1988 Renault 25 Monaco 2.0i
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If you've been a visitor to this website since it first popped up around the dawn of the 21st century, you may remember seeing this on here back then.
Back then I had a Saturday job at a little independent used car dealership in the middle of nowhere in rural Aberdeenshire. One of the perks of this job was that anything which was sufficiently old, scruffy or combination of the two to be deemed not worth their effort to clean up for the forecourt I was usually able to pick up for a little over the scrap price. This car fell into that category and set me back £60 if I remember correctly.
I can't recall whether it had a few days of MOT remaining or if it had already run out, but as I was at college full time during the week I had my father take it to our local "car guy" to be find out what it would likely need to pass another MOT. Sadly it was condemned due to rot on the rear suspension arms - and I never saw the car again. Given that the Renault 25 wasn't especially rare back in 2003, finding a replacement set of arms from a breaker probably wouldn't have been impossible. However one thing the cars were was essentially worthless...and I was a flat broke student at the time so would never have been able to afford to pay for the labour to get the parts fitted even if I had been able to find them.
Even if we couldn't have got it road legal again, I'd still have kept it around as an extremely comfortable lounge in which to listen to music on the fantastic stereo system. However it was my father who made the call in my absence, so that was the end of that. We didn't tend to bear grudges in our family, but making that call without consulting me was a sore point for ever more for me.
I only have that very poorly exposed photo and an even more underexposed one of the interior - scanned on a cheap scanner from 1999. I do have the original photo and negatives somewhere, if I ever find them again I will try to get a better scan!
I always vowed though that this was a car that one day I would own again.
Fast forward to around 2010 when I was rather more a master of my own fate and had some actual disposable income to play with I did have a look around for one for a while, only to discover that the car I was after was basically extinct. I recall there being one very tidy one which popped up every year or so for very strong money and a couple of pretty sorry looking projects, but that was it. So I just shrugged and basically stopped looking.
It's not as though I started looking again either. Someone posted a link to this classified ad in a Telegram chat which I only check in on every now and then.
Initially I very rapidly skim-read that and interpreted it as a non running project as I was in the middle of doing something else at the time. I very nearly forgot about it there and then, but remembered a couple of hours later that I'd not had time to read it properly so went back for a better look. No mention of MOT on the advert either, so initially I assumed that meant it didn't have one - until I actually checked through the DVLA website, and found it actually had seven months test on it still.
Suffice to say this made me ponder it a bit more. Though having already got my project lined up (and indeed parked on the driveway) ready to get stuck into when spring 2023 rolls around, I really didn't have room for another car. Two things made me decide that it had to be worth a look at least. Firstly was that it turned out that it was pretty local to me, only an hour or so away. Secondly was that if How Many Left is to be believed, well I'm not really likely to get another chance.
I was kind of expecting from the description and photos that it was likely to be a bit more of a project than I was looking for. However if I viewed it and decided that, no problem, at least I'd know. If I just ignored it though I knew that I'd forever more question whether I had made the right call. So I pinged a message to the seller to see if we could arrange a viewing.
What then followed was an entirely pleasant E-mail conversation which is totally at odds with near enough every experience I've had with buying or selling a car from or to the general public rather than a group I already know since about 2005 - which have almost invariably at at least some point made me want to bludgeon myself to death with my own keyboard.
So I found myself on a drizzly Saturday morning in the back of a friend's Jaguar XF heading towards Oxford.
First time I'd ever been in an XF. Pleasant enough car, though has the seemingly standard complaints from me of anything made this side of about 2000 in that the seats are far too hard and the ride is too firm.
When we got there and met up with the seller I found that the car was...well pretty much exactly as per the description. Cosmetically challenged, obviously having not been in regular use, in dire need of a new set of tyres and with a few bits of rust that would need attention sooner than later, but nothing that looked too scary. A deal was done and we headed for home with it.
As the seller had already filled the fuel tank for us there was no usually obligatory fuel station photo on the way home so you'll have to make do with one from the car park of a random Waitrose where we had stopped for a comfort break (after negotiating the absolute maze of a car park).
Reversing into that parking space was where I had that first moment of "oh yeah, I'd forgotten, these really aren't small cars are they?"
Driving an older car home from purchase is always a little bit stressful. Definitely even more so when it's an old French luxobarge which has barely turned a wheel in the last five years and we were well into the time of the year when Christmas shopping traffic could make our lives interesting at a couple of points. As it was though the Traffic Gods were kind to us and the car didn't miss a beat the whole way home. An hour or so later she was parked on my driveway and I found myself wondering quite how painfully the rest of the family were going to kill me.
Unsurprisingly I'd already compiled a list of things which needed attention.
First and foremost - though probably least importantly in the real world...that tailpipe.
Back when I was 17, there were cars I would have considered putting something like that on...This definitely wouldn't have been one of them. I originally thought that someone at some point had put a generic back box on there; this wouldn't have surprised me as I remembered exhaust parts for these being annoyingly expensive even back in the 90s. However after a bit of investigation (I couldn't just leave it alone, it was making my teeth itch) I discovered that thankfully it was just a bolt on trim.
It was very readily obvious that this car hasn't had a clean in a long, long time. She really, really needed a good deep clean.
Exactly as per the advert, the paint does indeed need help in several areas. There's some pretty epic clear coat peel, especially on the spoiler, radiator grill, offside rear door and rear quarter.
Those two are pretty easy to deal with as they're easily removed from the car to be dealt with. The next ones are going to be a bit more work.
Though all of these panels were going to need paint anyway because of that scratch running all the way from the front door.
Plus there's a dent in the front wing on that side which will mean the panel probably wants replacement - don't reckon I have much chance in finding one in the right colour, so we will likely wind up with at least the whole driver's side getting repainted at some point.
The bonnet does actually close properly, I just hadn't properly latched that side of it when that photo was taken so that corner was sitting a little high.
Inside, the LCD display for the clock, outside temperature and stereo is clearly in need of some help. I reckon the display itself is probably okay, but whatever cable it uses to interface with the control electronics or the zebra strip to the LCD itself is in need of some help.
Also in the same neighbourhood the windscreen washer level warning light was lit (along with the "service" light which comes on along with any of the lights in that area of the cluster). Though for all I knew at that point that actually could just have been because the reservoir needed to be refilled.
The temperature gauge reads a lot higher than I would be comfortable with, though having manually checked things both by hand and using an IR thermometer this does appear to be an instrumentation fault rather than an actual overheating problem. I've also had several people tell me that this wasn't unusual back in the day and so long as it stays out of the red/the warning light stays off not to worry too much.
It did remain pretty steadily there though, just moving around about as much as I would normally expect for an un-damped gauge which is actually reading the coolant temperature unlike on a lot of modern cars, so while I'd like to get to the bottom of it, I'm not worrying too massively about it.
The speaker grill on the passenger's front door liked to eject itself every time the door was closed. Thankfully though the grill was still present and aside from the locking tabs being broken (which is why it was falling off) was undamaged.
There were a few lamps out in the dash/switchgear, though nowhere near as many as I'd usually have expected on a car of this age.
So far I've spotted the ones in the hazard and rear window demister, rear wiper and central locking switches, the illumination for the upper stereo control keypad and a couple of warning lights on the dash out. Not a bad start for a car of this age really.
It does really look good at night though.
I always thought that the style of warning lights that they used for the central bank in the cluster looked really smart with the brightly lit symbol on a dimmer background. Still looks classy today I reckon.
Of course we can't look at the dash without mentioning the "distinctive" setup for the heater controls which wouldn't have looked out of place in a 70s or 80s Citroen which were renowned for their wacky dash designs.
These are actually controlled using the thumbwheels towards the bottom of the image with the pointers showing the current selection in the window above. It's a bit of an odd arrangement and definitely looks bizzare, but doesn't work badly. Definitely enhances the whole "1980s future" look of the dash.
As we only get what feels like about five minutes of usable daylight in the UK at this time of year that was as far as I was able to get on the day we picked the car up. Assessment continued the following morning though.
The engine bay was distinctly grubby but surprisingly free of bodges for a car of this age. The only thing which really caught my eye in that department was an aftermarket radiator fan for which the wiring could be slightly tidier - but that was purely a cosmetic issue and it was entirely serviceable.
Given how the interior makes the car seem as though it had just arrived from outer space it's slightly surprising how conventional everything looks under the bonnet. The only things really of note are how far forward the engine sits compared to most cars, and the presence of fully electronic multipoint fuel injection was definitely not something you saw every day in the mid to late 80s.
It will surprise precisely nobody that when I went to fill the windscreen washer reservoir in the hopes that would extinguish the light on the dash that I found it to be full already.
Slightly annoyingly there's only one multi-pin connector going down into the tank so I can't just unplug the level sensor to put the light out until I have the opportunity to investigate it properly. Curse you Renault!
I have a sneaking suspicion given how long this car sat around off the road (and that the tank appears to just be filled with water) that the reservoir will be somewhat full of slime and the float is probably just stuck to the bottom of the tank. I'll really need to get it out of the car to investigate though as it's pretty much impossible to even look down the neck of it in situ. I need to delve into the scuttle anyway to clean and lubricate the heater blower motor which is a little squeaky anyway so may as well hit both of these jobs at the same time.
Looking at details like the oil filter pretty much confirmed my suspicions that while this car had a couple of grand thrown at getting it back on the road back in 2017 it hasn't had anything vaguely resembling a service since then. This has definitely been on there for a while.
The oil isn't terrible but is definitely a bit on the dirty side so will be getting changed shortly.
While the coolant inside it doesn't look too bad, the expansion bottle itself is absolutely disgusting.
I seem to recall seeing this used on quite a variety of Renault models even into relatively recent times so I'll have a look to see if I can easily just source a new one rather than wasting large amounts of time trying to clean this out. I'd like to get it to a point where I can at least see the coolant level without needing to remove the cap.
Looking at that expansion bottle though does bring us into close proximity to some of the rust which will need to be attended to sooner than later. The most obvious visibly is where some of the seam sealant has failed at the join between the wheel arch and inner wing.
This is pretty much exactly the same on both sides.
The offside also has a little hole lower down where the inner arch meets the chassis rail.
Nothing particularly scary. Especially as the outer wings are bolted rather than welded on, and I reckon access to do a proper repair to these areas shouldn't be too bad once those are off.
It's nice to find a car of this age which still shows signs of its origins. LRP is a Northampton area registration number, and it appears that this car still has both of the original dealer's registration plates present (and in surprisingly good condition).
Even the original dealer's window sticker was just about hanging in there in the rear window. Sadly it had pretty much turned to dust and a bit more of it was landing on the rear seat every time you closed the bootlid so it had to be removed shortly afterwards. Wouldn't be hard to make a replica for the sake of keeping things complete - though I generally prefer to keep stickers in my windows to an absolute minimum personally.
Car audio is one of those areas where things really did move on very quickly by and large from the 80s into the 90s and it's generally going to be the case that anything from this sort of era is likely to have had an upgraded head unit fitted at some point. Something we didn't really want in this case though as the original stereo system was really quite special, and very much contributed to the overall look of the dash.
Aside from just looking the part, this system was quite unusual in that it was highly integrated into the car. You may note that a lot of the controls you'd expect are missing on the head unit itself - tuning controls for the radio for one - these instead are mounted on the dash higher up just below the LCD display.
That display in addition to providing the frequency/preset readout for the stereo also contains a clock and an external temperature readout. While plenty of cars had all of these things at the time, having them all integrated into one unit was definitely unusual.
Another feature of the stereo system that we pretty much take for granted these days is convenience controls either on the steering wheel itself or a separate stalk. While I've not been able to confirm it yet, I've heard several people suggest that the 25 was the first mass produced car in Europe to have a separate stalk with stereo controls, allowing the driver to adjust volume, switch stations and change radio bands without needing to take their hands off the wheel.
This stalk design obviously worked well given that while it's now a little more rounded off and has gained a couple of extra controls, as far as I know Renault are still using it to this day.
It wasn't all just for show either. The stereo packed a real punch and still sounds decent today - it must have seemed absolutely epic back in the mid to late 80s.
There are a lot of nice little touches in this car, one I had completely forgotten about was the provision of a tiny little third sun visor in the centre of the windscreen which can be deployed if necessary to do away with the usual gap you get around the rear view mirror. Given that between the months of October and March the sun seems to spend its entire time sitting virtually on the horizon if you live in England, this is quite appreciated.
Another is the hidden door pockets which allow quite cavernous storage while also helping keep the visual clutter to a minimum. Which I feel the designers did a very good job of given that this is quite a button and switch heavy design from the 80s.
One of the very first jobs I undertook was to go after all of the interior leather surfaces with conditioner as it obviously hadn't been done in years and was really dry. The seats were astonishingly free from any major tears or splits for their age and I'd really rather keep it like that. So doing what I could to help keep the leather supple just made sense. You can already visually see the difference after only one application in the photo below - the seat in the foreground has been treated, in the background not yet.
The usual procedure for this is basically "apply sparingly, wait ten minutes then buff off any excess." However there simply was no excess as pretty much everything was absorbed straight away. There definitely will be a few more applications needed I think. The difference after things were left for a bit and properly buffed though really is obvious.
This application didn't just include the seats themselves, but also the arm rests and the padded door cappings. The latter are unique to the Monaco variant so I was glad to see these were all in good condition as finding replacements would be near impossible I suspect.
After a search only covering approximately 97.4% of our house I did eventually manage to find my aux-to-cassette adapter which allowed me to do some actual testing of the stereo, which up until that point I had been unable to get any audio out of.
This showed that the stereo does work, at least sort of. Neither the upper control panel nor steering wheel controls seem to do anything, and I've been unable to get any life out of the radio. Though not being able to activate the tuning controls means the radio may actually be working fine, it's just not tuned into anything (this system is smart enough to mute the static if you're not tuned into a station). So I'll need to investigate that further. The tape does work, though there is quite a lot of background noise which sounds like it's being coupled into the audio stages from the deck motor so most likely we have some capacitors in need of replacement there. I have a receipt for repairs to the wiring to the 12V outlet having been done so someone has definitely been into the area behind the stereo before - If we're really lucky it will just be a simple case of some cables having not been plugged back in properly causing the loss of communication to the additional controls, though I suspect that may be wishful thinking.
I pretty quickly noticed that there was a crack in one of the tail lights and as a result that there is a small ecosystem growing in there which is less than ideal.
I had got one ordered from a breaker, though this then apparently got lost in the post so I need to find another one now.
In the boot I found another set of wheel trims for a French car - however not this French car which was a bit of a surprise. These I believe are for a phase 2 Citroen BX.
I know a few people with BXs though so I'm sure I can find a good home for these.
I went to pick up what I thought was an empty plastic bag that was sitting down by the handbrake only to find that there was actually something in it.
Keys! Most importantly it turned out that among this lot (which contained about four keys not actually for my car) was a spare door key. This made me happy as I was expecting getting hold of a spare for this to be a real nightmare as the door key is a strange cylindrical thing which definitely isn't the sort of thing that your average locksmith is going to have in stock.
Additionally there was a key blade for fitting to a remote fob and two remote bodies, one in decent shape and one pretty wrecked. Note that the one shown here is not a key for this car.
My theory was that the one which was falling apart was the original one from the car, and the fob in far better condition on the right had come from a scrapper to allow the innards and key blade to be transferred to the good fob body. The innards of both remotes worked with a fresh set of batteries, but sadly neither locks or unlocks the car. Shame, but it was being a bit optimistic. As I understand it these remotes are paired to the car at the factory and there's no way to sync a different one with the car after the fact. So unless I could get one coded to the car from Renault (which I really rather doubt at this point) I'm probably out of luck there. Anyhow, it did allow me to assemble a proper key rather than using the tiny non-remote one which was rather fiddly, plus it means I do have a complete set of spares which is always good for peace of mind. Not having a spare set of keys for a car really causes me anxiety.
The windscreen wiper blades were both well and truly dead...
...Plus were plainly the wrong size. There was a 18" one on one side and 16" on the other - the wiper blades on a Renault 25 should all be 22" blades, including the rear one - which was completely devoid of any rubber so also got changed.
That should clear a bit more of the screen than the ones that were on there.
I took the opportunity that afternoon to grab a couple of photos in a (slightly) more scenic location than my driveway which perpetually seems to look like a construction site.
The highest priority consumable item on my list was the tyres. Two of them were old enough to have their own driver's license and were all budget brands. Suffice to say I really wasn't comfortable driving around on these.
Nothing a quick visit to The Garage over in Wolverton couldn't sort.
Up we go and off with the old...
While the car was up in the air this gave me a quick opportunity to have a bit of a nose around.
No horrors under here, though definite evidence from the amount of cobwebs etc of how little the car had been getting used.
Likewise no particular horrors at the rear. Though I'm obviously going to need to be looking at the exhaust soon if that distinctly not-new looking bandage and the general condition of the rear silencer is anything to go by.
Given the complexity of the system on this and how closely it needs to follow the inner sill on the nearside and as you can see, passing through the chassis rail there - we will not be taking a gamble on a cheap eBay special here - we will just bypass that step and get it made up in stainless by someone who knows what they're doing when we get to that step.
The only real area where we spotted something in need of sorting sooner than later was the offside front chassis outrigger where there's been some corrosion. My guess from the look of this that it's because of old damage from somebody having jacked the car up from there, especially as the nearside in the same spot was spotless.
While it's never great news finding a hole in your car where there shouldn't be one, this shouldn't be too bad to repair and in the grand scheme of things isn't really unexpected on a car of this age. I will say though that I seriously doubt that this hole wasn't there five months ago when the car was last put through an MOT...
The guys there are always the picture of efficiency and had the new tyres on in a matter of minutes.
My approach with tyres is simple: They are the single most safety critical component on the car given they are your sole connection to the road - so I'll stick to decent branded tyres if it's all the same to you. The UniRoyal RainExpert range have been my tyre of choice for basically as long as I can remember. They've always performed well for me and have never given me any reason to use anything else, aside from in some cases where they haven't been available in the sizes I needed anyway.
Later that evening I think for the first time I actually had a full compliment of the warning lights on the dash I should have seen when the ignition was turned on - not 100% sure on whether I should see the temperature light during the self test or not. Several are still intermittent though so we will definitely need to get to the bottom of that. I did give the instrument panel a quick clean as well, it being so grubby was really annoying me.
Having bumbled around in the car a bit I'd definitely come to the conclusion that the front suspension need some help. There's a horrendous knock/rattle from somewhere which to me sounds like worn drop-links. I decided to cover all the likely bases there so just ordered up a set of drop links, anti-roll bar bushes and lower ball joints. They were cheap enough parts that there was really no reason not to. The car will be going into my usual garage at the start of January with the simple instruction "stop the front end knocking!" with all of those parts on hand - so we should hopefully have the likely candidates covered. Let's face it, with the state the roads around here are in I'll probably need all of those parts at some point anyway!
I have also ordered a timing belt kit. While this has only done something like 600 miles since it was fitted if the documentation is to be believed, it's still been on there over five years. For the sake of £40 I'd rather just change it for peace of mind.
The first of my spare parts to arrive though was a new power window switch for the driver's door. The clips on one had all broken meaning that it wouldn't stay put in the panel.
If it had just been that I might have tried to fix the clips, but it also had a crack in the case which meant that periodically it would just fall to pieces.
Much better. Do note that if you're looking for replacements for these switches the driver's and passenger's ones ARE different. The driver's switch only has five pins, whereas the passenger one has six. So you can't just mix and match them.
It's a tiny change in the grand scheme of things, but felt satisfying to get one thing ticked off at least. Likewise there seemed to be a huge amount of slack in the throttle which simply turned out to be the cable needing adjustment. Probably just under 10mm of slack taken out at the engine end of the cable, but that translated into well over an inch at the pedal. Yes...I just mixed metric and imperial measurements...You're just going to have to keep up!
I found it quite interesting looking a little more closely at the engine to see the amount of effort that Renault had put into getting as much performance out of a relatively small engine for a car of this size. Both intake and exhaust side of things have been quite carefully designed. Intake goes into a large plenum after the throttle body, and the intake runners are then carefully length matched.
Likewise on the exhaust side. While some concessions have been made in the interests of packaging, the overall runner lengths are better matched than most if you look at the full run of the 4 into 2 into 1 joins.
It shows too. This isn't a small car for a 2 litre engine, yet it really feels a lot more eager than you would think. It's really quite a torquey engine especially in the mid range where you want it. It's one of those situations where the raw numbers and how the car feels don't really seem to track all that well. For all the factory numbers say 120bhp and a 11.7s 0-60mph time, it really does feel plenty perky to drive.
Which brings us up to date really...Pretty much as soon as I'd got the tyres changed the temperature plummeted below freezing and basically hasn't gone positive again since! It looks like things should be warming up a bit again over the coming week so we can get started again. I for one really, really want to get a basic service done and the oil changed.
So watch this space...updated will hopefully be on the way soon.
Page last updated: 17th December 2022 - Initial page version created.