a Trophy being part ex'd for a very good price and that as he knew I had been looking for one, would I be interested in going ‘threeways’ on buying it. Initially I wasn’t sure as I had previously been looking to own it outright, and I was dubious about how it would work between three of us, but he then went on to explain how we could use as a track day weapon and that in doing so any expense would be split between three - meaning loads of fun for little outlay. Hearing this and knowing that I could enjoy a hot hatch without having to change the current car was a win-win situation! After many seconds of deliberating I called him back and agreed, and I handed over £600 pounds (I know, very cheap). Just a couple of hours later we were the proud owners of a Clio Trophy.
Later that night I headed to my friend’s and waited impatiently for the third friend in this deal to arrive and present our wisest of investments. Soon enough, we could hear the little ear bleeder (as it is now fondly known) coming round the corner, and there it was, it looked great and it was agreed by all of us that with a bit of elbow grease this little Clio would have been a bargain had it simply been a standard 182, let alone the much rarer Trophy variant.
On closer inspection though it became apparent that the sachs suspension that made this car so iconic was no longer on the car. Initially there was some muttering under the breath from all three of us as to why anyone would remove it, but we were able to get over it quickly once we discovered what had replaced it. The little Trophy had a full set of Bilstein coilovers and springs, and, judging be the camber of the wheels, had been perfectly set up for the track. Bingo! We were in business!
I hopped in and took it for a little spin around the local country lanes - wow, what a gem this car was. The engine kept pulling with every gear change and when you hit 5500rpm you would of been forgiven for thinking this car was fitted with a turbo or that some sort of nitrous system had kicked in! But no, your name is not Dominic Toretto, and no, you’re not in some highly modded Japanese performance car, just a normally aspirated Renault Sport 2.0 litre.
So after a minor service and a full disc and pad change we headed to Snetterton to test the little ear bleeder out, and what a little car it has proved to be. It cornered like it was being propelled by a small child, excitedly dragging it round between finger and thumb on the living room floor, hugging every apex and making even the harshest of hairpins seem nothing but a minor hurdle on your way to the perfect lap. Every lap I felt my confidence grow, much of this down to the Trophy’s ability to brake ever later and turn in without even a hint of fuss, and to top it off, whilst several others that day spent hours fettling and fixing their track honed cars, me and my two friends did lap after lap, only stopping to fuel ourselves and the car.
Then, when it was time to head home and the other guys began the task of loading their track cars onto trailers, we simply jumped in the Trophy and headed for home. Yes, some of the other more focused track day cars that were there that day were much quicker, but the required money and time needed to keep and enjoy these cars simply does not compare to the fun we were able to have on such a small budget and with minimal prep time once at the circuit. I’m not sure it is possible to have more fun for less money than in a Clio 182, and I would recommend to anyone who would listen to go out and buy one.
They’re cheaply made and no doubt at some point your dash will resemble a light show to rival a New Year’s party, but the smile on your face when you hit the country lanes and leave many a supercar in your wake, all whilst the gear level looks as if it’s making a bid for freedom, will have you hooked on the little hot hatch and looking for any excuse to pop out and go for a spin.
Oh, and p.s. The fiancee quite likes going for a ride in it too.