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Renault 4CV, the 'bowler hat'

Renault 4CV
ER Classics Desktop 2022

My grandmother had obtained her driver's license. She had bought a used Renault 4CV in Utrecht. A neat, dark blue copy. As the oldest grandchild I bought a doll from Oma Duck for her to hang on the interior mirror. My brother was still too small. But I sometimes went with Grandma. Until my father saw her ride once.

My father was in the field

And while he was walking to his car after a customer visit in Loosdrecht, he heard a swelling noise. It was my grandmother in her car. With her grandson on board. She hung over the steering wheel as if all the devils were on her heels and the little Renault turned full-throttle ... In its second gear. Grandmother blew by. And I was never allowed to ride with her again. Shortly thereafter she drove her Renaultje total loss (in French: 'perte total') against an unexpectedly non-priority tree. Grandma survived the blow. The grandma Duck doll too.


In the meantime, it is 73 years ago that the Renault 4 CV was born. It was the first car of the Régie Nationale des Usines Renault, the symbol of the French industrial revival and became the most popular French car just after the war.

Invented in injury time

While the Louis Renault companies were confiscated by the German occupier, and the development of new cars was strictly prohibited, two men secretly started making plans and thinking about the future. From 1940 onwards, Fernand Picard and Charles-Edmond Serre, two engineers at Renault, played with ideas about how and what a new Renault should be. They agreed: The newcomer had to be small and efficient. It had to be a real 'volkswagen'. And that was exactly what Louis Renault thought but nothing at all. Because Renault loved big.

But that did not cause any problems later: Renault was nationalized and Louis Renault was imprisoned on suspicion of collaboration with the Germans.

After the liberation, the French government took over the reins of Renault. The ideas of Picard and Serre were brought out and the four-door carriage of what would be 'the bowler hat' was drawn by Berthaud.

The new Renault had an 747 cc gasoline engine, which was placed in the rear and drives the rear wheels via a three-speed gearbox.

Thanks to the Germans

The first series of three hundred cars went to the dealers in order to win over potential customers. Ford was said to deliver the T Fords 'In all colors, as long as it was black'. The first series of bowler hats also came in only one color: 'Sahara yellow', a shade of yellowish beige. Renault gets the paint from arrested German war stocks because nothing else is available but that army paint.

Voiture Pie Police

In 1950, the Paris police put the Renault 4CV in a special version into use. The police version has a large rear window and cut-out doors. The so-called Voiture Pie got its name because of its color. It is available in white with black. And a 'pie' is a magpie

Renault 4CV

Renault 4CV

7 Comments

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  1. In October 1963, after 4 weeks in grape picking in the South of France, I was hitchhiking on Sunday afternoon in Lyon in the direction of Paris. We squeezed ourselves with the backpacks on the back seat and off, we went on the 6 lane N4. After 2 minutes, the passenger grabbed a liter bottle of Johnny Walker and took a few large sips. Then the bottle went to his steering mate. Then to us in the back.
    to Paris, also by catching up on the center lane.
    As soon as we saw a metro station we shouted: Arrête and got out relieved. Never again at a Quatre, we resolved.

  2. Nice story of a nice car.

    Incidentally, it has been clearly demonstrated that Louis Renault did not collaborate with the Germans and that he was actually murdered by the Communists or by Gaullists. In any case, after the war, there was an opportunity to curtail the possessions of the richest man in France.

    • I have read that too, I think the writer of this piece writes a bit casually and disrespectfully about it. Louis Renault was severely beaten at the police station and succumbed to it. He was not charged or charged. He was of it. informed that the quatre ancienne was being designed, so, if he was still alive, it would have come. His possessions and company were simply stolen by the then Fanse (communist) rulers) I just wanted to say that.

  3. My very first own car was a used Renault 4cv from 1954. Bought in 1964 for 400 guilder. What a fantastic nice car that was. I'm still in love with it. On holiday in France I always take a few models of my 4 with me. An unforgettable experience that car

  4. What a nice story. My father started a garage in Heiloo in 1947 and was a Renault dealer. We lived above the garage and when my mother went shopping, for lack of a playpen, she put me downstairs in an R4 as a toddler. As a souvenir I still have the word FOUR that I think was on the back of the engine lid? If there is interest, I also have pictures of the garage with R4 in the modest showroom.

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