If you are any active on Instagram, and follow our own page, you probably saw a great photo of a Renault 4 pop up in your timeline at some point in the last few weeks. I’m here to hit you with some information about the car itself, as well as some background information about our visit to Vallon-Pont-d’Arc.
Let’s start with the latter. Because Elke and I finally graduated – although we didn’t actually know it yet at that point – we decided to go on an amazing roadtrip, visiting cities like Strasbourg, Milan, Florence, Lucca (from this Top Gear episode), as well as many other stunning places. We had a great time, but never really focused on cars over the course of our trip, except on two occasions, one of which I will discuss today.
As we headed from Isolabona, a picturesque little village in a valley some 40km from Monaco, to Vallon-Pont-d’Arc, we couldn’t help but feel a little miserable about not visiting the principality. At the time we were rather low on money, so we decided not to go there this time around. On the bright side though, we promised each other we’d make it up in some way, so everything would be fine in the end. We arrived at around 16:00, meaning we had enough time to set up our campsite for the next few nights. Afterwards, we headed back to Vallon to have a quick – cheap – bite at a local – amazing – burger joint, where we ate until dusk set in. The view was alright, but at this point we were starving, so we both had our eyes and mouths on-and-in the food. Living.
While the deliciousness slowly sunk into our bellies, we started to peek about. As we had seen earlier that day, when we drove through, it was more than clear that we were dealing with a place packed with tourists, even during off-season. The type of place to be compared to great cities, that always seem to be housing more people than are supposed to be there, but on a much, much smaller scale. Having said that, I’m sure Vallon-Pont-d’Arc was nearing the end of its capabilities. Another way in which it reminded me of large cities, was their awareness of its fame. The people in charge knew exactly why people visited them – the famous arc, as well as canoeing – which resulted in pretty extreme prices. Just exceeding the range of acceptable, we decided to not take part in any sort of activity there. We did so to not break any of our fundamental rules for the trip: stay within the budget.
And so we did. After having had the greatest burgers of our lives, we moved on, to peek around in the deeper parts of this tiny village in the valley. Elke purposefully wore her AC/DC shirt, which turned out to be a fantastic decision, because on our walkabout, we were pleasantly greeted by several middle-aged men who all gave us the thumbs-up, while simultaneously breaking out in a chant. This was only a precursor of what would turn out to be one of our most romantic evenings together.
During our stroll, we encountered multiple beautifully decorated houses, that looked like they were taken straight from the black-and-white movies, maybe even the late 18th century. As the sun slowly started to set, it seemed as if the beams of the sun gently caressed the roses with their warmth and vivid colours. We took several pictures at houses. People must have thought we looked like fools. Though we did this everywhere, this night it seemed ever more fitting to the occasion and setting. It was right. We then walked past an alleyway, where we saw the perfect car for the perfect environment. If there ever was a place on Earth more worthy of having this Renault, I would not be able to find it.
The Renault 4.
This, of course, was not the precise moment where we saw it first through that alley, since you can see me stare at the Four in complete and utter awe. However, I was not aware that Elke was taking pictures of me like this. I have covered the Renault 4 before on this website, because I find it so particularly interesting. Its looks just bring me some misplaced sense of nostalgia. Misplaced because I never got to experience the Renault 4 in its actual glory, when it was first introduced to the road.
Now to me, this looks like a fairly standard Four, which only adds to the situation. Nothing fancy to it, just a basic, yet beautiful car, in a very real, original, yet standard part of France.
Now since France has no real way – as far as I could figure out – to find out the specifications of cars by plate number, I’ll go by my word and list some of my favorite specs that come with the “standard” variation of the Renault 4. Now, going by the front grill, where it clearly shows an aluminum bar, I am inclined to assume it is an R4 from somewhere in between 1968 and 1974. How is that for vintage?
Assuming I’m correct, which is rather daring, Renault implemented a few changes to their updated R4. To start with the transmission: the earliest versions of the Four all came with a 3-speed manual gearbox, which was to be replaced by a – hold your horses – 4-speed manual. The engine itself, initially a 747 cc, got upgraded to an 845 cc producing a company-guaranteed 34 HP, slightly more than before.
What I figured out way back when I visited Mallorca, where there are tons and tons of these, was that people seemed to love them for multiple reasons. However, it boils down to two main characteristics: its great versatility, and its durability. It is a great all-round car, because you can try to take it pretty much anywhere and it will most likely get you there as well, since the engine is one to rely on (99/100 times). For instance, imagine you would want to take it to a remote beach somewhere, with lots of turns on twisty roads, but afterwards, after having dried up and leave all relaxed, take it shopping too. Back in the 60’s, this was your go-to car to accomplish such daily goals. Most R4-geeks will argue that it probably can still do just that, and I would not even be surprised. It’s tiny, but large enough to seat a bunch of family or friends. On top of that, the hatchback construction always comes in useful, no matter the car.
All in all, I would say the R4 is definitely a treasure to look at, which, to me, is always high on the list. However quirky the car may look, if it does not in some way appeal to me, I don’t care about its performance. Fortunately for the Four, I really do care for its aesthetics, which, combined with all the rest of its features, makes for a fantastic car.
Have a good one,