Back in the day the quirky Renault 4 hit sales in excess of eight million units across more than 100 countries with a cult following that grows year on year.
From concept to creation, La Renault 4 was the notion of president of the Régie Nationale des Usines Renault, Pierre Dreyfus, who in 1956 decided it was time for a “blue jeans” car.
His dream was to produce something versatile, inexpensive and fun, much like the now-familiar article of clothing which is worn the world over. A car that would match the changes in society that were being observed as the ‘60s gathered momentum.
The public had to wait another 5 years until Renault’s first front-wheel-drive passenger car would be unveiled to the press before going on display at the 1961 Paris Motor Show.
In a clever private and commercial strategy, a van and three saloon versions were launched simultaneously: the R3, which was dropped from the catalogue the following year, the R4 and the R4L (the “L” standing for luxury), soon to become the household name for a model that lost no time in finding a place for itself in the French public’s hearts.
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Its sheer simplicity and then unrivalled interior matched the low running costs and ability to adapt to anything that was thrown in its direction – it was an instant hit with everyone from trendy Parisians to busy restaurateurs.
In just six years the Renault 4’s production had exceeded the million mark, and other records were broken as the car reached a staggering total production figure of 8,135,424 in the course of its 31-year career.
Renault 4 – Global Success
The Renault 4 had become a global success and was produced or assembled in no fewer than 27 countries (in addition to France), some as far afield as Australia, South Africa, Chile and the Philippines. Indeed, six in ten sales were outside of Renault’s home market.
During its illustrious career, the Renault 4 was made in several different versions, including a van, a four-wheel-drive vehicle and a cabriolet. Other variants, such as the Rodeo, and a long list of limited editions were also released, the best known of which in France was the Parisienne (1963), the Safari (1975), the Jogging (1981) and the Sixties (1985).
There is even a ‘one-off’ 1967 Renault 4 painted new by renowned artist Arman being offered for sale with an estimated price tag of €60,000.
The fiery 4 even benefited from its own off-road racing championship and was a favourite means of transport for young people itching to explore the world. It was also seen on such celebrated motorsport events as the Monte Carlo Rally and Paris-Dakar. It even finished the celebrated African rally-raid on the podium one year.
In 1992, a numbered special farewell edition, aptly named “Bye-Bye” was released to salute the incredible success of the model, which continued to be manufactured in small numbers in Slovenia and Morocco until as recent as 1994.
Renault 4 Profile
Project launch: 1956
Project name: Project 112
In-house, the project was nicknamed “350” in reference to the price listed in the brief (350,000 Francs).
First public appearances:
Press: August 1961 in France’s Camargue region.
General public: October 1961 at the Paris Motor Show.
Number of countries where the model was manufactured/assembled: 28 countries (including France).
Number of countries where the model was marketed: More than 100.
End of production: December 3, 1992, Renault announced the end of the Renault 4; only two factories would continue to produce the Renault 4 after that date and through 1994: Morocco and Slovenia.
Total number of vehicles produced: Official figure: 8,135,424.
The Renault 4 is the world’s third best-selling vehicle after the Volkswagen Beetle and Ford Model T.
Names and nicknames of the Renault 4:
In Italy, the JP4 was marketed under the name “Frog”.
In Spain, it was nicknamed “Cuatro Latas” (four boxes).
In the former Yugoslavia, it was called “Katcra” (Catherine).
In Tunisia, it was referred to as the “R4 Monastir”, after the hometown of President Bourguiba.
In Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), it was nicknamed the Noddy Car.
In Argentina, it earned the nickname “El Correcaminos” (path runner).
In Finland, it became “Tiparellu” (droplet).
A one-make racing series: Coupe de France Renault Cross Elf (1974 until 1984).
The main engines used for the R4: 603cc, 747cc, 782cc, 845cc, 956cc and 1,108cc
Renault 4 timeline – in brief
1956: Pierre Dreyfus, President of the Régie Nationale des Usines Renault, launches his project for the blue jean car.
1959: Prototypes of the future Renault 4 crisscross the roads of the world. From the U.S.A. to Sweden, via Sardinia and Guinea, the test cars are put through their paces in extreme driving conditions.
1961 (July 6): The last 4CV rolls out of the Billancourt plant. All of its tooling is dismantled to make room for the assembly lines for the new Renault 4.
1961 (August): Presentation of the Renault 4 and the Renault 3 to the press in France’s
1961 (October): The first public appearance of the new Renault 4 at the Paris Motor Show (Grand Palais).
1965: The R4 officially becomes the Renault 4.
1966: Launch of Renault’s “Les Routes du Monde” operation (ended in 1984).
1967: Production reaches almost 370,000 units per year as the Renault 4 becomes France’s best-selling French car. September saw the addition of the large aluminium grille.
1974 (September): introduction of the plastic grille.
1977: Renault 4 sales reach the five-million mark (all versions and body types included). Renault becomes Europe’s biggest car manufacturer.
1980: The Renault 4 claims third place on the Paris-Dakar Rally in the hands of the Marreau brothers.
1985: The threshold of seven million Renault 4 sales is exceeded.
1988: The Renault 4 bids farewell to the German market with the “Salü” limited edition (500 units) after 27 years of success and more than 900,000 cars imported. The van version is dropped from the French catalogue.
1992: The last 1,000 Renault 4 cars leave the Billancourt plant. The GTL Clan versions will have the distinction of featuring a commemorative plaque on the instrument panel which reads “Bye-Bye”.
On 3rd December, Renault announces the official end of the Renault 4’s career. Only two countries would continue to produce the model after that date (until 1994): Morocco and Slovenia.
Total Renault 4 production units exceeded the 8,130,000.
Limited editions and special versions
1963: Sinpar four-wheel-drive versions (until the end of production)
1968: Plein Air
1970: Rodeo, an R4 derivative manufactured by ACL
1975: Safari limited edition
1981: JP4, an R4 derivative produced by CAR Système
Jogging special edition (5,000 vehicles)
1982: Shopping limited edition (300 vehicles, produced in Belgium)
1985: Sixties limited edition (2,200 vehicles)
1988: Salü career-ending special edition version for the German market (500 vehicles)
1991: Cartes Jeunes limited edition
1992: Bye-Bye career-ending special edition version for the French market (1,000 vehicles)