About a year ago I was doing research on cars Porsche helped design on a consultancy basis, and I came across the Renault Clio V6 Renault Sport. I’ve always loved that Clio, but never before had I stopped to think about how ridiculous it was that the damn thing was ever made. A mid-engined, rear-wheel drive hatchback with a V6 in the cargo area built not for homologation purposes like the old 5 Turbo, but simply because Renault thought “why not?” It made no practical sense, and yet nearly 3,000 rolled off the production line between 2001 and 2005.
If, like me, you’re mystified by the Clio V6's sheer existence, you should watch the 10-minute mini-doc recent posted to YouTube courtesy of Crown Unfiltered, a podcast about car design. The genesis of that special Clio was a simple idea hatched by designer Axel Breun: What if a Renault Twingo had the engine — and engine position — of a Ferrari 308? Both cars shared a similar wheelbase after all, something Breun validated in a charmingly straightforward manner by gluing the body of a Twingo scale model atop the chassis of a miniature 308.
That’s how the story began, though the Twingo/308 hybrid was never built as Breun was never able to source a Ferrari to donate to the cause. Thankfully his efforts didn’t perish in vain, as it just so happened that Renault was looking to elevate the Clio’s image with a sporty flagship model right around the same time. The company could’ve just whipped together a hotted up GTI competitor; instead, the mid-engined Twingo sketches hanging behind Breun’s desk proved a popular conversation starter at the office and the special Clio — in all its lunacy — was greenlit.
The video goes into further detail of course, and you should watch it if you’ve ever been interested in this hot hatch with zero hatch capabilities. Breun says that while his team was obviously very much inspired by the 5 Turbo, he didn’t want to simply widen the Clio’s hips to accommodate the beefier powertrain. “We have to integrate the doors,” Breun told Crown. “They have to become different to make it a different car, so it’s not that much a Clio anymore, it’s a different sculpture.”
You can sense Breun’s satisfaction with the wild idea he helped bring to life, and as he tells it, the story culminated in a very heartwarming end for the designer. Cars like the Clio V6 are worth remembering, and personally I wonder what modern cars we’ll look back on in 20 years in amazement to think “I can’t believe they actually built that.”