The renault car collection
The Renault collection, conserved by Renault Classic, consists of over 740 vehicles retracing the history of the Group back to its creation in 1898. From old to new models and mass-produced vehicles to racing cars, the collection includes automobiles that have marked generations of motoring enthusiasts, such as the Marne Taxis, NN, Juvaquatre, 4CV, Floride, Estafette, Renault 4 and Renault 5…
The collection also features a number of curiosities, including concept cars from all periods, a metro wagon fit on tires, two open-platform buses, two locomotives, a panoramic train, and an FT-17 tank from the First World War. These treasures express the inventiveness and expertise displayed by Renault for more than a century.
Renault type A
Though it became the foundation stone for a huge industrial empire, the very first voiturette, designed and built by Louis Renault in person, was not originally intended for sale.
In 1897, nineteen-year-old Louis Renault was working as a draughtsman with Delaunay-Belleville. This keen amateur mechanic, fascinated by the emergence of motor transport, set up a little workshop in a garden shed at the family home in Boulogne-Billancourt, and set about building a simple little car, of his own design, for his own personal use.
By Christmas 1898 the voiturette was finished, and Louis invited a few friends round to see how it would tackle the steep Rue Lepic in the Montmartre district of Paris. Impressed by how easy it was to drive the car, several of his friends were keen to get one for themselves, and some even made a down payment on the spot! Two months later, the automobile manufacturing company Renault Frères was founded, marking the start of a great adventure.
The lightweight, well-designed voiturette already showed many of the features of modern automobile engineering, with a front-mounted engine, transmission by shaft with universal joint, and a direct-drive gearbox patented by Louis Renault.
It was unveiled to the public in June 1899. Then on 27 August, Louis and his brother Marcel took part in the Amateur Drivers’ Cup event from Paris to Trouville, finishing first and second.
Renault type K
Town-to-town races were all the rage at the turn of the century. This Type K won Renault its first major overall victory, in the 1902 Paris-Vienna race.
Right from the outset, the Renault brothers were all too aware of the promotional value of motor sports. They started competing in the voiturette category, winning many of the town-to-town trials that were so popular in the early years of the twentieth century.
But the 1902 Paris-Vienna race marked a step up into a different league for Renault, which had entered three Type K “lightweight cars” alongside four smaller voiturettes. The event was a very tough ordeal, with a crossing of the Alps at the Arlberg Pass, at an altitude of 1500 metres. Wrapped in their leather overcoats, the courageous drivers braced themselves against the strong winds, braved the elements, and skilfully negotiated the rough mountain tracks. Overwhelmed by Count Zborowski’s big powerful Mercedes and Henry Farman’s Panhard, few onlookers had even noticed the little Type K. But the nimble lightweight Renault proved ideal for the steep, twisting roads, and Marcel Renault finished first, completing the 1300 km at an incredible average of 62.5 km/h!
From now on, Renault would be a very serious contender in motor sports at all levels
Renault type AX
In 1908 the small economical AX rounded off the already well endowed lower end of the Renault range.
Louis Renault produced vehicles right across the range. The year after he had launched his high-end 50CV he unveiled the unassuming little 7/8CV-rated Type AX at the Paris Motor Show. Economical and simple, it used the tried and proven powertrain of the AG taxis that had been plying their trade in Paris since 1905. Customers could choose a bare chassis which they could have “dressed” by the coach builder of their choice. Or they could choose the full regalia – a two-seater chassis with windscreen and hood. Ten years after the first Type A, Louis Renault was at the head of a large, popular brand. It was at this juncture that he bought up the shares of his sick brother Fernand to create the Société des Automobiles Renault. The following year French manufacturers Renault, Peugeot, and Panhard came together to create the automakers’ trade body Chambre Syndicale des Constructeurs d’Automobiles. This boom time favoured the AX. It was widely sold and was a fixture on the Renault catalogue until 1913.
Renault type CH
The Renault type CH was built from 1910 to 1912. In the history of Renault, this model’s birth year will always be remembered for the catastrophic flooding of the Seine:
From January 22 to February 3, 1910, the plant was submerged. At the very worst of the flood, with the shop floor under 2.20 metres of water, the press wrote that «the factory is used to overcoming adversity, and we safely predict that the powerful Billancourt establishments will be working day and night to resume production». They were right: it was business as usual after two months of arduous labour.
Clearly, natural disaster could not hold back progress: when the Type CH was released it boasted an avant -garde engine design (featuring heated carburettor and original patented cooling system) and a gearbox with direct-drive top gear, using the patent filed by Louis Renault back in 1898.
Throughout this period in Renault’s history, the company would patent numerous inventions for improving lubrication, engine cooling and fuel intake. There was even a patent for a lightweight rigid rear axle system.
Renault taxi type AG
Renault’s Type AG, the very first Parisian taxi, would go down in history for its role in carrying troops to the Marne during the First World War.
The Type AG was designed with simplicity and robustness uppermost in mind, two qualities that would prove instrumental in bringing Renault the very first contract for taxi service in Paris. In 1905, there were 250 Type AG taxis on the roads of the French capital, rising to 1000 by 1906 and 1500 two years later. Taxi service provided valuable exposure for the Renault name and even brought recognition beyond France: in 1907, Renault sold 1100 units in London.
But the Type AG is best known for its historical role in carrying troops to the front in 1914, to stem the invading Germany army’s march on Paris. Paris taxis were requisitioned, and 1300 of them would carry 6000 soldiers to win the Battle of the Marne. Thereafter the Type AG would be known as the Taxi de la Marne. Renault’s involvement in the French war effort was intense, including developments such as the first light assault vehicle, the FT17.
Renault type DG
This magnificent Victoria with Rotschild coachwork illustrates Renault know-how in prestige vehicles around 1913.
Since 1904, Renault cars had taken on a very distinctive appearance, owing to the characteristic “crocodile” bonnet with radiator mounted behind the engine. As the range developed, the basic voiturettes matured, and an upmarket line developed, the ultimate expression being the ceremonial car like this magnificent Victoria.
The coachwork on this category of vehicle was usually handled by a specialist workshop, often deriving directly from a horse-drawn carriage builder. This particular car was signed by Rotschild, a firm with a century-long tradition of fine coachwork for hackneys, carriages and, yes indeed, victorias! This no doubt explains a style deliberately inspired by the horse-drawn vehicles of the past, with driver perched high on the front seat and passenger snuggled comfortably in the cushions at the rear, for a leisurely outing in the Bois de Boulogne. Access was made easy by a low chassis.
This model was built on a 1913 chassis for the Egyptian dignitary Abou Shanab Fadah, a prestige vehicle for a high-ranking personality.
Renault road sweeper
This surprising Renault road sweeper type DM dates back to 1913 and is a precursor of today’s modern urban street cleaning vehicles.
In the early years of the century, Louis Renault developed a range of utility vehicles covering a broad spectrum of applications. The road sweeper is a good example of this speciality. The brush is mounted at the rear for a regular sweeping action. The well-balanced pick-up system is easy to manoeuvre from a lever located to the driver’s right.
The Renault road sweeper also illustrates a number of the technical developments being introduced at Billancourt around this time: automatic carburettor, ignition by high voltage magneto, and lubrication by internal oil circulation. Under a 1905 Renault patent, the engine was cooled using a thermosiphon system with rear-mounted radiator and a fan driven by the engine flywheel. This meant cooling would be independent of vehicle speed, an appreciable advantage given the slow speed of this kind of vehicle.
The period between the two wars still remains an historic era for Renault with a significant contrast between the 1920s and 1930s. Just after the First World War Renault revolutionised its approach to motor cars by switching to mass-produced cars. To achieve this, it expanded the plants in Boulogne-Billancourt and set up huge assembly production line workshops in the heart of Seguin Island thereby making it the biggest facility in France. While Renault managed to withstand the crisis of the 1930s, its success was short-lived: From 1936, the company was no longer profitable; it was unable to meet the growing demand for small cars, lost in a poorly structured diversification policy. The 1938 rearmament movement saved Renault from failing because it had not updated its strategy frequently enough.
Renault 40 CV Type MC
The Type MC marked the pinnacle of the 40 CV series and asserted Renault’s sound position among prestige motor makers.
The Renault name was on everyone’s lips. A fleet of 10 CVs had achieved the first Sahara crossing by non-caterpillar vehicles in January 1924. And successive upgrades had been brought in across the Renault range, including improved brakes and new carburettor for the prestige 40 CV. This splendid car, Renault’s flagship model since 1910, matched up very well to illustrious rivals like Hispano Suiza and Isotta-Fraschini. The Type MC was one of the last Renaults built to the jumbo 40 CV format, which would give way to Reinastella in 1928. It was also the first to bear Renault’s new diamond logo, which replaced the previous round badge. Effusive press commentary of the period says much of the high esteem in which the Type MC was held: “The reserve of power is very considerable, and the car is responsive and manoeuvrable, with acceleration that produces indescribable driving pleasure”(1). With its lightweight coachwork, the 40 CV claimed a top speed of 140 km/h, a colossal figure when we consider the cars of the period would typically reach around 70 km/h.
(1) Charles Faroux, Newspaper L’Auto, 1923
Six wheel Renault
Renault introduced this six-wheeler type MH at the beginning of the 1920s with a view to crossing the Sahara Desert and thereby facilitating communications between Algeria and French West Africa. It paved the way for the African expeditions that were organised between 1923 and 1925.
Between Algeria and French West Africa the Sahara was a barrier that railway tracks had not yet crossed. Could the automobile do it? Citroën dispatched its caterpillar track vehicles in 1922 and, the following year, Renault developed its six-wheeler. (The vehicles were twelve-wheeler to be precise, because the six wheels were twin wheels to carry the car more effectively over the sand). With their rear two-axle drive the cars allied a powerful off-road ability with ease-of-use. At the end of 1923 the first mission was accomplished – an overland drive from Touggourt (Algeria) to Tozeur (Tunisia) in two days. Hard on its heels the Gradis-Estienne expedition in January 1924 linked Algeria to Niger. But the longest journey was yet to come. On November 15, 1924, Monsieur and Madame Delingette, accompanied by their mechanic Monsieur Bonnaure, set out to cross Africa from Colomb-Béchar (a town in Southern Algeria) to Cape Town! They arrived in South Africa on July 3, 1925, having overtaken the Citroën Centrafrique on the way. It was an extraordinary feat: 23,000 kilometres during which they crossed 35 rivers in dugout canoes and built or rebuilt 129 bridges.
Renault 40 CV des records
The nineteen-twenties saw an almost obsessive interest in records. Not to be outdone, Renault broke a few of its own with this impressive streamlined 40CV, which would top 190 km/h.
In the nineteen-twenties, every self-respecting carmaker felt obliged to set some kind of record, and the vogue was encouraged by the construction of speed tracks. In France, the Montlhéry track, built in 1924, was the venue for many a stand-off, with much clicking of stopwatches. Renault was as game as any other manufacturer, especially since it had just the car for the job: the flagship 40CV model, with its enormous nine-litre engine.
During an initial campaign in 1925, a virtually standard torpedo broke the lap record at 178.475 km/h, then the 24-hour record at 141.03 km/h. The difference between the two averages is instructive, since it arises from the frequent stops required for refuelling and, above all, tyre changes; this heavy car consumed around a hundred!
But these figures were apparently not good enough for engineers Plessier and Gartfield, who came back in 1926 with a more streamlined single-seater 40CV with radiator mounted behind the engine. The pitstop process had been streamlined too, with a 14-strong team cutting downtime to 50 seconds. This time round, Renault would set a new 50-mile record at an average of 190.013 km/h and a new 24-hour record at 173.649 km/h.
The car on show is an exact replica of the record-breaking car, built in the nineteen-seventies.
Owner: Edouard Pichon
Renault type NN1
By the early twenties, Louis Renault had begun to realize the mass-market potential of the motor car. Drawing inspiration from the US model, he rationalized the Renault production system and stepped up plant output, opening the way for the highly successful NN.
Referring to Fiat and US makers, Louis Renault aptly remarked that “In tomorrow’s society, only the biggest companies will be able to match up to the foreign giants”. This observation led him to modernize the Renault production system at the Billancourt site, in order to reduce production costs. Addressing fast-rising demand for mass mobility, 6CV production topped 200,000 units, with the 1922 Type KJ followed by the MT and the NN in 1924. The NN was the biggest-seller of this popular 6CV series. Renault advertising of the period played heavily on sporting records and other motoring feats. In 1925, Renault six-wheelers crossed the Algerian desert from Colomb-Béchart to Gao. And in 1927, the year of Charles Lindberg’s solo Atlantic flight, a 6CV torpedo drove 18,000 km in 36 days carrying no spare parts (oil drum excepted). Market success for the NN was won through a combination of high-profile exploits, booming demand, robust, straightforward engineering, and close-cropped pricing.
Another model : Renault Type NN, Renault Type NN Fourgonnette.
Reinastella, the Queen of Billancourt, took Renault into the select club of carmakers making eight-cylinder models.
In 1928, France was still riding the wave of “roaring twenties” euphoria, oblivious to the impending stock market crash of Black Thursday the next year. Eager to develop a worthy successor to its 40CV, Renault decided its new upmarket model would need an eight-cylinder engine. And Reinastella would introduce another revolution, with radiator fitted in front of the engine rather than behind, a configuration adopted the following year by other Renaults.
Reinastella was unveiled at the 1928 Paris Motor Show, under the name Renahuit. Its designers had taken a deliberate step toward the purest of classical styles, with a lower profile than the 40CV, and the long bonnet that typified the top-end cars of the epoch. There was plenty of scope for master coachbuilders to exercise their talents to the full! Rather than following the sports approach of contemporaries from Hispano Suiza and Rolls Royce, Reinastella opted for a strong emphasis on comfort, robustness and price. And it achieved more than honourable performance, glowingly extolled by the Renault catalogue of the time: “Reinastella will easily top 130 km/h, and achieve excellent journey averages. This Pullman of the road is undaunted by the longest journeys, and outclasses the best luxury trains in terms of comfort, speed and safety.”
The economic slump meant Reinastella’s days were numbered, and in 1934 this splendid car gave way to the Nerva range, as Renault adopted a top-end approach more consistent with the new economic conditions.
Renault Viva Grand Sport
As cars became faster, designers inevitably turned their attention to streamlining, to such an extent that aerodynamics became something of an obsession during the nineteen-thirties.
Engineering developments during the thirties brought a tremendous increase in automotive power and speed. At the same time, intercontinental air flight was becoming an everyday reality, and engineers and motorists alike would look to the world of aviation for inspiration. As a result of these two trends, aerodynamic streamlining became a major vogue. For Renault, the turning point came at the 1934 Paris Motor Show, with streamlined design becoming apparent on the Viva and Nerva ranges. Sister models in the six-cylinder Viva range were the shorter, more powerful Vivasport, and the sleek Vivastella. These two design influences would merge in 1935 to produce the Viva Grand Sport, a very neat, well-balanced car with smooth, uncluttered lines, available in several closed and open-top versions. The advertising campaign for the cabriolet version invited motorists to “experience a new joie de vivre with a Renault Grand Sport”.
Renault Nerva Grand Sport
In 1937, the Nerva Grand Sport ABM7 was one of the last big Renaults to be produced before the outbreak of World War Two. The car on display has just been restored and is one of the few surviving examples.
Renault’s long-running line of luxury cars survived the 1929 crisis, evolving into the Nerva range that emerged in 1930. These prestige eight-cylinder models addressed select customers appreciative of refined motoring comfort. The Renault stand at the 1934 Paris Motor Show raised many an eyebrow with the ultra-sleek Grand Sport models, based on the Viva and Nerva. Succumbing to the fashion for aerodynamic styling, Louis Renault had brought in Riffard, an engineer with a background in aviation. But Renault was quick to appease its more conservative clientele, with the toned-down design of Nervastella Grand Sport, early the next year. This model would later take on the name of Nerva Grand Sport, before going on to adopt a more rounded front end with profiled headlamps in 1936. All upmarket models on the French market suffered declining sales during this period, and this very fine Renault was no exception.
As the eight-cylinder Nerva models declined, as a result of the difficult economic conditions of the recession years, the powerful, comfortable, easy-to-drive Viva Grand Sport would end up topping the Renault range. And, with various enhancements, it would keep this position through till 1939.
Another model : Renault Viva Grand Sport ACX1, Renault Viva Sport
First unveiled in 1937 Juvaquatre’s career was split in two by the Second World War. Initially intended as a family car, it eventually emerged as a commercial vehicle.
To second the 8CV Celtaquatre, then the cheapest Renault car, the brand unveiled the Juvaquatre at the 1937 Paris Motor Show. It targeted customers with modest incomes and was Renault’s first 6CV-rated car to use a monocoque chassis and separately driven front wheels. The innovations ensured greater stiffness, lighter weight, and improved comfort, while advertising campaigns highlighted its reasonable fuel-efficiency. Marketed from 1938 the two-door car was quickly joined by a four-door saloon in response to the stiff competition on a market that featured the Peugeot 202 and even the Citroën Traction. War would soon stop the Juvaquatre’s momentum, however, and it was chiefly as a light commercial vehicle that the postwar vehicle met with success, with the saloon making way for the highly popular 4CV. Rugged and simple the Juvaquatre enjoyed a second career, very popular with craftsmen, tradesmen, and even civil servants.
Another model : Renault Juvaquatre Dauphinoise, Renault Juvaquatre Fourgonnette.
Democratization of the motor car
Paradoxically, it was during the years when things were looking gloomy that Renault first became interested in a car for the working classes. The deregulation of trade may throw light on this complex, or possibly confused choice at the key moment when the government decided to nationalize the Renault company and when Pierre Lefaucheux, the new Chairman of the state-controlled Renault plants, made some innovative strategic choices. Because it chose to specialise in cars for the working classes, as of 1948 Renault became the number one car manufacturer in Europe, paving the way for the competition boosted by Italian and German economic miracles. From 1945 to 1960, Renault developed strong growth centred around the 4CV and Dauphine. The company laid down the foundations for the glory years whose success may be measured by their production volumes and ability to win new contracts drawn up by the development of the Europe of the Six.
Renault Fourgon 1000 kg.
symbolized France’s economic recovery after the Second World War.
In the massive drive to rebuild France after the Second World War, the Pons plan set about determining needs and allocating tasks throughout French industry. Renault was one of the companies selected for the 1000/1400 kg programme, and presented its new model (affectionately baptized “the 1000 kg”) in 1945. It was designed with robustness uppermost in mind, making exclusive use of tried and tested techniques. So whereas Citroën’s Type H brought in front-wheel drive, the Renault model would stick with rear-wheel drive, and it would be powered by the sideways-mounted engine introduced ten years earlier on the Primaquatre. The coachwork featured a wooden frame (dropped in 1950), and the radiator grill used the horizontal slats characteristic of Renault light commercial vehicles.
Large wheels and short wheelbase made for nifty manoeuvrability, and the silhouette of the 1000 kg soon became a very familiar sight on the roads of France, on bakers’ rounds and in marketplaces throughout the country. This very sturdy vehicle, known for tolerating overloads without flinching, would eventually change its name to Goélette. Very many versions were made, including a four-wheel-drive version. It was eventually superseded by the Estafette, in 1959.
Displayed model : The vehicle displayed is a 206 E1 model which has a wooden structure covered with sheet metal. It is recognizable by its headlamps, set on either side of the radiator grill. Decorated in the colours of Barnier, confectioner since 1885, this commercial vehicle was presented during the Saint Cloud Historic Festival in 2004
Renault 4 CV
As the first major motoring development after the Second World War, the 4 CV was ideally matched to customer expectations of the time, achieving sales of over a million.
The 4 CV was unveiled in 1946 at the first post-war Paris Motor Show. It was marvellously attuned to the spirit of the times, and the challenges of post-war reconstruction, after the years of suffering and denial. A rear-mounted engine gave the 4 CV a flat floor, enabling this lightweight, economical little car to carry four people comfortably. Though it was developed under cover during the most difficult of wartime conditions, the 4 CV went on to enjoy a bright and brilliant career, with production topping the million mark. Production techniques included extensive use of transfer machines, marking the dawn of the automation era. Many different versions were made, from the low-cost “Service” model to the high-appeal convertible, and the racy 1063 sports model. The 4 CV had considerable international scope, extending to sales in USA, and production in Japan. In France, specialist coachbuilders appreciated its ready adaptability, and Jean Rédélé would use the 4 CV as the basis for his famous Alpine racers. Despite the arrival of the Dauphine in 1955, the 4 CV continued through to 1961, when it finally gave way to another best-seller, the Renault 4, after a magnificent career in bridging the post-war transition to freedom.
Another model : Renault 4 CV Vernet Pairard, 4 CV Monte Carlo, 4 CV Raid, 4 CVAuto Bleu, 4 CV 1063 Le Mans.
Robustly designed, the Colorale was of much service to craftsmen, merchants and farmers in the 1950s, its numerous versions adapting to every situation.
Following World War II, Renault's utility vehicle range was lacking a medium-sized vehicle to fill the gap between the Juvaquatre and the 1,000 and 1,500 kg vans. The answer came in 1950 with the Colorale, whose name is a contraction of colonial and rural. With a somewhat rounded line, this robust and practical vehicle with an 85 engine was available in several versions: Prairie, Savane, taxi, van, pick-up, covered platform, chassis cab... and even a four-wheel-drive version, which at the time was quite rare.
The Prairie was the first Colorale to be unveiled to journalists in the Parc de Bagatelle in May 1950. Designed for both utility and family use, its cabin was clearly characterised by a certain rustic appearance, but the gear lever on the steering wheel, the four opening windows and the wide doors offered comfort lacking from most popular small cars. The Prairie also had a removable rear seat for a seventh passenger. The useful volume impressed even more when this seventh seat and the rear bench seat were removed. It immediately became the spearhead of the range and Renault went as far as producing a luxury Prairie.
In the wake of the 4CV’s post-war success, Frégate gave Renault its first grand touring car. One model even came with automatic transmission – Transfluide.
In the early 1950s European reconstruction was in full swing and Renault was seeking to widen its lineup in the wake of the success of the 4CV. It considered a number of projects, including one for a rear-engine car. It finally chose the front-engine “project 110”, which would become Frégate. This modern 11CV came to market in 1951. Although it was not initially very reliable, it had no lack of strong points: appealing lines, independent wheel suspension, excellent road-holding, and lots of room. In 1956 the Etendard engine made the relatively lifeless powertrain a thing of the past, while two years later a particularly original model was unveiled. It was the Transfluide, which met the demand for automatic transmission that was in vogue in American cars. With its hydraulic clutch and three-ratio gearbox (three steps: City-Road, Mountain, Exceptional), Transfluide was half-way between fully automatic transmission and just automatic clutch. Transfluide ceased production only when Frégate did, in 1962.
Another model : Renault Frégate Cabriolet, Renault Frégate Domaine
Renault Etoile Filante
The record-breaking Étoile Filante (“shooting star”) is a prime example of how engineers sought to carry over aircraft technologies into automotive design during the aviation-infatuated period following the Second World War.
When war ended in 1945, Turboméca’s boss Mr. De Szidlowski, a leading expert in turbine engines, started making small power units for applications such as the famous Alouette helicopter. Very eager to raise public awareness on what he considered an immensely promising technology, he approached Renault with a high-profile concept in mind. Renault boss Pierre Lefaucheux went ahead and commissioned development of an experimental car from a highly experienced team of three: project manager Fernand Picard, exceptionally talented engine specialist Albert Lory, and engineer and test driver Jean Hébert. The outcome was the Étoile Filante, with a polyester body on a tubular structure and a turbine developing 270 hp.
On 5 September 1956, the whistle of the powerful turbine ricocheted round the salt lake of Bonneville, USA. A few instants later, the world speed record lay in tatters. The Étoile Filante had reached 306.9 km/h over a kilometre, and 308.85 km/h over 5 km, a record that still holds today! Despite its virtues, turbine technology proved ill-adapted to automotive applications, and neither Renault nor any other carmaker would take the concept any further. Even so, the Étoile Filante stands as an epoch-marking machine, in a class of its own.
The 1093, released in 1962, gave ordinary motorists the chance to drive a higher-powered rally-ready version of Renault’s popular Dauphine.
Encouraged by the Dauphine’s brilliant competition record, Renault’s motor sports boss François Landon decided to launch a special version – the 1093 – in late 1961. The new model made a feature of its factory code-name (1090 was the mainstream Dauphine), and production would have to reach a thousand units in under a year for qualification in the “standard tourism” category. The 1093 was thus a true volume-production competition model, with larger headlamps, vented wheels, two blue stripes on the all-white body, and a powertrain upgrade giving a top speed of above 140 km/h.
It came on the scene just a little too late to substantially improve on the Dauphine’s already impressive track record, though it did win first place in the 1962 Tour de Corse (with Orsini and Canonicci), and performed very well at many regional events. Above all, it prepared the way for the R8 Gordini, which appeared in 1964 and would go on to delight hundreds of amateur and professional racing drivers.
Another model : Renault Dauphine Monte Carlo, Renault Dauphine Gordini.
With very little fuss at the time, the Estafette introduced a huge technological upheaval in 1958: front-wheel drive!
October 1958: Though Renault passenger cars remained true to the traditional “all-rear” configuration, the Estafette very discreetly introduced a major turnaround for Renault, in bringing in front-wheel drive. In the light commercial vehicles segment, Renault needed to find a response to Citroën’s Type H, a low-loading van with flat floor, achieved by placing all the drive subsystems at the front. The result was the Estafette, a smart, practical van (complete with sliding driver’s door) that came across as such a modern vehicle as to almost outdate Renault’s passenger car range, including the brand new Frégate Manoir estate! It was available in a wide range of engine and coachwork variants, including an extra-high version with roof in stratified polyester, derived from Renault’s experience in railcar design. The Estafette was such a well-engineered vehicle that it would go on to enjoy a 20-year career, with production reaching half a million.
Above all, this hard-working little van had opened a breach in Renault engineering practice: three years after the Estafette was released, front-wheel drive took a firm hold in Renault passenger car design, with the Renault 4.
Another model : Renault Estafette Glacier, Renault Estafette microbus.
The superbly elegant Floride symbolized the effervescence of the carefree sixties in France.
Floride was previewed as the Dauphine GT at the Geneva Motor Show in 1958, before appearing in its final form on the Renault stand at the Paris Motor Show in October the same year. Original colour schemes and an inimitable silhouette (the mark of Italian coachbuilders Ghia and Frua) made it an instant hit with showbiz celebrities, and the model soon became inseparably linked with the name of Brigitte Bardot. “Hair flowing in the wind, tanned faces, happy smiles all round. People heading for the sun in the Floride. Getting away from it all, at the wheel of a car so brilliant, so young, so refined.” The freewheeling tone of Floride’s advertising copy sums up the carefree spirit that pervaded the sixties. Floride got a power boost with the S version, which also introduced disk brakes on all four wheels, for the first time on a car in this category. In 1963, Floride gave way to its sister Caravelle, which stayed in the Renault catalogue through till 1968 and was also available in coupé and cabriolet versions.
Cars for everyone
Specialising in cars for the working classes, Renault continued its success during the glory years. The R4 marked a change in technology as well as a cultural change with the emergence of cars for everyday living which were to be gradually rolled out across all market niches. Renault became a volume manufacturer offering the most extensive range, achieving the number one brand position in Europe in 1980. A mass-producer, selling and manufacturing cars across five continents, Renault had become an international player. This exceptional growth was scarcely slowed down by the first oil shock, the Renault 5 then emerging as the car for the crisis. However, the company began to ask itself questions about its business and its size. Following a successful partnership with Peugeot from 1966 to 1974, in 1978 the state-controlled Renault company embarked on the acquisition of AMC, a small American manufacturer. However, everything suddenly changed with the second oil shock in 1979 which concealed the world car crisis.
« The Blue-jean Car », the Car new philosophy, created by Pierre Dreyfus gave birth to the mythical Renault 4. Due to its various faces, the Renault 4 has been at ease in an urban environment as well as in the countryside since 50 years.
In 1963, Renault launched in association with Elle magazine an operation entitled, "Elle prend le volant" ("She's in the driving seat"). Female drivers had 48 hours to test drive the car and judge its qualities. The Renault 4 dressed up for the occasion in "canework" and "tartan" outfits. This version was baptised "Parisienne" and was sold until 1968.
Model in the collection: Green canework model restored by Renault Classic to celebrate 4L's 50th anniversary.
Another model : Renault 4L export, Savane, Poste, Seventies, Monte Carlo
Renault 8 Gordini
The R8 Gordini is nothing short of legendary! This was one the most popular sports models ever made by Renault, offering a top speed of 175 km/h at a very affordable price.
Few cars can have made such an impact on their time as the Renault 8 Gordini, which appeared in 1964 to open up the thrill of sports driving to a whole generation. Though the “Gorde”, as it was affectionately known, was based on the R8 Major, racetrack modifications at the hand of wizard Amédée Gordini left it largely unrecognizable. Nothing was done by halves: the original model’s sensible engine was transfigured to squeeze out almost twice the power, with changes like a new cylinder head and two splendid Weber carburettors. Then suspensions, steering, brakes and equipment were upgraded consistent with the top speed of 175 km/h. Outer signs of this remarkable sporting aptitude included round instrument dials and a smart blue finish with white stripes. The 1108 cc engine of the initial release gave way to a 1255 cc unit with the 1966 facelift, which also brought in the telltale dual headlamps. The Gordini Cup, introduced the same year, went a long way to developing the R8 Gordini myth, consolidating its reputation with an impressive list of racing honours. Many racing drivers learned their craft at the wheel of an R8 Gordini, and hold very fond memories of it. In 1970, the great little R8 Gordini finally gave way to an R12 model bearing the same name.
The fast, comfortable TX was the culuminating point of the Renault 16 range, which revolutionized the motoring world with its hatchback design.
The Renault 16 came as a bombshell when it first appeared in January 1965. The startlingly modern hatchback format, all the more original on a car in this category, brought unprecedented versatility, with different seat configurations transforming the car effortlessly into anything from a family saloon to an estate car. As so often, Renault’s lead would very soon attract a host of imitators. As well as taking a step forward in comfort, with long-stroke suspension systems, the Renault 16 also introduced technical innovations like a diecast aluminium engine. The emphasis on innovation continued with the TS version, which delighted motorists with a power upgrade and upmarket features like electric windows. But the high spot in the splendid career of the Renault 16 came in 1973 with the TX, which offered still higher power, a five-speed gearbox, four iodine headlamps, a rear roof spoiler and even more luxurious equipment. Renault’s voiture à vivre movement was underway.
Alpine Renault A110
It was in its Group 4 incarnation that the Berlinette Alpine A110 evolved into the supermini racer that won the world rally championship 1973.
Born in 1963, the Berlinette Alpine A 110 rapidly built a name for itself on its successes in motorsport. At the same time it evolved continuously to its most powerful series production version, the 1600S. This engine underwent Marc Mignotet’s race preparations without flinching. On the Group 4 “factory” version engine capacity was boosted to 1800cc, which translated into output of over 180hp! With its uncanny precision and formidable efficiency, the Berlinette (supermini) naturally stood out in competitive racing. In 1973 it dominated the world rally championship, winning eight of the thirteen races and twice coming in first, second, and third – at the Monte Carlo Rally and the Tour of Corsica!
The Group 4 Berlinette pictured here competed in 1975 and 1976. Jean-Pierre Nicolas finished 2nd in the Tour of Corsica 1975 behind Bernard Darniche’s untouchable Lancia Stratos. And although Jean Ragnotti had to pull out of the Monte Carlo rally the following year, he made up for it in the Reunion Island Rally where he won 19 of the rally’s 25 ‘spéciales’ (special stages). It was to be the A110 Berlinette’s farewell season. In 1977 it made way for the A310.
Another model : Alpine Renault A110 1600 S.
The likeable, versatile Renault 5 brought a new style to the Renault line-up. It could adapt to all kinds of customers.
“Hi, I’m Renault 5. People call me Supercar, too” – said the car in the cartoon-inspired advertising campaign to launch Renault 5. The advert was just as innovative as the car itself. The skill of designer Michel Boué made Renault 5 likeable. More than merely popular it was meant to be affordable, fun, and versatile, adapting to each and every use and each and every user. To that extent, it did not replace the Renault 4, which remained in the automaker’s catalogue. As at ease in the city as in the countryside, the car came in a wide variety of versions with different finishes and performance levels. The sports version was badged Alpine. Renault 5 became France’s most widely sold model. The record year was 1980 when 666,026 units were sold – over half of Renault’s vehicle output. Yet it had been dismissed as “a three-door” supermini that would never be marketable in France. It was difficult to replace such a star. The Supercinq, or Superfive, which appeared in 1984, banked on continuity.
Renault Alpine A442
On 12 June 1978, the Renault Alpine driven by Pironi and Jaussaud finished first at Le Mans, culminating an adventure that had started five years earlier.
Victory at the 24-hour Le Mans event is never a hit-or-miss affair. Renault’s 1978 victory, for example, traces back to 1973, when Alpine decided to return to top-level motor sports with backing from Elf. Key factors behind this successful performance were: a top-quality team, led by Jean Terramossi with Gérard Larousse as pivot; a V6 engine developed by Bernard Dudot, future mastermind of turbocharger technology; Renault involvement, through Renault Sport (founded in 1976); and talented, consistent drivers like Jabouille, Jaussaud, Jarier and Pironi.
Over the five-year period, the A440, with a normally-aspirated engine, would evolve into the 441, then into the turbocharged 442, achieving a long list of motor sport championship honours along the way. Hopes ran high for Le Mans in 1977, but all three runners were forced to drop out because of engine failure. The engineers would have to find a test track capable of reproducing the tough conditions of the Hunaudières straight, which meant 50 seconds with the throttle hard down! The next year, two Renault Alpines finished first and fourth. Ironically, on the eve of the race, Renault managing director Bernard Hanon had announced that Renault would be dropping its Le Mans programme to concentrate on Formula One. A new page had turned.
F1 Type RS11
Another example of Renault’s capacity for technical innovation, the RS 10 with an RS11 chassis recorded the first Formula 1 victory for a turbocharged engine.
In the 1977 English Grand Prix at Silverstone, Renault took a bold step: for its first outing in Formula 1, the company dispatched a car fitted with a 1,500 cm3 turbocharged engine. The other teams were still hanging onto the alternative allowed by the regulations, 3 litre engines which were heavier but more reliable and easier to control. It took two years for the Renault Sport engineers to overcome all the problems associated with the turbo. Their commitment was rewarded on the first of July 1979 at the French Grand Prix in Dijon-Prenois: Jean-Pierre Jabouille, after having claimed pole-position, outflanked the Ferrari of Gilles Villeneuve throughout the race and was the first over the finish line! René Arnoux, finished 3rd in the RS 12 chassis. The first victory for Renault in F1, was also the first victory for a singleseater with a turbo engine. The other teams did not take long to react to this technology and turbos were soon in use across the whole of the starting grid. Renault had made the right choice…
Displayed model : Four RS10 type chassis were developed (RS10, RS11, RS12, RS14). The example here is the fourth in the series, the RS14.
The unveiling of Espace ushered in a revolution. With its unprecedented layout and fittings, would this “van” be accepted by the public at large?
Between the end of 1983 and spring 1984 Renault launched two important models: Renault 25 and Espace. The former was a classic high-end saloon, while the latter boldly opened up a brand new direction – the one-box. MPV. However, sales of Espace – co-designed with Matra, who had originally approached Peugeot – got off to a slow start. Several months passed before demand really took off. Inspired by the styling of the TGV train, the Espace (French for “space”) wore its name well, bringing with it a radical reworking of cabin space. It took this logic – initiated with the hatchback –to its logical conclusion, turning the cabin into a single reconfigurable space. The rear could be changed from a little living room with reclining seats into a large luggage bay. Having broken new ground, Renault kept its lead in the field with successive generations of Espace, with international automakers all following suit.
Reorganised and restructured, Renault started a new chapter in its life in the context of a globalized world economy. The company embarked on significant structural changes. The state-controlled Renault plants were privatised in 1995, producing Renault SA, “a firm like any other firm”, making it better equipped to face the more intense international competition and to set about winning major contracts such as Mercosur in Eurasia. Out of the loop for a long period of time, unfamiliar with external growth strategies, Renault engaged in a policy of cooperation, biding its time. Its time came in 1998, the year the company celebrated its one hundredth anniversary, when Renault began negotiations with Nissan which, in 1999, resulted in the signing of the Renault-Nissan Alliance. Renault has not forgotten its roots with the emergence of its trade mark Espace product range, its progressive Twingo product range, its innovative Scenic product range and the popular Logan product range.
The Clio marked a turning point in the history of Renault and of small saloon cars specifically.
On 4 July 1990, the Régie Nationale des Usines Renault became a public limited company. However, the car event of the year remained the unveiling of the Clio, whose name brought to an end the use of numbers to identify models. As its advertising slogan would assert, the Clio was "the small car with big car attributes", both in terms of its dimensions and its successful step-up in quality. Right from the first year, more than 30 versions in France alone made up the huge Clio range, available with one diesel and five petrol engines, two body types (three and five doors) and three trim levels.
In 1992, boosted by its status as "Car of the Year 1991", the Clio consolidated its position ahead of the competition by offering improved features to its customers. The upper-range RT version saw the widespread installation of electric front windows and offered as standard body-coloured bumpers with fog lights. The robust front axle gave the Clio RT 1.4 excellent roadholding and behaviour that was able to cope with all driving styles in all circumstances.
In spite of her strong personality, Twingo would carry through the Renault heritage, but not without imposing its own highly individual personality at the same time.
Launched officially in 1992, the model here presented is the second made on the lines of the factory of Flins from 1991.
Few years after, the French daily Le Monde flatteringly will explain the Twingo’s very special aura in these terms : « The Twingo plays on its off-beat image as strongly as a conventional saloon might play on classicism. The monobox design derives from a concept thus far reserved for large MPV vehicles. The car offers above-average interior space, and its exterior styling brings to mind nothing more than an appealing little animal, with headlamps that resemble a pair of little mischievous eyes. Inside and out, the colour schemes are deliberately flashy ».
The Twingo would offer unmistakable Renault values, starting with a thoroughly modern outlook, tremendous appeal, and an huge sense of fun.
F1 Type FW15
With the arrival of Alain Prost in 1993, Williams-Renault strengthened its grip of the Formula One championship.
Williams-Renault changed its team 1993. Alain Prost took over from Nigel Mansell, who had dominated the scene the previous year, and was ably seconded by Damon Hill, son of the famous champion Graham Hill. The talented Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna stayed with McLaren, whose car was powered by a Ford V8. The Prost-Senna stand-off promised to be thrilling! On the technical front, delicate adjustments imposed by the new regulations would raise a great deal of uncertainty as to the season’s outcome. Prost’s early triumph over Senna in the first Grand Prix proved deceptive, since the subsequent races were much heavier-going. Even so, the French driver stayed ahead from mid-season onwards, to get his fourth world championship conductors' title and to bring Renault the world championship constructors' title. Prost’s team-mate Damon Hill finished third, behind Ayrton Senna. It was a fine season for Renault. The partnership with Williams was proving highly productive. And constant enhancements to the V10 RS5 engine (which also powered the Ligier team) ensured it never scored less than eight points in any race.
Introduced at the 1996 motor show, the Scenic was the first minivan designed for the M1 segment.
Spaciousness and modularity were the two watchwords by which the Scenic was designed.
Compact on the outside but huge on the inside, the Scenic was an accomplished concept:
With tilting rear side seats, shelves for the passengers and multiple storage areas under the seats and in the floor, the Scenic was a "car for life and for living". Clever use was made of all the available space, making for a more comfortable on-board experience.
Released in late 1996, the Scenic rounded out Renault's family of successful minivans, following on from the Espace in 1984 and the Twingo in 1993. With more than a two-year head start on its direct competitors, it met with great success in France and was even voted "car of the year" in 1997.
The Scenic was also an international commercial success that created a new segment, "compact minivans".
For 2005, Renault F1 Team was officially aiming for the world championship title, and would be sparing no effort to reach this goal. Fisichella was back alongside Alonso.
The new car boasted an innovative front suspension system and optimized aerodynamics. And there was a new engine capatale of running in two successive grands prix.
Despite unbelievable pressure from Schumacher with Ferrari and, above all, Raïkkonen and Montoya with Mc Laren Mercedes, Alonso finished champion driver (with seven wins, eight podium finishes and six pole positions) and Renault champion constructor (with eight wins and ten podium finishes).
This was the first time ever that a volume carmaker had won both Formula One championship.