Museum Piece: 1928 Renault NN1

While Renault produced 150,000 examples of the NN1 model during 5-years of production. They are not a particularly common sight today. Therefore, to have the opportunity to write about two different cars that have appeared on our desks here at Barn Finds in quick succession is a bit of a rare treat. I really have to thank Barn Finder art for referring this virtually complete and highly original example to us. It is located in Pasadena, California, and is listed for sale here on Craigslist. The owner is asking $8,000 for the French classic.

Regular Barn Finds readers may have seen this Renault article that I wrote recently, and while that car was more of a commercial vehicle, this one is most definitely a passenger car. This car is being offered for sale for approximately twice what the earlier example sold for, but for my money, it is considerably more than twice the car. The body is complete and appears to be in really good condition. Apart from being in overall better condition, this Renault isn’t missing any of the little external trim items that were absent on the other car. This is a convertible model, and the rag-top is said to be new. The condition of the car isn’t really surprising, as it has spent the majority of the past 40-years on display in a museum. The rubber on the running boards is perished and will need to be replaced, but the rest of the car looks like it would respond very nicely to a good polish.

The beating heart of the NN1 is a 951cc flathead 4-cylinder engine, producing 8.3hp. This power is then sent to the rear wheels via a 3-speed manual transmission. The bad news here is that the engine has been removed and dismantled. It is hard to gauge the engine’s relative health from the photos, so how easy or viable a rebuild would be isn’t clear. Provided the engine block, the crank, and the head are all okay, then this should be a viable proposition. I have heard of owners adapting later Ford valves to the engine, and I also seem to remember that it is possible to obtain replacement bearings if the crank needs to be ground. Of course, it would be possible to transplant a different engine under the hood, but it would be nice if the original could be revived.

The interior of this little Renault is a surprise because it really looks like it could be quite decent under that heavy layer of dust. The entire dash has been removed, but it is resting on the front seat, and it looks like it is complete. The upholstery on the doors looks good, while the same may well be true for the seats. Some of the timberwork is going to require refinishing, but being teak, it should be nice and solid.

The French motor industry has produced some quirky and interesting cars during its life-time, and this 1928 NN1 probably qualifies under that heading. It is an interesting car that would most definitely stand out in a crowd. I would love to see someone buy this, rebuild the original engine, and return it to active duty. It would definitely be a great conversation starter at the next Cars & Coffee because there wouldn’t be many people who would actually know what it was.


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  1. 86_Vette_Convertible

    To say ‘Interesting’ is putting it mildly. Finding engine or drivetrain parts could be very difficult IMO but if done carefully, a alternate drive train might be able to be inserted into the car with little to no modifications. Don’t know, never seen a car like this before.

  2. Tirefriar

    Would SBC qualify as an engine alternative? ;-)

    Like 1
    • 86_Vette_Convertible

      Depends if it would fit, but where would you put the radiator? ;-) Personally I was thinking about something like a 4 cylinder, possibly a 6 though I don’t know if they’d fit.
      Even a modern 4 cylinder should move this one just fine IMO.

      Like 1
  3. BR

    If it only requires 8.3 HP to move it the engine options are almost limitless, beginning with Briggs & Stratton.

    Like 6
  4. MikeH

    I’m sure that’s taxable horsepower, cheval fiscal. It is determine by a complicated, constantly changing, formula that does have some relationship to actual hp, but not much. Actual hp is usually 5 or 6 times the taxable hp. I would love to have this car, but only with the original engine.

    Like 1
  5. BR

    You’re probably correct. I can’t imagine that engine with anything less than 20 HP. From Wikipedia:

    “The Cheval Fiscal, often abbreviated to CV in tax law, is used for the issuing of French registration certificates known as “grey cards” (cartes grises). It is an administrative unit originally calculated partly from the power of the engine and used to calculate the amount of tax that may be due at the time of registration.

    Its use in France dates from 1 January 1913. It was updated in 1956 with further revisions in 1978 and a new emission based system introduced in 1998.

    It was originally defined using the following formula:

    C V = n × D 2 × L × ω × K


    n is the number of cylinders
    D is the cylinder bore in centimeters
    L is the stroke in centimeters
    ω is the engine speed in revolutions per second
    K is a coefficient depending on the number of cylinders (single-cylinder engine 0.00020 / two-cylinder engine 0.00017 / four-cylinder engine 0.00015 / six-cylinder engine and engines with more cylinders 0.00013).”

    Like 8
  6. Sunshine

    It might be the time to start restomods with BEV. This would make a swift and silent prospect with limited requirements to move 2500 lbs, as well as limits to chassis. Something to move about a CBD, metro, or tourist area would be all that is required. Very unique styling for ‘tween war years. Rather petite at ~12 feet long, but a generous wheelbase of nearly 9 feet should provide a pleasant vintage ride.

  7. Jon Rappuhn

    Would be an interesting show vehicle or parade driver. I would be afraid that all the parts would fall off of it came across a Porsche, VW, or Mercedes near it.

  8. 37StudeJ5

    Great prospect for an EV conversion. It has a retro Tesla nose already.

  9. Chinga Trailer

    $8,000 price is an invitation to spend $35,000 on repair costs to produce a $20,000 car when done.

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