(first posted 8/12/2014) During the Great US Import Boom of the 1950s, the Renault Dauphine was the only car that really gave the VW a run for its money. In 1958, it actually outsold the Beetle in eleven states, and had a lot of momentum. In 1959, over 100k Dauphines were sold here. But its fragility and lack of dealer support quickly caught up with it, and when the Import Boom turned Bust in 1960, Dauphine sales evaporated in a reddish cloud of iron oxide.
Renault hung in there, and its rear-engined Dauphine evolved into the boxy R8, and then the R10, the final evolution of a line that had started with the 4CV in 1947. These cars make an interesting comparison on a number of levels, as they are similar in some respects, yet so decidedly different in others. Car and Driver did a comparison of the two in 1967, the only one I’m aware of. We already know how the big-picture story ended, but the charms of the R10 were nevertheless very compelling.
I owned several VWs in that era and one ’63 R8. The R8 was a superior car in every way. If Renault had bothered to build a dealer network, they could have defeated the bug.
The article hits all the important points and gets them right, with one exception. VW’s engine may have been understressed, but that didn’t make it more durable under normal American conditions. Even when you religiously performed all the required and frequent maintenance, it would still break unpredictably and suddenly. The water-cooled Renault was much more resilient and forgiving.
VW Beetle engines unpredictable and breaking suddenly in the US conditions? Geez, what sort of conditions are these? Here in Australia – and I would wager conditions here were as tough as anywhere back in the day – Beetles had a splendid reputation as far as I am aware.
Yes and no- in developed areas they were good, but didn’t last where there were dirt roads ( and there were still plenty until the ’80s).
Bull dust would clog the cooling fins on the motor quickly, and corrugated roads would cause the rear mudguards to fall off.
In all fairness though these roads were not kind to any car. I have memories of the side window of my Suzuki Sierra falling out on the way to the Gregory River Races due to the vibrations from road corrugations”….
Interesting, but I recall reading that during WW2 British forces fighting Rommels Afrika Corps were envious of the German’s Kubelwagens as they apparently performed exceptionally well in dessert conditions. I also understand they were a success in the freezing conditions of Russia. The Kubelwagen of course shares all of its mechanicals with the Beetle.
Never heard too many complaints about them from Mexico and conditions there can be very ordinary and in Brazil the a VW flat four is revered.
I think the Beetles basic engineering and air cooling can safely be called very successful. Let’s face it, they could not have made them for six decades and found tens of millions of buyers if the basic engineering was fragile.
True on all that Ashley, however bull dust is like fine talcum powder, so the conditions I’m talking about are pretty extreme.
VWs especially Kombis have an appalling reliability record in Aussie I and many friends have driven them all over OZ replacement engines are constantly required and FYI Kombi engines have half the warranty of a the same engine installed in a beetle 30,000 kms for a twin port 1600 in a Kombi with the improved Brazillian crankcase and if your really lucky they are still running after the warranty expires. 2 litre suitcase motors are better but not by much.
The 1200s and 1300s always seemed to last forever, but I think it’s the 1500s and 1600 which are more prone to breakage.
I don’t exactly agree with your POV either, about the Renault engine being more resilient and forgiving. In my experience with several Beetles with original engines reflected the generally accepted consensus: that a properly maintained factory VW engine was good for at least 100k miles. Yes, there were exceptions, quite often the result of not being maintained or overheating by lugging it during high temperatures. They didn’t “boil over” but it stressed them, and led to things like later crank failures or such.
Folks who rebuilt them on the kitchen table rarely achieved that kind of longevity.
The Dauphine engine was a classic case of a too-small of a high-revving engine not up to sustained US conditions. The 1100cc R8and R10 engine were undoubtedly better, but I still don’t think they were as consistently reliable over the long haul as the VW engine. BYMMV.
My experience with Bugs was that the new cars would indeed go 100,000 miles with regular service, especially if done by the dealer.
The cars could be fixed forever, and every Tom, Dick and George was an expert on them, so there tended to be a lot of bodge jobs on Bugs.
Most Bug horror stories I saw were for old cars that hadn’t been properly looked after. Most other cars of that era wouldn’t have lasted that long. When I was a kid in Quebec, any car over five years was considered done. Bugs would easy go ten if they didn’t rust to pieces first.
Any car over five years done? Bugs would go ten?
My, how times have changed, for the better! Of the ten cars I have owned, six were ten or more years old when I acquired them. Two more celebrated their tenth birthday while in my ownership. One of the others is still relatively new. And the one car that I bought at less than five years old and sold before it was ten, there were only a couple of minor issues when I sold it.
I suppose it’s been a gradual increase in quality over time though. Going back to my childhood, I remember a ’79 Fairmont that was dying at 9 years old, an ’83 Escort that grenaded at 11, and an ’86 Audi that was sold for basically scrap value at 12–all values longer than your mentioned range but all that would seem to be very short-lived for cars produced in the last 20 years. Modern cars do last a LOT longer in most cases.
My daily driver is now 15 years old and runs like new; but that is in a place with no winter to speak of and no road salt. Since it worth next to zilch now, I will keep driving it as long as I can. Another five years should be no problems since the mileage is still very low.
I also base my car life estimates on where I grew up, rural Quebec, there the winters and long, cold and snowy. There is TONS of road salt. Cars of the 1960’s rusted like crazy, and not just one brand, they all did it and it took legislation to force the car makers to improve rust resistance.
My dad bought a 1970 Pontiac new in 1971.By 1976, the car was quite literally full of holes. It wouldn’t be worth fixing.
When considering whether other cars could have “beaten” the Beetle, I think it’s important to acknowledge that the enormous success of the Beetle in the U.S. had relatively little direct relationship to it virtues as a car. This isn’t to say the Beetle had no virtues, but there were any number of more orthodox European and Japanese sedans that were vastly more modern in design and were (or could easily have been and in some cases later became) far more in line with American conditions.
However, because the Beetle was at heart a prewar design — and looked it — and because Volkswagen opted to market it in the U.S. in a whimsical, self-deprecating fashion, it became sort of its own genre. If you bought, say, a U.S.-market Opel Kadett or a Toyota Corona, most people would just read “cheap little furrin’ car.” By 1967, even people who didn’t know anything about cars knew what a Beetle was, even if they hated it and everything it represented.
Because of that, Americans ended up buying Beetles for various different reasons. Some people bought them as economy cars, but there were also people who bought them because they were cute, because they wanted to turn them into dune buggies or kit cars, or as a social statement because the Beetle was pretty much the antithesis of the Establishment idea of a proper car. (I think there’s a pretty strong analogy to be made with the Toyota Prius today.) There were all kinds of other cars that were more practical and really better cars in various ways, but none of them had that kind of image or broad appeal.
The best part of this is the complaining about outward visibility.
They had no idea what was to come….
Now we have backup cameras & collision sensors; we don’t need no stinkin’ windows anymore, apparently. When there are self-driving cars, they can be eliminated entirely, so there’s even more software to boast about. Instead of real windows, we’ll get flat screens with simulated scenery passing by.
But to be fair, they still have plenty of glass in steeply-raked windshields, so we get the greenhouse effect here in the Sunbelt & similar places.
It’s ironic, really. With cars less likely to roll over than ever before, due to all the improvements in tyre and suspension technology and stability control – why should we have to put up with thick pillars and poor visibility? Surely one of the primary components of safety is being able to see what you’re doing!
I think it’s as with women’s clothing: pure fashion. A high beltline “chop top” makes you look like a badass, reinforced by sinister slitted headlights. Or compare Mr. Niedermeyer’s pickup with a modern F-250, which looks like it’s from a Road Warrior sequel.
I like that idea, you can pick whatever scenery you want to see…..underwater, space, desert,etc. Why stay with the same old standard scenery?
Both seem like good vehicles in their own way. Both have the engine in the rear of the car, which, although challenging to drive, also helps with rear-wheel traction. While I like the Beetle’s 0-60 performance, I would’ve thought the Renault 10 had a roomier interior. I also like the 4 wheel disc brakes used on the Renault. It’s a shame that Renault didn’t have the dealer network VW had. That makes all the difference.
That Renault platform was intrinsically smaller than the VW. The boxy body made the most of its small size, but not in every respect. What’s interesting is that the R10 weighed over 200lbs more than the VW. Presumably the iron block engine and water cooling were some of that. That fat seats?
I’ve seen plenty of VW Beetles, I’ve never seen a Renault 10.
I remember seeing a few Dauphines, back in the day, but the next Renault I remember is the “Le Car”. I grew up in a small town in Kentucky but even later, when I lived in more populous areas, I don’t recall seeing Renaults. The VW’s were, of course, thick on the ground then, I think that every third vehicle in the community college lot in my hometown was a VW.
I’ve seen the LeCar. At the time I thought it was the ugliest thing on four wheels. At the time, I preferred the VW Golf (Rabbit), the Passat (Dasher) and the Scirocco. I also grew up with Toyota Corona, the Corolla, and the Camry.
Federalization was nearly as unkind to the R5 (from whence the Le Car came) as it was to the Rover SD1.
There were lots of R10’s in Quebec when I was a kid. Quebec nationalists thought buying French cars was a way of sticking it to the Anglo-man.
The R-10 was one of the models assembled in Quebec at the provincial government-backed Renault/Peugeot operation in St. Bruno.
Same here, these seem to have simply vanished off the face of the earth
Renault 10s were reasonably common in Australia (they were assembled here), but all seemed to vanish off the face of the earth within 5-10 years. I’m having a hard time remembering the last time I saw one.
The Renault 10 was my favorite of all the Renaults that came into the US. A neighbor and good friend of the family had one, and I got to ride in it often. Still have very fond memories of the car.
Pristow’s Oldsmobile/Renault was still the dealer for them in Johnstown, but the level of support was slowly fading for the French marque. Two years later, they added Datsun to the mix, and from that moment on Renault was on borrowed time. They kept the franchise until the point where Renault and AMC mixed, but let it go by then. Datsun had very well taken over the import marque at the dealership, was going head-to-head with Toyota and Volkswagen, and the Renault/AMC linkup meant that Renault went to the AMC dealer . . . . . in the next town over, Windber, into a lot less impressive dealership (a bit shabby for AMC standards, much less GM), and a bit more unnoticeable for the car buying public in the area.
A fun read – it is always illuminating to get the perspective of those who tested cars when new.
And wow – a “sealed for life” cooling system? I wonder if they defined “life” – likely not very long.
Maybe they were using Canucknucklehead’s definition from a few posts up of “life” as 5 years?
A different world than now, to be sure.
Mechanically, those Renault engines were pretty much bulletproof, as I had a 1.1 in an R4 that was still silky smooth at 100K when the rear suspension had rotted off the body.
In spite of their self effacing ads, it was rust that still killed the Renault. While nowhere near as bad as the Dauphine, which could rust in the vacuum of space, Renaults continued to be known in Europe as rusters well into the 90s. Further, you’d think they used salt water instead of zinc galvanizing, as the rust didn’t really form a pattern. You always know that a 60s Mopar will rust in the rear fenders and trunk wells, 80s Honda Accords rust around the rear wheelarches, and Hiluxes rust their frames in half, all for very obvious reasons relating to assembly and design.
Renaults on the other hand rust in unpredictable and absurd places- no two are the same. rust in the middle of the door, one suspension mount will rust into nothing while the other still has its paint, window seals seem to be made of a particularly absorbant material that manages to hold water while leaking a similar amount into the floorpans.
Beetles were generally quite rust resistant at least until the mid 70s when bad steel made everthing rust.
I’d still take the Renault though- or if you want a R10 with better rust resistance, consider a late 80s Skoda Estelle, which is basically a much improved version of the Renault.
The Renault 10’s 70-0 stopping distance of 190 feet is amazing braking performance for any car in 1967. Car and Driver just tested a 2015 BMW X4 that required 192 feet to stop from 70 mph. Just goes to show what a curb weight 0f 1770 lbs and 4 wheel disc brakes can do.
Yes; we made a bit of an issue about that here: https://www.curbsideclassic.com/automotive-histories/1967-cadillac-eldorado-vs-renault-r-10-an-unfair-comparison-thanks-to-a-gm-deadly-sin/
I missed that rumble Paul. The 67 Eldo taking 386 feet to stop from 80 was disgraceful and unconscionable on the part of GM. 312 feet with disc brakes wasn’t great but I just dug out an old Road and Track magazine from 1974 and found the following 80-0 stopping distances: Datsun B 210 346 feet, Ferrari Dino GTS 323 feet, Ferrari 365 GTC4 315, Jaguar XJ6 313,Jensen Interceptor III 300, MGB 329, MG Midget 356 feet ! I’m not defending what GM did but there are many examples of mediocre and poor braking results for every brand.
Here’s the real problem: drum brakes can do pretty well on the first stop, but try doing it a couple more times back to back. That’s where they really fall apart. The only really good test of brakes are multiple full-brake stops back-to-back.
One other problem with drum brakes, and it was a big problem on my 70 C10, was driving through flooded streets or a really deep puddle. I learned to hit the brake pedal right away to dry off the brakes, even if I was not stopping so they would when I needed them. I almost crashed when they got wet and it took a few seconds for them to dry, they would not work at all at first when they were wet. Disc brakes do not have that problem. They work fine when wet. I did have spoke type steel wheels that were popular in the 70’s, and that may have allowed more water to drench the brake shoes.
RE : wet drum brakes ~
If you’re old enough to have grown up with drum brakes in a seriously wet area , you learned right away to gently ride the brake pedal before and as you passed through standing water ~ this allows the brake shoes to ‘ squeegee ‘ the water off instead of getting wet and loosing friction .
I was surprised to read in the article that the R-10 had 4-wheel disc brakes, that’s pretty amazing. I bet the rear engine allowed for more rear bias in the brake tuning which could have contributed to those outstanding numbers. I always thought the Beetle was easy to stop quickly and it had all drums.
Fiat 124 also had discs all around. This also was a mass-market car.
But perhaps Americans at the time agreed with Ettore Bugatti who supposedly said, “I make my cars to go, not to stop.”
I thought American cars were pretty notorious for iffy braking performance? Kind of like Italian cars and rust, or British cars and electrics!
Only difference is, the braking issues should’ve been apparent up front, but my childhood friend’s family had a ’71 LTD w/ unpowered drums all round. No surprise that descending the Continental Divide would be a family adventure indeed!
Recall that before, American makes were latecomers to the concept of four-wheel brakes. Duesenberg was an exception: they had the 1st production 4-wheel hydraulic brakes in their [very expensive] 1920 Model A. But then, they were into racing.
Yeah, pretty much. Some were worse than others, but Detroit was slow to even adopt front discs. Other than the Corvette and a tiny handful of Camaros and Mustangs for Trans Am homologation, four-wheel discs didn’t show up until the ’70s even on cars that could desperately have used them (the first-generation Toronado, to name one).
It was not that American brakes were unreliable or troublesome, at least not any more than anything else on American cars of the time, but there wasn’t much capacity for anything beyond gentle, routine use. If you really were determined, you could order metallic braking linings — which wouldn’t necessarily stop you any quicker, but wouldn’t wilt while doing it — but those didn’t work well in gentle, routine use.
Yeah. In the sixties, poor brakes were a given for American cars sold in Australia.
60s Australian cars like Holdens had tgerrible brakes for one simple reason they were cheap single leading shoe types I dtrove one for years a 63 EH auto twin leading shoe drums like a late 50s Hillman are actally quite good but still fade with repeated use Ive owned both types of cars among dozens of others but those 2 weigh similar one is good the other awful.
Not always. From Motor Trend March 1975: Imperial LeBaron 60-0 134 feet, BMW 3.0 Si 147 feet, Jaguar XJ-6 L 140 feet.
A single stop from 60 is not a very demanding test, and one that some drum brakes can do quite well. Try testing drums on multiple back-to-back panic stops from 80. That’s where the difference between drums and discs really appears.
The 1974-75 Imperials had 4-wheel disc brakes. They got good comments back then.
By the way, the first U.S. car with 4-wheel hydraulic brakes (drums) was the 1924 Chrysler. The engineers worked with Lockheed Brakes to make the brakes stop leaking. Problem was the brake fluid they were using. Chrysler was able to cure the problem and let Lockheed have all the rights to the patents Chrysler generated.
Indeed, Paul, that was fun. When was it the last time you saw an acceleration diagram going along with an auto test? The auto journals were so much more detailed and enjoyable back then.
Interesting that the curb weight of the Renault was 50lb’s less then the VW (1720 vs 1770), yet the as tested weight was 235lbs more then the VW. Did they have one skinny guy in the VW and 2 heavyweights in the Renault? Really enjoyed reading this old Car and Driver road test, especially with the 67 Bug. One of VW’s better years, interesting they did not point out the change to 12 volt. My Dad’s 66 1300 needed an engine at around 65 thousand miles, but he admitted he was tired from working a double shift and had driven at 65 to 70 mph for about 40 miles in third gear (not realizing he forgot to shift) in the hot August heat and it was his fault it blew up. Fun read.
I’m a die hard VW Air Cooled fanboi but I had a teacher in 1968 who bought a new Renault , this in New Hampshire where everything rusted to junk in a few years .
It was a pretty good little car , woefully under powered but still quite comfy for hauling ’round loads of kids like us and able in the snow and mud too .
I admit that the only Dauphine they I’ve ever seen in my entire life is rotting away in a front yard in the lower part of the county. Heck, I can probably count the French cars that I’ve personally scene, outside of a car show, on one hand so I can’t say I’ve experience them. However, I always had a fondness for the Beetle. I’ve had three project Beetles, none registered, and I’ve always had fun with them. Obviously they are far from being the greatest car ever but I loved their honest basicness. My ’64 was the most fun, even with it’s 40 horsepower. I imagine the Renault has more personality but so did my little Bugs.
A curved windshield on the ’65 Beetle (according to the article)? To my knowledge, and according to every source I can find, the first curved windshield was on the ’73 Super Beetle.
All Beetles from 1938 ~ 1964 used a flat windshield .
In 1965 they went to a slightly bowed glass .
The 1973 Super Beetle used a wrap around glass .
Very slightly bowed.
Glad you changed your incorrect reply there Paul .
They’re all still dead easy to replace using only a bit of sting or better yet plastic covered wire and the palm of your hand .
Those R10s were quite rare in NZ or maybe they all rusted out before I noticed them, one young guy I knew had one with widened wheels stiff shocks headers twin choke weber he’d ported n polished the head it went far better than it cornered but it did stop really well it was a fairly interesting car then he traded it on a 1200SSS Datsun which was faster but didnt stop as well but was more predictable when the tail came out.
Used to see R10s (and R8s) quite frequently over here in the 70s/80s
I owned a 1969 Beetle for a year or so in the early 80s, and it was a $300 rusted out hulk then…but it kept running and I sold it for, you guessed it, $300. I can’t say that I have ever seen an old Renault in the flesh.
My Beetle was tough…leaked so much oil that my parents made me park it on the street. when the oil light flickered on while cornering, it was time to add a quart. It would periodically spit one spark plug out, and I’d have to let it cool, then reinsert the plug. The valve covers were held on with coat hangers, because the metal rods that were supposed to hold them on had rusted and fallen off. It had no heat, largely because it had no heat channels left in the rocker panels…if I drove through a puddle, water would splash up between the seats, and around my feet, due to the rusty floor. The battery fell partway through the floor, and I had to use the front license plate to shore it up until I could do a more permanent repair. It was a real turd, but it was also quite the learning experience.
That’s what I’ve heard about the air-cooled VWs of 40+ yrs ago. They’re rugged and well-built, but difficult to keep the engine well oiled. I’ve never owned an air-cooled rear engined VW, but I have driven a couple, and they were fun to drive. I’d buy one if the condition were better than that.
This comparison to me is an unfair one. C/D would have served their readers better by comparing the Type 3 1600 (which was mentioned) and the R10, which were at least comparable in their design era. It’s no fair to compare a 1930s design, updated or not, with a 1960s one.
The Type 3 1600 started at $2,140 in 1966, so it was a rather more expensive proposition than these two. At that price, it had to compete with some cars that weren’t mere transportation, which is one reason it never made much of an impact in the US.
The spec page indicates 350 Renault dealers nation wide.
Who takes the hit when the manufacturer folds its operations in a country?
Are the dealerships up a creek or do they get any reimbursement of franchise fees??
The Renault dealers around my way became AMC dealers, then Jeep/Eagle then just Jeep or other Chrysler-related brands. Most of the small-volume imports were sold through dealers as a sideline to other more-popular brands so the dealers survived.
One Sunday morning in rural Virginia, in 1975, I ran out of gas in the six cylinder, 3-on-the-tree F100 work truck I was “borrowing” for a weekend drive through the countryside. I stuck my thumb out but everyone passed by, on their way to church no doubt. Finally, an R10 pulled over, and the bearded, long-haired driver who had a small Buddha on the dash, gave me a ride to the gas station – and back with the gas can – and waited to make sure the truck started up OK. I’ve had a soft spot for R10’s ever since; before that I always though they looked awkwardly stretched compared to the nicely proportioned R8.
Wonder if it could have been my Dad’s ex-car?..his was a ’68 Grey colored R10 which he traded in at a Manassas Datsun dealer in early 1974. Surely there weren’t that many R10s even in 1974. No options, 4 speed, no radio (probably had a heater…he originally bought it up in Vermont).
His only had about 23k miles on it when he traded it in. He did have some issues with it, like having to charge the battery quite often (it wasn’t driven much), plus I remember coming back from a Washington Senator’s game (rare outing, my Dad wasn’t into baseball) and the clutch failed, he drove it from the game to our house in Manassas (maybe 35 miles?) trying to time the lights to avoid shifting, circa 1971 or so.
It amazes me that given the success of the world conquering beetle, and its inadequacies by this time, vw didn’t set out earlier to improve upon its faults or reengineer it. I know there were several largely unsuccessful variants made but those were also wildly overpriced compared with the beetle. Surely vw could have looked round at the competition and thought if we square off the body, add some inches in the middle, add some more power and improve handling. .. then they got the square back which was expensive and didn’t sell.
I was young enough to hear the distinctive beetle noise very commonly growing up. Several neighbours owned beetles and they were common in traffic. I haven’t heard a beetle in probably 20 years. The beetle was for young folks who wanted a cheap reliable car, the dart was for families who could only afford a dart as cheap reliable transportation. The beetle was about as sophisticated as a lawnmower so when it did need to be repaired, most people could botch something together.
I would say I have never seen a renault r10 but when I was buying my first car in 1993, I ran across a lecar and an r10 in the back of a mostly abandoned dealership that had been let to individual mechanics. He didn’t really want to sell me the car despite my misguided enthusiasm. I had never before beheld an r10 and never would again.
Renault’s last major entry in the us as is well known was as an AMC owner and was initially successful, but renault fails time and time again to get the message that americans will not buy cars which break. We expect dependability and cast iron durability even in an economy car. They had from 1959-1983 to figure it out and never did.
The mid-’60s Beetle was an automotive Y2K Harley Davidson. It was basically a refinement of an ancient design that was purchased by boomers for reasons that had more to do with the buyers than the product. Nobody knows what to do with that. VW realized that all their competitors’ cars were better performers, more comfortable, more efficient, more spacious, and usually safer. Nothing they did to make a car that was recognizable as a VW while being more capable seemed to resonate with their buyers. Eventually it took desperation caused by falling sales at home and regulatory pressures in mature markets to force them to build a clone of the Autobianchi Primula in designer duds. Harley Davidson seems unlikely to repeat their survival trick.
My Mom had a Dauphin just before my parent were married. She learned the hard way about swing arms and oversteer by rolling it on a gravel road on a rainy night. She was unhurt but understandably scared witless; her father-in-law to be put her in his car the next day and made her drive again. (It worked: she was a pretty fearless driver when I was a kid – I remember catching some air in out Saab 95 wagon (seriously! Downhill of course).)
Also she was lucky that her brother was in insurance; he made sure the Renault was totalled.
La Regie had designed a car in ’62 or so with rack steering, actual seats, a back seat with its own entry points, a superb ride, a heater and, heaven forfend, disc brakes. It also looked almost offensively horrid as updated to the 10.
The VeeWee, ordered 30 years earlier from the foremost designer of those times, had none of this, which is not surprising, but it was better made and the large dealer network that gave the illusion it was more reliable. (The Renault’s fundamentals were tough as chewed boot leather, and made into the ’90’s, for what that’s worth). It looked familiar, and had brilliant marketing: whether you liked its 1930’s looks or no had become a bit irrelevant.
But either are just another way to die sideways.
And the cast-iron, 4-in-upright inline watercooled Frog is possibly worse than the VW’s two flat-lying alloys ones and their two low airy flats across the way. The test here is right. Going sideways might be ok for some person engaged with the task, an enthusiast or thereabouts. For everyone else, just a danger.
In truth, and for that last reason, they are dreadful cars both. The 1959 Mini and its layout had made irrelevant anything with an engine where the sun don’t shine, which is a good thing. Long may the swing axle and its nearby engine rest in peace.
Like, alas, too many of its users.
The word “Reliable” has been used in this article. I’m pretty sure that means that Minis are NOT invited.
They’re reliable, if it’s not raining. Or hot. Or cold.
It just doesn’t have the charm of the Beetle
Saw my first Renault, a 4CV, at about age 4 and asked my father the name of the car. (1954 to have everything in perspective). It was spring, snow was melting and water everywhere, and we were going to visit someone. The driver of the Renault took care going through the puddles so no pedestrian got wet.
And my father’s reply to my question? – Puddlejumper.
About four years later saw a 4CV on the street and finally learned the real name – Renault 4CV. Also learned on a Lucy episode around the same time you do not put gasoline in the filler below the rear window. That one was for antifreeze. The radiator was just below the rear window. And the gas tank was just below your butt. Filler inside the car.
My next few experiences with a Renault was with a friend’s Dauphine. Not too bad for room or travelling short distances. Although one Saturday four of us were travelling down to a car race just south of the city (Winnipeg). We were almost there when the smell of something burning wafted around the interior.
We pulled over and pulled out the rear seat, as that seemed where the smell was coming from. Turned out the burning sensation was the insulation panel between the engine compartment and the rear passengers’ feet. Somehow it caught fire. No massive flames, just tiny flames and smoke. We removed all the insulation and stomped it out. Got back home okay – it was a little louder but everything else was running in order.
My dear departed Father had as his first “2nd” car (i.e. 2 car household) a ’59 Beetle, which was totalled in front of our house in Burlington in 1968 (not a big loss, it was a rust bucket)…what did he replace it with? A new 1968 Renault R10 bought at Almartin Motors in South Burlington (near the airport as I recall)…so he experienced these cars back-to-back in the day (albeit his ’59 didn’t have the 1500cc engine, nor the annual improvements in between).
Sadly (for me) I never got to drive either, as I wasn’t yet driving age (missed the Renault by about 2 months). But of course I rode in both many times. The reviewer got much of this right, as I remember riding in the Renault 50 years ago, it had very nice seats (not so much the material, which was just vinyl, but the padding, which I guess really makes the seat comfortable or not so much. I think French cars were known for their comfortable seating, my Dad would have been about age 37 when he bought it and probably ready for a bit more comfort. Plus, it was a 4 door car vs the Beetle; not that we took many long trips in it, that was what our other car (station wagon) was for. My Dad had been to Europe starting in the early 50’s in the Army, and had driven Beetles way back then (guess they didn’t always have trucks or Jeeps to drive) so he was comfortable with them when he returned. I think the Renault was directly due to his job; he’d taken his first business trip to France in 1967 and returned numerous times afterward and became a bit of a francophile (though our family probably has no French relatives, probably from most European countries but France).
The Beetle was primitive; I never asked him why he didn’t buy a ’68 Beetle when his ’59 was totalled, but I think he wanted something a bit different, more comfortable but still able to deal with Vermont winters (though we were to move to Virginia the next year, though he didn’t know that was going to happen at the time. But I do remember pulling over to the side of the road to engage the reserve lever when it ran out of gas..didn’t have a gas gauge. Don’t remember the water temp gauge in the R10, but I think it did have a gas gauge. I also remember my Dad kept a battery charger in the front trunk of the R10 which was switchable from 6v to 12v, but I don’t remember if the Renault might have still had a 6v system…maybe it was leftover from the ’59 Beetle which of course was 6v. Since he didn’t drive the Renault very much, I think he needed to top off the charge in the battery periodically.
How little did he drive it? He kept the R10 until 1974, at which time he traded it for another small car, this time with an automatic. I remember the main reason ironically was due to the gas shortage, he wanted my Mother to drive the smaller car periodically instead of the large station wagon, but my Mother despite learning to drive on a semiautomatic vehicle never has been comfortable with standard transmission…I gave her a refresher in my ’86 GTi in 1998 when her Brother and she went together to visit relatives in Eastern Europe…my Uncle has unfortunate history of having odd things happen to him on trips, and my Mother wanted to be able to back him up should he become incapacitated and not able to drive. So the R10 was traded in with only something like 23k miles on it in favor of an automatic transmission small car that probably got a bit worse fuel mileage but she could at least drive. Of course my Sister and I were 2 months away from our learner’s permit and automatic is undoubtedly easier for novices..
But….forward 50 years, my Dad now gone, never owned another VW. Me…I’ve owned nothing but since 1981 (going on 40 years) all of them manual transmission including my current 2000 Golf. My Mom effectively no longer drives, though she has a car (we take her where she needs to go) which is Dad’s last car, a 2006 Chevy Impala (his 2nd in a row). I never owned an aircooled VW, my Dad never had a watercooled one…and of course living in the US, I’ll probably never get a chance to drive a Renault…unless I take a trip to France and rent/lease one.