The Renault Trafic van was introduced in 1980 and remained in production for twenty years with very little
in the way of major changes. The Trafic was one of the first, if not the first, light commercial vehicles (LCV's) to have the stylish raked front end which immediately made it stand out from other square shaped LCVs'.
Originally, the van had some variations in the front end shape depending which engine was fitted, with the original 1397 cc motor fitting behind a flat grille, and the diesel engine and larger 1647 cc petrol engines, requiring an extended plastic grille and deeper bumper.
The 1721 cc OHC engine replaced the 1647 cc OHV in the mid 1980s, which fitted under the shorter grille, but required a small lump in the bonnet. The diesel and 2.1 petrol carried on with the extended grille.
In May 1989, the Trafic underwent a major front end facelift, with a rounder shape and a plastic bumper, and the new longer body shape covering all varieties of engine. In 1995, the Mk1 Trafic got its final facelift, with new grille, new tail lights, large double rear view mirrors, and a new interior with modern dashboard and multi adjustable seats kept the Trafic looking fresh until it's replacement was announced in 2001.
Mechanically the Trafic remained fairly basic throughout it's life and was available with various payloads, short and long wheel base versions and either front or rear wheel drive plus a rare four wheel drive version. Petrol engines ranged through the years from a 1397cc through 1647cc, 1721cc, 1995cc and 2165cc units. Diesels were 1870cc, 2068cc and 2499cc.
Later Trafics were only available with the 2499cc or 1870cc diesel engine.
Gearboxes were either four or five speed with automatic available on some models. Petrol engines could be carburettor or fuel injected and have conventional or electronic ignition systems depending on engine type. The Trafic is easy to drive with a close coupled gearbox and fairly light steering even without power steering fitted although this is an advantage when parking.
The Renault Trafic has always been looked upon as a low budget model, both by commercial users and motorhome manufacturers, and although by no means without fault, the very fact that there are quite large numbers of early Trafic based motorhomes still in regular use proves it isn't as bad as some would have you believe, although some of the earlier models are reputed to suffer from a weak gearbox.
By now though, it would be reasonable to think that any vans with these faults would have been repaired. As with any older vehicle, prospective buyers should check the underside for corrosion any not be swayed by shiny bodywork and a good interior. Some Trafics suffer badly with chassis corrosion making repair uneconomical, some however have been rustproofed from new and are very good, it's wise to check.
The Trafic was a popular van to convert in the late 80's and early 90's especially for high top and elevating roof models. Auto-Sleepers and Holdsworth were the market leaders and had the largest selection of models between them with models like the Rapport and Romance still commanding good prices today due to their high build quality.
Few coachbuilt models were built on the Trafic base but the Elddis Eclipse is a very popular compact one, Elddis's other model, the Ariane is around the same size but with a different internal layout. Holdsworth made the Ranger on the rear-wheel drive Trafic chassis,the only converter to do so. Other Trafic coachbuilts came from Eriba (Hymer), Pilote and Rapido, the Eriba's being the most popular of these in the UK.
Many smaller converters also built on the Trafic. One of the more unusual being Island Plastic's (of Romahome fame) St Michel which has a full width shower/toilet room across the back of the vehicle.
Trafic based Motorhomes can nowadays be purchased from less than a thousand pounds for an early 80's van conversion to around £17,000 for a late model Eriba coachbuilt. They are ideal for first time motorhome buyers, particularly the more budget conscious.
After over eighteen years production the current Trafic was replaced by a radical design with looks more in keeping with some of Renault's car designs. As is often the case these days this is a joint venture, this time with Vauxhall who will market their version as the Vivaro. Both models will be built in this country, in Luton by IBC Vehicles, a subsidiary of General Motors.
The dashboard looks out of this world compared to the old Trafics and sports a dash mounted gear lever for the six speed gearbox on most models. A new range of engines include 1.9 turbo diesels offering 80bhp or 100bhp or there's a 2.5 16 valve engine with 133bhp. They have disc brakes all round with ABS. Although these "new" Trafics are technically far superior to the old Trafics in many ways, very few converters seem to have taken the new model onboard and the Peugeot Boxer now seems to be the preferred base for new motorhomes.