Renault 12 TL (1969)

Renault 12 TL

The Renault 12 was a large family car produced by the French manufacturer Renault between 1968 and 1980. Available as a sedan and station wagon, it was also produced under licence in many countries across the globe into the early 21st century.

In its first few years the 12 received praise from the European press for its spacious, comfortable interior, its styling, its performance and its low fuel consumption. However it fared worse in the North American press: in a test of the 1974 model, Road & Track was critical of the engine's "obtrusive" noise, and called the heavy, non-power steering "a serious design flaw". They also gave it "very poor marks" for the ventilation system.

Renault 12 production and sales ended in most of Europe in 1980, but the model continued to be produced and sold by Renault affiliates worldwide. The last R12 was produced in 1999 in Turkey, whilst Romanian automaker Dacia continued producing R12-based cars until 2004 and was still producing the 12 based Gamma pick-up in 2006.

The project

In 1965, Renault began to study a new model to bridge the gap between the Renault 8 and the Renault 16. The demands for Project 117 were:
"The car had to be economical, not very sophisticated. It had to have a roomy interior, and a large boot, and a small engine will suffice. The car had to be easy to produce, so it could be made all over the world. It had to be reliable for the export markets, and comfortable enough for France. It should be usable as a base for multiple variations."

The Renault 12's design dates back to the genesis of the Renault 16; indeed, some initial R16 concept designs resemble the R12 more than the ultimate design of the R16. However, the R12 was technically quite different from either the R16 or the smaller Renault 4. Like all new Renaults at the time the car had front wheel drive, but the R12 had a very different layout. The engine was placed longitudinally ahead of the front wheels, while it was behind the wheels on the R4 and R16; the engine itself was the iron cast Cléon unit used since 1962 in the Renault 8/10 (the engine's size was increased to 1289 cc for use in the 12). The placement of the engine allowed the R12 to have a very simple design of the gear-selector that was placed on the floor of the car, and not on the dashboard as with the R4 or on the steering column as with the R16. The handle to operate the handbrake was placed under the dashboard. The R12's suspension differed from the R4 and R16 also, using a rigid (but light) rear axle as opposed to four-wheel independent suspension.


At the time of its launch in October 1969 at the Paris Motor Show, the Renault 12 was only available as a four-door saloon, in L and TL specifications, both of which were powered by a 1289cc engine rated at 40kW. The more expensive TL featured two separate reclining front seats instead of one front bench seat, arm rests on the doors, lights in the boot and glovebox, a heated rear window, and extra warning lights.

However in 1970 two new variants were introduced. First, the station wagon was launched with the same trim levels and engine as in the sedan. Also, the high performance Renault 12 Gordini model was introduced equipped with the all-aluminium 1565 cc block from the R16 TS fitted with two double-barrel carburettors, a reinforced crankshaft, a five speed gearbox, ventilated disc brakes on the front wheels and normal disc brakes on the rear wheels, and tuned suspension. The Gordini was able to reach 185 km/h and was only sold in blue with double white stripes.

In October 1972, the more upmarket R12 TS was introduced. It used same 1289 cm³ engine as in other R12s, but was equipped with a double Weber carburettor which increased power considerably and raised top speed to 150 km/h. Aesthetically, the car was distinguishable from other R12s by its special Gordini-style wheels, a chrome strip along the side of the car, and two extra headlights. The TS also featured integrated headrests, a rev-counter and a cooling-fluid temperature gauge.

In October 1973, the R12 TR appeared. This model slotted between the TL and TS, and had automatic transmission as standard.

The whole range was facelifted in 1975 with a new grill, rear lamps and dashboard.

North America

The American-market Renault 12 came in three trim lines: 12, 12L, and 12TL, ranging in price from an inexpensive US$ 2975 to a pricy US$ 3448. It was a larger car than most of its competitors, and the longitudinal front wheel drive layout contrasted with most. The engine, an R16 all-aluminum 1.6 L (1647 cc) unit which produced 65 hp (49 kW), was specific to the U.S. market. It was upgraded in 1975 with hemispherical heads and a higher compression ratio for 72 hp (54 kW).

South America

In Brazil, a version of the 12 was sold as the Ford Corcel and later the Ford Del Rey, when Ford do Brasil acquired the factory and rights to build the car from Renault in the late 1960s. The Corcel was in fact launched in Brazil before the Renault 12 was launched in France.

The Renault 12 was very popular in Argentina and Colombia, during the 70's and 80's. In Argentina, the local version being made at the plant of Renault Argentina at the province of Córdoba. In Colombia, this car being made at the plant of Renault SOFASA in Medellín city between 1973 and 1981.

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