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Parlez Vous Francais? 1956 Renault 4CV


California does it again, have you ever seen a 1956 Renault 4CV before? Here’s one for sale on craigslist in San Diego that has had a very nicely done makeover.


Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, and some may not find this car to their liking, but I think it’s pretty cute and even charming – what a great face!


Renault 4CVs were rear engine, rear wheel drive cars that were built from 1947 to 1961 to sell to the economy segment of the French car market. “4CV” stands for cheval-vapeur, which is the French equivalent of what we call taxable horsepower. By the time the car offered here was sold, the engine used was a 747 cc four cylinder making a bit more power than the earliest low output engines used in the immediate post war period.

Renault 4CV Ad
Image courtesy of aronline.co.uk

Renault 4CVs were popular in France, earning the affectionate nickname quatre pattes (four paws) and selling well enough that even after its replacement model, the Dauphine, was released in 1956, the by-then nearly ancient 4CV design remained in production another five years. The 4CV was the first French car model to exceed one million units sold, although not very many of them were sold in the United States, and doubtless very few of them still exist here.


The seller points out that this car is rare and a head turner, which is most likely true. As he says, it is no speed demon, but makes for a fun and economical beach cruiser. Quite a bit of work has been done on the car, according to the ad.


From the seller: Rebuilt engine, generator, new battery, beautiful fresh paint, new interior including front seats, carpet kit, headliner and suede door panels. Back seat is in good condition and is original! So many new parts on this car, chrome hood hinges front & rear, door handles, door seals, emblems, stainless steel door runners, stainless steel front & rear bumpers and so much more.


This is still a bit of a work in progress as the seller says he will be adding new brakes and a front bushing kit soon, and all that remains to be done are the addition of a stereo and rear window seals. Original period yellow and black California license plates are also included.


The asking price seems steep to me at $13,000, but maybe the rarity and the amount of work done on the car will justify that price to a potential buyer. It looks like the seller built this car to sell, and if the quality of workmanship is high, this could be a fun toy for someone with some extra money to spend. What do you think of this unusual find?


  1. Avatar photo gerry Member

    Price isn’t to far off,
    Several for sale in the UK from $8K-$18K
    Would be a cool little car for Sat night cruise ins and ice cream runs

    Like 0
  2. Avatar photo RON

    another of those i admired as a kid. i saw one for sale in texas i thin it was recently that looked pretty much together. there was a kid in my high school in about 59 or early 60 whose mom bought one of these new. he had the full capacity of 4 in it decending a long hll at peak speed of maybe 60 or little better with tail wind. these things had a locking steering column like the old 40’s ford. this kid was a a genius from a stance of book knowledge but a few bricks shy of a load in common since. he would switch it of and on rapidly to make it backfire and in so doing it lockedthe steering wheel when in momentary right movement, the front tire went off the roadbed and lost total controll. it rolled end over end for about 1/4 mile fortunately off the tar mac. all four survived and he was th only one who had very badinjuries. bear in mind these things had suicide doors on the front and regular on the back and i am pretty sure i don’t think they even had lap belts. i can not confirm it but was told after it was turned over and fluids replaced it would run. i think he died pretty youngwith a brain tumor and a phd.

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  3. Avatar photo Jason Houston

    YES, I’ve seen one of these before. A white 1959 was another of my dad’s cornball foreign car fiascos he hoped would rub off on me. He bought it in 1962 from one of those sleazy “we finance anyone” dealers in San Fran for $900, giving up our beautiful Woodsmoke Gray 1952 Mainline Ranch Wagon to get it.

    My parents, without doubt, were already the dumbest, most naïve car buyers on earth, but this put them over the top. I was never so disgusted in alI my life. It lasted until 1968, when the engine blew up. My dad overhauled it, but it just blew up again, so we junked it. The next day property values in our neighborhood started going back up.

    He made me drive this ugly pile to school before I was able to afford my own car. What a total EMBARRASSMENT, while everybody else drove their folks’ late model cars or their own mid-50’s Fords and Chevrolets.

    Like 0
  4. Avatar photo Howard A Member

    MY 1st CAR!!!! Just love this site!! Not this particular car, of course, but in 1970, me and my brother bought a ’59 4CV from “Milrace Motors” in Thiensville, Wis. At the time, it was one of Milwaukee’s premier sports car dealers. It was a back lot special, and we paid $50 dollars for it, and the motor was stuck, but the body was in perfect shape. We pulled the head off, soaked the pistons in WD-40, and hammered the piston liners down with a baseball bat, and freed it up. We painted it with an electric spray gun in my old man’s garage ( which turned out pretty good, surprisingly) and since I didn’t have my license yet, ( I never actually drove the 4CV, except up and down my parents driveway, that honor goes to my 1958 Volvo, right after the 4CV) me and my brother took it to school, ( found it on the curb one day, stupid senior hooligans) but it was a pretty poor car. It burned oil ( remember hammering the piston liners down?) and and we soon became the laughing stock of school, so it was sold.
    The 4CV turns out to be Renault’s most popular car ever, and was made and sold around the world as the Hino 4CV and in Spain, Australia ( as the 760) and several other countries. Can’t tell you how many times, an ignorant gas station attendant almost put gas in the radiator cap ( below the rear window) as the gas filler was under the rear deck lid. The 4CV was everything the VW was not. 4 doors, a real heater, and just a better car. I know where one is right now. An antique store just east of Janesville, Wis. on Hy.14 ( in the town of Emerald Grove) has one, in very poor condition. They were also used as taxi’s in Asia, ( Saigon shown here) and probably still are. Very cool find ( although the 13g’s made me “plotz”) Thanks, David for the flashback. http://i.imgur.com/v9cEuzZ.jpg

    Like 0
    • Avatar photo MikeH

      Playing the Hemmings game with your link, I see a bunch of 4CVs, a Peugeot 203, a Dauphine, and on the sidewalk, what looks to be a Willys Aero and a T3 VW Squareback.

      Like 0
      • Avatar photo Howard A Member

        Hi Mike, you got me there. It’s kind of weird, I originally learned about BF’s on Hemmings, as a “sponsored link”, but now, when I post links of BF’s cars on Hemmings, my comment is struck. Too much competition maybe?

        Like 0
  5. Avatar photo Ed P

    This is a much nicer looking car than the 2CV. At least the sides have some shape instead of the flat sides of the 2CV.

    Like 0
  6. Avatar photo Puhnto

    I love Renault 4CVs!

    Like 0
  7. Avatar photo Jesper

    Why have trey resprayed it??
    Thats a shame.
    We see them often for sale here in Europa. From 2000euro and up.
    They are not so rare in good original condition.
    A freind of mine, sold his, 100% original rustfree for 3500 euro.
    That was nicer, than this one

    Like 1
  8. Avatar photo Ward Curtis

    I bought a 4CV Renault once, in 197…5? In Portland, Oregon, riding my bicycle home from work. I spotted it on a side road half grown-over with blackberry vines. I stopped, knocked on the door, and the guy said I could have it, “hang on, let me go find the title”. I said that I HAD to pay him something, so $5 did the trick. Later I towed it home behind my family’s 1963 Volkswagon bus. Slow trip. Too busy with Sprites, school, and work I never did anything with it. I gave it away in about 1980. One of my sisters still has the ’63 bus. “If I knew then what I know now…”

    Like 0

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