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Renault 4

Renault 4 Published: 26th May 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Renault 4
Renault 4
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When débuted the R4 in 1961, many saw it as Renault’s response to the 2CV, which indeed it was. As compared with its 4CV predecessor, the R4 was an entirely new form of Renault; a FWD (the company’s first) saloon with an asymmetrical wheelbase which was three inches shorter on the left than on the right in order to accommodate the torsion-bar independent suspension! Compared to the Citroëns, the Renault had easier-to-open windows and a more ‘luxurious’ interior. Initial power was from a hermetically-sealed four-cylinder 747cc engine where a cooling system that required little maintenance and Renault offset the costs of front-wheel drive technology by building the car on a separate chassis. Unlike the Deux Chevaux, the R4 had only a three speed transmission for the first seven years of its life and a sunroof was an optional extra but what the 4 did offer over the 2CV was a hatchback. It ran in various forms up until the early 90s.


Ignoring the high cube commercial van, there’s one model but with many changes which involved six engine changes from 603cc to 1108cc, all manual with no auto option but several trim changes, the most elaborate being the GTL of the 1980s which by then boasted a four-speed gearbox (1968), front disc brakes and an orthodox handbrake (1983) as well as more modern trim. Over the three decades it also gained a 12-volt electrical system and reclining front seats but it was still the car that, to quote Renault’s 1962 sales copy, had space for “children, prams, wives, groceries, husbands, dogs, bags, baggage and room to spare besides”.


The R4 is very much like the 2CV to drive in character, quirkiness and performance although the last 1108cc versions are far better able to cope with modern roads than the Citroën. Handling is similarly roly-poly that looks worse than it is from the outside but, typically French, the ride is cosseting and out of the two the R4 is that bit more civilised and more suited to 2016 driving than any Citroën. Like the 2CV, there’s even racing championships, particularly in Europe, if the mood takes you!


An R4 is roughly on par with the 2CV although the sheer popularity of the Citroën ensures far better parts supply and club support. Mechanically, the Renault holds few surprises, or fears, although special tools make certain jobs easier. The famed completely sealed-for-life cooling system probably isn’t anymore even on the last versions… Price-wise, because R4 isn’t such a cult as the 2CV, values are much lower – 50 per cent at least in most cases and more in line with Dyane and Ami prices.


Not half as universally loved as the 2CV (but on par with the Dyane) the R4 is one of the unsung heroes of the classic car scene. Updated when and where it mattered (plus later more powerful engines can be substituted), unlike the Citroën, the Renault makes for a highly useable, practical daily driver or family hack that never fails to surprise with its usefulness and frugal nature.

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