The Renault 4

A couple of weeks ago, I happened to be reading the news when I learned that Pope Francis had taken delivery of a car for his personal use in the Vatican. But it was not the latest version of the “Popemobile,” which is an armored limousine. Instead, the Pope had taken delivery of a decidedly humble used car which was donated to him by an Italian priest: a 1984 Renault 4 with more than 186,000 miles on it! The Pope was very pleased to receive this car, having previously owned one when he was a Catholic Church official in his home country of Argentina. Thinking that American readers might not be familiar with this car, I decided to feature the Renault 4 in this week’s blog.

Trade catalog image of a 1966 Renault 4.

Trade catalog image of a 1966 Renault 4.

Although it was never officially available in the United States, the Renault 4 is in fact one of the most popular cars in automotive history. Conceived by Renault president Pierre Dreyfus and introduced at the Paris Motor Show in 1961, the 4 was designed to be a “blue jeans” car, which Mr. Dreyfus defined as being an inexpensive and simple car that could be used for multiple purposes in many different countries. It was also intended to be Renault’s answer to another iconic French utility car: the Citroën 2CV.

The Renault 4 is arguably one of the simplest and most practical cars ever conceived. The 4 was decidedly small, running on a 96.1-inch wheelbase. It also had the honor of being Renault’s first front-wheel drive car. Power was initially provided by a longitudinally mounted 747 cc engine, which was good for 26.5 horsepower. The engine was mated to a three-speed manual transmission, which was operated by an unusual push/pull gear shift lever mounted in the dashboard. The 4 was equipped with a four-wheel independent suspension system, much like that of a Citroën 2CV, which used longitudinal torsion bars on the both the front and rear, and hydraulic telescopic shock absorbers on all four wheels. Because the rear torsion bars were mounted one in front of the other, the car’s left wheelbase (94.3 inches) was slightly shorter than its right wheelbase (96.1). But this odd design quirk did not negatively affect the car’s handling and allowed for a flat interior floor.

The 4’s body and interior were equally simple and practical. It was clothed with a body that featured four passenger doors and a top-hinged tailgate. Initially advertised as a small station wagon, it is considered by some automotive experts to be the world’s first mass-produced hatchback. The car’s interior was spartan, yet remarkably roomy and could seat five passengers in surprising comfort. The 4’s interior room could easily be increased by folding down the rear seat.

The 4 was capable of a level of performance considered acceptable for a small European economy car of its time. The 4 had a claimed top speed of around 68 miles per hour and was capable of gas mileage in excess of 40 miles per gallon. The car’s combination of front-wheel drive and 4-wheel independent suspension gave it capable handling and impressive off-road capability. The 4 was also renowned for roominess and comfortable ride.

Over the course of its extraordinarily long production life (1961-1994), the Renault 4 became a much-beloved car both in France and all over the world. The car received a number of upgrades over the years, including larger engines, a four-speed transmission, and slightly revised body panels, but its basic design remained remarkably unchanged throughout its production run.

The last Renault 4 rolled off the assembly line in 1994. More than 8 million Renault 4s were built, which makes it the third-best selling car of all time.

Sources

4 Renault: Renault (France): Trade Catalogs: Specific Models: 4, 1966-1990, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

Atiyeh, Clifford, “Pope Francis drives off in a 1984 Renault 4,” MSN Autos 

Georgano, Nick, ed. The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile; Volume 2: M-Z; Norwich, England: The Stationery Office, 2000, p. 1319.

Renault

Renault 4: Renault (France): Trade Catalogs: Specific Models: 4, 1966-1990, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

Renault 4 – Aux 4 Coins Du Monde: Renault (France): Trade Catalogs: Specific Models: 4, 1948-1965, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

Renault 4 – Tout Sur Les Modeles 1963: Renault (France): Trade Catalogs: Specific Models: 4, 1948-1965, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

Renault Owners Club

Wikipedia – Renault 4

Kenton Jaehnig is the Project Archivist for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

2013 Hagley Car Show

1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS Convertible

1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS Convertible

On Sunday, September 15th, I had the privilege of attending the eighteenth annual Hagley Car Show. Held on a gorgeous September day, this year’s show was a great success, attracting a large crowd and a field of over 500 cars. This year’s theme focused on American high-performance cars, which have long captured the imagination of motoring public both in the United States and throughout the world. The year’s theme of proved to be very popular, and a large contingent of these unforgettable cars showed up for this year’s show.

A pair of 1957 Chevrolet Corvettes

A pair of 1957 Chevrolet Corvettes

An excellent cross-section of the various types of American high-performance cars appeared at Hagley on Sunday. Classic American muscle cars of the 1960s and 1970s, including examples of the Chevrolet Chevelle, Ford Fairlane, and Plymouth Roadrunner, were out in force. Not to be outdone, American pony cars, including the Ford Mustang, Pontiac Trans Am, and AMC Javelin, also made their appearance in noticeable numbers. Some beautiful examples of American two-seater sports cars, including the Chevrolet Corvette and Shelby Cobra, were also in attendance. A few early examples of factory-built high-performance cars such as the Hudson Hornet and a grab bag of custom hot rods turned up as well.

In addition to providing automobile enthusiasts with an opportunity to show off their vehicles, the Hagley Car Show presented us with an opportunity to display items from the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection. The Vinson Collection table was set up in front of the library building and exhibited several trade catalogs for a number of American high-performance cars, including a few which were present at the show. We also displayed trade catalogs for other types of vehicles that are found in the Vinson Collection. Most fun of all, we exhibited some photo reproductions of unidentified cars and asked show attendees to help us positively identify them.

1964 Ford Falcon Sprint

1964 Ford Falcon Sprint

Over the course of the day, a number of show attendees stopped by the Vinson table to learn more about the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection. Those who did showed great interest in the collection and were delighted to have the opportunity to look at the various trade catalogs we had on display. Some took particular delight in seeing trade catalogs for cars they had actually owned and/or appeared at this year’s show. We had a great time talking with these automobile enthusiasts and hearing them fondly reminisce about cars they used to own. Attendees at this year’s show were also helpful in identifying the images of unidentified cars.

If you are interested in learning more about the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, we strongly encourage you to regularly check back with this blog to see some of the unique and rare items in this collection and to learn about the latest project developments. If you were unable to attend the show but would like to view individual items from the collection, we encourage you to visit the Z. Taylor Vinson Digital Library Preview in the Hagley Digital Archives.

Kenton Jaehnig is the Project Archivist for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

AMC Javelin – A Classic Pony Car

Between the mid-1960s and early-1970s, compact “pony cars” such as the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, and Plymouth Barracuda were an immensely popular segment of the American automotive market. Aimed at younger drivers and typically cobbled together from readily available components, they offered style, sporty performance and a long list of options at an affordable price. In 1965, as part of an effort to give itself a sportier image and attract younger customers, American Motors Corporation started work on its own entry in the pony car class. The end result went on to become an American classic: the 1968-1974 AMC Javelin.

Photograph of 1968 AMC Javelin

Photograph of 1968 AMC Javelin

Designed by a team led by Richard A. Teague and initially available at a surprisingly low sticker price range of $2400-$2600, the Javelin had much in common with other American pony cars of the day. Like its competitors, it was a compact by American standards, riding on a 109-inch base. Also in common with its competitors, the Javelin made extensive use of off-the-shelf components. The car was built on the chassis of the Rambler American, which at the time was American Motors’ economy model. When first introduced, customers were offered a choice of three already existing American Motors engines: a 232 cubic-inch inline-6, a 290 cubic-inch V-8, or a 343 cubic-inch V-8. Just a like its contemporaries, the customers could also choose from an extensive list of options, which included an automatic transmission, air conditioning, and a GO-Pack Performance Package (which consisted of the 343 V-8 engine, a beefed-up suspension system, dual exhaust, and power brakes).

What really set the Javelin apart from its pony car contemporaries was its sleek and distinctive body shell. Like its competitors, the body featured a long hood and short deck. But instead of being given angular lines like those found on the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, and Plymouth Barracuda, the Javelin was given a smoother and rounder look, which was accomplished by giving it flowing body panels and semi-fastback roof. American Motors further enhanced the car’s sporty look by giving it a blacked-out grille and form fitting bumpers. The Javelin’s interior was decidedly sporty as well, featuring bucket seats and a recessed instrument panel.

Trade catalog of 1972 AMC Javelin AMX.

Trade catalog of 1972 AMC Javelin AMX.

A late comer to the pony car field, the AMC Javelin made its public debut in August 1967. Sleek looking and a sporty performer, it was very well received by the American motoring enthusiasts and sold well in its first year, with over 50,000 rolling off the assembly line. AMC continuously updated the Javelin over the course of its production life. Mechanical upgrades included larger and more powerful engines and improved suspension systems. Changes to the body shell included a redesigned grille, sculpted front fenders, and a rear spoiler. The Javelin’s sporty image was further enhanced by its success on the racetrack, with factory supported teams twice winning the Sport Car Club of America’s Trans Am Series Manufacturers Championship (1971 and 1972).

Although the Javelin was popular in its time, like other pony cars of its era, its heyday was short lived. A combination of factors, including declining sales, tightening federal safety and emissions regulations, and the 1973 Energy Crisis, prompted AMC to pull the plug on the Javelin after the 1974 model year. Around 235,000 AMC Javelins were built. Surviving examples are prized collector’s items today.

Sources

Allpar.com http://www.allpar.com/amc

American Motors – 1971 Javelin: American Motors: Specification Models: Gremlin, Hornet, and Javelin, 1970-1974, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

“American Motors Javelin SST: A Bright, New All-American Image Buster,” Car Life, December 1967; American Motors: Specification Models: Gremlin, Hornet, and Javelin, 1970-1974, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, Hagley Museum and Library.

Georgano, Nick, ed., The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile; Volume 1: A-L; Norwich, England: The Stationery Office, 2000, p. 52.

HowStuffWorks.com – 1968-1969 AMC Javelin 

HowStuffWorks.com – 1968-1974 AMC Javelin

Kowalke, Ron, ed., 4th Edition, Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1946-1975, Iola, Wisconsin: Krause Publications, 1997, p. 26-27, p. 31-48.

Photograph of 1968 AMC Javelin 

Trade catalog image of 1972 AMC Javelin AMX 

Kenton Jaehnig is the Project Archivist for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

Hagley Car Show – September 15, 2013

Trade catalog image of the 1957 Chevrolet Corvette.

Trade catalog image of the 1957 Chevrolet Corvette.

Along with the rest of our colleagues here at Hagley Museum and Library, it is with great enthusiasm that we of the Z. Taylor Vinson Project staff cordially invite you to attend the Hagley Car Show, which will be held on Sunday, September 15th. This year marks the eighteenth year for this annual car show and it promises to be an exciting event. More than 500 examples of classic cars, trucks, and motorcycles will be on display for this year’s show.

The theme for this year’s Hagley Car Show will be American high-performance cars. American high-performance cars, often called “muscle cars,” have long captured the imagination of motorists in the United States and throughout the world. In their most classic form, American high-performance cars are factory-modified versions of base automobiles. Equipped with more powerful engines, light-weight bodies, beefed-up suspensions, and fat tires, these cars are capable of astounding levels of performance. An impressive collection of American high-performance cars, including, but not limited to, a 1957 Chevrolet Corvette, a 1965 Pontiac GTO, a 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302, and a 1970 Plymouth Hemi Cuda, are expected to be in attendance. This year’s car show will also feature food, car music, a historic jukebox display, a pedal car course, and NASCAR simulator.

Trade catalog image of the 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302.

Trade catalog image of the 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302.

Last but not least, you will also be able to get a sneak peak at some items in the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection! As we did last year, there will be a Vinson Collection booth in front of the Library. Show patrons will get the opportunity to view reproductions of items preserved in the Vinson Collection. Project staff will also be available to answer questions and provide information about the collection. Most fun of all, we are asking you to help us identify some items in the collection! At the Vinson Collection, will have some photo reproductions of unidentified cars. We invite you to take the share your knowledge and help us identify the cars depicted in the images!

Click here for further information about the upcoming car show

We will look forward to seeing you on Sunday, September 15th!

Sources

Boss 302: Ford: Trade Catalogs: Specific Models: Mustang, 1969-1974

Chevrolet’s New Corvette – Fun!: Chevrolet: Trade Catalogs: Specific Models: Corvette, 1954-1967

Kenton Jaehnig is the Project Archivist for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.