Just Immaculate: 1962 Renault Dauphine

Conceived as the replacement for the 4CV, the Renault Dauphine was built between 1956 and 1967. During its 11 year model run more than two million cars rolled off the production line, but like so many cars of the era, they were considered to be a disposable item, and the sight of one of these on our roads today is quite rare. Barn Finder Roger spotted this one listed for sale here on Craigslist, so thank you for that Roger. Located in Pompano Beach, Florida, it is being sold with a clean title.

My mother had the Gordini version of this model when I was a child, and I can certainly vouch for the fact that for such a small car, they have a surprisingly cavernous interior. This photo gives you a real insight into just how small the car actually is. One of the cool features of these is the fact that, like the VW, they are rear engined. That puts the trunk in the front. The trunk lid opens forward, and the headlights tip forward with it. This one has undergone a repaint, and it looks a treat. It is also fitted with the factory sliding sunroof, which is quite a rarity. If this were my car, I would probably want to source a set of the original hubcaps for the car. These are quite neat because instead of clipping over lugs like most conventional hubcaps, they are held in place by a small center bolt. A set of those would just finish the car off nicely.

The interior of the little Renault has come in for a re-trim, and it looks pretty nice. The front seats definitely aren’t original, and the trim material of the door trims certainly isn’t, but the interior looks really nice. The owner doesn’t mention anything about the engine, but if it is standard, then it would be an 845cc 4-cylinder engine. Unlike its competitor, the VW, these engines are water cooled, with the vents just behind the rear doors channeling cooling air to the engine compartment. The transmission would be a 3-speed manual, but it isn’t unusual for owners to update the drive-train with the engine and transmissions from later model Renaults. This car has been fitted with freshly painted wheels, new shocks, and disc brakes.

These are a cool little car. The handling traits of these are very similar to those of the early Corvair, but if you’re aware of that, then they hold no nasty surprises. This one is a nice example, but it isn’t original. However, the upgrades would make it a comfortable little car, and with an asking price of $19,990, it is priced within the upper end of what good examples are currently fetching in the market.

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Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    Just about everybody has a Dauphine story or two, even Jay Leno. For many, including my family, the Dauphine was the only foreign car allowed in our driveway. My dad had one, and a Caravelle, and my 1st car was a 4CV. Guy across the alley had one, just like this, only a ’64. It was a 4 speed and quite peppy. He, like most, totally unprepared for what small cars need, ran them into the ground. I’ve never seen one this nice, but would never pay $20g’s for one. For someone to stick this much time and money into one, doesn’t seem the smartest move. In agree, screw the hubcaps back on for $20g’s.

    Like 4
    • Larry

      I grew up with these in Oregon in the 60’s. My dad loved them and we had about 5 of them clear up through the R16 wagon 5 speed on the tree. It’s the car i got my drives lic. in hahahah lots of memories

      Like 1
  2. P

    19k?
    You’re going to see Rex Reed Junior first.

    Like 5
    • Little_Cars Saul Member

      Update your Hollywood references, P. We are soon to be living in the year 2019 AD. Rex and Paul Lynde were off most people’s radar decades ago. How about something regarding a 3 dollar bill….

      • P

        Folks who know cars of this generation get the joke. I invite you to skip past it.

  3. Gaspumpchas

    Liked the shape and looks of these .19 large, naaaa….only thing I don’t like other than the price is the steering wheel!! Happy Motoring!!

    Cheers

    GPC

    Like 2
  4. Marcelo

    19K?????. Here in Europe a 100% original example costs the half. This car is ruined with that seats, the mirror and that cheap faux vents on front fenders.

    Like 8
  5. Wayne

    Hey Howard, my first was a 4CV also. Must have been a mid-west thing! (lol) My Dad had 2 black Dauphines that I wrote about before. Interesting placement of the auxiliary lights! Must be carrying the spare tire in the luggage compartment. Because the drawer will never slide out past the lights. Our second one ran the second half of it’s life with a red primered spare door/drawer as Mom bashed the original on a parking curb. Both of ours only lasted 60,000 miles (which Dad managed in about 18 months each as he ran office machine service calls for Remington Rand) before the body shells flexed enough for the windshields to fall out onto the hood under hard braking. I am sure the condition of the northern Illinois & Indiana streets were complicit in the demise of the cars. He was paid mileage, so he still made money driving the cars. But, the dealer would not “give” (not actually, but a screaming deal on the second one after what happened to the first one) him a third one. Dad always kept a spare distributor cap in the car and taught me how to change one incase one went bad (a regular occurance) when mom was driving the car. (I was 7 & 8 at the time.) The neighbor kids and myself would kick the car into neutral and take turns “driving” the car up and down the driveway while the others helped push.

    Like 3
    • Larry

      Hahaaha, I grew up in Mt. Hood Oregon, In the summer time if we drove up to the Ski resort to escape the summer heat the car would vapor lock and we could coast home to about 1/2 mile then it would re start.

  6. Vintageant

    Saw this at the Festival Flea Market Car Show last week. Wondered what the 4.0 on the engine lick was trying to imply?

    Like 1
  7. Clevon the Elder

    I had a girlfriend who had one of these. This meant a lot of time driving her as the thing routinely failed.

  8. ROTAG999
  9. CobraSteve

    I’m in the process of restoring a ’61 Dauphine now after having purchased it on eBay without a personal inspection. My car is from the southwest, therefore, absolutely no rust, which should be #1 in terms of priority on any potential Dauphine owner’s list. The seller, let’s say a less-than-honest individual, claimed everything rebuilt and ready to drive. BS! When I removed the car from the auto transport (yes, the driver allowed me to remove it), the steering wheel came off in my hands! Someone forgot to install the large nut which secured it to the column. Confidence in the seller went downhill from there has been a myriad of other issues, including no brakes! Then there was the rod knock in the engine….

    Enough of the negativity. I plan to keep the car as it is SO UNIQUE. It has four doors yet is 5″ shorter than my ’60 Beetle! These cars were built in France, Mexico, Spain, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Israel, Algeria, and Belgium. In Italy they were built under license to Alfa Romeo from 1959-64.

    Had the dealer-support network been better back in the day, they probably would have sold even more! Today, there’s a fella in Ohio who has forgotten more than I’ll ever know about the Dauphine, and has been very helpful to me during my restoration. Good luck to the new owner of this Dauphine…I believe we’re going to see an increase in prices of the “micro-cars” in the future as two-or three Dauphines will occupy the same space as a ’50’s Buick!

    Like 3
    • Larry

      I had one of the 62 models as my first car. Not sure your aware but JC whitney has all the parts, at least all the engine rebuild stuff.

      Good luck

      • CobraSteve

        I was not aware, Larry. Thanks for the info.

  10. Martin Horrocks

    Could deliver an immaculate one to US all paid for $12000 and make a $5000 profit. So silly price and as Marcelo says, not very nicely updated.

    Hubcaps would probaly fit from an R5/R8/R12, if so very easy and cheap.

    Like 5
  11. Doug

    Having been a passenger in one of these when it barrel rolled at about 30 mph, I consider them deathtraps, especially for those who haven’t had much experience with swing axle cars. The center of gravity is significantly higher than the VW beetle. You absolutely cannot lift off the throttle in a corner, or the rear of the car will rise up ( like the Corvair & Tempest ) , raising the center of gravity, possibly to the point that the outside rear wheel will dig in and flip the car.
    Several years after the rollover, I drove my 62 Plymouth through the SAME bend at over 50mph with no issues ….

    Like 1
  12. joe

    I’ve owned at least 10 Corvairs – Half were early model swing axle versions. I always attacked every corner in my younger banzai-driving days. Never spun one. You drive a car. You learn it’s limits. You don’t do something stupid…..and deadly.

    Like 6
    • Ron

      Owned a 1962 Corvair Monza .White with Red interior and purchased
      from the Beverly Hills, Calif. Chief of Police with 24 k on it. You can bet it was serviced regularly. >>>>Compensated for the rear wheel roll in by installing 1957 Chevrolet front shocks.<<<< Could corner it like a true sports car. Traded it for a new 1968 Javelin SSTstick shift.. Miss both of them. Corvair had a stick also. Both ,great cars.

  13. Wayne

    Rolled my 4CV twice in the same spot. (very tall and thick thicket causing almost no damage each time) before I finally grasped the swing axle trait. (I was 12 at the time) Drove my sisters early Corvair like I stole it up and down Sheridan Road as fast as the car would go. Never once (more) did I ever have a swing axle problem. Car leans on the outside and tire goes negative camber. What else could you want. Radial tires, the best thing to ever happen to a swing axle car!

    Like 2
  14. amos

    if you’re gonna pay that much (and why would you?) might as well get this one. https://peoria.craigslist.org/cto/d/1959-renault/6751309557.html

    Like 2
  15. Cobra Steve

    Where’s the love? So many “bad” stories…perhaps that’s why I love my ’61 Dauphine. A real underdog. 27 rompin’, stompin’ horsepower! But at least I don’t see myself coming and going at every traffic intersection.

    What a boring world it would be if we all had the same taste. Likely, we’d all be driving black 1953 Chevrolet 4-door sedans…and nothing against the old Chevies…just the fact we all have different preferences. Vivre et laisser vivre!

    Like 4
    • Joe

      The 2 most comfortable cars I’ve owned were an R-10 Renault and a Simca 1000. Great seats.

      Like 1
  16. Dan Farrell

    You would think that a three lug nut wheels would be a clue.

    Like 2
  17. Tiberius1701

    Easily the slowest car I have ever driven.

  18. Dave in Arlington, TX

    Remember these being called a re-nault. Were they actually re-knows back then and we were just mispronouncing the name?

  19. Kenneth Carney

    My stepdad was one of the engineering
    team that turned these into EV’s and then
    resold them as the Henney Kilowatt from
    1960-61. They were built at the Eureka
    Williams plant in Bloomington, Illinois
    and used electric motors made by Eureka
    that were mated to the car’s 4-speed
    transmission. The battery packs rode
    up front in the trunk. While it may have been a good idea, range of travel was a
    problem they couldn’t solve and the
    project was abandoned after 200 or so
    cars were built. With today’s technologies available, I’d like to get a
    good usable shell, build one as an EV,
    and prove that my stepdad and his team
    were right and the electric cars are a
    viable alternative to gasoline engines.
    Always wanted to do that since he told
    me the story of the Kilowatt over dinner
    15 years ago. Although gas engines will
    still be top dogs in motordom, electric
    cars will someday be just as good as
    their gas powered bretheren. We shall
    see–someday.

    Like 1
  20. madbrit

    My wife had a Renault 12 which was the more modern upgrade of the Dauphine. She loved it and it was a fun little car that we did take on longer runs occasionally. Had a 1200cc motor and 4 speed, handled well, but hers did still have the original design Michelin X tires and they do make a significant difference to these little cars.

    As a side note, the Dauphine was introduced en-mass to the UK as the first rival to the London black cab. Known as the Mini-cab, they were frequently involved in various confrontations until the black cabbies accepted they were there to stay.

  21. JoeNYWF64

    Do all of the older air cooled cars have poor heaters like the VW bug, including old porsches? I guess air cooling was an attempt to save money on antifreeze & hoses? lol
    I think i rather have a heavy motor up front, rather than empty space in the event of an accident. Teslas btw have an empty trunk up front too! hmmh.
    Looks like they were bashful about makin a 2 door Dauphine back then. I thought only today’s drivers dislike gettin into the back seat of a 2 door.

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