The roots of the Renault 15 (and its sportier twin sister the 17) can be traced back to the Renault Caravelle. The Caravelle was an attractive coupe, typical of the era. Its chic attractive lines were perfect for shopping on the Champs-Élysées and leisure pursuits and Renault had correctly assumed that is what the image conscious buyer were looking for. The car was also used to complement the Renault Dauphine particularly in the United States, where the Dauphine was making some progress as an alternative to the Volkswagen Beetle. The Caravelle had a reasonable turn of speed in the later 1.1 litre models, which was complimented with all round disc brakes.
The Caravelles styling fell into a typical pattern of styling trends that tend to affect coupe models. Its late 50’s tailfins and bubble cabin made it look very dated when discontinued in 1968, especially compared to the Ford Capri which had emerged in the same year and took the affordable coupe market by storm. Many manufacturers where abandoning rear engine designs in favour of front engined cars, Renault were indeed popular pioneers of FWD engineering so it was logical to pursue this for their new coupe. The 15/17 design were virtually signed off roughly the same time the Capri made it to the market, both cars were full 4 seaters and allowed a wide range of engines to be fitted.
The 12 was designed as the mainstream model to carry Renault into the 1970’s, the 15/17 models was based on the same platform and used the same engineering from both the new 12 and the 16. Like the Caravelle, the 15/17 models would appeal to the lower end of the coupe market but could offer more powerful models. Renault were keen to establish a new design methodology into the 70’s using safety, comfort and economy as key elements but due to the relative niche market and lower sales of the coupes it would also rely heavily on two factors, performance and styling.
Although Gaston Juchet had led the design for the 15/17 models, having been the companies aerodynamics engineer and key developer of the Renault 16, Renault also used other design ideas from Renault designers yet the ideas harmonized very well. A decision was made to produce two separate lines, reflecting trim, specification and engine sizes. The 15 would be sold as a basic coupe with the 1.2 and carburetor 1.6 engine options with single rectangle headlamps and more rear side glass.
The 17 were higher appointed cars, with the 1.6 fuel injection engine, a rear spoiler and twin circular headlamps. 17 TS/Gordini models featured a 5 speed gearbox, all round disc brakes and a convertible model. The Convertible model used a robust roll-bar due to the inherited weakness of removing a steel roof from a car. The 17 used more metal for this reason on the C-pillar and incorporated a triangular grid to cover the strengthening. The 15 was far more glassy and practical glass area which would have helped driver usability. Both cars would benefit from a useful volume of luggage space too, but did not yet feature a full length opening tailgate.
There were longitudinal grooves on the bonnet and featured frameless front windows. Another unique element that would have made the car stand out from the competitors, was the the sleek fastback body and distinctive wraparound bumpers. Both back and rear bumpers acted like surrounds for the lower back and front ends, with the front ‘ring’ containing the grill and headlamps. Within the chrome embellishment and grill, a steel structure embedded in a coating of polyurethane foam would absorb impacts and maintain the level of safety innovation that Renault were becoming more active in.
Like the Caravelle, Renault used Société des usines Chausson in Northern France to assemble the body at the factory rather than alongside the 12 at the Belgian Vilvoorde Renault Factory. All the remaining production (painting, assembly of mechanical and interior, etc.) were entrusted to the Renault plant in Sandouville, with the mechanical platform were assembled at the Renault plant in Flins.
In September 1971 Renault invited all of its dealers to Nice to attend the Renault 15:17 launch presentation. The public launch would take place at the 58th Paris Motor Show held in October. UK sales started in July 1972. By 1973 70,205 15 and 17’s had been assembled of which 48,776 where the 15’s, making it one of Europes most popular coupes of the time. The strong sales were aided by the relative economy of the car, which during the global fuel crisis encouraged Renault to continue the ongoing development of the 15/17 range. As a result the 15 continued the stronger sales of the two models and the specification was gradually upgraded.
The 17 was imported for a period across to the United states and Australia, the Renault 15’s specification was too low to have been successful in those countries, but in the end less than 3000 17’s found homes in those countries.
This particular car was seen at a closed down Renault dealer in Hampshire, UK in late 2008. The car had been stored inside the dealer for 16 or so years as a static piece. It was registered in June 1975 and presumably bought from this dealer and possibly donated to the garage or perhaps as a part exchange in 1992. The DVLA computer comes up with no useful clues to whether it still survives, as the last date of liability falls back to 1992 and there’s no current record of its road tax status but I’d like to think something as interesting and as rare as this Renault 15 TS is locked away somewhere waiting to get back on the road.
This TS model, would have been the top of the 15 range and was reasonably well kitted out. The notable fact of the 15 TS was that it used a different bonnet to the other 15’s – the discreet buldge was evident to accomodate the larger engined 1565cc models. This model didn’t appear to have been fitted with the optional tinted glass perhaps in lieu of the period vinyl roof. This is a fairly late pre-face lift model, as the mk2 arrived in the UK in April 1976. The 15/17 production continued until 1979 and replaced by the Renault Fuego a year later.