29 November 2008

A vintage Renault

Why is it that I have this fascination with old French cars? I'm talking about 1970s-vintage Renaults, Peugeots, and Citroëns. 2CVs, R4s, and 204s. Simcas. Sigh.

I guess it has to do with the time I spent in Paris and other places in France in the 1970s and early 1980s. During those years, I owned a car for only one year, and it was the last year I spent in Paris before returning to the U.S. to find real work and to try to make a career for myself. A retirement. I guess it has paid off.

This is a Renault 4 like the one I had in Paris nearly
30 years ago. I don't have any pictures from back then.

It was 1981 Paris, and I bought a little 1973 Renault 4 from friends for the princely sum of $300. Walt was in Paris that year, and that's when we met and got to be friends. I drove it around Paris and had many adventures. I even ventured as far out as Fontainebleau in it a time or two, and I made it just fine, there and back. The car had seats that would remind you of an old lawn chair — the kind with vinyl straps stretched across an aluminum frame.

The gear shift lever stuck right out of the dashboard — you couldn't even call it a "four-on-the-floor" the way we called American manual-transmission cars back then. And it shifted in a different pattern from the standard U.S. "H" pattern, more like a "W". I don't think the car had a radio, and the brakes weren't all that good.

A late 1970s Renault 6 exactly like the one
that my mechanic in Saint-Aignan is selling

The clutch went out one day when I was driving around the Place de La République. There was a Renault garage nearby and the mechanics fixed it pretty quickly. I just took the métro home to my apartment off the rue Montorgueil. And I was OK with the $150 they charged me for a new clutch when I went back to get the car.

Anyway, the mechanic who works on my Peugeot 206 over in Noyers-sur-Cher has a small selection of used cars for sale. One of them is a late-'70s vintage Renault 6. The R6 is just an improved, prettified version of the R4 that I used to have. The sign on the car says it has 64K kms (about 40K miles) on it and the price is 1500.00€ "à débattre" — that means you can make an offer and bargain for it.

La Renault 6 de mes rêves...

I'm still thinking about whether it makes sense for me to buy it. "Of course it doesn't make sense," my logical side tells me. But it's not that expensive and the dollar is up against the euro. I comes with a three-month guarantee. The car's in great shape, and it would be fun to tool around Saint-Aignan in a vintage car. Relive my youth. Break down and have to walk home.


  1. Ken,

    Go for it! I have spend ages trying to convince Susan we need some camouflage in the way of an ancient car.

    My preference would be a 2CV, of course - just perfect for pootling around, going to the market, or perhaps popping into a cave. Of course, you would have to buy a beret to match...

  2. Hmm, not so much charm in that angular 1970s shape, though, is there? I loved my Renault 4, umbrella-handle gear-change and all: not least for the relatively long wheelbase and roof, which meant I could get bits of rowing boat and oars on the roofrack; but sadly the floor rusted through as they tended to do.

  3. Oh, Ken, I would buy that car in a minute! My first car was a 1971 Simca 1204 that looked so much like this car, right down to the exact same caramel color.

    I loved that car. It tootled along merrily for 13 years before the complete unavailability of parts forced me to give it up.

  4. an early b'day present to yourself perhaps......why not.....

    speaking of 4 on the floor....we had a stick shift toyota for 15 yrs & i NEVER learned how to drive the thing....couldn't even back it outta the driveway....pathetic on my part

  5. A new car sounds like a lark, but you're pushing 60, non? and the dollar is up! Why not go for it?

    I remember those kind of seats you mentioned- just like a lawn chair. No one thought of air bags back then.

    I'm a little suspicious about the mileage on the car, it may have rolled over past 100,000 miles.

  6. Yeah, early birthday gift. Of course, there is no Metro to hop on to take home if it breaks down :))

    Is insurance expensive?

    And 1981 was when Judy was there in Paris, too! I had my little 16-year old refurbished red BMW 2002 waiting for me --- a great little car! The first one I had was white, duct tape, and body putty *LOL*.


  7. You need this car, Ken! ;-)


  8. Go for the car! But maybe get a cell phone as well, just in case.

  9. LOL, Ch. The cell phone is a very good idea. I have one — I just need to get it charged up with minutes. Another good idea will be towing coverage on the insurance policy.

    What's stopping me from buying the car is a lack of garage space. Where would I keep it? The garage is too full of bicycles, lawn furniture, and boxes of clothes and old papers.


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