They say fortune favours the brave, unfortunately the brave fall over every once in a while before they find success if they survive long enough at all.
Just as Matra had gone out on a limb in 1977 to bring the public the Minivan sized SUV Simca / Talbot Ranchero I looked at last week a concept which Matra later evolved into the Renault Espace minivan in the 1980’s, in 1999 Matra showed a car for a new post minivan market segment which envisaged former minivan customers who’s kids had fled the coop who wanted something minivan sized for the superior view, but with only two doors and 140mph GT performance.
Patrick le Quément was responsible for the styling, which was loosely based on the upmarket Renault Vel Satis, that featured lots of heat reflecting glass to afford a panoramic view, the complete absence of any B-pillar and double hinged doors that take up less road space than smaller conventional doors when open for ease of entry and egress.
Initially the Avantime was to be powered by the 3 litre / 183 cui 24 valve 207hp Renault V6, later options included a 2 litre / 122 cui turbo and diesel variants.
Children were not expected to be carried but the rear features two separate full size seats, instead of the regular bench seat, that are mounted higher than the front seats offering what Renault called “theater seating”.
The Avantime certainly broke the coupé mold with it’s minivan size, fantastic all round vision and futuristic styling but….
… it had no competition except from genuine coupés that were smaller, more agile and less quirky to look at, meaning only 8,557 examples were built from 2001 to 2003 and of those only 450 were imported into the UK, much to the disappointment of Matra who called time on their car manufacturing aspirations.
In light of the vast fleets of highly polished sports minivan sized Chelsea tractors with only one or two occupants one sees flying up and down Britain’s motorways Renault might perhaps have been better aiming the Avantime as an alternative to sports utility vehicle segment.
The Avantime seen in these photographs earlier this year in Ware, Herts is a 3 litre / 183 cui V6 powered model with the 5 speed automatic transmission, it was first registered in the UK on the 2nd of September 2002.
Thanks for joining me on this “Minivan Pillarless Coupé” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again for Wagon Wednesday tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !