Category Archives: Renault

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.

Billy G’s French post-cars from Spain

Aronde, Aronde, he gets Aronde..

Aronde, Aronde, he gets Aronde..

We were delighted to receive an incoming message from Spain where ZZ Top’s Billy F Gibbons was spending a few weeks on break from touring, recording and being ultra-famous.  Well, he’s still ultra-famous but he did get some time off from the other stuff.  A dyed-in-the wool fan of FeralCars.com — he hosted our “DRIVEN” art ‘n’ cars event in Palm Springs last year — BFG sent us a snap shot of a SIMCA Aronde found parked at a curb in mid-Madrid.  We’ve determined it’s a ’61 or ’62.  The marque’s emblem is a swallow as can be seen in the steering wheel center.  “Aronde” is a corruption of hirondelle which means swallow — the bird, not the gulping kind.

Swallow. Hard.

Swallow. Hard.

Billy’s field notes:

“On any usual day while cruising the streets in Madrid, the sidewalk spotting may be a bit on the skimpy side when anticipating an encounter with anything classic or custom.  However, sometimes luck may be on one’s side when an unexpected runner of the road is seen sitting quietly curbside awaiting an admiring glance from any pedestrian or passerby. He continued, “In this case, this tantalizing visual treat tiptoed around a bustling and busy avenue to seek solace from an unusually oppressive Spanish summer heatwave to sit out the sangria-like sanguine sizzle with a sigh of relief. And so it sat, awaiting a smile as we strolled by.  See ya’ again soon, SIMCA…!  Now back to Cali to call out for a custom…!”

Back on the streets again

Back on the streets again

SIMCA was, for a time, marketed in the United States as the firm had been acquired by Chrysler which paired its “captive import” with select Chrysler,Plymouth, Dodge and DeSoto (!) dealers.  While some have suggested that the brand derived its name from a relatively obscure Jewish holiday, we’re here to tell you that SIMCA is actually an acronym for Société Industrielle de Mécanique et Carrosserie Automobile. So that’s your French lesson for the day.

Horsing around España

Horsing around España

Well, not really as Billy also sent a shot of  a Citroën 2CV (deux chevaux = two horses) careening down a Spanish street. Our best guess is that this is a mid-1980s Dolly model, meaning it had special paint and a cushier interior than the base car. ¡Ay, caramba! meets Ooh La La!

The Pope's is white, of course.

The Pope’s is white, of course.

While we’re on the subject of French cars in Spain we thought we’d share this shot of a Renault 4L, called quatrelle in the land of its manufacturer, that we found in a picturesque alley in the Catalan town of Girona.  It’s the same type of low-end Renault that Pope Francis was given a few years back as, one supposes, a commentary on meek inheritance.  We think it’s pretty cool that the spiritual leader of 1.2 billion people drives a 30 year old car with almost 190,000 miles on the odometer.  How’s that for humble?

Goddess-like

Goddess-like

We close with two more Citroëns found on this continent.  That otherworldly DS 21 wasn’t photographed in East L.A., it rides low thanks to its self-levelling hydropneumatic suspension.  DS is, of course, a play on words, it’s pronounced déesse which is French for goddess.  Please don’t tell the Pope.

The other is a 2CV we came upon in real world service, picking up a traveler at Sacramento International Airport. Apparently Its equine propulsion rating has been augmented with canine enthusiasm.

Not one, but deux cheveaux

Not one, but deux cheveux

Here’s our intrepid Madrid correspondent with his very own California Custom, a ’58 Thunderbird he calls Mexican Blackbird.  Feral it ain’t but funky it is!

¡Qué Rico Es!

¡Qué Rico Es!

We actually found this ’63 SIMCA Aronde for sale in nearby Long Beach CA but there’s no indication of the price.  We wouldn’t pay a penny over $25K for it but, then again, it’s a low mileage (48,000) cream puff. Have a look at this video an owner shot of his ’61 SIMCA Aronde at a French supermarket parking lot, real nouvelle vague masterpiece.

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.

 

Peugeot (qu’est-ce que c’est ?)

La vrai chose

La vraie chose

There was a time when France was a significant exporter of cars to these shores.  Consumers could choose among Renault, Citroën and even Panhard, if only for un petit moment.  Perhaps the most straightforward Gallic contender here was Peugeot which was described as “a French Mercedes.”  This was cipher for ‘vehicle suitable for the haute bourgeoisie’. Renaults were usually small, insubstantial rolling coffins and Citroëns — both the farm implement-cum-chariots des paysans 2CV (deux chevaux = “two horses”) and the futuristic DS — pronounced déesse = “goddess” — too advanced for a nation of shade tree mechanics met with shoulder shrugs at best.

Gallic oil burner

Gallic oil burner

FeralCars Field Scout Andrew Keeler captured this Peugeot 504, the no-nonsense workhorse of Africa, on the funky streets of San Francisco.  This particular Cinq cent quatre, as you’d expect, is diesel powered. Diesel durability, perhaps, accounts for its extraordinary longevity.  We’re fairly certain it’s a ’76; the 504  was in production for 14 years with three million copies produced.

Nice kitty

Nice kitty

Until just last year the company was controlled by the Peugeot family. The operation dates  back to the early-19th century and really got going when coffee mill and bicycle production kicked in sometime thereafter. Manufacture of motorized vehicles started in 1889, only three years after Karl Benz got his mellifluously named Benz Patent-Motorwagen rolling under its own power on whatever they used for autobahns back then. The Peugeot lion symbol, seen in bas-relief and rendered in rugged plastic on the grill of a 604 , was first applied to Peugeot brand saw blades indicating strong teeth, sharp tongue and swift cut claws. Ouch!

Super-sized "force de frappe"

Super-sized “force de frappe”

Bumpered car

Bumpered car

Peugeot was never a threat to the rise of Mercedes Benz in the luxury car field but fielded Pininfarina-designed contender just the same.  Here’s a E-Class size Peugeot 604, a Turbo Diesel according the the badge on the big square sedan’s derriere, the font of which could only have been applied to a car conceived in the land of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.   It’s a quite a mirthful appliqué for an executive class car like this.  We took a look inside and noted the 5-speed manual transmission that could make driving this a truly Francodelic delight.

Font-astique!

Font-astique!

We think the Peugeot 505 is very reasonable proposition, a “just right” size sedan that was popular in college towns and places where fall foliage tours are undertaken.  This one, a gasoline powered (!)  STI,  is probably a 1980 model and appears to be headed to an entertainment locale called “Fully Exposed” although we recognize that the car wash just down the street could well be an alternate objective. Or, perhaps, tous les deux?  Clean and dirty in one handy location!

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 9.27.46 PM

We found a stunning 1980 Peugeot 504 online priced at a whopping $195000 but we’re starting to think it could actually be bon marché insofar as it has fewer than 8000 KM — kilometers, not miles!  Peugeot never sold cars in any significant volume in this country but they did roll the dice with this commercial that played on French sexual stereotype for the 505 Turbo that was shot on location — in the bedroom.  Here’s an earlier spot that emphasizes the brand’s heritage and legacy that’s actually quite informative.  Yes, there will be a midterm!

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.

 

 

 

AMC: hey, they tried

The X stands for xtinct

The X stands for Xtinct

American Motors was formed in 1954 when Nash merged with Hudson.  The two domestic indies saw the handwriting on the wall as the Big Three (GM, Ford and Chrysler) became increasingly dominant.  Studebaker, likewise, threw its lot in with Packard.  Things didn’t work out so well in the latter case but the Hudson and Nash merger resulted in a relatively strong contender whose compact Rambler challenged the Big Three — especially in the early ’60s, when Rambler was the #3 best selling U.S. nameplate, exceeded only by Chevrolet and Ford.

The Sawzall approach to sports car design

The Sawzall approach to sports car design

AMC walked away from the Rambler brand in 1970, but the move to badge their passenger cars as AMC was already underway by then.  They fielded Javelin, a Mustang/Camaro “pony car” competitor in ’68 as well as AMX, a smaller 2-seater that was in some way a Corvette alternative. The one you see here was discovered by Feral Cars Field Scout Lynda Keeler.  We’re not crazy about the fact that the bumpers have been painted body color, but otherwise it’s mostly untouched.  This one is powered by a 390 cubic inch V8. Potent stuff.

American Audi /  Dairlyand Subaru

American Audi / Dairlyand Subaru

As the years dragged on, AMC found itself in a somewhat desperate situation with not enough capital to develop new products to compete with the Big Three, let alone the onslaught of Japanese and European imports.  AMC acquired Jeep from Kaiser, which had earlier inherited it from Willys.  Jeep was a valued asset, and was one of the compelling reasons why France’s Renault bought into AMC in the late ’70s, and ultimately owned a controlling interest.  One of the unique products produced under the French regime was the Eagle, more or less a “lifted” AMC Hornet equipped with four-wheel drive borrowed from the Jeep division.  It wasn’t a massive sales success but development costs were minimal so it actually generated a profit.  The other day we found this ’82 wagon — they were offered as sedans and coupes, too — and its chatty driver informed us that she was only the second owner and seemed to be quite proud of having beaten the hell out of it over the course of the past 25 years.

AMC: re-purposing leader

AMC: re-purposing leader

Eagle was, in fact, the last car to carry the AMC brand during the time Renault built its ill-fated Alliance at AMC’s Kenosha, WI factory.  There’s an analogy to be made here to those Japanese soldiers on remote islands who didn’t surrender until the war had been over for decades.

Not just some

Count ’em: all 4!

Bowed but unbroken

Bowed but unbroken

Feral Cars Field Scout Andrew Keeler (it’s a family thing) encountered another Eagle wagon. This one is painted a sandy hue that AMC called Jamaica Beige.  We think it looks like it could have been a great staff car during the Desert Storm “war to begin all wars” but was out of production by the time of that conflict.

Desert camo?

Desert camo?

AMC was far ahead of the curve with the Eagle concept.  Four-wheel drive vehicles had usually been truck-based or passenger cars modified by aftermarket outfits. Here, then, was a factory built four wheeler that wasn’t “trucky.”  Like Subaru and Audi,  Eagle was in the vanguard of the idea that a four-wheel drive car might have some appeal, especially to those who drive in snow belt states.

Audi A3, anybody?

Audi A3, anybody?

After the demise of the Rambler American, Hornet became AMC’s bread-and-butter car. This chalky ’74 was one of the company’s standard bearers, along with the lamented Gremlin and Pacer during the dark days of the OPEC embargo. We kind of dig its formal look, especially the thick “sail panel” aft of the rear doors.

Profile in courage

Profile in courage

Just for the heck of it, we offer some AMC predecessors here. This ’54 Nash, built the year the Hudson merger was consummated, was styled by the legendary Pinin Farina and wears a saucy continental kit that adds even more bulk to its already generously proportioned body.

Freshman classy

Freshman classy

We like the mossy patina on this ’51 Nash Ambassador, the voluptuousness of which is truly breathtaking.

Tub 'o' Nash

Tub ‘o’ Nash

It wouldn’t be an AMC story without reference to the Metropolitan.  It was built in England by Austin and  marketed as either the Nash Metropolitan or Hudson Metropolitan beginning in 1954.  After those brands ceased to exist in 1957 it became a free-standing marque sold by Rambler dealers.  Yeah, we think it’s pretty cute, too.

Smarter car

Smarter car

These colors don't run

These colors don’t run

Check out this introductory Eagle commercial.  It has us convinced that four is better than two. Hey is that driver a young Jeff Daniels? Sure looks like he could be.  Like that hot AMX?  You can buy one now but get to it quickly.  Collectors have discovered them and prices are on the way up,  which leads us to conclude that AMC is still about value.

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.

Christmas tidings: papal Renault underscores vow of poverty

Popemobile clone

Popemobile clone

Back in September we reported that Francis, the new Pope, had been given a 1984 Renault R4 by an Italian parish priest.  The bare bones car, with over 185,000 miles on the odometer, is a true reflection of the Pope’s focus on the poor that was underscored on Christmas Eve when he gave gifts to impoverished immigrants living in a shelter. The Pope’s “pre-owned” Renault, powered by a 1.1 liter motor with 34 horsepower, is a far cry from the official Popemobile, a custom built Mercedes.  Pope Francis reportedly drives the humble car himself on errands around Vatican City.

We found a vintage R4, similar to the Pope’s — his is papal white as you might expect and this one is red — in the village of Girona, near Barcelona.  No, it wasn’t thrown out with the trash but we think the setting is poignantly appropriate in light of the apostolic exhortation in which His Holiness voiced criticism of “unbridled consumerism.”

 

Twingo!  No, you don't eat it, you drive it

Twingo! No, you don’t eat it, you drive it

While we’re dealing with Renault, a brand that hasn’t been sold in the United States since the 1980s, take a look at another humble hooptie from France’s top automaker. It’s a first generation (1993 model year) Renault Twingo, the name of which suggests a creme-filled snack. While not quite as spartan as the R4, it’s still pretty basic, three quarter moon headlights notwithstanding. With a 1.2 liter motor providing 55 horsepower, it has a 21 horsepower advantage over the Pope’s car but we’d still put our money on Pope Francis’ R4 if St. Peter’s Square ever becomes a drag strip. He’d have a very powerful “sponsor.”

Twizy! Maybe you do eat this one?

Twizy! Maybe you do eat this one?

Renault currently produces the Twizy quadricycle, Europe’s top selling plug-in electric vehicle.  Maybe these should be issued to members of the College of Cardinals as a way to show solidarity with Francis and the poor?  Just a Christmas thought.

Formula 1 Champion Sebastian Vettel messed around with an Twizy Sport F1 edition last spring.  Looks like fun, doesn’t it?

If we were going to buy a Renault, we’d certainly consider this ’59 4CV.   Its dignified black paint job would go well with a clerical collar, right padre?