Renault Clio Williams, bluff attempt or stroke of genius?

The Renault Clio Williams was a considerable commercial success for Renault between 1993 and 1996. Although close in performance to a Clio 16s, it stood out in the eyes of sports enthusiasts mainly thanks to its successful re-looking. This is typically a car that collectors love, especially in its first numbered versions. Back to a French story telling.

A marketing coup?

The Clio William is an evolution of the Clio 16S intended to be approved for competition. For this, it had to be produced at least 2,500 copies. And as the production of small series is rarely profitable, Renault wanted to use the resources available.

First, its partnership in Formula 1 with the Williams team. Intended for rallying, this muscular Clio will indeed borrow its name from the Williams team … F1 enjoyed incomparable prestige at the time. Identical to the 16S by its body (with rounded fenders and bonnet), it is however beautifully decorated with blue and gold patterns, gold speedline rims with a silver edge and its multiple reminders of the Williams brand. An unforgettable and exclusive look.

This feeling of exclusivity is also reflected in the interior. The royal blue color is everwhere. Add to that velvet bucket seats, on which are embroidered the famous “W” of Williams. And of course, reserved for the first series, the small plate on the dashboard bearing the unique number of each copy.

But where has the F1 engine gone?

Renault used the available mechanics. But not really the ones developed for F1. To develop a 2000cc engine, Renault has in fact chosen the so-called “F” block, made of cast iron and originally fitted to the Renault 9. Make no mistake, this is a clio 16s block, increased in volume. The crankshaft has been reinforced, as have the cylinder heads. The benefits of these upgrades have been partly reduced by the addition of the catalyst.

With a power of 150 HP at 6100 rpm and a torque of 18.2 mkg at 4500 rpm, we are far from the performance of current GTIs and even those of the ill-loved Peugeot 309 GTI16S (released in 1990).

It is ultimately mainly by its chassis that the Williams is distinguished from the 16S. The front axle benefits from the widening of the tracks and the reinforcement of the lower triangles. The result? A Super 16S, particularly at home on small roads. Very catchy, it holds up better than a Peugeot 205GTI and also offers better comfort despite its shortened suspensions. In short, a good sports car, but nothing revolutionary though. Yet, it immediately arouses the passion of the public.

Commercial and sporting success

The production volume initially retained was of 3800 copies. However, the public’s enthusiasm prompted Renault to quickly consider scaling up production. Thus, the car was eventually produced in 12,100 units until 1996.

A re-styling took place in 1994 with a slightly revised front face. Inside, slight changes are made while the numbered plate on the dashboard is removed. The Clio Williams began to be exported outside Europe, in Japan and Argentina in particular. In 1995, a special Clio Williams “Swisschampion” series was produced for the Swiss market (500 copies).

After having brilliantly used the Clio 16S and Williams in Group A rallies, Renault Sport prepared a Clio Maxi based on the Williams. With wider tires, a massive spoiler and an engine increased to 270 hp (for a weight of 960 kg), it became a hit on French national rallies. Victory in the Monte-Carlo and in the French Championship Rally for Jean-Ragnotti…she has a solid track record despite a short career.

Shall you consider buying a Clio Williams?

The Clio Williams is a sought-after car in the vintage market. It is easy to maintain (10W40 oil change every year or 7,500 km, distribution every 5 years) and withstands high mileage. Spare parts are plentiful. It’s a fun car to live and drive.

But the recent evolution of the Clio William car value, which is now approaching 25,000 euros for a beautiful low-mileage model from the first series, raises questions. Does the Clio Williams justify this price? It’s a passionate car, with its rally history and unique style. But it is also a car very close to a fairly ordinary 16-valve Clio. So it is still time to consider buying a Clio Williams? 

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