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Parked For 33 Years: 1951 Renault 4CV

The Renault 4CV was the French answer to the Volkswagen Beetle, and one of the cars that made motoring more accessible to the masses in post-WWII France. First available in its native country in late 1947, the 4CV went on sale in the United States in 1949 and established Renault as a market presence in this country for the next four decades. This 1951 Renault 4CV available here on eBay in Birchwood, Wisconsin is a complete non-running car that was recently pulled from a barn where it had been sitting since 1988.

Due to a missing title, the seller is not completely sure if this is a 1951 and is perhaps basing their guess on this “465-51!” stenciled on the firewall. There were apparently 777 Renaults imported to the US in 1951 so maybe this is #465? Regardless of the year, this car is in rough shape but complete aside from the missing windshield, sliding rear door windows, and smashed rear glass. Nearly everybody panel is dented and there is a lot of surface rust and faded paint on the exterior. The seller states there is rust through in the “usual spots” which include the door bottoms and floor pan. The bumpers are dented and most of the exterior lights are missing. It’s going to take a lot of work to put this one back to anything resembling its original condition.

The interior seems to be in slightly better shape, the door cards are there, and the seats don’t appear ripped which is a bonus considering the overall condition of this car. A rubber floormat covers the front but is missing from the rear.

In the back is a water-cooled 747cc inline-four that is said to turn freely which is good news. The condition of the three-speed manual transmission is unknown, but the shifter at least moves through the gears. Some extra parts are included in the sale which includes a bunch of Dauphine body panels which won’t be of any use for a 4CV but could be sold to help fund the project. It rolls on rims with dry rotted tires which still hold air, at least temporarily.

The starting bid is $900 and there are no takers so far. Getting this little 4CV running would probably provide the new owner with the motivation to at least make it roadworthy. With the mechanicals sorted, some new tires, missing glass replaced, and new headlights and taillights fitted, it could be driven as-is. Would a little French rat rod be a good alternative to a more commonly ratted-out Volkswagen Beetle?


  1. RayT Member

    I’m reasonably certain this is not a ’51 4CV, based on what I can see of the instrument cluster, which appears to be of a later type. It could have been built as recently as ~1959-60, when the “star” wheels were replaced by normal disc wheels. I don’t think the earliest models had the “Gordini” name on the rocker cover either, which denoted a very slightly more powerful engine for “export” versions.

    That doesn’t matter much. There’s a lot — make that a LOT — of work awaiting the new owner, from finding glass to tracking down many essential parts. Anyone looking at this as an “investment” will likely be deep under water before they have it back on the road.

    I owned one some years ago — actually, 1 1/2, as the “primary” car was pretty badly rotted, so I acquired a better body shell — but, shamefully, never managed to finish it, as I couldn’t find some fairly crucial bits. Other than that, they are remarkably simple to work on.

    Later, I saw one compete in one of the Mille Miglia recreation events. I was jealous, even if the little thing was slow, slow, slow. I know the driver had a ball! Everything on four wheels is a race car in Italy!

    Like 9
  2. Vegaman Dan

    I could see this body dropped on something like a Geo Tracker or other short wheel base 4×4.

    Like 2
  3. Howard A Member

    When I saw “4CV”, and a Wisconsin plate, naturally my mind began to reel, could it be ours? Nah, close, but no cigar. I agree, I don’t think it’s a ’51 either. Early 4CV’s had a 6 bar grill, later ones had the 3 bar. Not sure about the wheels, seems the early ones did have these, our ’59 did not. Dauphines used these into the 60’s, possibly they were European models. Those front turn signals are of a later model too, and ’51, I believe, still had turn signals on the C pillar. Since I don’t ever recall seeing any others, this could have been the one outside of Janesville, Wis. for many years. Cool find, and for the record, it may have a “Gordini” motor, but we’re not talking funny car performance, I believe the engine produced a whopping 38 hp. ( up from 32 stock) and far better suited for the back alley’s of Europe, than I-70. Great find.

    Like 4
    • Gary M. Jacobson

      Howard A: I remember that car–SE of Janesville on Hwy 14. I thought that guy had two. Jake

      Like 1
  4. Terrry

    Even the interior has patina! Just spray both the outside and inside with clear acrylic and you’re good to go!

    Like 2
  5. Bo Malefors

    The star wheels were used until 1956 and I am relatively sure the dash in this car was first used on 1956 models also so it is a safe bet to call it a 1956 4CV. If the engine is really a Gordini engine ot would be a Dauphine engine, the 4CV never came with a Gordini engine from the factory, not in Europe and not in the US.
    I have a few 4CV cars here in Arizona including a 1955 Decapotable, a convertible that I’m restoring right now. It has the star wheels but the older dash and the 3 front aluminum mustaches.

    Like 5
  6. David Miraglia

    Needs some TLC. And I agree with everyone, a little paint and cleanup and she will shine.

    Like 0
  7. RJ

    I bought one in ’61 from a “Last Gasp” car-lot for $40.00. After a week of scaring myself trying to get it to corner, I sold it for $50.00 – and considered myself luck to find a buyer

    Like 2
  8. Sam61

    Aged like a piece of moldy French cheese.

    This would make a great EV conversion or transplant VW motor and trans. The “drop the body on a tracker/samurai frame” would be awesome.

    I am running for office under the indecisive party.

    Like 2
  9. Kurt Member

    Mon dieu, what a cutie. Certainly a fun project but parts availability would concern me.

    Like 1
  10. Derek

    Bodywork looks fairly normal for Paris parking….

    Like 3
  11. bobhess bobhess Member

    As soon as we got off the main routes on our way to the ’76 Le Mans race these things were all over the place. Interesting that we had a big Fiat sedan with the twin cam engine and our VW Notchback with a highly modified 100hp engine and the French drivers were running faster than we were in them. True, with over 100 bottles of beer in the car we didn’t want to get arrested but don’t think we’d drive the Renaults like they were. Besides lousy brakes the rear suspensions weren’t made for racing. No one told the locals that obviously.

    Like 0
  12. William Cockayne

    I would drop that body on something also. Like the ground from a 60 foot crane.

    Like 0
  13. lynn finlayson

    i have a 1959 4cv with the finned aluminum valve cover and header exhaust. assume its the hi perf 21 hp. 19hp std.. motor is stuck. dirt in front cylinder. mine has the 3 bar grill and 3 bolt rims. space saver tires fit on the stock rims.. my plan was to build a rolling chassis with narrowed 85 cad eldo fwd, front and back on fabricated frame. ive got a 305 HO olds roller motor, 1985 modified, 200r4 fwd trans axle. got a set of trans-am gta 16 in rims. looks like all would fit under the stock body and fenders. also have a 2008 hayabusa and 34 ford 2 dr sedan dwarf car i could put undere it, but the dwarf is still together and running. i would buy it, just in case, for parts. now days, you need a parts car…iam located in alliance, nebr..

    Like 0
  14. yann

    End of the enigma …

    465-51 …. It should read: 465-S1 (not 51)
    – 465 color code (Mediterranean Blue)
    – S1: S for Synthetic paint
    1 for paint manufacturer (Renault)
    – 2 – Nitrolac
    – 3 – Valentine
    – 4 – Lefranc
    – 5 – Duco
    – 6 – Villemer

    This 4cv is actually a 1957 model.
    Mediterranean Blue was produced for 2 years (1957/58) and 1957 was the last year of production with star wheels (non-perforated wheels in 1958-59-60-61)

    Regards to France

    Like 0

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