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Classic of the Month

Renault 4

60th Anniversary

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Former Renault chairman Pierre Dreyfus envisioned the Renault 4 as ‘a practical car for the people’ that is ‘more aesthetic than competing models but less elegant than the Dauphine’. The vehicle that Renault produced, known until 1965 as the  R1120, was set to become the ideal car for the 1960s. It was a time when the idea of family travel was becoming more and more popular, and the small space miracle from France proved to be the ideal companion.

Thanks to its extreme practicality, the five-door Renault 4 revolutionised the small car class of the 1960s. It was the first mass-produced car to have a one-piece, top-hinged rear hatch. Another practical feature was that by releasing a single screw, the back seat could be folded down and/or taken out. This meant that the R4 could also be easily used as a small van.
Thanks to its large and variable interior, value for money, and sheer practicality, the vehicle was popular not only with young families but also with police units. It continued to be used as a police car by both the French Gendarmerie and the Spanish Guardia Civil until the 1990s.

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The dash-mounted gear change (also jokingly referred to as the ‘walking stick’) proved to be a great challenge to many. (Photo: Matthias Leitzke)

It was necessary because the gearbox was mounted not behind the engine, as is usual today, but in front of it. (Photo: Matthias Leitzke)

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A production history of over 30 years

At the time of its début at the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt in 1961, the car was powered by a 747 cc engine that delivered 23 bhp. In 1963, the engine size was increased by 100 cc, while the bhp rose to 26.5. Over the course of the production history of the ‘Quatrelle’ (the French for ‘4L’), a number of variants came onto the market, such as a more elegant version from 1964, called ‘La Parisienne’, with a distinctive printed braided pattern on its flanks. In 1967, a four-speed gearbox version was added to the compact car series, followed in 1978 by a GTL version with a 1,108 cc engine that could deliver 34 bhp. The increase in engine power had the greatest impact on acceleration and fuel consumption. The top speed of 110 km/h remained virtually unchanged throughout its production period.

Between 1961 and 1992, a total of 8,135,424 Renault 4s were built, making this compact car the vehicle with the highest production figures to this day for the French Renault company. And it is this that makes it a genuine milestone of automobile history, whose exemplary functionality was a perfect match for the spirit of the times. We would like to extend our congratulations on the 60th anniversary of this model series and look forward to having such a special classic car in the ZeitHaus collection.

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Look forward to more Classics of the Month: Learn exciting details about popular and less popular milestone models. Some of the anniversaries of the vehicles in our collection will surprise you.

The ZeitHaus multi-brand car museum is one of the world's leading automotive museums and part of the Autostadt in Wolfsburg. Its collection comprises around 260 vehicles by more than 60 manufacturers.