Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


RECENTLY PERUSING A 1955 R&T road test of the Renault 4CV evoked vivid memories of my first car being a scaled-down version of Dad’s 1955 Ford Fairlane Sunliner. 

Why this 1958 English Ford Consul Drophead, and not a French Renault 4CV? Briefly, as you’ll learn in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow, because early in 1961 it was a dark and stormy night.

Backstory. I had been reading R&T since May of 1954, when Dad brought this magazine into our home in an effort to keep me from hiding girly magazines. Not that I was all that sure what girly magazines were about, but no matter. His intentions were laudable. 

Jump to 1961. Cleveland Public Schools at the time graduated seniors in January as well as June. And being October-born, I was in the skewed January group, with more time for earning college money before the fall. 

Seeking employment, of course, I needed a car, right? So I combined my job hunt with checking out used car ads in Cleveland’s two daily newspapers. 

Funding? This car hunt was a delicate matter: Dad, the obvious funder of my search, worked for U.S. Steel. Yet I was already heavy into R&T and hot for foreign machinery, albeit necessarily modestly priced. The 1958 Morgan, 25,000 mi, cream/red, never raced, $1550, would have to wait.

Just about when I was near lining up a job, I discovered a late-model Renault 4CV for sale. And, with some reluctance, Dad agreed to learn more about the car. 

The R&T Road Test. Here, let’s digress and focus on that R&T 1955 road test, my principal source of information in prepping Dad for the test drive.

“Light, Cheap and Sprightly” read R&T. It continued, “Any attempt at evaluating the Renault 4CV should begin with the price, for here is one of the cheapest automobiles in the world; $1195 on the east coast and $100 more in the west.”

So far, so good. The used example in 1961 was commensurately priced, though I forget how much.

This and the following image from R&T, October 1955.

The Good News. R&T wrote, “Anyone who will take the trouble to study and drive this car cannot fail to realize that here is a very remarkable machine, well engineered, well built and eminently practical for a variety of uses.” 

Gee, it’s as though they’re writing this directly for Dad (and me).

“Essentially,” R&T continued, “the Renault is a large car scaled down, rather than being a freak design.”

I’m liking this better and better.

Brief Technicalities. “It has independent suspension on all four wheels, a four cylinder ohv engine with no ‘short-cuts’ to lower costs, 4 doors and seating 4 adults.”

However, neither Dad nor I paid attention to the placement of those front door handles. Of which more anon in tomorrow’s Part 2. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2022 


  1. Gary Perser
    August 31, 2022

    Designed by Ferdinand Porsche while imprisoned by the French as a Nazi collaborator (VW Beetle, plus some some military machinery), right?

    • simanaitissays
      August 31, 2022

      Uh, no. History suggests otherwise. The 4CV was designed by French engineers, largely against the wishes of Nazi occupation. Porsche’s involvement didn’t come until much later. Wikipedia gives details of both aspects.

    August 31, 2022

    Liked your story. My first foreign car was a 1958 Renault Dauphine.Of course the kids did things to it then just as any where else.Learned a lot about car from it. Rebuilt the engine if front of dad’s fire place in 1961. The carb fell off in front of the Albany state capital building.Stuffed a rag in the carb connected to a string to use as a choke. Just pull the string when it started. Lived on top of a hill with a long drive. Never like to start in the winter. Just roll it down the hill and bump start.Drove 5 hours to Northern NH to visit a girl Had one snow tire on the back. Passed a snow plow in heavy snow, the got stopped by a state trooper and was told, do that again and….Used to buy  recycled oil in five gallon cans. Always kept one in the back seat A girl wrote in my senior year book,  Johnny had a red car & it was painted red,                                                             Every where Johnny went, the cops picked up the dead.Never happened. Things sure are different today.John McNulty

  3. -Nate
    August 31, 2022

    Sadly at the times few understood the care and feeding of Imported cars much less what Metric Tools were .

    Those few who persevered had nice little reliable and inexpensive to operate cars if funny looking .

    I remember these and VW’s in the 1950’s all over New England ~ if properly taken care of the only thing that killed them was rust from salted winter roads .


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