Forlorn French Classic: 1963 Renault Caravelle S Convertible

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While it may look to be a sad and forlorn sight nestling next to its brother out in the open, this 1963 Renault Caravelle Convertible may well prove to be a diamond in the rough. The general condition of the Renault is a bit unclear, but given the fact that good examples can fetch some pretty respectable prices, then this may be a car where the asking price of $1,000 could be a bargain. I have to thank Barn Finder Dan O for spotting the Renault for us. It is located in Rogue River, Oregon, and you will find it listed for sale here on Craigslist.

It isn’t clear how long the Caravelle has been sitting in its present location, and the owner hasn’t been particularly forthcoming with information. However, once you peel back that layer of moss and mold, the physical condition of the body looks quite encouraging. There are no visible rust issues, but I really must emphasize the word “visible.” What we can’t see is the state of the frame or the floors, and sitting the way that it is can’t be doing either of these items any real good. As well as the hard-top that is fitted to the car, there is also an additional hard-top which is included in the sale, and it looks to be in good condition. As an aside, the little R10 that is sitting beside the Caravelle is also for sale, so that’s another car for you to consider. Hey, you might even be able to swing a package deal on the two of them.

When I look at the interior I start to feel the pangs of dread. There is some evidence there that it has been wet, and this is an extra worry when it comes to the state of the floors. There’s no doubt that the interior will need complete restoration, but the positive is that it at least appears to be complete. We don’t get any photos of the engine, but we are told that it had been rebuilt and that it ran when the vehicle was parked…whenever that was. The engine should be the 956cc 4-cylinder engine, and the transmission should be a 4-speed manual. In 1962 the Caravelle received a raft of mechanical upgrades, and this car should benefit from these. With the 956cc engine replacing the original 845cc, the car received a useful, if modest power boost. This moved it from having 37hp on tap to 48hp. The standard transmission was also upgraded from a 3-speed to a 4-speed, while numerous suspension upgrades and 4-wheel disc brakes resulted in massive improvements in both handling and stopping.

I know that there are a lot of unknowns with this car, and I don’t envisage that it is going to represent an easy restoration. However, sometimes a car that has been left sitting like this will pull a rabbit out of the hat, and it will prove to be quite solid. If this Caravelle proves to be such a car, then as I said before, the $1,000 asking price could be one of the bargains of the year. A good Caravelle can easily fetch prices of around $12,000, but with their general rarity today, this price can push to over $23,000 for a pristine example. If this is solid, then it is certainly worth considering.

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  1. Howard A. Howard AMember

    Always liked the Caravelle. I believe these were unibody, so that could be a problem. Looks ok topside, but could be fried underneath. My old man had one for a brief spell. He had to have the body reinforced, as with both doors open, you couldn’t close the doors again. Saw very, very few of these, but it had a lot over on the Karmann Ghia, I believe the intended target. Standard hardtop with every convertible, 4 wheel disc brakes, and a real heater, they were horribly underpowered for our roads, but like all Renaults, they were good cars. I’d be more interested in the R10(?) next to it.

    Like 6
  2. Rx7turboII

    You have No idea how badly I want to pre-soak and power wash the white

    Love cars like this!! ( ok I’m a little ocd sometimes) lol!

    Beautiful car but like Howard said, I’d be scared of the underside but at 1k if it were in N. IL, I’d take a chance…

    Like 1
    • Joe

      You’re right. I bought those cars!

      Like 0
  3. katzenfinch

    My first car was a Caravelle, so this one kind of tugs at me. The engine in mine had a cracked block that had been “repaired” with corn starch by the previous owner — something I discovered when I flushed the cooling system. I took it to a mechanic and ordered a new engine from J. C. Whitney, but the engine never came and the mechanic took my car to cover the storage charges. It was fun while it lasted, though.

    Like 1
  4. John

    I am near there if someone wants to have it looked at.

    Like 2
  5. Ike Onick

    Jerry Lewis and snails are also French Classics. No thanks.

    Like 3
  6. Will Fox

    La Flop. These and the Dauphines are a couple reasons why Renault left the US market. Poor things couldn’t get out of their own way. An old bag that babysat me as a real little kid had a black Dauphine sedan that burned oil something bad. This would’ve been about 1963-64. Looking back, it was tired, rode rough, and nearly killed my sister and I in exhaust fumes that leaked into the interior. I can’t imagine this little Caravelle being much better.

    Like 1
  7. Ken NelsonMember

    The Caravelle is extremely tight inside – anyone over 6′ can have trouble getting into them, and little room under the wheel & dash for long legs.
    Also be aware that the chassis is same as Dauphine, and when the roof was sawed off, the sills were not reinforced. My ’67 had horribly beaten doorlatches – potmetal- destroyed due to body sag, with the door parts banging on the pillar latch so badly the potmetal fell apart.

    In ’65 Renault finally reinforced the sills so the cars wouldn’t have their doors jam when hefty wt passengers/driver got into the car. I sold both of my ’67s as at 6′ 3″ I simply couldn’t drive the cars safely, as I was too wedged into the car to operate the pedals well.

    Like 2
  8. Rex Kahrs Rex KahrsMember

    The Caravelle is cute and curious, but, having owned one that I resurrected after a 20-year slumber, I can tell you that it’s not an actual automobile. It’s just like tools I’ve bought from Harbor Freight…they look like the tools they’re supposed to be, but when used as intended, it quickly becomes apparent that the concept wasn’t fleshed out beyond the cosmetics. If that.

    Like 2
    • Ken NelsonMember

      Rex Kahrs – cute too!

      Like 0
  9. Frankie McSteller

    It appears to have a ’66 or newer dash, but an older top. Interesting.

    Like 0
  10. Ike Onick

    The next Renault ad headline should read “French Ticklers”

    Like 0
  11. Ken NelsonMember

    Nicest dash is the ’67 – round normal gauges as with all sportscars – this dash I believe is same as Dauphine.

    Like 0
  12. Chris

    Another pair of completely uninspiring designs left to their proper fate. Hard to imagine that there’s a soul on earth who would consider these P.O.S. a worthwhile find to invest time or a penny reviving. Let them rust in peace. To the crusher!!

    Like 0
    • Joe

      Beauty is in the eye of the beholder brother…I bought those cars!

      Like 1
      • Brian

        Hi Joe. Last week I bought a 1960 Caravelle that had long ago been converted to electric and later had the electric motor, controller and batteries removed. I’d like to bring it back to petrol by dropping an R10 motor in it. If you haven’t done anything with that R10 yet and would like to sell it as a parts car, I’d love to buy it. Thanks, Brian

        Like 0
      • Richard

        Hey Joe- Do you still have the Caravelle? Interested in your progress

        Like 0

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