“If you want to soar like an eagle in life, you can’t be flocking with the turkeys.”
So said Warren Buffet, who’s not one to flock around – he started buying stock at age 11 and became one of the world’s richest people, basically by doing his own thing and investing wisely.
So, too, did Renault when they turned the Renault 19 of the late 80s/early 90s into the Megane, carrying over the floorpan, engine and transmission to save on the new-look model for 1996. The Renault 19 I once owned had the world’s most comfortable seats – but unfortunately they weren’t carried over to the Megane.
There was an avian aspect to the Megane: the grille on the initial release was supposed to look like a bird beak, apparently in a throwback to the Renault 16, 30 years earlier.
By the time I came to the Megane party in 2021, it was with an automatic convertible 2003 version of the facelifted grille design. The bird beak had gone, replaced with what you might call a moustache.
I was looking through local car listings when I saw it: being sold unregistered, with cold air conditioning and reasonably low kilometres. The asking price was a bit higher than I like, but an inspection would reveal whether it was worth it. So I arranged one.
I had some familiarity with the model: I’d looked at a Megane convertible at a dealer around 15 years earlier, but discovered in the logbooks that it was an ex-rental car and, based on that, not worth the asking price.
This black one was clearly not an ex-rental. The paint and interior were very good for an 18-year-old car, there was quite an extensive dealer service history in the logbooks and someone had gold-plated the badges. Most importantly, the convertible roof worked perfectly. A mum was selling it because she didn’t drive it any more, and her daughter hadn’t got around to getting a licence.
However, the driver’s side window didn’t fully close and the driver’s leather seat had a hole in it – both roadworthy issues that I would need to fix, before I could have a drive on the road. Plus, a couple of the tyres were almost as old as the car itself!
With the car sitting out in the weather (under a car cover) the most urgent job was to fix the electric window, to seal the interior from the buckets of rain that were falling at the time. I found it wasn’t easy to source a window regulator for this model – the convertible used a different type to the hatch, which might have been because Karmann (yes, that Karmann) did all the coachwork for the convertible (making over 74,000 of this model, according to Wikipedia).
I found no secondhand parts for sale in Australia. Some in the UK through eBay were a hundred dollars, before shipping. Thankfully, Google found me one at a wrecker’s yard in The Netherlands, which would cost $100 including shipping. A PayPal transaction later, and the part was on its way.
After a week or so, the window regulator arrived and it was the (relatively) easy to install scissor type that I’d replaced on my Land Rover Discovery. But still, it wasn’t a 5-minute job.
The driver’s seat was next on the list. I got a quote from a mobile leather repairer and was shocked to be told it would cost hundreds to fix a hole that was the size of a 5 cent piece (and even then, they could give no guarantee on the repair). So I discovered a DIY kit that would fill the hole with hard-setting resin, that you coloured to match the leather. The kit was less than $50.
The result wasn’t perfect, but got rid of the hole on what was already a slightly worn seat anyway.
With new tyres and a roadworthy, I was able to have a drive of this convertible which could go topless within 30 seconds or so. But watch out: in the summer heat, grabbing the handle on the windscreen to unhook the roof could burn your fingers!
Unlike the Ford Capri I previously owned, I found the Megane had a surprising lack of “scuttle shake” (when a car without a solid roof wobbles over bumps). The 1.6 litre, 16-valve engine was pretty spritely on locals roads and handled the on-ramp to the freeway with ease. The only letdowns were lack of rear passenger space for the odd passenger (yes, there were complaints) and the hard-to-access rear boot (where space has to make way for the folded roof).
I was thinking of keeping the Megane as a low-cost first car for my son, but he was also taking his time getting a licence – and I had too many cars to register and garage. So, it went up for sale online, for pretty much what it owed me. I was absolutely inundated with buyers. Just 2 hours after listing it, I took it down and stayed in contact with the first buyer, who looked at it the next day with his wife.
He took it home, with the roof down – soaring like an eagle.