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Renault 12 Break Sinpar 4×4, the station wagon that won the tough Rallye Côte-Côte 1977

The R12 is a robust model. But the 4×4 version prepared by Sinpar for the Rallye Côte-Côte exceeds all expectations.

Let's start by remembering a Swedish model, specifically the Volvo 850. A model from the Swedish brand that will always be remembered for two qualities. First of all, its breakthrough in terms of safety, but also an unsuspected performance on the circuits.. However, the curious thing about this second hallmark is that it was made in the form of an a priori very unsports bodywork. The family sedan, also called a station wagon or station wagon. That is why, when in 1994 Volvo announced that it would go to the British Touring Car Championship with two 850 station wagons… Many took it as a simple joke.

r12 rally

Far from it, the official team of the brand fulfilled its announcement. Justifying himself not only in a bold promotional move, but also in certain dynamic abilities that ended up completing a decent season. In fact, Although the following year Volvo changed its station wagons for two saloons to later achieve victory in 1998 with an S40, thanks to this the seed of a sports station wagon set.. Thus, in 1996 the AWD version with all-wheel drive was launched. A mechanism that, added to the 240CV already offered by the 850 5 T1994-R version, made this Volvo Station Wagon one of the most desired sports cars of the 90s.

A specimen that was paired with the 2 Audi RS1994 Avant, developed together with Porsche to produce more than 310CV. Undoubtedly the two most iconic sports saloons of recent times, responsible for a radical change in the perception of these vehicles. However, like everything in life there are precedents as pioneering as they are little known. And it is that, In this of the family sedans with boosted engines and all-wheel drive, the pioneer was Renault together with the motor transformation company Sinpar. Something that the Renault 12 Break 4×4 demonstrates. An unexpected winner in the sands of Africa.


The first time we had knowledge of the Renault 12 Break 4 × 4 was due to an anecdote from archaeologists. In the mid-XNUMXs, we were told, the French Ministry of Culture assigned two units of this model to an archaeological team working in a rural area with difficult access. So much so that, in one of the two vehicles, a padded beam was added in front of the bumper with the function of pushing the other when it was loaded with material. An activity that requires cars as robust as the Renaults converted to all-wheel drive by the company Sinpar.

Founded in 1946 to modify gearboxes and trucks for conversion to all-wheel drive models, it began to attract the attention of a somewhat wider audience when in 1965 it began to produce the R4 4 × 4 Sinpar. At first, this model caught the attention of the army, but it was quickly in demand by a large number of farmers and mountaineers. extra 4×4. A success that led Sinpar to focus on the modification of Renault models, working on models such as the R6, the R12 or the Rodeo.

In fact, this business route was so effective that in 1975 Renault itself bought Sinpar to incorporate it into its truck and commercial vehicle division. A moment in which the idea arose to take advantage of the driving benefits of the Renault 12 Break 4 × 4 by increasing its power to the engine of the Gordini version. Thus, by 1976 Sinpar manufactured at least two units with all-wheel drive to which the four-cylinder in-line with two double-body carburettors was incorporated capable of delivering 113CV. Of course, not so much to have a spectacular performance as to endure the unspeakable in rough terrain. A machine was born to roll in rally. But which one?


Rally lovers know that, possibly, there is nothing as extreme in this type of competition as those held in Africa. With extensive stages through deserted and unpopulated areas, skill behind the wheel requires high doses of mechanical resistance and expertise in orientation. Stony tracks alternate with dunes and temperatures capable of putting any engine cooling system to the limit. It is the epic of competitions like the Rally Safari. However, in the late sixties there was an attempt to make an African rally even tougher.

The idea came from the Frenchman Jean-Claude Bertrand, who, rivaling the Safari, started the Bandama Rally in 1969, later known as the Ivory Coast Rally. A test so hard that, in its fourth edition, no one could reach the finish line. A fact that increased the legend around this event, attracting not a few top-level European teams. However, in 1975 he decided to curl the loop by raising the Rally Côte-Côte. Taking advantage of the fact that a few weeks after the end of the Bandama, Monte Carlo was celebrated, he decided to propose a rally from the Ivory Coast to the French Riviera.

A radical adventure in which the motorcycle rider Thierry Sabine got lost for three days and in which in 1976 Jean-Claude Briavoine joined the controls of a Renault 12 Break 4 × 4 Sinpar.

Against all odds, he was third behind two Land Rovers. Encouraged by the good results and the excellent reliability of the R12 Sinpar 4 × 4, the same team entered two units in the 1977 edition with the support of Renault. A good decision, as they both manage to finish the rally… and Brivoine's win it!

A feat that highlights at least two issues. First of all the excellent mechanical robustness of the R12 and its variant Sinpar 4 × 4. And secondly, the fact that, although at first glance it may not seem like it, a station wagon can give a lot of play in the competition as demonstrated by the 850 TR-50 AWD, the RS2 Avant and, of course, the Renault 12 Break 4 × 4 Sinpar. .

Photographs: Renault Classic /Volvo Cars

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Written by Miguel Sánchez

Through the news from La Escudería, we will travel the winding roads of Maranello listening to the roar of the Italian V12; We will travel Route66 in search of the power of the great American engines; we will get lost in the narrow English lanes tracking the elegance of their sports cars; We will speed up the braking in the curves of the Monte Carlo Rally and we will even get dusty in a garage while rescuing lost jewels.

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