I sat at work the other day for about two hours ‘Googling’ things the French have managed to get right. I spent even longer seeing if anything might just sort of come to mind. And well to cut a long story short, other than sciency things, there isn’t very much.
However I did come across an invention (well technically a re-invention) by one Jacques Heim and his mate Louis Reard that caught my attention.
In 1946 the American’s began their Pacific Proving Grounds nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands. This came as the first test of its kind after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings in World War II.
Operation Crossroads kicked off the series of over 20 nuclear weapons operations run in the Marshall Islands. This particular operation involved two fission bombs being detonated at Bikini Atoll, one from 27m underwater, the other at an altitude of 158m, in an attempt to learn the effects of atomic weapons on naval fleets.
It was around this time in France that a couturier designer named Jacques Heim came up with a one piece bathing suit for woman. Named the ‘Atome’ it was dubbed the smallest costume in the world. Not a week later Louis Reard came up with a two piece bathing costume…something he claimed was smaller than the world’s smallest costume (effectively having split the Atoime), and proceeded to call this the ‘bikini’ – a name he stumbled upon while watching the news about the nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll.
Now as far as I see it, this was the last time the French managed to come up with something worthy of mention. That is until Renault began putting big engines in little cars. Like the Clio RS for example.
This taught and exciting little number from Renault really pulls out all the stops when it comes to the business of driving – starting with the way it looks. The RS maintains a resemblance of the old Clio, however the aggressive looking splitters and difusers and other ‘ers’ go about altering what is a typical girly French runabout into a no-holds-barred hot hatch.
The interior attempts to be as simple and plain and unexciting as possible, not because it was designed by someone unimaginative (in my books no one from the nation that invented the bikini can be considered such), but rather so that nothing will distract you from the task of driving. There are a mere two things on the centre consol with which to fiddle, the aircon and the radio. That’s if your arm can bend around the enormous side bolsters on the bucket racing seat.
I’m not one to mention the finer details that impressed me, mainly because they are really boring and I’m here to entertain. However the purpose driven nature of the RS is most clearly defined by one of the finer details. Namely the tachometer (rev counter). The fact that it’s bright yellow immediately shows that this bit of equipment is not there to be aesthetically pleasing – however the shift light in the middle (that indicates when you’ve run out of revs and need a new gear) points to the racing pedigree that oozes from the RS’s every pore.
Talking about revs, the RS redlines at a whopping 8 500rpm, by which time the naturally aspirated two litre engine is absolutely screaming. I’ve never experienced a car where you just never seem to run out of revs. Then when it comes time that you must change gear it’s a short, sharp action. Race car style.
Better still is the way this thing handles. I’ve often heard people going on about the Mini and it’s go-kart-like credentials. Pah. The RS clings to the road like a Frenchman to his cheese. The steering is direct and provides feedback like no other front-wheel drive car I’ve ever driven. This is sheer driving pleasure.
In my opinion the Clio RS and the bikini go hand in hand as the greatest triumphs of the French nation. Come to think of it, maybe the greatest inventions of all time…well the bikini anyway…
Price: R 249 900
Engine: 1998cc 4 Cylinder Petrol
Power: 148 kW
Torque: 215 Nm
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 6.9
Top speed: 225 km/h
Fuel consumption: 8.2/100km (claimed – 10.2 actual)
Verdict – better than Carla Bruni in a bikini
Photo Credit: Quickpic