In the 1980s, the motor sport service van
of choice was the Renault Master,
well if you were French anyway.
This van's generous size and exciting style made it attractive to various motor racing team's management.
We are planning a retro project which requires a 1990 Renault Master van. This meant me going to France, buying a Master van and driving it home to the sunny north of England, then fixing it up ready for the van's new life. Here's the story so far..
The original Gandini van design, he probably thought it was too futuristic for Renault to produce, he should have known better!
The mk1 Renault Master van was produced between1980 and 1997. The Master was developed from a 1973 design by Marcello Gandini. Gandini worked at Bertoni for a time, and he was responsible for styling the Lamborghini Miura and Countach, he also designed the outstanding Lancia Stratos. Gandini designed the Citroen BX, so he had a
great reputation for successful style and practicality.
Gandini's design for the new Renault van was futuristic, the production Master retained this theme, but was modified by Renault's in house designers. Most features of the original design were kept, like the round door handles, the single sweep front end, swooshy wheelarch extensions and the bulging side load door.
Major changes included channels pressed in the flat side panels to minimise vibrations,
and bumpers back and front to defend against French traffic.
The main feature of the Renault Master is that the engine is
It's at the front, but the gearbox is ahead of the engine, a transaxle drives the front wheels. So the bonnet opens on to a spare wheel, radiator and battery, and not much else.
No drive shaft to a rear axle means excellent height in the rear with a flat floor and low loading height. The high driving position gives good visibility, the elevated cab floor is needed to clear the engine components. Oil checks are done through a flap on the
engine cover in the cab.
The generous size made the Master an ideal motor sport service van, good height in the back with plenty of space, excellent visibility and a handsome presence. Just be sure to plan ahead and not be in a hurry!
The Renault master is tall, with a
low floor and easy access. It was an advanced design at the time. It's still a great looking vehicle.
Two Renault Masters, one Lancia.
It probably needed two vans full of parts
to keep that Delta going!
We found our Master on Leparking.fr. Used cars are surprisingly expensive in France, and a cheap Master will be a bin!
Our van was advertised at 2000euros, it was located near Bordeaux so hopefully wasn't exposed to the wet northern France weather.
The Master was reported to be in good condition, papers all in order, and this van had the desirable (to us!) giant lift up tailgate.
Lengthy communications took place via Google translate, so with an appointment made to meet at a village near Bordeaux
I flew Flybe to Nantes, then took a train to a small rural station,
where the vendor's son kindly picked me up.
The van was there and looked good, it was indeed rust free, but there were several things needed fixing, door locks, lights, and emptying the rubbish out of the back. They seemed quite surprised by my visit, although it had been arranged for 2 weeks.
I'm rather obsessed with being on time, that's probably
unusual in France.
The train out of Nantes was a fast and comfortable electric set,
until we reached the countryside where it slowed right down,
we had reached the end of the overhead electric wires
and the train was using its diesel engine.
My station was a rural retreat out in the middle of nowhere.
Last minute fixing, here les gars are trying to get a working
number plate light.
After a test drive a few problems needed sorting out!
But the Master was rust free and old receipts showed various important jobs had been done.
I was driving a good few miles back to UK, so the van needed to have lights, wipers etc., some dodgy wiring needed sorting out too. A jack, giant wheel brace and a spare wheel were found.
In their kitchen I asked a few more question via phone translate, and a deal was done at 1800euros, we all signed several papers and I said my farewells.
The van remained insured, I think! with the ins. card and registration on the windscreen, French mot card
was up to date also.
No fuel gauge meant
very regular fill ups
I set off North to the Channel Tunnel, I soon found that the van had no heater, it had a fan and a new heater matrix, but that hadn't been connected to the cooling system.
It was then the turn of the speedo not to work, but I had a sat nav to use. Then I realised the fuel gauge was faulty, this was a bit of a problem, it occupied me with calculations as I drove along, which was good because the
radio didn't work to keep me awake.
I'd planned an overnight drive, arriving at Calais about 4 in the morning. The Master was so slow, 60mph being its happy maximum, that I missed my slot at the tunnel by 2 hours. This was expensive! I had to re-book, and they really stung me, but I was able to sleep for a while across the 3 front seats.
I expected trouble at the border checks, I was travelling on the van's French plates with the previous owner's insurance, on a UK passport, but we sailed through!
The van didn't look so big compared with the other modern French vans in the
Channel Tunnel carriage.
There's a much to love
auto-wise in France,
with lots of room
in the back of our
I was tempted!
And another fill up
A lonely early morning stop.
In the UK I trundled North up the motorway network, sometimes even overtaking a slower truck. I was deaf by now, so no radio would have been any use, it was raining hard, but the large wipers worked well, I had my coat's hood up to keep warm. Hoodie, French plates, strange old van, left hand drive, any passing police
must have thought I was suffering enough, so left me alone!
The van and me made it back safely to our yard, the evening sun came out as I parked the Master up.
Next job is to strip the plywood mobile home lining out of the back and give the van a good going over.
That'll be the next report,
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