“What will you be dreaming about?” Every night my father asked me the same question when he tucked me in as a small boy. My answer was the same every night. “About your car.” Like many petrolheads it all started for me with my fathers car. At the time my mind became concious of “cars” my father was driving a green, 1975 Renault 12 TL. Full of scratches. And dents. I was in love.
I grew up in Hoogerheide, a small town in the south west of Holland. A quiet town where, partly thanks to the Renault 12, I had a good childhood. Because I was so young, I don’t remember very much of it. I do know that I absolutely adored the 12. I also remember the rubber center of the steering wheel had come loose in my dads car. So, I always took that with me into the house, to play with it. My father remembers more: “When the car was parked outside, you needed to get in it. You insisted. You’d just never left me alone until I took you in it. So, I used to take a book into the car and read while you were behind the wheel pretending to be driving. You were so little you could only reach the steering wheel if you were standing up in front of the seat. You could play like that for hours.” Apparently as a toddler I didn’t shy away from a little emotional blackmail…
Hoogerheide, almost 30 years later. Approximately 300 metres from my parental house live Jan en Lianne Parel. Renault-aficionados to the extreme. Their collection consists of – apart from their daily Scénic – a Monaquatre, a 4CV and a 12. A green 12, exactly like the one my father used to own. Thanks to Jan and Lianne my father and I can get reacquainted with a friend of times gone by. The illusion that the Renault 12 is the most beautiful car in the world is no longer with me by now, but because I realise my love of cars, that nowadays also serves to make me a living, started with that car it has always kept a special place in my heart. My father, Ad, is standing next to me. He’s gotten older too. His opinion about the Renault 12 hasn’t changed though: “An ass-ugly car”, is his mercyless conclusion. At the time he bought the 12, because it simply was the best car he could then afford. He says: “To me, it was an car for old men, and that’s exactly what I wasn’t at the time. I hated the fact it had a tiny thin steering wheel. My previous car, a Citroën 2CV had that too. I’d hoped my next car would have a more solid steering wheel, because to me that would have felt like it was a more proper car.”
Jan Parel’s enthousiasm, tirelessly recounting the loving restoration he subjected his 12 to, helpt defrost my fathers attitude towards the Renault a little. When Jan gives him the keys he can’t help but say: “Actually, it’s kind of good to drive this car after so many years.” After that I get behind the wheel myself. An experience I only had from the back seet as a child, turns out to be a good feeling too when experienced as an adult from behind the wheel. Even when it is stripped of all childish romance, and viewed objectively, Well, relatively objectively at least. Because I will probably never be able to view the Renault 12 completely objectively. No need to either, I think. Good memories should be cherished. Talking about good memories: the day with this 12 was, especially given the presence of my father, a very special one. A day in the company of two old friends. Another memory to cherish.
The story of my reunion with the Renault 12 was published by Youngtimer Magazine in 2011.