Look at what the current Renault range consists of today. The Clio (recently electrified), the Megane (now all-electric), the Zoe (EV again) and a smattering of SUVs with forgettable names. Now, you can’t blame Renault for jumping aboard the electric car hype train and, for what it’s worth, I think the Megane E-Tech is rather good. But the days of the blisteringly fast-yet-affordable Renault look to be long gone.
What about Alpine? Well, on paper at least, it is Renault’s new performance division and still operates out of the old Dieppe facility that both the current and original A110 have called home. There are some exciting new models in the works, too, with the Renault 5-based A290_β due in the not-too-distant future, along with a hot new SUV of some sort. The former certainly suggests that some of the old Renaultsport magic is still present, even if combustion power and (very likely) an affordable price tag are not.
The last time Renault tried to show the world it knew how to build a more exclusive performance car, it put out this: the bonkers Renault Sport Spider. In fact, the Spider’s designer, Patrick Le Quément, saw the sports car as a means of reviving the Alpine name before Renault realised it’d do wonders for its own street cred. That's because the Spider was unlike anything the company had produced, while its lightweight aluminium chassis and plastic bodywork were music to the ears of car enthusiasts and Renault’s bean counters. With 150hp on tap from the 2.0-litre 16-valve engine from the Clio Williams, Renault looked set to become the new kingpins in the lightweight sports car scene.
Only, it didn’t. The Lotus Elise arrived about a week later and while it wasn’t quite as powerful, it was some 200kg lighter. Still, the Spider comes in at less than a tonne, even with the optional windscreen, and is powered by a revvy engine that sends all of its power to the rear wheels. And anyway, the Spider was never intended to sell in the same numbers as the Elise. Production was capped at 1,800 cars to ensure exclusivity, or 15 per cent of the Series 1’s run, with only 100 examples built in right-hand drive for the UK (although some claim 40 of those were converted for the German market). This makes the Spider a superb collector proposition and you’ll need to act fast when one becomes available. Luckily, this 1997 example stars in the first round of PH auctions.
As you might have guessed, this is no ordinary Renault Sport Spider. Headlining an extensive list of upgrades is the addition of a T28 Garrett turbocharger strapped to the original Clio Williams engine, alongside uprated cams and pistons, a fully ported cylinder head, plus a customer intercooler and exhaust system. This lifts power up to a whopping 315hp, though you can adjust how that’s delivered to the rear axle thanks to a new ECU with switchable engine maps. The brakes have been given some attention as a result, with the Renault Alpine Owners Club supplying its own custom kit that’s specially designed for the Spider.
The previous owner has even made a few quality of life improvements, such as USB charging and Bluetooth connectivity, just don’t expect to hear much over the induction and wind noise. And that’s just scratching the surface of a Spider that’s clearly been pieced together in meticulous detail, all recorded with a wealth of documents and invoices. This isn't just a modded Renault Sport Spider - it’s the Trophy-R that never was...
SPECIFICATION | RENAULT SPORT SPIDER
Engine: 1,998cc four-cylinder
Transmission: five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 315@N/A (modified)
Torque (lb ft): N/A
Year registered: 1997
Recorded mileage: 15,825
1 / 11