Renault 12: The Patagonian Wondervehicle

Renault 12

In Patagonia, there are essentially three modes of travel:

1. Horseback. It’s still an important way to get from Point A to that tiny distant dot on the horizon that marks Point B. Gauchos aren’t just mythical creatures. Gauchos are alive and well, or as well as they’ve ever been. And there ain’t no gauchos without a horse.

2. The Toyota HiLux. It’s what we drive; it’s what just about anybody here drives because it’s just the best vehicle for these parts. Four-door, 4×4, sturdy, made in Argentina, easy to find parts, easy to repair (well, for my mechanic/brother-in-law to keep in great shape, at least). It’s the perfect vehicle for Patagonia. Max said half the cars he passed the last time he drove down the Ruta 40 were HiLux.

3. The Renault 12. Shockingly simple. Timeless. Retro. Unbelievably enduring. It’s the quintessentialy old-school Argentine vehicle. Along with the Ford Falcon, these two cars took over the country during the mid-war years of 1975-82. And there are many out there still clunking along. There’s even a club for owners that makes regular caravans through Patagonia. Folks are nuts for their 12s. Good times!

Back in the day, the Renault 12 was also considered the ‘perfect vehicle for Patagonia’, but these days I see them as miracles on wheels. And good tale-tellers.

That so many Renault 12s are on the road in Patagonia illustrates the perseverance of the Patagonian pocketbook. This is a place where things last. They are cherished. They break and are fixed, over and over again. People are resourceful out of necessity, but there is plenty of creativity and determination going on as well. Most of the cars are pushing 25 years and still clinking along.

There are just as many 12s out there on the road as there are likely parked in backyards and in haphazard garages throughout Patagonia. This is a place where nothing gets easily discarded.

So while we are happily committed to our HiLux, I raise my hat to every Renault 12 that I pass on the road. Beep-beep!!

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