…well, in the context of 21st century Seattle, that is. Everyone knows the famous VW Type 1, and some car nerds know the Renault 4CV, but this gorgeous seafoam specimen (shot by runningonfumes) will still leave many scratching their heads. As a slightly larger car with a shape which emphasized its roundness, the Beetle looks a lot more normal to most bystanders than the Renault’s mini-American car shape, even when taking the Volkswagen’s familiarity into account. It’s hard to appreciate just how little and cute these are without seeing one in person, and the perspective of this photo upholds an illusion of greater size.
The 4CV’s traditional-for-1946 styling is in keeping with Renault’s reputation as a conservative automaker (relative to the likes of Citroen and Panhard), but in terms of minimalism, it has the Beetle beat by about 250 pounds, even with four doors. Not that it doesn’t actually share a great deal with the famous People’s Car, with an rear-engined layout, unibody construction and independent suspension. While accounts of the car’s development do mention that Ferry Porsche participated in its conception, it was so well into its development by the time of his involvement that whatever impact he had must’ve been minimal.
More likely, the KdF-wagen which had inspired the Renault engineers who worked on the 4CV in secret during the war already represented state-of-the-small-car-art in the ’40s, owing to its own Tatra-inspired engineering. It’s a shame that both Renault and VW stuck with the formula well past its sell-by date (oddly enough, the other famous Czech carmaker, Skoda, were inspired by the rear-engined Renault Dauphine when designing their mid ’60s cars and would later consult Porsche when creating its late ’80s replacement; an incestuous world, car design).
Is cohort contributor runningonfumes especially tall? Or does does this picture do a better job of emphasizing the car’s short stature? I’m betting that the latter is true, as the striking narrowness of these cars when seen in person barely registers in this shot. It appears to be a post 1958 model, judging by its wheels, though the badge on the back which says “Renault Special” doesn’t tell me much about the car. A search for those terms brings up many results, but nothing about a specific 4CV with that model designation. If someone knows more, please share. As it is, in 2014 USA, where a Superbeetle will turn heads, this pastel Renault practically defines what it is to be special.