Category Archives: Volkswagen Fastback

It’s pronounced “Rruh-no”

You had me a Marchal rally lights

You had us at Marchal rally lights

A French strain of feral fever just struck close to home and, in the spirit of liberté, égalité and fraternité, we’re here to let you know that a 1968 Renault R10 has just joined the fleet.  It’s the damnedest thing when an off-the-wall purchase seems to make sense but that’s the basic story.

Moment of transition

Moment of transition

Air vs water

Air vs water

We had two rear engine cars in the paddock: a ’67 Fiat 500 (Cinquecento) Giardiniera baby station wagon and a ’70 Volkswagen Type III Fastback.  Both of these have air cooled motors stashed under trap doors in the back.   Both have trunks in the front and room for cargo above their respective motors.  The water-cooled Renault R10 is the last rear engine model that the #1 French builder exported to the US.  Their later offerings, the R5 (marketed as “Le Car”) and Kenosha, Wisconsin-built Renault Alliance didn’t really find a market here, especially in the face of the ’70s Japanese car invasion.  After Renault sold its controlling stake in American Motors to Chrysler, it was all over for the offerings of the Régie Nationale des Usines Renault as far as the North American market was concerned. Some Renaults, however,  were sold by Chrysler as the Eagle Medallion (in concept, a great car for Sammy Davis, Jr)  and Eagle Premier which sounds like the code name for a South American dictator. 

Respect pour les anciennes

Respect pour les anciennes

We’re now down to just the “new” Renault and the little Giardinera as the Volkswagen Fastback was quickly sold off to make room for the Gallic newcomer.  Maybe it was just too “normal” to make the final cut but it was the most powerful of the three pushers with a 1.6 liter motor developing a whopping 65 horsepower.  The Cinquecento is powered by a minuscule two cylinder motor displacing slightly less than half a liter, making freeway cruising mostly a theoretical endeavor.

Open skies all'italiana

Open skies all’italiana

The Renault R10 falls somewhere in the middle of these two with a 1.1 liter motor that produces 48 horsepower.  It’s vaguely competitive on the freeway — meaning it’s capable of 65 mph under ideal conditions.  The point of its acquisition was not performance but.. hmm.. what was the point?  Oh, yes, the point was that we hadn’t had a proper French car since dear mom’s 1968 Peugeot 404 and a recent visit this winter to the giant Rétromobile* vintage car expo in Paris fired up one’s inner Francophile feelings on a certain level.  There’s always a reason, isn’t there?

Giardinera = gardener, capice?

Giardinera = gardener, capisce?

At any rate, it’s fun to drive and gets more comments than the VW since it’s so unusual and, let’s face it, kinda cute.  So there you have it or, more appropriately, voici la voiture.  Fun to drive, fun to say:  we’ll call that a win/win.

Room for tous les copains

Room for “tous les copains”

Great speedometer font or greatest speedometer font

Great speedometer font or greatest speedometer font?

If you’re interested in acquiring your very own Renault, we wish you good luck.  There are very few for sale in this country, probably because they were thought to be disposable but we did find a doppelgänger — is it OK to use a German word in describing a French car? — in nearby Arudel, ME for just $8500.   Enjoy this commercial for the R10 from 1970 in which the car is favorably compared to a horse.

*Here’s our Rétromobile coverage for Automobile Magazine’s website.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:  info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.

Note: While we strive for factual accuracy in our posts, we readily acknowledge that we we sometimes make inadvertent mistakes.  If you happen to catch one please don’t sit there and fume; let us know where we went wrong and we’ll do our best to correct things.

De-bugged V-dub

 

Shape shifter

Shape shifter

There’s a whole lot of nostalgia for late, lamented Volkswagen Beetle which, after a 65 year run, only went out of production in 2003.  The original VW Bug helped America forget about “the unpleasantness” wrought by its progenitor — we’re not naming names here but you know who we’re talking about — before and during World War II. Its original name was, improbably, Kraft durch Freude-Wagen  or “Strength Through Joy Car,” mercifully shortened to KdF-Wagen

Hip to be Squareback

Hip to be Squareback

The fact is that the bloom was off the Bug (official model designation: Type 1) in Europe by the dawn of the  1960s.  In the old world, the original design recalled post-war deprivation and consumers were looking for something  commodious, more stylish, something more American looking even as Americans’ fervor for the beloved deutscher flivver continued unabated.  This was around the time that tail fins sprouted from Mercedes Benzes and Opels sported panoramic windshields.

Nomadish

Eyebrow prow

Volkswagen’s response was to keep its long-ago amortized Type 1 in production as well as the Microbus (Type 2) while introducing the Type 3 at the end of 1961.  In terms of styling, the car was a huge departure. Its design was quite conventional, especially on the “Notchback” model which had a distinct hood and trunk like “normal” cars. Below the surface, however, the Type 3 was pretty much an adaptation of Type 1 engineering with a horizontally opposed (“boxer”) 4-cylinder air-cooled motor in the rear, (totally) tubular “backbone” chassis, etc.  It may not have looked like a Volkswagen but it drove and sounded like one.

The trunk in the back is for pizza

The trunk in the back is for pizza

The Notchback was never officially imported into the United States but its Squareback (station wagon) and Fastback variants made it over, beginning in 1966 offering Volkswagen stalwarts a way to “step up” without leaving the V-dub fold.   The Type 3 did fairly well until Japanese imports started their own onslaught. Ultimately, this led VW to bite the bullet and begin building cars with water-cooled motors and, horror of horrors, those engines were mounted in the front!

Rebugged and debugged

Rebugged and debugged

While VW produced 21,529,464  Beetles*  (those Germans are great record keepers, aren’t they?), production of Type 3 was a comparatively small at 2,542,382 units. As a result sightings of Squarebacks and Fastbacks these days are much less commonplace that Beetle infestations.  We’re happy to have encountered the ones seen here going about their business, disguised a normal.

*Not including contemporary Beetles such as the one above that’s keeping company with our Fastback. Those are, in essence, re-bodied Golfs.

Nomad, be happy

Nomad, be happy

A very young and limber Dustin Hoffman clues viewers into the fact that the Fastback had two trunks in this very clever commercial from 1967.

While Notchbacks weren’t officially imported to the United States a few did find their way across the Atlantic like this ’64 that’s for sale in nearby Ione, CA for a mere $17,500.

We’ve long been intrigued by the Beetles bigger brother and suggest you read this Automobile Magazine Collectible Classic piece on the Squareback that dates back to February, 2008.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.