At the height of its success in Formula 1 with the V10 engines, Renault decided to take the bold step of producing a sports car. At the start of the decade, the Laguna concept car had explored the possibilities of a compact roadster with a rear mid-mounted engine.
In May 1994, the first prototype was produced. Its design was inspired by the Alpine A220 Cévennes, a racing car that had been shortened at the rear for rallying. The structure of the car was made of aluminium, reducing the weight to 930kg, and it was powered by the F7R engine introduced on the Clio Williams.
It was officially unveiled at the 1995 Geneva Motor Show. Renault Spider made a big impact with its slender, smooth and yet muscular profile, exuding a sense of raw power and elegance. Featuring bucket seats and a roll hoop, but with no power steering, ABS or heating, the Spider was minimalist in the extreme and very much at home on a racetrack. The Trophy version – instantly recognisable with its roll hoop and the 180hp engine – boasted a lightweight aluminium chassis designed specifically for that purpose.
The Spider was incredibly efficient, packing the performance of an Alpine A610 into a feather-light car weighing about the same as a Twingo, without costing anything like as much as racing car. It offered sensational acceleration, braking and roadholding. Purists obviously loved it, enjoying imitating other prestigious sports cars with its scissor doors…
Although production ended at the turn of the century, the Renault Spider – produced in two versions, with aeroscreen or full glass windscreen – still maintains the unusual appeal that won over so many sports car fans in its time.