Le Van: 1960 Renault Petite-Panel Van

Are you looking for something different? I mean, really different? If so, this 1960 Renault Petite-Panel Van is what you’ve been looking for. This cool and unusual hauler is on Craigslist with an asking price of $3,000. As you can see, the body looks like it’s in very decent condition, which is a good start for you to turn it into a regular hauler, a camper van, or any number of other uses. It’s in Los Angeles, California.

The seller has it listed as a “Hi-Boy“, but that would actually have an extended top on it, this is a Petite-Panel van. They could have just been throwing down search words for folks looking for a Hi-Boy. This is actually a Renault Estafette van and they made several different configurations, even a pickup was available as well as an eight-passenger version.

What a fantastic little van! Dig that step into the driver’s seat! Not to mention the tres chic sliding door on that side, I love it. There are a few little dings and dents, but rust-wise it looks like it’s been saved that scourge.

You can see that the passenger would have gotten a regular door as opposed to a sliding door, but there is a sliding door on the side for entry to the back as well as a unique configuration of rear-opening doors.

I don’t know if that seat fabric or pattern is original to 1960 or not, it almost looks late-80s/early-90s to me, at least color-wise. It’s in good shape and that’s a good thing, it’s one less item on your restoration to-do list. You can see that the doghouse/engine cover is off for an upcoming engine photo! I know, a rare engine photo for a Craigslist ad! The dash isn’t forehead friendly at all and the next owner may want install shoulder belts to keep from being thrown through that perfect and huge windshield.

Other than having some “stuff” in the back, it looks decent, too. I’m not sure what all of that is but I wish they would have taken it out for the photo. That’s the problem with storing a vehicle like this, it becomes a mini-storage-unit itself when it’s in a storage unit. I’m assuming this van has been in storage given its industrial photo location and the tow strap in front for the photos.

Speaking of tow strap, this “engine does not work”, according to the seller. It sure looks good and I’m sure that the next owner will be able to trouble shoot whatever problems there are. Or, just rebuild the whole thing as long as it’s out. Yeah, but, but.. how does a person even get that engine out, Scotty G?! I’m glad that you asked, it’s as easy as removing the engine from a VW van! Except this one is in the front and this is a front-wheel drive van. The original engine for these vans would have been an 845 CC inline-four Renault with around 45-50 hp. However, this ad includes a photo of a tag reading “British Leyland Ltd – Model: Spitfire – Family: TC/50C – 91 cubic-inches.” Maybe Jamie or one of you other British car experts can tell if this is a replacement engine. It definitely looks like a Renault engine to me so I’m not sure what that tag would be for? In either case, it doesn’t run so it’ll have to be addressed. Have you seen a Renault Estafette van before? I can think of a dozen uses for this cool hauler!

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Comments

  1. RayT Member

    I’m quite sure that’s a Renault engine, Scotty. I’ve removed/rebuilt/reinstalled more than a few, and the photo makes a few long-forgotten nerve endings twitch…. The BL tag appears to be on another vehicle altogether.

    I would also predict that, with that mighty 845cc engine doing the propelling, this van will be slooooooooow. After, that is, you fix what doesn’t work! Wouldn’t expect much in the way of long-distance or cargo-hauling abilities: puttering around Paris with a few baskets of bread in the back is one thing, setting out for, say, Yosemite with your camping gear is another.

    Always liked the looks of these vans, and I do still have a “thing” for Renaults. Wish I had some use for this!

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  2. Howard A Member

    Well, let’s see if it has all the French attributes. Droopy front end styling, check, 3 bolt wheels, check, horribly under powered motor, check, lawn chair seats, check, yep, it’s vintage French, all right. Not too practical for the USA.( or Canada, for that matter) I could see this at the front of a long line of traffic on a 2 lane.

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    • Andrew

      At least you would be in the front, thus first.

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  3. CJay

    It would take some work to mount it on a S10 or similar type chassis, but the reliability and safety would be improved.

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  4. Woodie Man

    Zoot alors, Howards! Sacre bleu……….maybe drop an SBC in the back and drag rails………..and scare the folks in the next development over.

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  5. Woodie Man

    I forgot. You also need one of those mad scientists coats…preferably in charcoal….so you can move les meubles around. At least it has blue/yellow Cali plates!

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  6. CliffS

    The British Leyland sticker is from a Spitfire the seller also has for sale on Craigslist.

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  7. Rad

    Are there any wrecked Hayabusas for sale in LA?

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    • sarah james

      exactly what I was thinking.

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  8. JoeR

    That Renault looks like it was born and came straight from east LA!

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  9. ClassicCarFan

    I agree, the motor looks like the original Renault motor. That valve cover with the ridge running length-ways and the raised “blob” in the middle is quite distinctive. It’s the same engine as used in the Caravelle I believe. Definitely not the Triumph Spitfire/Herald family engine, that too has quite distinctive looking pressed steel valve cover (and this isn’t it).

    I think this is a pretty neat little van. If you lived in town and wanted something a little different for short commuting trips – or had a small business and needed a cool light-duty parts hauler? As others point out, this would never be a suitable vehicle for the open roads here in the US.

    I would pull the original motor and rebuild. I’m sure parts for these engines are still available through the right specialists – even if you have to get on the phone or online and deal with a shop in France. These quests are so much easier now than they were in the pre-internet days. OK, if you don’t speak French you might have to find a friend that does !

    I know that some commenters on this site think engine-swap as option 1 every time – but I think you’d completely lose the character of a vehicle like this if you changed the drivetrain. I enjoy fast cars, and appreciate the qualities of a big-block V-8 ( own one myself..) but you don’t always have to have huge power or performance to have fun driving.

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  10. ClassicCarFan

    I note someone made a mocking comment about 3-lug wheels…. I’m not sure what the issue is there. They are matched appropriately to the weight of the vehicle and the torque of the drivetrain. Millions of Renault and Citroen cars rolled on 3-lug wheels over the years and they work just fine. If they are in serviceable condition and torqued appropriately they are perfectly adequate. I’m not aware of any evidence of them being particularly prone to failure. Cars like the 2CV were produced for decades, I’m sure that if the 3-lug wheels had proved to be a problem they would have been replaced with some other design pretty early on.

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    • Howard A Member

      Hi CCF, that was me. I was kind of teasing, it looks a bit silly, ( I know, my MGB only had 1 lug nut) but being an American, where more must be better, I like 5 or 6 or 10 lug nuts holding my wheels on. I’m sure they worked just fine. (btw, that one spoke steering wheel on Citroen’s, same thing)

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  11. rustylink

    This thing is awesome – even without any badging on it – you’d recognize it as French right away. The only thing missing is a pack Gitanes on the dashboard and a few Worker Strike signs in the back.

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  12. Coventrycat

    Really cool. Looks like Beaker from The Muppet Show.

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  13. TBAU

    Reminds me of the van from Scoobee Doo.

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  14. chad

    2 slid door’n 4 swing…?
    Wonder what the GVW is…

    Cute, plus itsss what ah need.
    Drop’a colone bent6 in thu that slide side
    on’a e.hoyst, discs up frnt, all set!
    Motor vehicles R all about application –

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  15. peter

    (1) In the 60/70s era the 845cc engine maxed out at 30 bhp unless it was a Gordini modified engine but that would never had been offered in a van. The 845 block used wet sleeve cylinder liners and also came in 745 and 600cc engine sizes. All had three main bearings and all had an 80mm stroke. The liners used a different bore for the different engine capacities.

    (2) The engine in the photo is Renault but the give away in the photo is the two-barrel carburettor. This was fitted to later and different engines. Cars that used the later engines were R5/6/8/10/12/14/17 and others. That block came in 900/1000/1100/1289/1397cc sizes with five main bearings and wet cylinder liners. (I think the R5 turbo supercar use the bigger engine size but Renault turned the engine around so it became an in-line engine and put it be behind the driver so it also became mid-engine – losing the rear passenger seats. The car couldn’t handle the power with front wheel drive.)

    (3) The R16 car used a different block again and it came in sizes 1495/1647/1700/1800 and possibly 2-litre again with 5 bearings and wet cylinder liners.

    However, my suspicion and from memory, this van is using one of the engines from (2) above – most likely the 1289 as these were more common although possibly the 1100cc as these were common also.

    (4) In regard to the three stud wheels, the studs are in a much greater diameter circle (PCD) than a 4 or 5 stud wheel – at a guess 8 inches diameter or more.

    Peugeot used three studs on the sedans but went to five for wagons as did Citroen. (From memory, the ID & DS Citroens sedans used a single centre stud and the wheel locked on with a tapered hexagonal wheel hub centre).

    The only problem with three studs is trying to find a garage that has a three stud back plate for their wheel balancer.

    (5) Forgot to mention that when mixing and matching Renault engines you need to be careful what rotation the crank spins as they were different for different for different vehicles. Sometimes you need to reverse the crown wheel on the differential otherwise you will have more reverse gears than forward.

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    • peter

      Footnote: I think the R16 engine was cross-flow and the engine in the photo is not. My guess at what engine it is, is most likely correct.

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  16. Steve B

    Is that the saddest looking grill ever? Give that thing some Prozac

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  17. SunbeamerStu

    Found a long lost cousin slowly rusting away in an auto graveyard in Aberdeen, WA. Didn’t know what it was when I took photos (there was zero branding evident), but by this posting, its ID now seems clear. That front end looks unmistakable. Van is not really restorable, may be some salvageable parts/panels. Neat!

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