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    Feb 2005

    Renault Project H 1967

    The need for big players in the automotive industry to consolidate into even bigger companies isn’t a new concept. Arch rivals Peugeot and Renault joined forces in 1966 to leverage the benefits of economies of scale. While the deal wasn’t a full tie-up, PSA-FCA style, the two French giants planned several joint development projects to cut costs, including a small hatchback that never materialized (each company ended up going its separate way while sharing mechanical parts) and a 90-degree V-8 to power flagship models that executives hoped would end Citroën’s interminable dominance over the segment.

    At the time, Renault already had a reasonably new flagship model—the 16 released in 1965 and exported to the United States shortly after—but it wanted to move even further upmarket. The heritage was there; the company offered extremely luxurious cars between the two world wars. Work started on a four-door sedan with a fastback-like silhouette called Project H internally and envisioned as a super-16.

    And, what a sedan it was. It stretched 193 inches long and 74 inches wide, dimensions that made it comfortably bigger than the DS and about as big as a modern-day Audi A6. This was a bold move coming from a company better known for making cheap and cheerful economy cars like the 4. The long hood hid a 3.5-liter V-8 fed by a pair of double-barrel carburetors and bolted to a four-speed manual transmission that spun the rear wheels. Peugeot and Renault both assigned their brightest engineers to the eight-cylinder’s development. While specifications were never released to the public, Project H sounded more like a Mercedes-Benz than a Renault on paper, but it would have cost considerably less.

    Stylists broke all ties with Renault’s then-current design language without venturing into ostentatious territory. The Project H also had unusual proportions for the era—it would undoubtedly be questionably marketed as a four-door coupe in 2020—but it was characterized by a relatively restrained appearance that tilted more towards the stately side of the design scale. Inside, it received cloth-upholstered seats that were as wide as they were plush, and a horizontal speedometer that stopped at 200 kph (124 mph).

    Renault’s archives department indicated executives put Project H on the backburner in 1967 and largely forgot about it. It was ultimately relegated to the pantheon of automotive history, but it influenced other projects, including the 120 and the R, which spawned the 20/30 duo released in Europe in 1975.

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    Last edited by Duell; 03-01-2020 at 01:55 PM.
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