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Renault Dauphine

Published: 20th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Fast Facts

  • Engine: 845cc/4-cyl
  • Power (bhp/rpm): 31/4200
  • Torque (lb ft@rpm): 43/2000
  • Top speed: 64mph
  • 0-60mph: 33.5sec
  • Fuel consumption: 45mpg
  • Transmission: 3-speed man/
  • Length: 12ft 11in (3.94m)
  • Width (inc mirrors): 5ft 0in (1.52m)
  • Weight: 1389lb (630kg)
  • Books: Renault Dauphine de mon pere by Lesueur & Pascal.ETAI: ISBN 2-7268-8344-3; Album Dauphine by D Pagneaux. EPA: ISBN: 2-85120-429-7; Guide Renault by Daniel Puiboube. EPA: ISBN: 2-85120-404-1
  • Clubs:
  • Websites: Continental Car Specialists, Devon. 01884 32407; ENPI trimming, Lesigny, France. 00 33 60 020 72 4; JP Ichard, Laroque d’Olmes, France. 00 33 56 10 18 14 2,; Melun Retro Passion, France. 0033 1 64 81 31 00, www.; Neo Retro, France. 00 33 5 55 48 38 58,
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The Dauphine was launched in March 1956 to replace the 4CV, which had been a huge success for Renault. The French company repeated the trick, its new rear-engined saloon proving such a hit that the company’s Acton factory couldn’t cope with demand, with cars having to be imported from France to increase supply. One of the reasons for the car’s popularity was its competition success; the 1957 Tulip Rally, 1958 Monte Carlo Rally and 1959 Alpine Rally were all won outright. The model’s development was successful thanks to the hiring of Amedée Gordini as a consultant, to advise on engine tuning for the company’s motorsport department, but you don’t need to buy a hot Dauphine to have great fun for little money. More than 40 years after production ended, the cars are still usable as they’re relatively cheap, reliable and comfortable but fi nding a good one is tricky. Despite more than two million Dauphines being built, the car has virtually disappeared in the UK, which is why your best bet is to cross the Channel and see what you can fi nd in France; there are even a few right-hand drive cars there.


What to look for?

Rot is endemic so look everywhere; no part of the bodywork is immune and replacement panels have disappeared, so don’t take on a restoration project too lightly. All Dauphines feature an 845cc edition of the ‘Ventoux’ engine fi rst seen in the 4CV; they last 60,000 miles between rebuilds with blown head gaskets a common malady, resulting in overheating. Look for clouds of blue smoke as the car is accelerated; the fi tment of an alloy head doesn’t help things as once this has warped it can’t realistically be salvaged. Gearboxes last 50-80,000 miles with synchromesh being the fi rst thing to go – although no Dauphine transmission featured fi rst-gear synchro. Fitting a decent second-hand unit is the usual solution, with three and four-speed units being interchangeable. The rack-and-pinion steering is durable and so is the suspension, although the bushes may be past their best. Interior trim is hard to fi nd, but what was fi tted is durable. The exterior trim is also scarce, and it’s made of alloy so it corrodes readily – which is why you must check it’s all there.


Despite the rarity of the Dauphine, restoration projects are worth very little because they cost more to restore than they’ll ever be worth. Tatty but running Dauphines start at £1000, with equivalent Gordinis an extra £600 or so. Good cars cost around £2500 and £3500 respectively while the best Dauphines are worth £4500 or so – a Gordini edition fetches an extra £1000 at the top end of the market.

Driving one

Although not fast, the Dauphine is fun to drive with the engine happy to be revved hard. Three-speed cars can be hard work, so it’s best to fi nd a Gordini four-speeder. The steering is light, the brakes good (although they need quite a prod) and the ride comfortable, if a little on the nervous side. Driving in the wet needs particular care as handling is ‘interesting’ to to say the least!



Dauphine introduced with rear-mounted water-cooled engine. There’s independent suspension all round and an optional Ferlec (semi) automatic transmission.


Gordini Dauphine announced, with four-speed gearbox and higher compression ratio to give 38bhp.


UK imports of the Gordini Dauphine begin in March and in September Aerostable semi-pneumatic suspension assistance is fi tted. From September, Gordinis are fi tted with the Floride’s 845cc 40bhp powerplant.


Four-speed manual gearbox becomes optionally available on standard car. Gordini Super De Luxe announced, known as the Ondine outside the UK.


Final Ferlec-equipped car is built. Gordini Dauphine replaced by Dauphine-Gordini and Gordini De Luxe is introduced into UK. Latter has two-tone interior trim, adjustable seat backs, whitewall tyres and front indicator repeaters. Standard car gets synchromesh on all three gears, stainless steel trim and optional metallic paint. Rallye is launched in LHD form only, with 52bhp and larger headlamps. 2140 are made.


Gordini now fi tted with disc brakes all round and the stronger gearbox from the R8. This version replaces the standard car in the UK.


Gordini gets the uprated gearbox of the R8.


Final Gordinis are sold in the UK.

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