Our friends had entered a small town while chasing the villains who had kidnapped Prof Calculus. Arturo, at the wheels of the Lancia Aurelia had created mayhem on the streets of the town with his, ummm… spirited driving. Man and beast were jumping and fleeing for their life as the tornado named Arturo drove through this tiny little – till then peaceful – town. It was not only the public on the road, but Arturo’s passengers on board also who were feeling the mind numbing effects of his spirited driving. Another car which escaped being hit on the street and which joined the famous list comprising a Ford Vedette, Dodge WD series truck, Citroen 2CV Fourgonette, Citroen C6, Peugeot 203 and Chevrolet 3800 series truck, was a Renault 4CV.
This car was manufactured and sold by Renault from 1947 to 1961. It was a small four door car. It was the first French car to sell in excess of a million units. In addition to France, it was manufactured in Australia, UK, Japan, Belgium, Ireland, South Africa and Spain. In these markets it was sold Hino 4CV, Renault 4/4, Renault 760, Renault 750 and Renault Quintette. The 4CV was conceptualised as a small car that was expected to be suitable during the austere period following World War II. It was designed covertly under the leadership of Fernand Picard and Charles Edmond Serre between 1941 and 1944. The designing was done covertly because France was under German occupation and the Germans had ordered Renault to concentrate only on commercial and military vehicles. Though meetings were held between Ferdinand Porsche and the development team of Renault after the war, the French boss at the time Pierre Lefaucheux, a leader of the French Resistance, denied any influence of Volkswagen on the design.
40 protoypes were tested extensively in North Africa. The car was presented to the general public during the Paris Motorshow in 1946. On its launch it was nicknamed “La motte de beurre” or the lumo of butter because of its shape and the fact that all initial cars were sand yellow in colour. They all used the left over paint from Field Marshal Rommel’s Afrika Korps. Though a hugely popular car in its segment, Renault introduced the 4CV Service, an even more stripped down version to reach the lower segment of the French market. However, the Citroen 2CV was the king here and production of 4CV Service ceased within an year of introduction.
The Renault 4CV could be easily modified and was used frequently for racing. Renault collaborated with Alpine to produce the Alpine A106.Renault 4CVs competed frequently at the Mille Miglia, Tour de France and Le Mans. It won the Rally Monte Carlo in 1949. In 1951, Renault 4 CV set the record for its class in Le Mans. in 1953, they set the tracks blazing at Mille Miglia.
The Renault 4CV was powered by a 747 cc (45.585 Cu-inch) four cylinder inline naturally aspirated petrol engine. Suction and exhaust of gases for the engine was done by a single pair of inlet and exhaust valves per cylinder. These were overhead valves operated by pushrods. These tiny engines produced 21 BHP at 4,100 rpm. They also produced 45 N-m (33.2ft-lb) of torque at 2,000 rpm.These engines were placed in the rear of the car and drove the rear wheels through a 3-speed manual gearbox.
Within its tiny dimensions, 3,607 mm (142″) length, 1,430 mm (56.3″) width and 1,470 mm (57.9″) height, it provided comfortable seating for four people and a four door saloon layout. It weighed in at just 560 Kg (1,235 lb), thus allowing the tiny 21 BHP engine to push it to top speed of 95 km/h (59 mph). The 4 CV came with independent suspension front and rear and a monocoque body construction. It has a very light steering because the engine was placed at the rear. The steering turned 2.45 turns lock to lock in the earlier versions giving it a very tight handling. The feed back was direct. This resulted in a well handling car, a testimony to which are all the victories the 4CV achieved at various racing events.