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French Field Find: 1961 Renault Caravelle

There was a time when French cars competed for sales in the US with the best small cars that Europe had to offer, particularly Germany’s VW and England’s BMC. The main French competitor was Renault, which has a storied history going back to 1889, but they never found long term success in North America. The sportiest Renault available here from 1959 to 1968 was the Caravelle, but few remain now. This 1961 Caravelle may be one of the last unrestored field finds left. Find it here on eBay in Costa Mesa, California with bidding at $611 and only one day left.

The seller says this Caravelle is one of a number of cars that was found in a field in Eastern Washington. Although the first photo shows a car in very poor condition, it cleaned up surprisingly well and looks like it might be a straight forward restoration. Rust was always a serious problem with Renaults, and this Caravelle has badly rusted floors and likely other problem areas. To be fair, the seller describes the Caravelle as a parts car and has not tried to sugar coat the potential problems.

The Caravelle was based on the Dauphine sedan platform, and these two models were intended to compete with the VW Beetle and other small foreign cars that were available in the US during the 1950s and 60s. The Caravelle had sporting intentions, but the body shape, especially at the front, probably held it back when it came to competing against the more shapely Karmann-Ghia and the British sports cars.

The Caravelle’s interior was plain, with limited instrumentation, and a radio as the only luxury. The interior on this car appears to retain its main components, but they have suffered from sitting out in the elements. The floor mounted stick indicates that this Caravelle used the Dauphine’s manual transmission. An electromagnetically operated clutch was available for the Dauphine, but we have never seen a Caravelle equipped with the automatic clutch.

Early Caravelles like this one received the Dauphine’s 845 cc four cylinder engine, which limited the performance available, and despite increases in displacement to 958 cc and then 1108 cc during the 1960s the Caravelle was never really seen as a performance competitor for the small sports cars of the day. The engine in this car has been cleaned up and looks complete, but the seller makes it clear that this Caravelle will be sold as a non-runner. Perhaps their suggestion of using the car in the 24 Hours of Lemons isn’t such a bad idea after all?

That same Washington field yielded at least one other vintage French car, a 1959 Citroen 2CV, which was found resting near the Caravelle. It is also listed for sale here on eBay, with bidding currently at $762 and about a day remaining. Makes you wonder what else was lurking out there…

The Citroen cleaned up fairly well too. Not our favorite car, but there is no denying that it is unique. The body looks solid and if there is no cancer, we would be tempted to leave the sun faded paint as is. Looks like there was some lettering along the side that just add to flavor to this already quirky runabout. So, is there anyone here brave enough to take on a couple of Frenchies?


  1. ray de pucci

    these cars arn’t even fit for the junkyard—-

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  2. TGM

    What’s that car in front of the Citroen? A TR3?

    I’m a Renault fan and even I wouldn’t be interested. These are parts cars even though it’s amazing their is so little rust after sitting outside.

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  3. Robert J

    Sacre Bleu!

    (Translation: Gaaack!)

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  4. Justin in Indy

    Both look great cleaned up! Both would look great simply sitting out front of the shop, or out back surrounded by weeds….which is how they have lived for many many years.

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  5. Horse Radish

    Where would you even find any of these cars still around ?

    I am waiting for all the ninnies, complaining about a spec of rust here or there.
    Get into your new Camry and leave, please, NOW.
    For all other “real” car guys, who appreciate the unusual and rare, know what this is.
    Definitely would see me driving in one of these, almost as they are, before I would get into any of the Porsche, that this dealer is mainly handling.
    From the text it sounds like he doesn’t even want to be bothered selling these at all, reflects some real attitude.

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  6. Larry

    I wanna know about the TR-3 in the last picture.

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  7. scot c

    ~ trying to read the ad script on doors of Renault. what sort of (USA) business shows it’s self off on a 2CV? no judgement, just real curious.

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  8. Jim

    Um…. No.

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  9. Karl

    It’s kinda weird seeing this sort of indifference on a car website, even if they are French cars. To me, any car that’s outrun the Crusher for sixty or so years is a hell of a find, or at least a lucky one, and any guy willing to take one on is my hero. And oddballs like these two add spice to the flavor.

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  10. Dolphin Member

    The Caravelle sold for $867.45 and the 2CV sold for $1,224.01.

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  11. Duck Canuck

    Actually, the 2CV is fairly solid. I know these cars, and this one shows none of the usual bad rust. The floors look original, foot wells are good, trunk floor is good. External body panels show nothing bad either. All that rust is superficial.

    This is an AZ model, so it has the 425cc engine (a step up from the original 375cc!). The mechanicals on these are very easy to do, so I see a lot of up-side potential. Being the older body style (suicide doors, and no rear quarter window), this could easily bring $10K to $15K if cleaned up.

    I suspect someone got a good deal at $1224.

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  12. Mark M

    My dad had one of these he brought back from France back in the 60’s. It was white like this one with a rag top and a removable hardtop. It was the car that I learned to drive in and was definitely underpowered. It took a very long on-ramp for it to get up to merging speed for the interstate. Still, I have a lot of good memories of these cars.

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  13. Anthony Anthony Wurthmann

    Interested in a Citroen 2-CV…

    Like 0
  14. Duck Canuck

    @Anthony Wurthmann – do you have specific questions?

    Like 0

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