The Renault 12 is one of those cars that was mass-produced when it was new and mass-destroyed as soon as it became outdated. Although Renault sold hundreds of thousands of 12s from 1969 to 1980 (and many more under the Dacia banner until 2006), both the sedan and the wagon variants of it have become a very rare sight on western European roads. Even at car shows, the odds of finding a non-Gordini 12 are slim to none.
We photographed the metallic green example pictured below in a small town located in central France a couple of weeks ago. It immediately stuck out because it was parked among dozens of late-model crossovers, sedans and people-movers, providing a sobering analysis of exactly how much automotive design has evolved over the past four or so decades.
Time has not been kind to the 12 and nearly every body panel is rusty and / or dented. It’s hard to tell exactly when it was first registered because the license plate isn’t original but the post-facelift front end indicates it was built after 1975. Although it’s rough on the outside, the 12 started right up without the slightest puff of smoke, a sign that the engine is still going strong.