Show Car Styling: Craigslist Renault Caravelles

In what is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime event, two Renault Caravelle coupes are up for sale on craigslist sites in California and Missouri. The Caravelle is seldom seen today, despite the company’s desire to overtake the popularity of the VW Beetle with its eye-catching styling by Frua and rear-engine configuration. Find the Missouri car pictured above here on craigslist and the California car – which looks like the better candidate – here on craigslist

Both of these cars are what you’d consider “later” examples, with different upgrades and improvements to set them apart from the first run of vehicles. As a 1961 model, this Caravelle received suspension improvements designed to provide more predictable handling. Unfortunately, due to the high concentration of rust in the floors, any improvement in structural strength may be lost in this car. Still, it presents as a fairly honest example that is said to run strong.

My feeling is this 1963 car is the one to buy if either of these projects appear tempting. The Missouri car is listed for $3,400; this one in Orange County is listed for $2K. As the seller points out, this later edition has a larger engine, but it also received four-wheel disc brakes and a four-speed manual transmission as standard equipment. The seller doesn’t say whether this one runs our not, but we’re going to assume no effort has been made to start it. It appears some level of paint prep has already transpired.

The seller of this Caravelle says the first $2K takes it; this isn’t a crazy price, but it does seem high given the unknowns surrounding an already obscure car. The seller does mention it could use floors like the Caravelle above, but doesn’t include photos. Personally, if I’m going to own a Renault, it’s going to be in the form of a Dauphine. But for a rare bird like the Caravelle that doesn’t show up for sale often, either of these could be a fun project.


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  1. RayT Member

    These are neat little cars — in a way, French Karmann-Ghias — and are indeed getting rare, in large part because, like all Renaults, owners tended to be a bit rough on them.

    The CA car does look like a better bet, though the engine is obviously not original. IIRC, the largest unit offered in the Caravelle was the R10’s 1108cc engine. If the seller is at all accurate, my guess would be that it has an engine from a late-model R5, which displaced 1397cc. Never saw that swap in my time with Renaults, but don’t see any reason it couldn’t be done.

    Mechanical work on either car is pretty simple — assuming you can find parts — but fixing the rotted sheet metal would would be a deal-breaker for me. Like so many finds posted at BF, I can only say “Wish the previous owners had taken better care of them!”

  2. Dan

    Once in a lifetime event? Whew, I am glad that has passed!

  3. Rex Kahrs Member

    I thought the Caravelle was designed to bring people into the Renault showrooms just as the Karmann-Ghia (not the Beetle) was designed to bring people into VW dealers. Also, I thought (as the name implies,) the K-G was designed by Ghia, not Frua.

    Either way, both of these cars are overpriced. Caravelles are slow, they don’t handle well, parts are expensive, and the re-sale market is pretty thin. Ask me how I know.

    Like 1
  4. Wagon master Member

    Maybe so but I still love the looks.

  5. 8banger dave Member

    Is it just me, or does the blue Missouri one have a fastback-style c-pillar? Maybe it’s Miller-Time…

  6. Rex Kahrs Member

    Renault modified the removable hard top in ’63 to allow more head room for the rear seat passengers. And yes it is Miller time.

  7. 8banger dave Member

    On it.

  8. Maestro1

    No rational reason for i but I’d take the Missouri car, fix it and use it occasionally.
    They are fun cars, slow, and generally eccentric here, and parts are available through someone in Tempe Arizona.

  9. Will Owen Member

    The ’63 would be the car to buy even if both were in good condition. The earlier ones with the air intakes on the flanks and outlet at the back had not been wind-tunnel tested, and contrary to what seems obvious the actual airflow didn’t go that way. The revised version takes in air from the back and discharges it just behind the rear window, which provides much better cooling.

    These cars always seemed kinda hopeless to me back in the day, just Dauphines in drag, but the later ones especially look pretty attractive these days.

  10. Peter K

    There is enough room in the engine bay to put a V-Tec in-line 4 cylinder aluminum motor and hook it up to your choice of transmissions without too much work.

    • Doug

      That would be downright DANGEROUS ! These cars had scary handling even when underpowered, and the Dauphine was at least as bad. They were far worse than the early Corvair – too bad Nader didn’t pick on them instead. Any car that will barrel roll 3 times at less than 30 mph on a dry, level road in a corner that a stock 55 Chevy can easily handle at 35 doesn’t belong on a public road.

      • Will Owen Member

        That was far from my experience, but then I wasn’t pushing hard the afternoon I was driving one, with my girlfriend beside me, up Turnagain Arm to Anchorage on a blustery day. We were holding abt 50-55, and since the road wound around the feet of mountains above the sea we’d go from heavy side-wind to no wind and back, which required constant correction. Not only was it easy, it was actually pretty much fun, and Patsy was sitting with her legs tucked under on the seat, chatting away.

        I remembered that car as light-handling if slow, for the most part, but pleasant enough. Maybe ten years later I drove another, freshly refurbished, and I was amazed at how heavy and stodgy it felt – more like my brother’s ghastly Metropolitan than the relatively light thing I remembered.

  11. TR

    That cat has a serious hubcap collection

  12. Rex Kahrs Member

    Will, that is a very descriptive account of your journey with Patsy up the mountain. I liked it a lot.

    Once I took my lovely wife Kathleen in my Caravelle along I-70 west of Columbus to look at leaves at Clifton Gorge. With my two-tones to the floorboards, doing that same top-end of 55, I realized that each passing semi would first push me to the berm, and then suck me left into the vortex as it passed. It was terrifying, frankly. We had a nice day, but on the return trip, the one thing I didn’t replace on the car (the upper radiator hose, a $50 item from Jacques out in El Cajon)) sprung a leak. Luckily, the leak was pointed directly at the distributor, and the car cut out and stopped running before I blew a head gasket. I got a lot of use out of my AAA membership that year.

  13. Mark in WNC

    The ’63 is a convertible.

  14. Carey Hill

    Great little cars and would really turn heads with a bit of work.
    there are enough classic mustangs in the world

    Like 1

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