Know A Little French: 1963 Renault Dauphine

This little French oddity is for sale here on craigslist in Woodbridge, New Jersey. These cars do not turn up for sale very often anymore. While Renault built and sold 2,150,738 Dauphines (in English, dauphine means “heir apparent”) during its production run from 1956 to 1967, they were a bit too fragile and under powered for American roads, and just could not compete with VW’s similarly rear-engined bug.

My mother had the misfortune to have to drive one of these Dauphines (same color too) for a couple years, as my father got a good deal on it as an end of year left over. She and her children hated it, if possible even more than the Hillman Minx that followed the Dauphine in our garage. It was slow enough to accelerate that our dog could keep up with it for more than a half mile. My family seems to have had a predilection for small foreign cars (also a Triumph Mayflower, Ford Cortina, Austin 1100, etc.) but this was the one and only French car we ever owned. It did not make me a fan of French automotive engineering.

The seller of this example does not provide much in the way of description or even photos, although the car does appear to be quite complete and somehow seems to have escaped the ravages of the tin worm that killed most of these cars long before their time. The chrome looks pretty good and even the wheels appear to be mostly rust free.

This Dauphine is said to be a recent barn find, still “with original dust.” Both the body and interior are claimed to be in great shape, and the seller states “no rust.” The engine was apparently running some three years ago, but as with any previously stored car, you will need to go through the brakes, tires and fluids. Though this car seems to be in good condition, as a non-runner needing all kinds of work, I think the seller is being more than a little over-ambitious with his $3,250 asking price.

Renault probably did not sell many more than 15,000 Dauphines in 1963. Apparently I am not alone in not liking these cars. In a 2000 survey, Car Talk named the Dauphine the 9th Worst Car Of The Millennium, calling it “truly unencumbered by the engineering process.” Despite that reputation, do you think someone will adopt this one and bring it back to life?

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Comments

  1. Alan (Michigan)

    One of my high school classmates had one as his first car. It was indeed very slow as kids do, he occasionally tortured it just a bit. In the parking lot after school one day, he was revving the motor, and the throttle stuck wide open. There were of course no rev limiters in those days, except for valve train float when the RPM reached a level beyond the design. After just a couple of seconds, he cut the ignition, and the little 4-banger wheezed to a stop. The accelerator had released, and Tom gingerly restarted the engine. It was fine, so off we drove, at the normal snail’s pace.

    • Guy Forbes

      A gray dauphine was my first car just before I went in the Army.
      I had it at Fort Lewis for 2 months.
      On my way home(San Jose), it sucked a valve in Woodland , Wa
      Took a Greyhound home.
      My Dad and I drove up to Woodland, got the car and towed it back to San Jose.
      Worst piece of junk I ever owned.
      The good thing about this car was, if you look at the rear bumper, it had a hole so you could actually crank start it, and I did more than once.
      The worst thing about this story is, I traded my Vespa GS for the Renault.
      That’s another mistake I made, should have kept my Vespa!

  2. Derek

    Gordini wheels, I think – the ones on my standard Dauphine didn’t have the slots. I liked my Skoda 120 better.

  3. David W Member

    I noticed one one edit I missed – Renault probably sold 15,000 or fewer in 1963 *in America*. Doubtless many more in France and Europe.

  4. Howard A Member

    Proof positive, BF’s will eventually show us every vehicle ever made. I NEVER thought I’d see one of these here. The Dauphine was really the 1st French car to catch as an alternative to the VW. There was usually 1 in every parking lot. There were a couple Renault’s ( or Renultz, as the old man called them) in my family. The Renault was one of the few foreign cars the old man would allow in his driveway. My ( and my brother’s) 1st car was a 1959 Renault 4CV. The old man had a Dauphine and a Caravelle ( that bent in the middle with the doors open) A neighbor had a Dauphine as well. They seemed to have everything the VW didn’t. 4 doors, a conventional engine, a real heater, they really were good cars. Sorry to hear David has a bad taste in his mouth with this. Ok, for US roads, a bit thin, but they didn’t sell millions of them, because they were bad cars.( I believe they sold more 4CV’s worldwide) They had a 2 pitch horn via a switch on the steering column ( city/country) and a clever place for the spare tire. Cool find, going to be limited interest, though. ( always reminded me of a tongue sticking out) https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/89/1e/2e/891e2e8d58d9c09639d84bb2ad527097.jpg

    Like 1
    • David W Member

      Howard – I am a big believer in “to each his own.” If you like Renaults I will not hold it against you, even though I think they were just terrible cars. Peugeots and Citroens were far more interesting, at least to me.

      While I don’t have any warm memories of the terrible cars my father could afford when I was growing up except for the 1949 Plymouth station wagon and the various Studebakers we had, it is kind of fun to realize that unlike most kids who grew up in the fifties and sixties, I do not have first hand memories of riding in big American cars and station wagons. My parents always drove what most would call “off brands” with maybe two exceptions in their almost 60 years of driving.

      • Dave Member

        Actual I believe the later Dauphines had locking rack and pinion steering and 4 wheel disc brakes. My brothers had one and it was pretty easy to keep on the road as long as you avoid hitting Cadillacs. Once that happened my brother got a MK1 Cortina GT and then my Dad got a Lotus Cortina which I happily got to drive thru high school. If I didn’t have a Cortina and Jensen Harley I’d buy this Renault

        Like 1
  5. Glenn from Wisconsin

    I believe it to be two of the ten worst cars ever built.

    Like 1
  6. dirtyharry

    What to do? (1) Send it back to France; (2) Remove the roof and use it as a golf cart; (3) Put a 100 hp motor cycle engine it, wheelie bars and do wheel stands at auto shows; (4) “Janis Joplin paint job; (5) Challenge Chip Foose to make a hot rod out of it; (6) Gut the interior and make a meat smoker. As you can see I have no idea what to do with something like this.

    • BRAKTRCR

      I like 3 – 6 Harry

      As a child I had a neighbor with new one of these. Even though I was only 8 or 9, I was… curious about it. As I remember, the hubcaps had a bolt in the center that attached it to the rim, and that struck me as so odd. Still does I think

      • Anthony

        The Volvo 164 had the same type of hubcap with a screw holding it on.

    • phinias

      Check out my post and pic below..we made a very fun sand dune buggy out of ours back in the day…I wish I still had it! -Phinias

    • Mike

      The “meat smoker” line is very funny.
      I think Citroen made the 2cv, not Renault.

      • Daniel

        Citroën made the 2CV, but Renault made the 4CV

    • CarNut from Winnipeg Member

      (7) Sell it to Jamie Kitman.

  7. 86 Vette Convertible

    My aunt had one of those in white. When you’re a kid, it was fun to get in and out of but sure lacked acceleration.

  8. Ron500E

    Non runner and original – pretty much sums up the car when still on the showroom floor in 1963.
    Kind of sad it survived actually, we need reminders of cars like this as much as we need an extinction level asteroid strike. The asteroid strike would be less painful and more welcome in the long run I suspect.

    Like 1
    • Phil V

      I grew up in the 1960’s and my dad had a Dauphine that he really liked. It was a great winter car with excellent traction in the snow and it had a real heater (unlike the VW beetle). My dad drove 2 different Dauphines for at least 12 years. I have to admit he was a good mechanic which helped. I have many fond memories of riding around in that car. 600 miles trips etc. Never let us down. I am currently looking for a decent restorable Dauphine to restore and drive. I am a semi-retired auto body man and automotive painter with 40+ years full time professional experience and I decent mechanic working on my own cars. It was a great little car for our use. If I want to go fast I have a Mustang Shelby so speed is not an issue for the Dauphine.

  9. Ben T. Spanner

    My Fraternity brother was given one by a Priest, and got the worst part of the deal. It wouldn’t start so I cleaned and gapped the spark plugs on the rusty edge of the engine cover. It then started, but so what, underpowered to begin with, and mostly worn out.

    I knew twin bothers who purchased a tired Austin Healey 100-6. It was fair to good, but their Father thought it was too old and an unreliable British car. He traded it on a new 1965 or 1966 Dauphine. A bad deal on both ends.

    • Old Ed

      Hi Ben! Your post made me recall my youth in Spokane, working for Irwin Schubach out on East Sprague. Irwin was a master Mercedes/Porsche mechanic-machinist in his day, but maintained a row of used foreign cars ‘out front’ to keep the business alive and to satisfy the bank. I remember the time he sold a black Renault with a cracked block that had been ‘fixed’ by welding and loading up the engine fluid chambers with ‘zonalite’ insulation granules. Sure was quiet for awhile. The dissatified owners returned it to the shop by letting it roll across Sprague Ave into the service area all on it’s own. Luckily, we ‘caught’ it before it could make contact! Irwin had sold an Austin Healy 3000 with faulty synchro rings to a Montana cowboy. The cowboy returned the car and demanded a fix, but the Boss was backed up with more important Mercedes ($$) customers. Saturday, at noon, Irwin gave me $20.00 and sent me to buy as many bananas Safeway had. The shop was closed on Saturday afternoons, but I stuck around, peeling ‘nanners’ while Irwin stuffed them into the transmission. Smooth operator! Soon, my ‘paycheck’ became a large table model Blaupunkt radio, then a back-row BMW Isetta 600. I left soon after, but was loaded up with great memories to be reminded of from friends here on Barn Finds!

  10. Bingo

    But hey, it’s got the original dust. None of that aftermarket stuff.

    • KeithK

      It’s only got original dust once !

  11. Puhnto

    I’ve always liked these and still do. A friend’s dad had a new “Gordini” version way back when. It was quite the little hot rod. These were SO much more comfortable than VWs of the era and easier to get into and out of the rear seat, and certainly no slower, were they, really?

  12. Rex Kahrs Member

    I revived a 66 Caravelle a few years ago, which is virtually the same car, but with Italian styling. Let me start with the good points: people enjoyed seeing the cute-looking French oddball driving the funny little 2-door from 66.

    The bad points: parts were expensive; swing axle made the slightest bump feel like some Evil Knievel jumping stunt; the light front end made driving in high winds (like 5mph) very exciting; and the sturdy tin-can construction of the car assured certain death in a crash with a squirrel…and not for the squirrel.

    As the saying goes….”Once you own a French car, nothing worse can happen to you”.

    • Sandy L.

      My first car was a ’59 or ’60 pea-green Dauphine. I LOVED it! But I ran in to a truck and pushed the front bumper up into the front trunk/bonnet. Then later, I got a red Caravelle – loved that one too. Both were so much fun, and as well made as a tin can. My dad was an airplane pilot and a master mechanic, so he kept them running until they finally fell apart. I still wish I had one.

      • phinias

        My cousins had a Caravelle…ironically, they nicknamed it “The Tin Can!”

  13. Jesper

    My mothers brother was kill’d in such one. A frontal crash with a volvo 544.

    • Scot Douglas

      You can save yourself time in the future by using the term “Uncle”, and sorry for your loss.

      • Jesper

        Hi Scot.
        That term we dont use like that in Denmark.
        It also happend before i was born. In 1963.
        I have seen fotos of the car. He didnt have a chance, against a volvo 544, where the driver havent got a scratch.

      • Michael

        Scot, however if Jesper never met his uncle because he died before he was born, calling him his Mother’s Brother is appropriate.

      • Anthony

        Maybe he doesn’t like him.
        I know a lady that refers to her sister as “her Mother’s daughter”
        She doesn’t like her sister….

  14. Woodie Man

    David W: With a family history of cars like that I expect your dad smoked a pipe and had corduroy patches on the elbows of his tweed coats :) Much more interesting than my Plymouth Chrysler Buick dad!

    One of these sat down the street from my house and never seemed to move as my memory is that every day walking to school I passed it. Of course I lived in the city.

    • David Wilk Member

      Woodie – pretty close. He did smoke a pipe most of the time I was growing up. He favored tweed jackets and suits, but not the corduroy with patches :). I inherited his desk and it still has some of his pipes in one of the drawers. I think your family cars were probably better than ours though.

  15. Head Dents

    In 1964, we would load up the massive space under the front bonnet of a ’59 Dauphine, pile Mom, Dad three kids and a basset into the car and drive up into the Rockies in Idaho. I do mean UP.

    Was it fast? Don’t remember. It was fun and NEVER broke, handled bad logging roads, mud and bad weather with no problems. Got traded in on a ’67 R10 that saw similar duty.

  16. Chuck Farley

    If I remember – at one time Renault advertised on the Ed Sullivan show. One of the main selling points of the Dauphine was that it would do 70 mph! (No mention of whether or not that was downhill with a tailwind or how many days it took to get up to 70!)

    • Clay Byant

      They advertised on the show and in the ad at the end the car gave a Renault(Beep,Beep) Dauphine sign off.

      • Sandy L.

        They did have that really cute Beep Beep. I don’t think anything else sounded quite like that.

  17. Bernard Cristalli

    The Gordini was a true race car. My mother owned one and we sere often there, on the rear seat and my grand-ma on the passenger seat.
    Lots of fun. Ma used to drive “a la James Bond”.
    But very light. “Light is right said Colin Chapman”, but with a bit of wind you suddenly were on the other side of the road.
    B Paris – France

  18. Dolphin Member

    As far as Renaults in the New World, they didn’t do too well, with pretty low sales volumes. But one success story: At a timed competition that I entered with my MGA on a cold February weekend back in the last century, a guy in a Caravelle won FTD on on a large, icy parking lot course. I think he was warm with the heater going, too.

    But what really matters is that cars like these and its predecessors put a lot of European families on the road after WW2 at affordable prices. Were they competitive with entry level Fords & Chevys over here? No, but they did their job in Europe when it counted.

    Like 1
  19. Larry Grinnell

    I remember when Dauphines were occasionally offered as prizes on the old Truth or Consequences game show (with Bob Barker). A big step above the Jungle Gardenia by Tuvaché (perfume) that was also promoted, or was it????

    The neighbors across the street had a ’63 or ’64 Caravelle. It was the wife’s car for grocery shopping and such (they had no kids–only an insane, epileptic Boston Terrier). In 1970, after I had already bought my first car, a 1952 Willys Aero Ace, the Caravelle became available for what I had paid for the Willys ($250). It was barely used (the Caravelle), with under 30,000 miles on it.

    At the same time on the street behind me, an elderly gentleman passed away, leaving his kids to sell his mint ’55 Plymouth Savoy 2-door sedan (V-8, 3-speed, overdrive, and a recent paint job) for, you guessed it, $250! I think it had under 25,000 miles on it. Funny, 46 years later, I STILL have never owned a car with V8 power! Guess I could also mention that my parents’ second car at the time was a 1960 Simca Aronde P60 Elyssee. Such a grand time for wild and wacky small European cars. Heck, we even had a neighbor who drove a Borgward Isabella!

    I guess the Willlys was the better choice. Heck, that Plymouth with the little V8 and low-geared rearend (probably a 4.11 or thereabouts) would have gotten me killed, or at least seriously maimed. Motoring in the Willys was much more sedate, if not exactly safer (long story). The Renault would have either killed me with the lovely swingaxles, or in maintenance costs (the nearest dealer/garage was about 10 miles away).

  20. BRAKTRCR

    And then…. they bought AMC Aye yi yi

  21. Phinias

    In the mid 60’s my dad bought two Dauphines for $400. One was strictly a parts car, the other in perfect condition. In fact the perfect condition one was so nice that I felt kind of bad cannabalizing it, but we did and the results were worth it!

    Yes, the car was underpowered and small and poorly engineered. But, during the dune buggy craze at the time, VW’s were ridiculously overpriced and hard to come by. Everyone was snapping up wrecked ones and frames to convert to Manx and other beach buggies.

    We had a good friend that was a McGiver of all things mechanical that took one of these French lemons and made lemonade so tasty out of it that we followed suit. A half-dozen weekends later, our mini sand rail was born! The 35hp (?) rear engine running gear mated to a frame that weighed less than 400lbs created a vehicle that took on the tallest dunes, and would pop wheelies all day long. The engine was (believe it or not) extremely reliable. The whole thing didn’t cost more than $600 to build.

    It was a BLAST to drive in the sand, on the beaches in Mexico, and at home on mountain trails. For a 13 year-old boy like me, it was unbelievably fun!

    It just goes to show that even the worst can be transformed into the best with a little ingenuity and creativity on your side!

    Like 1
    • Howard A Member

      That is pretty cool!

    • Alan (Michigan)

      Rack and pinion steering too…
      What a great memory to have, thanks for sharing.

    • Cheeks Malone

      Tried to thumbs up but my finger slipped, great story!

  22. frank fitzgerald

    My dad had one in turquoise and it needed a calendar to do the 1/4 mile. I recall it had a goofy city horn/ country horn which my friends thought was cool. Car only lasted about 6 months inDetroit then winter came and the Dauphine left.

    Like 1
  23. Mark Hoffman

    A neighbor had one of these, not sure what year. We moved into the neighborhood September 1963, and the Renault was replaced by a new 1964 Plymouth Valiant summer of 1964.

    Like 1
  24. Sebtown

    In the mid 60’s my buddy “Doc” bought a nice black one for $50. His parents were really tough on him so he never told them it was his and always parked it in front of my parents house. We had lots of fun until he smoked the engine. We took the license plates off of it and walked away!

  25. Rex Kahrs Member

    Reminds me of the joke where a guy goes in to the auto parts store and says to the clerk “Can you give me a gas cap for a Renault Caravelle?”. “OK” , says the clerk, “sounds like a fair trade…”.

    Like 2
  26. phinias

    One of the cool things about the Dauphine was, the block had removable sleeves so that if you blew a piston, you could re-sleeve it without machining! JC Whitney carried all kinds of parts for these quirky little cars.

    Ours morphed into a really nice dune buggy (see my post above).

    Like 1
    • John

      Ahh…JC Whitney. Or if you lived in the Chicago area it was Warshawsky’s. JC Whitney was the mail order arm of Warshawsky’s. I loved perusing the catalog for hours. In the 1970’s I would drive into Chicago to the store on Archer Ave and buy my stuff. They literally had every part for every car. I bought a top, roll bar and many other things for my ’72 Alfa Spider.
      John

      Like 1
      • waynard

        I probably saw you there. We lived just down Archer Avenue in Brighton Park. My brother and father, both, dragged me with them.

        Like 1
  27. Rich G

    A pal in high school had a cream color 1963 or so Dauphine with red interior. It also had the electric shift automatic transmission! There was something wrong with it, so it would go into neutral for a couple seconds before shifting to the next gear. He trained himself to let off the gas unitl it shifted.

    Like 1
  28. geoff a

    Ok so does anybody remember the Henney Kilowatt that was converted in the USA from the Dauphine to all electric.Saw one once on the streets of Key West FL. Friend had a Dauphine in high school, heater was worse than a bug, had a drag race with a Amy Citroen and lost. Pathetic car

    Like 1
    • Michael

      Saw it on display at the Petersen Museum in LA a few years ago.

  29. waynard

    Can’t believe no one has suggested dropping in a SBC.

    • RayT Member

      Funny you should mention that! An old, old issue of Sports Car Graphic magazine (early ’60s) had an article about a guy stuffing a SBC into the back of a Dauphine. I think he put the radiator up front, and I don’t remember what he used for a transmission/rear axle.

      SBCs fit in ANYTHING, at least if you have a good pair of tin-snips!

  30. Adam T45 Staff

    My father bought my mother one of these as her first car. He actually bought her the Gordini version. The only problem was that my mother could not drive a stick shift, so she absolutely hated it. She only drove it a couple of times before she decided that it was just too hard to drive. Dad took over the driving duties and the car lasted about a week before the engine went “pop”. That was the end of that experiment.

  31. Chris

    I always liked the look of them but they rusted away in the Midwest USA. My experience with Renault was in the late 70’s early 80’s. You either love them or hate them. I had pretty good luck with them.

  32. David Miraglia

    I’ll take the Dauphine and the beetle

  33. Ricoshay

    Way back when, I had a co-worker who showed up for work one day driving a Renault. I asked him what happened to his old VW bug and he said it wouldn’t start one morning so he bought a new Dauphine. I asked him what happened to the VW and he said it was still in his driveway and would I like to buy it. I asked how much and he said $50. I went to his house, got the VW started and drove it home. Fixed it up and sold it for $450. A year or so later my co-worker showed up for work in a brand new ’66 VW Bug. I asked him what happened to the Renault and he said it wouldn’t start one morning so he traded it in for the Bug. He said the Renault was a very bad idea.

  34. Blyndgesser

    One of these put my mother in the hospital three times before my Dad swapped it for a brand new ’62 Biscayne in the same off-white color.

  35. charlie Member

    Driving on the Interstate north of Hartford CT, one in front of me, suddenly it hiked up in the rear, tire to tire, rocking back and forth, and flipped around (like the early Corvairs would do if the tires were wrongly inflated) stopped facing me, but fortunately it was in the breakdown lane. Had a Corvair do that too, that time I got in the breakdown lane and we were a foot apart front bumper to front bumper. when we both stopped. Nader was right, if the tires were wrongly inflated, both on clear dry roads.

  36. Michael

    As I recall, the Renault Dauphine was the second best selling import car in the US during the late 50’s, right behind the VW Bettle. The sales sucess of these two autos caused GM to focus on the rear engine layout for their non-captive import figher: Corvair.
    Starting in 1964 Dauphines came with 4-wheel disc brakes, while most American made sports cars were just starting to offer front disc brakes. We Americans, and our pothole roads, are much harder on our vehicles than Europeans still today.

  37. john

    Interesting — my Mother also owned one of these, also red, in the early 60s. It was a horrible car. Everything that could break did; more than once. I got to be very proficient at changing head gaskets. She managed to drive it almost 10K miles over the five or six years that she owned it. I’m truly amazed that there is one left anywhere. She sold hers and bought an Austin America with an automatic transmission. And she thought she had moved up to the big time. Oddly enough, the Austin proved to be a very good car. She drove it nearly 50K miles. It finally got backed into by a school bus.

    My Mother always bought cars that were cute. She didn’t drive much and she had me and my Dad to come get her and to fix whatever went wrong. We had steady work.

  38. redwagon

    54 comments on a little renault dauphine???!!!

    there must be something here that i just don’t know or understand.

  39. smittydog

    In English, Dauphine means ugly!

  40. Sandy L.

    :D Lots of people obviously don’t see the charm of these simple little French cars. But some of us love them dearly! Both of mine were stick shift, metal dashboard, plastic seat covers, no seat belts of course. And so light weight. My Caravelle got crashed into by someone speeding through a stop sign. It spun around, hit the curb, flipped over, and I was hanging there frozen, gripping the steering wheel. Some bystanders came running over and flipped it back up on it’s wheels by hand. I was ok, but kind of in shock and couldn’t speak for a while. My dad hammered out the dents, fixed up the bent frame and we were on the road again.

  41. Sandy L.

    I’m still amazed that it only took 3 guys to flip that Renault back upright, by hand.

  42. phinias

    LAST comment I’ll make on the Dauphine…promise! The dune buggy we built brought such good memories that I did a search, and found the son of our friend who designed it, and helped us build ours.

    I called him and he said, “yeah,” we still have the one my dad built out back. It’s not running now, but if you come down, give me a couple of week’s notice, and we’ll get it running again and take it out to the dunes!”

    Is that amazing or what?? This (by most measures) disliked little hunk of steel will still run…I’m paying a visit VERY soon! The pic I’ve attached is of me behind the wheel of ours at the tender age of 13!

    • Alan (Michigan)

      phineas, if you don’t actually go and do that, you’ll truly regret it at some time in the future. Go for it, and post photos here!

  43. Guggie 13

    In 1964 a classmate had a red Dauphine slow as can be , last time I saw it was a state hwy 349 and it was on fire !

  44. Len

    The only car I ever owned that had an optional heater. As I recall it had a wet sleeve tractor engine. This car would not accelerate going down hill with a tail wind

  45. Wayne

    My father ran service calls (office machines) all over the Chicago area. (mostly the south side and NW Indiana) He was paid also by the mile. So the little Dauphine made him extra pocket change. By the time the car hit 60,000 miles (remember Illinois roads) the chassis had flexed so bad and so many times that one day he had to stop fast and the windshield fell out onto the hood! At that time the car was about 11 months old. He went back to the dealer where they mentioned something about defective welds and made him a fantastic deal on another one. Yup, you guessed it! 60K later the same thing happened.(at a very young age I learned how to change Renault distributor caps. And we always had one in the glove box!) He traded it in on a Plymouth. When I was 12 years old a friend gave us a 4CV. It had a voltage regulator problem for the electric clutch. So we bent one set of the points together so that the only way to disengage the clutch was to grab onto the shift lever. We lived out in the boonies with lots of fire roads in the woods. So no problem on start out from stops. Just rev the engine and let go of the shift lever and start out with tires spinning. And I learned at the tender young age of 12 not to let off the throttle when in a corner with swing axle rear suspension. Yup! rolled that little sucker on 2 separate occasions in the same place. Luckily for me the outside of the corner were huge bushes/thickets and the roof was very round. Rocking that car back and forth several times and poof! Back on it’s wheels. Luckily there was a drop off just past the bushes that helped the little bugger back onto it’s wheels after visiting it’s side momentarily. (luckily, mine had seat belts!) One day dad said.” I noticed another dent on the roof yesterday and a dent in the front passenger’s door. I think it is time to send this little car away”. Next vehicle was a 1953 Chev 1500 Panel truck. Interestingly now. One of my fun cars is a Spec Racer Renault. They just keep following me home after all these years!

  46. phinias

    Wayne,

    What a wonderful tale! The dune buggy we built from a Dauphine was very low to the ground, and never came close to flipping…which is a good thing since we didn’t really have anything close to a real roll bar on ours…but what fun we had with it!

  47. Brian M Member

    ..With what looks like a record number of comments, I’ll add mine. My dad needed a commuter car for his 50 mile each way daily drive and neither of the family cars at the time, a 39 Chevy wagon (wish I still had that) or the 59 Ford Fairlane 500 four door was particularly economical. The Chevy went away somewhere and was replaced with a 60 Dauphine. It was bought at night under mercury vapor lights and looked to be tan. Under direct daylight it came off in a baby crap yellow! A neighbor worked at the Olds dealership and sold him the car with the caveat that it was a 40,000 mile throwaway. A few weeks earlier Dad had won a TV at the dealership by driving the farthest on a teacup of gas in one, something like ten miles by shifting up very early and turning it off at stop lights, etc. so he had experience with it. Both my sister and I learned to drive stick in it but it was not the preferred “date car” so when we both had Saturday night assignations, it was a race for the Ford keys as it was a much better “off road” choice. In the engine compartment there were three almost equally sized items: the heater, the air cleaner and the engine. The radiator cap and the fuel filler were kind of close together and since this was the time when the attendant filled the car (no self service) one day the guy at the local Esso station topped up the radiator with gas even though the gas cap was bright red. We had the car about three years and at about 42,000 the clutch, release bearing timing chain and a couple of other things all took a dump one morning as mom was going to go grocery shopping. Remember the dealer’s warning. Cute car, fun to dive, good fuel economy and great heater. Replacement was a used 61 F85 four door, a quantum leap, but that’s another story.

  48. Ken Carney

    Yeah, I remember these. In the early ’60’s, the Eureka Company (yes
    the same outfit that makes vacuum sweepers) and Henney coach
    builders teamed up to build the Henney Kilowat in my hometown of
    Bloomington, Ill. The Kilowat was based on the Renault Dauphine
    model shown here. My stepdad was one of the engineers that worked
    on that project. He told me once that while the project showed great
    promise, they couldn’t overcome the issues that plague electric cars
    to this day– vehicle weight, and the distance you could drive between
    charges. Eureka provided all the electrical components while Henney
    provided the rolling chassis to round out the deal. Less than 200 of
    them were built before they threw in the towel. I used to take great
    delight in telling that story even though the project failed. But for a
    short time at least, they built cars in Bloomington Illinois. Wonder
    what the guys at Evo Electric could do with one of these?

  49. cHiP

    A 1960 Renault Dauphine was my first car. I received it on a Thursday in 1967. Friday, the following day, I rolled it three times over a bridge and into a stream. Three teenage boys walked away without a scratch while the car width was reduced by half after the crash.

    Ticketed for failure to maintain control. My dad got the ticket torn up for a bottle of Scotch. Those were the days.

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