Dash-Cam CC: 1984 Renault 4GTL – The Original Hatchback

Returning from a holiday lunch at my mom’s (it’s Passover here in Israel), I took my favorite toll-road route. It’s fast, wide and because it costs money, most people don’t use it so holiday traffic is much more scarce than on regular roads. The downside is not seeing many CCs on it, maybe it’s the rapid movement of traffic that doesn’t suit old cars. But sometimes you stumble upon exceptions, such as this in-your-face-yellow Renault 4.

Its driver wasn’t hanging about either. I was doing around 125 Kph, and it took me a while to catch up to this Renault, as you’ll see in the video. Naturally, once caught, I slowed down to about 110 Kph and captured the 4GTL:

I love the Hot Rod look- high at the back and low at the front, as most of these 4s usually were. Although it must be said this particular car seems very exaggerated- it looks as though the front sunk a little more than it should.

This car is a 1984 model, the last year 4s were imported into Israel. It was, after all, very long in the tooth by then, and (for several years) imported alongside its replacement, the Renault 5. Not surprising, as it was a true sales’ hit in Israel, no doubt spurred on by the IDF’s chosen Majors’ vehicle for many years. It was part of what we used to call “white rides”, meaning these were cars meant to transport officers to-and-from their command posts in large bases, and not used in the field (“brown rides”). Although as you may well know, these little Renaults were capable of driving almost anywhere. I entered my service duty in 1990, and there were still Military R4s in service, always in white. I can vividly remember hitching a ride in one of these, a Major stopping at the bus stop I was waiting in and offering a ride. Already back then it was to me like something out of the dark ages- not surprising since it was originally introduced in 1961. And don’t forget- in 1990 the “white rides” were much more modern by then, in the shape of the Renault 5 and Peugeot 205.

But they were still holding on, those 4s. Here are some photos I shot in various places and times, most at classic car meetings:

Really early ones of the first series (1961-1967) are no longer to be found in Israel. This is the closest you’ll get- a series two car, built during 1967-1974. This was when Renault started calling the car Renault 4L and not R4.

After 1974, The 4 received another facelift, which more-or-less stayed with it until end of production. This is a similar car to the yellow 4 in the video, also a GTL (same car in both photos above- the owner painted the red wheels silver). GTLs were introduced after 1978, had a 1.1 liter engine (larger than the 845cc unit of the previous 4L), and of course had upgraded interior and exterior details, such as a new grill, plastic side moldings (clearly visible here) and more.

There was also a panel-van, called Fourgonette. Pictured here in 4L version, these were the first 4s to receive the 1.1 liter unit, later installed in the GTL above. Amazing to think how popular they were, and how few have survived.

And maybe, the whole preservation story ends the same; a stubborn owner who runs his classic to the ground. once a proud and shiny classic car, now sad and neglected CC rotting away. I can remember this particular 4L when I first saw it parked while on my run. It was as good as that red wheeled 4GTL above. But it never moved nor covered, and in a space of three years it has downgraded into this. Inside, it was even worse: someone broke the left rear-side window, so most of the area’s cats made the interior their home. And to top it all, after about two years of neglect the owner had the stupidity to hang up this cardboard sign, well after the car has deteriorated:

“This vehicle belongs to Miri (phone no’). Do not touch!”

I mean, really? You put up this sign after you’ve neglected the car all by yourself? Furthermore, I’ve had reports from my friends at the classic commune that people tried to buy this 4 from the owner, practically begged to save this car from the elements. But She wouldn’t hear nothing of it. Anyway, after five years in total, the car was gone- who knows, maybe someone saved it after all.

And yes, it was most certainly the first modern hatchback. Read more of this lovely French icon in PN’s post here.