1994 Renault Espace F1 - 820 PS and 317 km/h in a 7-seater

Sanjay · Jul 25, 2020 03:00 PM

1994 Renault Espace F1 - 820 PS and 317 km/h in a 7-seater 01

What do you do when it’s your model’s 10th-year anniversary? And it’s a special one at that - the successful Espace, in Renault’s case.

1994 Renault Espace F1 - 820 PS and 317 km/h in a 7-seater 02

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Remember the Enviro 2000 MPVs back in KLIA and KL Sentral? Yeah, that’s essentially a Renault Espace, albeit a newer version.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Renault thought they needed to do something special to commemorate a decade of the Espace.

Just a couple of colour changes? Nah...too simple.

1994 Renault Espace F1 - 820 PS and 317 km/h in a 7-seater 01

The 1974 Matra-Simca Bagheera "Courrèges" 

Back then, Renault was working with Matra (Mécanique Aviation Traction) to produce the standard Espace.

Who’s Matra? They’ve been involved in making cars since 1963. Their founder, Jean-Luc Lagardère was pretty in-tune with the importance of racing to boost car sales, so he thought his company should go in too.

1994 Renault Espace F1 - 820 PS and 317 km/h in a 7-seater 02

1968 Matra MS10

Matra then started racing in Formula 2, Formula 3, Formula 1 and even other race disciplines. They were pretty successful, netting wins in three consecutive 24 Hours of Le Mans (1972, 1973, 1974) races, before bowing out entirely from racing. 

So when Renault called up Matra about a project, they were pretty keen on it. What was the project?

1994 Renault Espace F1 - 820 PS and 317 km/h in a 7-seater 03

Stuffing a V10 into an Espace. No big deal. 

And not just any V10 too - Renault wanted to put in their F1 engine. Precisely the 40-valve, 3.5-litre, 820 PS, 705 Nm, 13,000 rpm R25 engine.

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Renault was already supplying engines for the Williams FW15C F1 car, which took home the constructors championship in 1993 and gave Alain Prost his fourth and final title. 

1994 Renault Espace F1 - 820 PS and 317 km/h in a 7-seater 05

The engine was mated to a six-speed transmission, and the rear suspension was lifted straight from the FW15C.

Swathes of carbon-fibre made up the bodywork, and only the hood, front doors, roof and glass were original.

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The engine was plonked in the middle, right between the passengers. This meant it could only carry four passengers, but that’s just a small price to pay for performance. 

It also behaved like an F1 car - one needed an entire team to prep and start it. Yeah okay, maybe some points docked for practicality. 

The century sprint is easily settled in 2.8 seconds, 190 km/h is but a blip at 6.9 seconds and it goes all the way to 317 km/h, all the while sounding that good.

1994 Renault Espace F1 - 820 PS and 317 km/h in a 7-seater 07

With its carbon-fibre diet, Matra and Williams Racing trimmed the Espace down to just 1,300 kg.

Carbon ceramic brakes meant that it could stop as well as it could go - it only needs 600 feet to go from 0-270-0 km/h.

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Due to its high centre of gravity and relatively heavy weight, the Espace F1 pulls up to 2G in the corners, something it commonly did with one or two wheels off the ground.

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A limited-slip differential (LSD) and traction control are additions to keep all the power in check. 

1994 Renault Espace F1 - 820 PS and 317 km/h in a 7-seater 10

For obvious reasons, the Espace F1 remained a concept car. It currently resides at Matra’s museum in Paris and will forever go down in history as Renault’s greatest concept car.

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Sanjay

Writer

With humble beginnings collecting diecast models and spending hours virtually tuning dream cars on the computer, his love of cars has delightfully transformed into a career. Sanjay enjoys how the same passion for cars transcends boundaries and brings people together.

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