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A minivan with an attitude

A look back at the world's fastest minivan, the Renault Espace F1

So you think minivans are only for mommies? Try this one...

It's the Renault Espace F1, a concept vehicle cum hot lap publicity machine created in 1994 by Renault, Matra, and the Williams Formula One team, which put the 3.5-liter Renault F1 engine featured in the Espace F1 to good use by winning the F1 World Championship in 1993, with Alain Prost driving. Prost drives the Espace F1 in the video, too.

Where the standard Espace had a small engine positioned transversely in front, driving the front wheels, the F1 was a little different. Out that went, replaced amidship by the F1-spec RS5 V10, sequential-shift gearbox, and rear suspension. Matra, who built the Espace for Renault (and at one time ran their own F1 team, mostly unsuccessful but possessing a wicked-sounding V12) added a front suspension capable of dealing with the 700-plus horsepower available from the engine.

The Espace F1 spent its life on racetracks, driven by Eric Bernard as well as Prost. Its midengine layout didn't allow it to haul much in the way of groceries or kids, but the second seat was a good place to put a passenger for a thrill ride. You really didn't think it would work on the road, did you? Idling in traffic might be a problem...and then there's the approximately 3 mpg fuel economy. Oh yeah, and some spoilsport might complain a bit about the exhaust music...

Here's another look, in English and from Jeremy Clarkson by the sound of the voice:

The Espace F1 has been retired to a museum. It wasn't the first time hooligans at Renault stuffed something allegedly slow with way too much power, as it followed in the illustrious footsteps of the R5 Turbo. Think Le Car on steroids for that, but that's another story.