Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Renault 4 CV

Renault 4 CV, 1948

The Renault 4CV was an automobile produced by the French manufacturer Renault from 1946 to 1961. An economical "people's car" inspired by the Volkswagen Beetle, it was the first French car to sell over a million.

The 4CV was originally conceived and designed covertly by Renault engineers during the German occupation of France during World War II, when the manufacturer was under strict orders to design and produce only commercial and military vehicles. A design team led by Fernand Picard, Charles-Edmond Serre and Jean-Auguste Riolfo envisioned a small, economical car (similar to the Volkswagen Beetle) suitable for the economically difficult years which would inevitably follow the war. The first prototype was completed in 1942 and two more prototypes were produced in the following three years, with the 4CV ultimately presented to the public and media at the 1946 Paris Motor Show.

On the 4CV's launch, it was nicknamed "La motte de beurre" (the lump of butter) due to the combination of its shape and the fact that many early models were painted with sand yellow-colored German army surplus paint intended for the Afrika Korps. The 4CV was powered by a 748 cc engine producing 17 hp, which was coupled to a three-speed manual transmission. Despite an initial period of uncertainty and poor sales due to the ravaged state of the French economy, the 4CV had sold 37,000 units by mid-1949 and was the most popular car in France. The car remained in production for more than a decade afterwards; it was intended to be replaced by the Renault Dauphine, launched in 1956, but the 4CV in fact remained in production until 1961, only a year earlier than the more expensive Dauphine was discontinued. In event, it was replaced by the Renault 4 which used the same engine and name as the 4CV and sold for a similar price.

1,105,547 cars were produced; the 4CV became the first French car to sell over a million.

The 4CV was easily modified and was used extensively as a racing car, winning both the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Mille Miglia. The first collaboration between the Alpine company and Renault, a partnership which would go on to win the World Rally Championship with the legendary Alpine A-110 in later years, was the Alpine A-106 which was based on the 4CV.


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