Two Turn Of The Century Lightweights

With regulations for both safety and emissions coming thick and fast, we won’t ever see cars like the Renault Sport Spider or Lotus 340R produced by major manufacturers again. These sort of cars serve no concessions to modern conveniences; their existence is solely for driving enjoyment.

Prior to January’s Sunday Scramble at Bicester Heritage, I’d only ever seen a 340R out in the wild once (that was over a decade ago, on a summer afternoon) and I’d never seen a Spider in person. So while most people flocked to the supercars nearby, I was instantly drawn to this diminutive pair.

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The Renault Sport Spider was created out of the French automaker’s desire to further promote its ability to produce sporting, fun cars. Designed as both a road car and for a one-make racing series, only 1,800 Spiders were produced over its four-year manufacturing run from 1996 to 1999.

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If you were in a left-hand drive country, you could order the car sans windscreen, but all the right-hand drive cars came fitted with one as standard.

Sharing the F7R motor with the Renault Clio Williams, the 150hp power output may seem meagre, but an aluminium chassis and composite panels meant a weight of 853kg (1,880lb) and therefore a strong power-to-weight ratio.

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While the Lotus 340R and Renault Sport Spider were never on sale at the same time, the same ethos was applied to both.

The Lotus was released in 2000, with the limited run of 340 cars all snapped up before release. Taking the already lithe, 725kg (1,598lb) Exige Series 1 and removing a large portion the bodywork netted a revised weight of just 675kg (1,488lb). Fibreglass panels barely clothed the extruded and bonded aluminium chassis, with no doors or roof to speak of.

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The optional performance pack bumped power up to 190hp, which while short of the target 340hp-per-tonne goal still provided stout performance.

Lotus has continued to make limited-run cars in a similar vein to the 340R with the 2-Eleven and 3-Eleven, but neither of these were as raw and focused as the original.

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Both cars are very cool in their own right, but I’m interested to know which one you would take home given the chance, and why?

Chaydon Ford
Instagram: chaycore

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Would take the Spider. Icon of design and of the crazy Renault of this era.


The front of these cars, is a total visual disaster. It's impressive how much they clean up on a side and rear view


The 340R and Spider are something like never before even as a sports car
There hasn't been anything like it ever since


Lotus Seven
Ariel Atom (Atom II and V8 as well)
Lotus 2 eleven
Fiat 124 Abarth
BAC Mono
Dallara Stradale
Zenos E10R

...Mazda Miata

Should I go on?


Okay lol the Seven, Caterham, Atom, Eleven, Mono, Xbow, Stradale, and Zenos do count as track cars
But an Abarth 124 and Miata? Seriously you really think it’s in the same league as the 340R and Spider?
The reason why I said there isn’t anything like the 340R and Spider is because it stands out from every other car that has been made including sports cars and it has its own uniqueness and rarity factor
So just because you list a bunch of track cars doesn’t mean it’s the same as the two cars featured here


Yep. They still and should exist... Problem is everyone is out doggie piled on crossover wannabes and getting into debt on cars they can't afford nor drive. There's no shame driving a cheap, used prius or whatever if your sports car is a real sports car without compromises. Tell any real race driver... They have some boring af dailies because streets aren't racing, and race cars can't do most streets much less actually warm up with all the traffic.


The RenaultSport Spider is one of my all-time favorite sports cars. I simply love the styling, the flair of the wing-style doors and the open driving. The Lotus is a cool car, but even with its bare setup it looks cluttered and nowhere as cool as the Renault. I would take the Renault any day.


This article takes me back to Le Mans 2003. A Belgian guy in a Renault Sport Spider arrived at our campsite looking for a parking space. I was only too pleased to offer him the spot behind my car. I’d never seen a Renault Sport Spider before!


What was le mans 2003 like? Did you see the chrysler cars?


I went to Le Mans in 2000, 2003 & 2005 & enjoyed it immensely. I really should find the time to go again.

I saw the Vipers in 2000 & 2003. They certainly kept you awake during the early hours with their V10 snarl! The Corvettes & Panoz were very loud too.

Standing on the inside of Tertre Rouge in the early hours of the morning was a very special experience.

During the night the daytime background noise subsides, the cars have thinned out a little with retirements & mechanical issues, so there is often quite a pause between cars, which makes the noise as each car comes past all the more dramatic.

Add in the flames from the exhausts & the glow from red hot brake discs & turbos & it really is an experience unlike any other.

I’d definitely recommend making the pilgrimage if you can!


Gems. Also, stop the delusion these can't exist... Regulations aren't applied to the run these will actually sell for, especially when you make them 3 pedal and for those passionate enough to actually put up with the fact they may not have massage seats and more than a cupholder. When you order your next sports car, GET A SPORTS CAR, not a wannabe compromise that pretends an overpowered crossover is a track beast.


It was more alluding to the bigger manufacturers - smaller companies exempt from type approval will continue to make quirky, lightweight stuff, but bigger companies have massively scaled back their efforts because of fleet emissions, development costs, crash regulations and banning the sale of ICE cars in a few years in various marketplaces.

Unless already well into development, we won't see a major OEM producing anything like this before regulations take hold.

It's a real shame, but I can only hope that the smaller companies continue as they have, making stripped back, engaging cars for a while longer.


Renault Sport Spider for me, mainly because of playing the Max Power Video game as a kid which featured one!


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Was lucky enough to drive both of these toys (same owner) back to back, on the same day at a karting race track. I felt the Lotus way more nimble and playfull (maybe a bit too much) than the Spider which would have deserved a real race track to stretch its wheels. Good memory !


I remember my dad used to work for a dealership who's owner had a Renault Spider. Back then I didn't appreciate what I was looking at, but just seeing another one makes me happy. An absolute dream car


Always biased in favor of French cars, i'll take the Renault if i have to chose.


uhhhhh sorry that's not the file I meant to put lol


Lotus 340R would be my choice. Too bad it’s too small to fit my frame.