The original Renault Trafic was sold from 1980 to 2000, and was somewhat revised and updated during its lifetime.
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 2.1 litre 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 unit in the mid 1980s, which fitted under the shorter grille, but required a small lump in the bonnet. The diesel and 2.2 petrol carried on with the extended grille.
In the end of 1984, a four-wheel drive version was introduced. This was a part time system coupled with the diesel engine and a five speed manual transmission. This model operated as a front wheel drive until the rear wheels were engaged with a dog clutch, a system similar to the one used by Renault on the R18 4×4.
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.
This version was also sold as the Opel Arena from 1997.
The chassis and cab of the 1980s models were used as the base vehicle by Winnebago Industries to build the Winnebago ‘LeSharo’ from 1983, and Itasca Phasar.
For the chassis and cab version to meet safety and emission requirements in the United States, this version was sold with Renault’s J7T: 2,165 cc (2.2 L), and 2.1 litre diesel and turbo diesel engines, coded as J8S and shared with the 1985 to 1987 AMC/Jeep Cherokee/Commanche.
Note: Jeep versions used the Garrett T2 turbo and Winnebago’s, the larger T3. C.A.R.B. granted a series of yearly waivers to Winnebago for the non compliance of fitting On Board Diagnostics (OBD I), and remained in effect throughout the model run from 1983 to 1992.
The Mk1 Trafic became popular for professional conversion into budget family motorhomes due to the flexibility of the design and the generous internal space for what was a relatively small van. Popular converters were Auto Sleepers and Holdsworth. Other motorhome builders using the Trafic Mk1 as a base include Hymer, Elddis, Eriba, and Autostar.