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autoviva2012-11-23 15:57:50

Cult Cars: Renault 4

The bestselling French car with sales in excess of eight million units in more than 100 countries, the Renault 4 has become a motoring icone.

Produced from 1961 to 1992, the RenaultRenaultRenaultFrance, 1898 > present189 models
6115 photos
17 videos
44Renault 4France, 1961 > 199428 versions
122 photos
2 videos
, today generally referred to using the generic name 4L, is also known as the "blue jeans car" and the model we will always associate with the delivery van of the French mailman, the French police and the Boulangerie car, of course.

One indicator of its popularity around the world are the numerous nicknames attributed to the versatile runabout in the different countries. In Italy, it was marketed as "Frog", in Spain, it was nicknamed "Cuatro Latas" (four boxes), in the former Yugoslavia, it was called "Katcra" (Catherine), in Argentina, it earned the nickname "El Correcaminos" (path runner) and in Finland, it became "Tiparellu" (droplet).

Over its lifetime, it accompanied three generations of customers. Throughout the 1960s, Renault 4 convinced buyers with its twobox design and variable interior space. It exuded simplicity thanks to its modest equipment and was available at a competitive retail price.

Hence, the R4 started off as an all-round economic car, but soon went beyond that. The Parisienne version, added in 1963, reached out to a young, fashionable and female clientele and made the runabout what is today a "lifestyle" car.

A 1973 TV commercial for the Renault 4

encyclopedia: Renault; Renault 4; Renault 4;

During the 1970s, the next generation continued to gain ground with young people. Many models were spotted festooned with peace and love embroidered symbols and bell bottoms, the Renault 4 became the cult car of a curious, different young generation of carefree hippies.

By the 1980s, the Renault 4 had become an integral part of everyday life, from delivery van, family car to rally champion. Many different variants adjusted to the needs of the wide customer base until production finally ended after more than thirty years in 1992.

And still today, the Renault 4 is a feature in the automobile landscape: very active clubs are flourishing all around the globe and the numerous surviving models are restored, modified, entered in rallies (4L Trophy) or simply used every day.

As the best selling French car across the world with sales in excess of eight million units in more than 100 countries, the Renault 4 has become a motoring icon.

In 2011, Renault and all R4 fans around the world, celebrated the 50th anniversary of this unforgettable model.

The Blue Jeans Car

R4 was the fruit of a concept. In 1956, Pierre Dreyfus, then president of Renault, launched the notion of a "blue jeans" car. Like the now-familiar article of clothing which is worn the world over, he wanted to produce a versatile, inexpensive car with a worldwide calling which could match the changes in society that were being observed as the 1960s approached.


The 4, Renault's first front-wheel drive passenger car, was unveiled at the 1961 Paris Motor Show. It was new for its shape, for the technical solutions it employed and, most especially, for the concept it promoted: urban but not snobby, utilitarian but not rough. The new Renault 4 was offered in four versions: R3, R4, R4L, R4L Super Confort, as van and saloon.

1963: The Parisienne

The "Parisienne" entered the scene in December 1963. This elegant version of the R4L was the result of an operation launched in conjunction with Elle magazine. Recognisable by its decorative side panels and its special interior, it was introduced in two versions, one with a wicker pattern and one with a plaid pattern.

1968: Plein Air

In 1968, the Parisienne took its final bow, but the Plein Air (type R 1123) - a cabriolet version of the Renault 4 - hit the market. Manufactured by Sinpar, the "Plein Air", a torpedo stripped of doors and side windows, was ideal for the beach and recreational activities.

1971: Rodeo

The Renault 4 was made in several different body versions and variants, such as the Rodeo. For this version, Renault supplied Ateliers de Construction du Libradois (A.C.L.) with 4L manual transmissions for the engines of a plastic body designed and built by Teilhol. A long list of further limited editions continued to be released, the best known of which were the Safari, the Jogging and the Sixties.

1975: Safari

Unveiled at the 1975 auto show, the Safari was inspired by pleasure and boasted an exterior appearance and interior features specifically designed to appeal to young consumers.

1978: GTL

As of January 1978, the new Renault 4 GTL featured an 1,108 cc engine that had already been seen on the Renault 8. Performance improved while fuel consumption dropped by an average of one litre. On the outside, its radiator grille and bumpers were uniformly grey and two protective crossovers were added to the ends of the front bumper. Sliding glass was added to the rear windows, which were no longer fixed.


A Sinpar-prepared all-wheel drive Renault 4 took part in the second Paris-Dakar Rally with brothers Claude and Bernard Marreau behind the wheel. The car notably featured a 1,397cc and 93hp Renault 5 Alpine engine and suspension. The brothers finished third overall.

1986: Clan & Savana

Launched in May 1986, the Clan and Savane were the last two evolutions of the Renault 4. The Renault 4 TL was renamed "TL Savane" and the GTL became the "Clan". The two models could be easily identified thanks to the words "Savane" or "Clan" affixed to the front doors and rear tailgate. The Savane used the same wheels as the Renault 5 GTL and the Clan inherited the two- colour "Style" rims of the Renault 12 and 16.


The introduction of stricter antipollution standards heralded the end of the Renault 4. On December 3, 1992, Renault announced the end of the Renault 4 in a press release. Two factories would continue to produce the Renault 4 after that date and through 1994: Morocco and Slovenia. But after 30 years in production and with 8,135,424 units sold, the R4 has clearly left its imprint on the successors.

In this "Cult Cars" series of articles, we are looking at some of the most iconic models from motoring history. If you would like to read about other, similarly famous cars, here are some suggestions for you:

Cult Cars: The Volkswagen Transporter

We also want to hear your opinion! Did you ever own this car yourself? What was your experience? Do you have any special memories related with the Renault 4?

R4 SuperR4 Super
Straight 4
46 cu in
Top Speed
68 mph
4, Manual
Maximum power
32 hp
Saloon (sedan)
Fuel consumption (combined)
annual ownership cost




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