CV is the abbreviation of cheval-vapeur, the French equivalent to "horsepower" as a unit of power

Renault 4CV - 56

The Renault 4CV (French: "quatre chevaux") is a rear-

engined, rear wheel drive, four-door economy car

manufactured and marketed by the French manufacturer

Renault from August 1947 through July 1961. As the first

French car to sell over a million units, the 4CV was

superseded by the Dauphine.

The name 4CV refers to the car's tax horsepower. In    1996,    Renault    presented    a    concept    car    —    the    Renault    Fiftie    —    to    celebrate    the    50th anniversary   of   the   4CV's   debut.   It   was   a   two-door,   mid-engine   design   with   styling   similar   to   the 4CV.

Conception and development

The   4CV   was   originally   conceived   and   designed   covertly   by   Renault   engineers   during   the   World War   II   German   occupation   of   France,   when   the   manufacturer   was   under   strict   orders   to   design and   produce   only   commercial   and   military   vehicles.   Between   1941   and   1944   Renault   was   placed under   the   Technical   Directorship   of   a   francophile   engineer,   Wilhelm   von   Urach   (de;   between 1927   and   1940   employed   by   Daimler   Benz)   who   failed   to   notice   the   small   car   project   emerging on   his   watch.   A   design   team   led   by   the   company's   Technical   Director   Fernand   Picard,   recently returned   from   Renault's   aero-engine   division   to   the   auto   business   and   Charles-Edmond   Serre, who   had   been   with   Renault   for   longer   than   virtually   anyone   else,   envisioned   a   small,   economical car   suitable   for   the   period   of   austerity   expected   after   the   war.   This   was   in   contrast   to   Louis Renault   himself   who   in   1940   believed   that   after   the   war   Renault   would   need   to   concentrate   on its   traditional   mid-range   cars.   Jean-Auguste   Riolfo,   head   of   the   test   department,   was   made aware   of   the   project   from   an   early   stage   as   were   several   other   heads   of   department.   In   May 1941   Louis   Renault   himself   burst   into   an   office   to   find   Serre   and   Picard   studying   a   mock-up   for the   car's   engine.   By   the   end   of   an   uncomfortable   ad   hoc   meeting   Renault's   approval   for   the project,   now   accorded   the   code   "106E",   was   provided.   However,   because   the   Germans   had forbidden   work   on   any   new   passenger   car   models,   the   4CV   development   was   defined,   if   at   all, as   a   low   priority   spin-off   from   a   project   to   develop   a   new   engine   for   a   post-war   return   of   the company's   1930s   small   car,   the   Juvaquatre:   departmental   bosses   installed   by   the   Germans   were definitely   not   to   be   trusted   in   respect   of   "Project   106E",   while   von   Urach,   their   overlord,   always managed to turn a blind eye to the whole business.

Volkswagen influence

In   November   1945   the   government   invited   Ferdinand   Porsche   to   France   to   explore   the   possibility of   relocating   the   Volkswagen   project   to   France   as   part   of   the   reparations   package   then   under discussion.   On   15   December   1945,   Porsche   found   himself   invited   to   provide   Renault   with   advice concerning   their   forthcoming   Renault   4CV.   Earlier   that   year,   newly   nationalised   Renault   had officially   acquired   a   new   boss,   (after   the   death   in   suspicious   circumstances   of   Louis   Renault), the    former    resistance    hero    Pierre    Lefaucheux,    (he    had    been    acting    administrator    since September    1944).    He    had    been    arrested    by    the    Gestapo    in    June    1944,    and    deported    to Buchenwald   concentration   camp. The   Gestapo   transferred   him   to   Metz   for   interrogation,   but   the city   was   deserted   because   of   the   advancing   allied   front,   the   Germans   abandoned   their   prisoner. Lefaucheux   was   enraged   that   anyone   should   think   the   by   now   almost   production-ready   Renault 4CV   was   in   any   way   inspired   by   the   Volkswagen,   and   even   more   enraged   that   the   politicians should   presume   to   send   Porsche   to   provide   advice   on   it.   The   government   insisted   on   nine meetings   involving   Porsche   which   took   place   in   rapid   succession.   Lefaucheux   insisted   that   the meetings   would   have   absolutely   no   influence   on   the   design   of   the   Renault   4CV,   and   Porsche cautiously   went   on   record   with   the   view   that   the   car   would   be   ready   for   large   scale   production in a year. Lefaucheux   was   a   man   with   contacts.   As   soon   as   the   4CV   project   meetings   mandated   by   the politicians   had   taken   place,   Porsche   was   arrested   in   connection   with   war   crimes   allegations involving   the   use   of   forced   labour   including   French   in   the   Volkswagen   plant   in   Germany.   Porsche was   accompanied   on   his   visit   to   the   Renault   plant   by   his   son   Ferry,   and   the   two   were   offered release   in   return   for   a   substantial   cash   payment.   Porsche   was   able   to   provide   only   half   of   the amount    demanded,    with    the    result    that    Ferry    Porsche    was    sent    back    to    Germany,    while Ferdinand   Porsche,   despite   never   facing   any   sort   of   trial,   spent   the   next   twenty   months   in   a Dijon jail. The   first   prototype   had   only   two   doors   and   was   completed   in   1942,   and   two   more   prototypes were   produced   in   the   following   three   years.   Later   Pierre   Lefaucheux,   appointed   to   the   top   job at Renault early in 1945, tested the 4CV prototype at Louis Renault's Herqueville estate.

Ready for release

In   1940,   Louis   Renault   had,   according   to   one   source,   directed   his   engineering   team   to   "make   him a   car   like   the   Germans'."   Until   the   arrangement   was   simplified   in   1954,   the   4CV   featured   a 'dummy'   grille   comprising   six   thin   horizontal   chrome   strips,   intended   to   distract   attention   from the   similarity   of   the   car's   overall   architecture   to   that   of   the   German   Volkswagen,   while   recalling the   modern   designs   of   the   fashionable   front-engined   passenger   cars   produced   in   Detroit   during the earlier 1940s. An    important    part    of    the    4CV's    success    was    due    to    the    new    methodologies    used    in    its manufacture,   pioneered   by   Pierre   Bézier.   Bézier   had   begun   his   42-year   tenure   at   Renault   as   a tool   setter,   moving   up   to   tool   designer   and   then   becoming   head   of   the   Tool   Design   Office.   As Director   of   Production   Engineering   in   1949,   he   designed   the   transfer   lines   (or   transfer   machines) producing    most    of    the    mechanical    parts    for    the    4CV.    The    transfer    machines    were    high- performance   work   tools   designed   to   machine   engine   blocks.   While   imprisoned   during   World   War II,   Bézier   developed   and   improved   on   the   automatic   machine   principle,   introduced   before   the war    by    General    Motors    (GM).    The    new    transfer    station    with    multiple    workstations    and electromagnetic   heads   (antecedents   to   robots),   enabled   different   operations   on   a   single   part   to be consecutively performed by transferring the part from one station to another.

Launch and market reception

The   4CV   was   ultimately   presented   to   the   public   and   media   at   the   1946   Paris   Motor   Show   and went   on   sale   a   year   later.   Volume   production   was   said   to   have   commenced   at   the   company's Billancourt   plant   a   few   weeks   before   the   Paris   Motor   Show   of   October   1947,   although   the   cars were   in   very   short   supply   for   the   next   year   or   so.   Renault's   advertising   highlighted   the   hundreds of   machine-tools   installed   and   processes   adopted   for   the   assembly   of   the   first   high   volume   car to   be   produced   since   the   war,   boasting   that   the   little   car   was   now   no   longer   a   prototype   but   a reality. On   the   4CV's   launch,   it   was   nicknamed   "La   motte   de   beurre"   (the   lump   of   butter);   this   was   due to   the   combination   of   its   shape   and   the   fact   that   early   deliveries   all   used   surplus   paint   from   the German   Army   vehicles   of   Rommel's   Afrika   Korps,   which   were   a   sand-yellow   color.   Later   it   was known   affectionately   as   the   "quatre   pattes",   "four   paws".The   4CV   was   initially   powered   by   a   760 cc   rear-mounted   four-cylinder   engine   coupled   to   a   three-speed   manual   transmission.   In   1950, the   760   cc   unit   was   replaced   by   a   747   cc   version   of   the   "Ventoux"   engine   producing   17   hp   (13 kW). Despite   an   initial   period   of   uncertainty   and   poor   sales   due   to   the   ravaged   state   of   the   French economy,   the   4CV   had   sold   37,000   units   by   mid-1949   and   was   the   most   popular   car   in   France. Across   the   Rhine   1,760   4CVs   were   sold   in   West   Germany   in   1950,   accounting   for   23%   of   that country's   imported   cars,   and   ranking   second   only   to   the   Fiat   500   on   the   list. The   car   remained   in production   for   more   than   another   decade.   Claimed   power   output   increased   subsequently   to   21 hp   (16   kW)   as   increased   fuel   octanes   allowed   for   higher   compression   ratios,   which   along   with the   relatively   low   weight   of   the   car   (620   kg   (1,370   lb))   enabled   the   manufacturers   to   report   a 0–90   km/h   (0–56   mph)   time   of   38   seconds   and   a   top   speed   barely   under   100   km/h   (62   mph).   The engine   was   notable   also   for   its   elasticity,   the   second   and   top   gear   both   being   usable   for   speeds between   5   and   100   km/h   (3   and   62   mph);   the   absence   of   synchromesh   on   first   gear   would presumably have discouraged use of the bottom gear except when starting from rest.


The   rear   mounting   of   the   engine   meant   that   the   steering   could   be   highly   geared   while   remaining relatively   light;   in   the   early   cars,   only   2¼   turns   were   needed   from   lock   to   lock.   The   unusually direct   steering   no   doubt   delighted   some   keen   drivers,   but   road   tests   of   the   time   nonetheless included   warnings   to   take   great   care   with   the   car's   handling   on   wet   roads.   In   due   course,   the manufacturers   switched   from   one   extreme   to   the   other,   and   on   later   cars   4½   turns   were   needed to turn the steering wheel from lock to lock.

Broadening the range downmarket

Early   in   1953   the   manufacturer   launched   a   stripped-down   version   of   the   4CV   bereft   of   anything which   might   be   considered   a   luxury. Tire   width   was   reduced,   and   the   dummy   grille   was   removed from   the   front   of   the   car   along   with   the   chrome   headlamp   surrounds.   The   seats   were   simplified and   the   number   of   bars   incorporated   in   the   steering   wheel   reduced   from   three   to   two.   The   only colour   offered   was   grey.   The   car   achieved   its   objective   of   retailing   for   less   than   400,000   Francs. With   the   Dauphine   already   at   an   advanced   stage   of   development   it   may   have   made   sense   to   try and   expand   the   4CV's   own   market   coverage   downwards   in   order   to   open   up   a   clearer   gap between   the   two   models   which   would   be   produced   in   parallel   for   several   years,   but   reaction   to the   down-market   4   CV,   branded   as   the   "Renault   4CV   Service",   must   have   disappointed   Renault   as this   version   of   the   car   disappeared   from   the   Renault   showrooms   after   less   than   a   year.   The   poor sales   performance   of   the   stripped-down   "4CV   Service"   may   have   been   linked   to   the   growing popularity   of   the   Citroën   2CV:   although   at   this   stage   powered   by   an   engine   of   just   375   cc   and offering   sclerotic   performance,   the   2CV   was   bigger   than   the   Renault   and   in   1952   came   with   a starting price of just 341,870 francs.


The   4CV's   direct   replacement   was   the   Dauphine,   launched   in   1956,   but   the   4CV   in   fact   remained in   production   until   1961.   The   4CV   was   replaced   by   the   Renault   4   which   used   the   same   engine   as the 4CV and sold for a similar price.

Around the world

Although   most   of   the   cars   were   assembled   at   Renault's   Île   Seguin   plant   located   on   an   island   in the    river    opposite    Billancourt,    the    4CV    was    also    assembled    in    seven    other    countries.    In December   1949   it   was   announced   that   the   car   had   replaced   the   company's   Juvaquatre   at   the company's   factory   in   Acton,   West   London,   where   right   hand   drive   4   CVs   were   assembled   using, for   the   most   part,   components   imported   from   France.   Other   countries   where   4   CVs   were assembled   included Australia,   Belgium,   England,   Ireland,   Japan   (where   the   Hino-assembled   cars gained a reputation for superior quality), Spain and South Africa. Across   the   world   1,105,543   cars   were   produced;   the   4CV   became   the   first   French   car   to   sell   over a million units. In Spain, the 4CV was produced by FASA's Valladolid factory from 1951-1961. The   4CV   was   also   manufactured   in   Japan   under   licence   by   Hino   Motors,   Ltd.   from   1953- 1961,   rebadged   as   the   Hino   Renault   4CV,   then   later   replaced   by   the   Hino   Contessa   while still using the Renault powertrain. The   4CV   was   marketed   in Australia   from   1949-1961,   initially   as   the   Renault   760   and   later as   the   Renault   750.   It   was   imported   in   both   fully   assembled   and   CKD   form,   with   assembly of the latter undertaken in Sydney. The   4CV   was   easily   modified,   and   was   used   extensively   as   a   racing   car.   The   first   collaboration between   the Alpine   company   and   Renault   was   the Alpine A106   which   was   based   on   the   4CV.   The partnership   would   go   on   to   win   the   World   Rally   Championship   with   the   legendary Alpine A-110   in later years.


Engine 850 cc 4 cylinders Power 36 HP Lenght/width 3,35 m/1,49 m Weight 720 kg The collections Renault went through a complete restoration. It has been inspected by museum authorities.
Photos mainly by Matti Kreivilä. Historical facts and technical details of the vehicles provided by Wikipedia. Movies YouTube.