Sweat engulfs my body. It must be ninety degrees outside, I think to myself. This heat is unbearable. I have no water and shade is nonexistent. And yet I could not be happier, as I am working on pushing my new project car—a 1969 Renault 16—out of storage.
My search for a vintage car began well before I could even drive. I was drawn to old cars because I wanted something quirky that would stand out from everything else on the road. The cars people drive nowadays are becoming more and more monotonous, and I did not want to be a part of that trend. I wanted something strange, something bold, something just a bit silly.
Every day, I would check local listings to see if any interesting vehicles had popped up for sale. I used a plethora of different websites and search terms day and day again. Sometimes there would be nothing; other days there would be too much to process. I started to become obsessed with several different classics: everything from Pontiac Fieros to Jeep Mailtrucks. None of these cars, however, perfectly fit what I was looking for. They just weren't strange enough.
Eventually, after searching for a long time, I had finally given up. Everything I wanted was either too expensive or required too much work. More readily available vehicles, such as BMW 3-series models, became extremely appealing, as did Volvo 240s and Volkswagen Jettas. But after looking at an '86 Volvo 244 I was considering purchasing, it hit me: I really did not want to blend in with everyday traffic. I didn't want to be able to park in a lot and find another example of my car. I wanted to stand out.
A few weeks ago, I decided to put out a wanted ad on the local car enthusiast forum. I simply stated I was looking for something odd, cheap, and in relatively good condition. Soon enough, I got responses from many individuals. One of these individuals mentioned he had a 1969 Renault 16 for sale.
A Renault 16? What on earth is that?
I knew I had seen one previously at a car meet, but I didn't find it particularly interesting. I began to do some research on the car, and I was in for a huge surprise. Like most French vehicles, the Renault 16 was extremely quirky and innovative in many ways. Column-shift 4 speed. Mid-engined front-wheel-drive. Seats that can be removed or folded into a bed. The list goes on. The Renault 16 was the first mid-sized hatchback, a segment previously dominated by various sedans and wagons. The 16 was surprisingly offered for sale in the United States, albeit it did not sell very well, and thus very few remain.
I was convinced I needed this car. I quickly contacted the seller and arranged a meeting time. The 16 is like nothing else on the road, and for that reason, it was perfect for me. Before I knew it, I was in a storage yard in the grueling heat picking up what was now my eccentric French project. It felt amazing to have such a bizarre car in my possession.
The car still requires a bit of work to get running and road-worthy, but I could not be more excited about it. After many hours of searching, I had found the car that was right for me. There is a project car right for everyone, you just have to find it. Or maybe it will find you first.
I will continue to post updates about the car, and will definitely do a photoshoot and document my adventures once it is running. Until then, I encourage you to drive and build what you love, even if it means straying away from the crowd.
Note: This article was originally published on DriveTribe sometime in Summer, 2021. Revisions have been made since its original publication.