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V.I.S.I.T. – 1987 Renault Medallion

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What is that Japanese wagon from the eighties, you may wonder. That Japanese wagon from the eighties is a 1987 Renault Medallion, a car so extinct it’s not even really present in the automotive fossil record, also known as a junkyard. This machine was manufactured at the dusk of the AMC-Renault alliance, and then promptly poofed out of existance with barely a photographic record remaining. The Medallion is so extinct that even Alliance-owning Renault club members don’t know anyone who has one. And that’s how you know when a car is rare: when a car club’s members admit to not knowing anyone who has one.

If you thought it was tough to find one of these, slightly less rare is the version that is badged as an Eagle Medallion, which was Chrysler’s transitional effort at getting rid of stuff left over from the Renault/AMC era before they partnered up Eagle with Mitsubishi. The Medallion sold under the Renault badge for an entire year several months before it was rebadged as an Eagle, though “sold” may be too strong a word. Chrysler decided to stop importing them altogether in 1989, after only three years on the market. Based on the Renault 21, the Medallion was built in France and replaced the Renault 18 or the Sportwagon, a car that is equally absent from our roads today.

The good news was that the Medallion had the trusty 2.2 liter inline four engine borrowed from the Renault 25, which we got in the form of the Renault Premier for literally several months, until that car itself was rebadged as an Eagle Premier and later the Dodge Monaco. That 2.2 liter engine was fairly reliable, even though assembly quality of the car itself was reportedly somewhat iffy. A 5-speed manual and a three speed automatic were standard, and the Medallion was one of the few FWD cars that came with a longitudinal setup that helped reduce torque steer.

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Admittedly, the Medallion was a victim of tremendously bad timing. Released at a time when AMC was short on cash and Chrysler was looking to take over the company, the Medallion had little chance of success. Chrysler itself had plenty of cars that competed directly with the Medallion. All the K-car based wagons, for instance. And it was painfully obvious that the Renault models weren’t helping them. A French-built sedan and wagon with an Eagle badge, marketed at a time when it was poorly understood what Eagle stood for anyway, was perhaps not the best way to go. But Chrysler gave the Eagle Premier/Dodge Monaco slightly more time on the shelves, and (miraculously) they proved to be pretty solid sellers for a time. Which is not to imply that there are a lot of them left either.  

When was the last time you saw a Medallion, if ever?

[Images: Copyright 2013 Hooniverse/Jay Ramey]

  • TurboBrick

    Now here's a really trippy fact about the R21's… the 2.2L was indeed North-South engine arrangement, but if you ordered one with the 1.7L it came with a transverse engine which then gave it a slightly different wheelbase.

    • Cars that hosted both transverse and longitudinal engines — now THERE'S one that needs an Encyclopedia Hoonatica entry if I ever heard one!

      • Sadly, only one at a time.

        • TurboBrick

          Now there's a LeMons organizers choice build waiting to happen. Medallion wagon with 2.2 up front and 1.7 in the back…

      • FuzzyPlushroom

        The Passat is the only other example that comes immediately to mind, honestly. That would be a good entry.

    • NothingHappens

      I'll see your north-south/east-west on the same model fun and RAISE you the Triumph 1300/1500/Toledo/Dolomite- built on the same platform with conversion from FWD (1300) to RWD (Dolomite/Toledo) or BOTH (1500)! Sadly all this Standard-Triumph/Leyland/British Leyland "fun" didn't involve having to swing the engine about 90 degrees.

  • Never. I didn't even know this longroof existed. I'll bet it is hell to get parts for it.

    • Jay_Ramey

      Meh, should be about the same as a Pug 405 sedan or wagon, and I bet there is a lot less demand for parts for these than for the 405s.

      And this existed for an entire three years, using AMC-Jeep-Chrysler's dealer network, which wasn't "regional" like Peugeot's.

      Best guess as to remaining running number on the roads today, in season or occasional use: less than 50. And even that may be very high.

  • Vavon

    In Europe it was also available as a 7-seater as shown here. By the way, the real size of this picture is ginormous!

    <img src="http://www.autominded.net/brochure/renault/21%20Nevada%2002040607.jpg&quot; width=670>

    • For weirdness' sake, I love factory-produced cutout cars.

      • Maymar

        The school I went to has a factory cutout mid-90s Subaru Legacy in one of the classrooms. If I remember correctly, it was a Euro-market car based on some obscure option (heated fog lights or some such thing).

    • 7 seats and it would fit the world in the trunk.

    • Vairship

      Take THAT you SUV/CUV! 7 real seats and still room for luggage, all without being 16 feet tall and tippy.

  • Also, this very car was sold in Europe as the Renault 21 Nevada. Nevada.

    • Almost as authentically American as the Moto Guzzi Nevada.

      <img src="http://www.motorcyclespecs.co.za/Gallery%20%20A/Moto%20Guzzi%20Nevada%20Classic%20750%20I.E.3.jpg&quot; width="520">

    • Jay_Ramey

      I'd guess there aren't a whole lot of Pontiac Monte Carlos in Monte Carlo either : )

      • Devin

        Well no, because it's a Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

        Pedantic Man strikes again!

      • Vavon

        When in Paris do as the Parisiennes do???

        <img src="http://www.lov2xlr8.no/brochures/pontiac/82par/bilder/1.jpg&quot; width=670>

        • Jay_Ramey

          Are you saying these weren't hot sellers in France?

          • Devin

            I imagine one or two made it to Saint Pierre and Miquelon.

            • Jay_Ramey

              Ahaha, very good point, I wouldn't count it out.

              By the way, those are two very unexplored (by hipsters and bloggers) islands, I've been thinking of making a trip there. You know, for the history, and the, uhh, architecture : ) But mostly to test drive some new French cars on an island in the north Atlantic in North America.

              • Vavon

                Join up with Irishzombieman, he want's to do that too!!!

                And then do a write-up for the Hooniverse clan.

              • Maymar

                There's a strong part of me that wants to visit those two, but for the cost, I might as well stop my trip in St Johns and spend the extra on Screech so I'm just bombed enough I think everyone's speaking French.

                • Vairship

                  You could go to Saint Martin/Sint Maarten of course and get twice the foreign fun…

              • I so want to go there. Can you take a ferry from the U.S.? Or is it from Canada only?

                • NothingHappens

                  Taking a ferry from the US would take many days (look at a map).

                  Happily you can fly there, connecting through YUL or YHZ, on Air St. Pierre!
                  http://www.airsaintpierre.com/fr/19-vols-flights….

                  • Jay_Ramey

                    As much as I'd like to drive over there, it's just too difficult time-wise. By the time you GET to the islands you're going to be too tired from the trip.

    • Dean Bigglesworth

      Hah, i took a picture of one back in 2004. I don't think iäve seen one since..
      <img src="https://dl.dropbox.com/u/74465213/07090024.JPG&quot; width=600" img>

      • That is a long-ass wheelbase. Somehow even more evident from this picture than the article photo.

        • Vavon

          I was thinking exactly the same thing!

  • marmer01

    I saw a couple back in the day. As I recall it was actually a pretty decent car by late 80's standards. What it lacked in reliability it made up in driving dynamics and interior space.

  • Guillaume

    Whoa. True rare thing. I actually grew up in France and my father had a Turbo Diesel hatchback version of that car, I learnt how to drive in this. Damn solid cars, there are still plenty of these tough diesels on the French roads, with huge mileage on them. A few years back, taken by nostalgia I bought one of these in rare Baccara trim (ABS, leather, climate, cruise control, wood inserts everywhere…) with the 2 litrer auto, but keeping this LHD thing on the road in Ireland was a bit challenging. Amazing suspension it had. Makes me wanna have another one.

  • rustylink

    My mother bought (was suckered) into buying a 87 Medallion sedan…. she was so proud she bought this car on her own and couldn't wait to show me. My heart sank when I saw what she had bought, and the first drive confirmed it. This car was the biggest POS. it was loud inside, buzzy, vague steering.. the biggest thing I remember was that the accelerator pedal seemed to have only 2 settings 20mph or 60 mph. The pedal was extemely springy….it also had a habit of not releasing the key from the ignition when turned off, it spent at least 2 or 3 days a month in the shop before the oil pump failed at 40k…I finally convinced my mom to take a loss and trade it in for a 86 Taurus that had 15k on it – she drove that trouble free for 10 years.

    • Jay_Ramey

      Oh man, that's brutal. I had a suspicion that the interiors were buzzy, I tried to imagine what it would feel like to drive one of these, and your description pretty much confirmed it.

      Thanks for sharing this, I wouldn't be surprised if you end up being the only stateside person to comment here who's had first hand experience with these.

  • Maymar

    Several years back (~2008), I was driving by my hometown's fire department, when I saw a flash of boxy, 80's silver. Sure enough, there was a Medallion wagon sitting in their parking lot, very clearly the victim of a t-boning, and very likely to be the eventual victim of Jaws of Life training. It was clean too, only had about 65k kms on the odometer. It seemed an excessively cruel fate to survive 20 years in spite of indifferent built quality and waning parts supply, just to be done in by an accident. I probably still have the pictures somewhere.

  • johnf1979

    Whoa my father worked for AMC at this time, I have more Renault era exposure than most and I still didn't know these existed as a wagon. I remember in late 86 when we were shopping for a new car for my mom, she wanted one of these but my dad wanted my mom to get a "real AMC" so she wound up with an XJ Cherokee. I remember as a kid my mom asking who would drive a truck as their regular car, and my dad convincing her that they were going to be popular soon.

  • johnf1979

    BTW, not to be nitpicky but the Premier was going to be badged as an AMC not a Renault but at the very last moment it became an Eagle, some of the early production models had to have their AMC badges removed and Eagle badges applied.

  • tozé

    this is also called "Nevada" in europe.

    • tozé

      whoops, someone had already posted that.

      • monkey_tennis

        Making it more complicated, in the UK it was sold as the 'Savannah'.

        The State of Nevada apparently had copyright on their name in all English-speaking countries, so the Nevada/Medallion/Eagle gained another name.

  • I remember seeing a Eagle Medallion on used lot when I worked at Carmax for a brief time in the late 1990s. I think that's the last one I've seen. I never knew they made a wagon version.

  • Being in California where cars don't rust away, I can safely say I've seen a lot of oddball cars that people in the east never have, but I've still never seen a Medallion wagon in person.

  • Vavon

    Here you can see the difference in the wheelbase. 1. Longtitudinal engine, 2. Transverse engine.

    <img src="http://img.favcars.com/renault/21/renault_21_1987_wallpapers_1.jpg&quot; width=670><img src="http://www.tesannonces.com/uploads/photos/fe/fe4d37c6.jpg&quot; width=670>

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