To celebrate the Renault 4’s 50th birthday, there is a really nice collection of them in the “auto, moto, vélo” museum in Chatellerault, along with posters from its hey day.
I have never owned a 2CV, the iconic car of France, but I did once have a Renault 4.
I actually had my first driving lessons in one. You may justifiably question the sanity of someone who tries to learn to drive in a car with only three gears, a gear stick sticking out of the dashboard and a tendency to lean alarmingly on the slightest bend, but that’s what I did.
Until the occasion when I was overtaken by a milk float going up a slight hill in Leeds. Then I decided that if I was going to get anywhere (literally) I needed proper driving lessons in a proper car.
The posters in the museum showed how the Renault 4 was everything a car should be, appealing to everyone; it was a shopping trolley, a workhorse and a cool set of wheels all in one design. Pretty clever.
Mind you, from the experience of owning one, I would think it might have trouble keeping up with those skateboards in the poster !!
I had to arrange a bank loan to afford it, which in itself was a huge step in the 1970’s – having to be interviewed by the bank manager to borrow £300.
As it turned out, it was the most awful car I have ever had. It wouldn’t start at all in winter and I had to use the starting handle or bump start it down the hill outside my flat. The heater was almost non-existent and those windows were not the best design for keeping the draughts out. It was really slow and almost died on the slightest uphill slope yet leaned as if you were on race track on every bend. I had to choose my passengers carefully – there was no room for anyone who suffered from motion sickness or was afraid of getting frostbite.
But I loved it. It was fun, quirky and none of my friends had one so it was unique. They were all burbling around the countryside in their done-up VW Beetles, or posing in their MGB’s and I would lurch round the bends in something like a cross between a small van and a blue brick. It was also all I could afford and my very first car, like a first love, always remembered with fondness, forgetting the annoying bits.
In my mind it will always be on a pedestal. You can keep your 2CV’s. I will be getting another Renault 4 as soon as I can. Just to see if it is really as bad as I remember it.