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Henney Kilowatt? 1959 Renault Dauphine

The Dauphine was a small, rear-engine economy car built by Renault. Between 1956 and 1967, the French company assembled more than two million copies, competing with the VW Beetle, Morris Minor, Fiat 600, and other European gas sippers. Because it was once powered by electricity, the seller’s car may be a rare Henney Kilowatt, a Dauphine-based experimental car sold in the U.S. in 1959 and 1960, and as few as 47 are thought to have been sold. Located in Victorville, California, this project car is available here on craigslist where the seller only lists $1 as the asking price. Thanks for this weird tip, MattR!

Initially, the Dauphine was positioned in the market between the lower end 4CV and the much larger Frégate. The new model followed the 4CV’s rear-engine, 4-door 3-box sedan format while providing greater room and power. The layout of the car must have appealed to National Union Electric Co. (NUEC) who funded the Kilowatt project. Henney had been building custom coaches for about 90 years and was a known name in the auto industry because of their affiliation with the likes of Packard and Ford.

NUEC was involved with Exide Batteries, too, which gave them a natural gateway to help shift American automotive focus from gasoline to lead-cell batteries. As many as 100 of these modified Renaults may have been built, but only 47 were ever sold (what happened to the other 53?). Publicity about the car indicates that the primary buyers of the Kilowatts were various electric companies. Interest in the autos seemed to fizzle after that. Guess they were about 60 years too early!

Regarding the seller’s car, the complete original electric set-up for the car is still there, but we must wonder how and where you would find any parts that no longer work? There are trays in place for the batteries, but none exist. The body doesn’t look bad considering the passage of time and appears to be wearing red primer. The interior will need a lot of attention, as well.


  1. Manuel Broyer

    1960 model said the serial number. I don’t think it’s in primer, I guess it’s ‘rouge Montijo’ (red Montijo) paint, well burned by the Californian sun… > http://www.dauphinomaniac.org/Millesimes/Millesimes.htm#1960d

    Like 7
  2. KnotMe

    Ironic there is a gas can in the passenger compartment.

    Like 11
    • Irving Larios

      I’m the owner of that car. And the gas tank I placed there to not leave in sun.

      Like 0
  3. Fred W

    You wouldn’t want the old batteries to be there. Best way to proceed is install a modern technology battery pack, seems like one from a Prius could power it. Then throw in an Onan RV generator to charge it. There ya go!

    Like 8
  4. BlondeUXB Member

    Town and country horn ?

    Like 6
    • Howard A Member

      “Meep-meep” and “BEEP BEEP”, actuated by that switch on the left steering column in front of the stalk that you rotated the handle for headlights, and pushed that in for the horn. The turn signals were operated by a switch on top of the column, hidden by the wheel spoke.

      Like 8
  5. Kenneth Carney

    My stepdad was involved with this
    project back in the day. The cars were shipped minus the engine and
    other gas related parts to the Eureka
    Williams plant in my hometown of
    Bloomington, Illinois. Once there, they
    were fitted with their battery packs
    and their electric motors. He told me
    that some 200 of these little wonders
    left the plant before they pulled the
    plug. It was his job to see to it that
    the motors were installed properly
    And perform as intended. He also
    said that try as they might, they couldn’t solve the range issue. As
    for this car, I’d love to have it for the
    reasons I just mentioned. Seems
    ironic that I’ll soon be taking delivery
    of a Ford Fusion hybrid. Sure wish my
    stepdad could see just how far things
    have come since he worked on this
    project 62 years ago.

    Like 2
  6. nlpnt

    A first generation Leaf should be cheap enough to harvest for its’ powertrain and build an EV restomod.

    Like 5
  7. Howard A Member

    As an electric car, I wouldn’t give you a plugged nickel for it( what’s scrap copper going for these days?) but as a REAL car, not this electric baloney, I’d love to have one. Normally, I don’t( can’t) go over 45 mph in the Jeep anyway. Dauphines are great little cars, years ago, the only viable alternative to the VW, and if you ask me, and nobody does, the Dauphine was a much better car. 4 doors, more room, a real heater, of sorts, and French quality, on par with a VW. I don’t think Renault had near the dealer setup VW had, and was content with supplying the rest of the world that these were better suited. It was one of Renaults( “Renultz”, like the old man called them) most popular cars. I don’t know about the original 30hp motor, I’m not that much of a purist, and an update of some sort would be in order, a PLAUSIBLE update, not that I’d want to go much faster, but at least the speed limit. Cool find, just ditch the electrics already, it isn’t going to fix our transportation problem, in rural areas anyway, where 46 million people live in the US today.

    Like 7
    • Beignet at the Beach

      Rather than poo-poo the opportunity look at one of these:
      If you got sunshine, you have a way to run an electric car, Jeep, anything.

      Like 2
  8. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

    My shop did a restoration on a Henney Kilowatt for a Maryland based electric supplier over 35 years ago. This is not one of the 47 H-K made. It has no evidence of ever having the H-K emblems, the Williams Co electrical equipment, the steel body modifications & battery boxes built by Henney.

    The H-K cars had large square VU electrical meters in the center of the dash, using holes much larger than the ones for the 2 electrical gauges show in this car. The actual H-K electric motor should be a much larger diameter unit by General Electric.

    It may be a Dauphine with an electric conversion, but I don’t believe it’s a Henney-Kilowatt.

    Like 8
    • John W

      Interesting…. I sold an R10 that was converted from electric to gas in 1986 in Hyattsville maryland!! Same one? Was in great shape at the time.

      Like 0
  9. smokeymotors

    I bought a 1966 with the 4 cylinder 4 speed, thought it would be a good winter rat in the northeast, it snowed the night before and as I was coming down a hill getting ready to turn into where in worked, I down shifted and it took all my winter driving skills to keep this thing on the road! Took it back to the guy I bought it from, pulled the plates and said, keep the $200 I paid for it good by.

    Like 1
  10. freakinutz

    My first car in 1970 was a Dauphine that I shared with my twin brother. Amazingly, it carried us well through the hilly streets of San Francisco. We paid little for it and got little when we sold it. My brother was so enamored by the Renault, he then purchased a new R-10. Those seats may still be the most comfortable I have ever laid my arse on. Me? Moved on to a Mk1 Cortina GT. If this car has spent its life in the Victorville area, the rust should almost be non existent. I also don’t believe it is a HK car based solely on my memory of them.

    Like 0
  11. FOG

    At least I know the junkyard demise of one of these, And, the other may still be sitting outside a shop in Clinton, Indiana. Yes, upgrade with today’s electric power trains will make people sit up and think of resto electrics!

    Like 2
  12. Slomoogee

    I really like French cars having owned a Renault R8 and a Peugeot 504 wagon that made the ultimate camping car. What I would buy this for would be the California black plate and the license surround.

    Like 1
  13. Russ Ashley

    I grew up in Savannah, Georgia, and the power company there bought one of these. My brother worked there at the time and got to drive it occasionally. It probably didn’t have much range on a charge but he said it was fun to drive, and it attracted a lot of attention.

    Like 0
  14. Geoff A

    A few years ago there used to be one in Key West parked on Fleming st by Alexanders Guest House. It was in restored shape. Was not there this year

    Like 0
  15. Jim Benjaminson

    Anybody remember the Westinghouse marketeer? Same era but also electric powered.

    Like 0
  16. Beignet at the Beach

    Rather than poo-poo the opportunity look at one of these:
    If you got sunshine, you have a way to run an electric car, Jeep, anything.

    Like 0
  17. Carmanic Carmanic Member

    Was listening to a Donut Media podcast last week on pre-Tesla EVs and they mentioned the Henney Kilowatt Dauphine conversion. Being an enthusiast of the obscure my ears pricked up, and now here’s one for sale within a day’s tow from Stone Motor Service’s home for wayward project cars. Coincidence ? I don’t think so. Good idea ? Certainly not. Someone please save this.

    Like 0
  18. trav66

    Drop a Honda generator in it with 2 120-volt motors attached to the wheels and… voila! Or a diesel Lincoln welder and plug the motors in to that! Great gas mileage, lol! Better yet, a Hayabusa drive-train. Sounds fun!

    Like 0
  19. Renault Romeo

    My ’61 Dauphine project has stalled but it is time I finish it…just needs the brakes addressed. I’m one of the lucky ones with a rust-free Dauphine (AZ car!). She’s a decent 10-footer and with 27 rompin’ stompin’ French ponies, she ain’t no speed demon. However, Renault advertised these to get 40 mpg (845 cc engine) so whether fuel is rationed in the future or we are on the receiving end of an EMP, I’m ready!

    Like 0
  20. JohnWest

    Would an R10 big block ( 1289cc) fit?
    They were fun… and per Haynes manual “thrived on harsh usage”!

    Like 0

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