Renault 4 History 1961 - 1992

The way to the front driveentiert.

The 1960s ring in Renault a new era. After the company had built exclusively rear-wheel drive vehicles so far, one ventures now on the unknown terrain of the front wheel drive. The remote model for the new Renault can be found in the competitor Citroen, where the front-wheel drive 2CV as a prime example of a simple, but extremely practical vehicle career. But Renault President Pierre Dreyfus wants a better car: The new model should be cheap, and you have to be able to accommodate a lot in it. "I want a full-fledged car that's also highway-ready," Dreyfus formulates the goal for the first Renault to be developed under his responsibility. He did not want the front-wheel drive directly, but his demand for a functional character led to this concept.

In the winter of 1958, the Renault engineers tackle the project. During the development phase of the small front-wheel drive, a total of ten prototypes are being experimented with two-cylinder, three-cylinder and four-cylinder engines installed both longitudinally and transversely.

Ultimately, Renault remains true to the 4CV known four-cylinder, which is superior in performance and smoothness of the engines with fewer cylinders. In addition, the water-cooled unit offers advantages in noise insulation and better heating. Completely new is the closed cooling circuit, in which an additional container located in the engine compartment provides pressure and water compensation. The engine sits on the Renault 4 behind the front axle, while the three-speed transmission is placed in front of it. This arrangement leads to an unconventional placement of the shift lever, which protrudes like the control lever of an aircraft from the dashboard center.

In the autumn of 1959, the world-wide test drives start with the prototypes of Project 112, to which the Renault engineers affectionately give the name Marie-Chantal. The name chosen for the series documents the family relationship to the 4CV: The first front-wheel drive Renault simply carries the number 4 (and briefly also 3) as a name and heralds a new tradition at Renault, which renounces name as a type designation.

A car with two wheelbases

The body of the Renault 4 is outwardly elegant, but offers great practical benefits: four doors facilitate entry into all seats, and the large, almost vertical tailgate makes the R4 to a pickup truck. Thanks to the low loading sill, bulky general cargo can also be accommodated in the boot, which is restricted only by the wheel arches. The rear suspension consists of space-saving crank arms, which act on transverse torsion bars. This design gives the Renault 4 a technical curiosity: In order to accommodate the torsion bars in the desired length, they were simply arranged one behind the other, so that there are different wheelbases on the left and right side of the vehicle.

The last 4CV has just come off the line at the beginning of July 1961, when Renault presents its first front-wheel drive to the public - in Germany, because the R4 is celebrating its world premiere at the Frankfurt International Motor Show (IAA). In the Austrian press, the Renault finds little approval: "This car will never be sold in Austria"!

Shortly after the Paris Salon 1961 Renault launches a publicity campaign: 200 Renault 4 are under the motto "Prenez le volant" the Paris motorists provided. The simple basic version is the - not offered in Austria - Renault 3, which is powered by a 603 cubic centimeter and 22.5 hp engine (bore * stroke 49 * 80 millimeters).

In the Renault 4, the four-cylinder from the 4CV known combustion chamber volume of 747 cubic centimeters and is 26.5 hp strong, the Renault 4 L is just as strong, but has in the C-pillars a third - until the fall of 1963 even exhibitable - side windows, chrome trim and Hubcaps with star design. The most powerful version is finally the R4 Super with 32 hp, double bumpers and two-piece tailgate, the disc is sunk in the flap, while the lower part is struck in bumper height and like a ramp is opened down. The production of the new model begins on August 6, 1961. From 1962, a large folding roof is optionally available. At the Paris Salon 1962, which takes place for the first time this year at the Porte de Versailles and where the model year 1963 is presented, the R3 is missing, after just under a year and a number of 2571 copies, he is already deleted from the program. The R4 L now gets bulkier bumpers instead of the previously used tubes and new hubcaps without the embossed star. There are also changes in the technical area: The first gear of the three-speed gearbox is now synchronized, and the R4 Super receives the 845 cubic centimeter engine of the Dauphine with 32 SAE-PS. Employees at Renault have a pleasant new year: the factory launches the fourth paid holiday week.

Together with the weekly magazine "Elle" Renault created in the spring of 1963 the special model Parisienne, the body edges are decorated with eye-catching cane or plush pattern. Starting from the model year 1964, the Parisienne equipped with the Dauphine engine is in the Renault catalog.For model year 1964, all R4 carry right bumpers, in the basic version (which does not have a third side window) they are painted. The model Super no longer counts to the program, instead there is the identically equipped export. Like the R4 L and the Parisienne special model, it now also has sliding windows in the rear doors. On all models, the rear wheel track is widened from 1204 to 1244 millimeters.


Anyone traveling with the high-legged R4 often on rough terrain will find an alternative in the form of the four-wheel drive model built by SINPAR, a company that specializes in the manufacture of drive shafts and gear parts. The 4x4 is available in the basic version and as R4 L.

The end of the "R"

From the 1965 vintage on the camshaft drive of the four-cylinder is no longer on gears, but on chain. In model year 1966, the Luxe forms the basis of the R4 program. All models have a third side window. However, the Luxe takes over from the simplest R4 version so far, the fixed, not to open windows in the rear doors. Another change affects the entire Renault model range: Renault officially creates the abbreviation "R" from now on, the vehicles from Billancourt are named only with the whole brand name (which, of course, can not prevent the short-cut in the population survives long) , In February of that year, the Renault 4 can celebrate a record: its production reaches the first million.


In 1969 Renault 4 buyers benefit from the more modern front axle of the Renault 6, which now also benefits their model. The following year, a stabilizer on the rear axle improves handling.


For model year 1971 the Renault 4-series is converted from 6 to 12 volt on-board voltage. The Plein Air disappears from the program, instead offering the Rodeo limitless fresh air pleasure. The recreational model, which was introduced in Spring 1970 and will be available in September of the same year. It is created in collaboration with the manufacturer ACL (Ateliers de Construction du Livradois) and is only available with the 845 cubic centimeter engine.

The following year, the engine data of the base model changes. The displacement increases to 782 cubic centimeters (bore stroke 55.8 x 80 millimeters), the engine power is 30 SAE or 26 hp.

In 1976, Renault introduces the Safari special edition: black side panels and bumpers provide for external, striped seats in the style of a hammock with high head rest for internal differences. A number of improvements are made to the Renault 4 models in 1977. These include the dual-circuit brake system, halogen headlights, heated rear window, reversing lights, and a laminated glass front screen.

End of 1978, the safari disappears again from the Renault program. As a new family member comes in 1976, the Renault 4 TL to the program.


Displacement instead of power

In September 1977 the Renault 4 has reached the production sound barrier of five million. The following year brings the persistent small car a new engine variant: The GTL is powered by a 1108 cc engine with five-fold crankshaft bearing, which comes from the Renault 5 GTL. The performance remains at 34 hp at the level of the smaller displacement Renault 4 (in the R5 makes the engine 45 hp), but pulling power and smoothness are significantly better. Another strength of the big Renault 4 is the fuel consumption, which is two liters below that of the 845 cubic centimeter model according to auto motor und sport measurement.

Externally, the GTL is characterized by gray, matt painted bumpers, wide side moldings and additional pipe bars on the front bumper corners to recognize. Attentive observers also recognize that the exhaust most powerful Renault 4 ends the exhaust under the rear bumper, while the smaller models exhaust laterally in front of the left rear wheel to the outside. The steel disc wheels are perforated in the GTL, the TL receives these wheels from the autumn of 1980.

From May 1981 all door hinges are enclosed to the outside by a plastic paneling.

From the 1983 model year, all Renault 4 (except the GTL) are offered with the 845-cc engine with 34 hp. The GTL receives a technical upgrade through disc brakes on the front wheels. Inside, the last major modification takes place: The dashboard gets a new design with a round speedometer, new is also the steering wheel, which was taken over by the Renault 5.

Renault offers in Germany from June 1986 a low-emission, but equally strong version of the GTL. But the tail exhaust regulations ring the end of the Renault 4 in Germany. The classic is no longer available from the end of 1988 at our favorite neighbor and in total 900.300 Renault 4 have been sold in Germany since 1961 !!! In Austria, the last of the 49,892 Renault 4 were registered a year earlier due to the KAT obligation. Production in France will continue for almost four years.

Martina and Helmut with the R4 on the island of Cres
Martina and Helmut with the R4 on the island of Cres

With the war in Yugoslavia, the production of the Renault, which introduces front-wheel drive, finally ends at the Renault factory in Novo Mesto, Romania, in 1992 after 31 years and 8,135,424 million car-built cars. At the same time, production was also stopped in Colombia and Spain in 1992.

There are already very concrete plans for the environmentally friendly future of the Renault 4. The picture above shows the Renault 4 version in the year 2044, which meets the extremely low emission Euro 9 emissions standard ;-)! The donkey, however, is as stubborn as today's 4-series with Otto engine in cold condition and very close was a Renault 4 and so never. Weatherproof does not look like this execution of the future again :-)

A new edition of the Renault 4 with modern technology and revised design was repeatedly considered, but unfortunately not yet implemented. The Renault 4 community would be happy about a new compact car with Renault 4 genes. Maybe this modern Renault 4 is not only faster but also less stubborn when cold! The version shown here, however, look waterproof in any case ;-) © rÖno4