Dios mio! It’s been some time since we last posted an article! No excuses though, let’s get to it. I’ve been on a trip, and I’ve got some sharing to do, both about my trip and a car that I saw more than once when I was there. Renault 4 is the word that is overused this time, so be careful not to develop some type of tunnel vision.
Some time this month, I visited Mallorca with my girlfriend’s family for a week. They asked if I wanted to come along, so naturally the answer was a full-mouthed yes. It was the laziest holiday I have ever celebrated, but by far one of the best ones in my life. Let me clarify what I mean by ”lazy”. We left the house only two out of the eight days we were there, one of which was an afternoon, while the other was an evening. Why am I telling you all this seemingly unnecessary information? To clarify to you once more what I will be discussing this time, other than my endeavours.
It was the first time in my life that I’ve visited the islands. Before we went there, I had not heard a single thing about the role of this car in the history of Mallorca, but once you start to see the ”pattern”, you will notice that its role is significant. Not only had I not heard about the role of this car, any type of car culture based on the island, was unfamiliar to me. It was only after some research when I got back, that I discovered a tiny German article about the significance of the Renault 4 on Mallorca. (check out their photo collage here)Never had I heard of certain trends that had gone on there for years, like in New Zealand, with all their imported modified Asian cars. Mallorca is not like Italy or Germany, where you can instantly think of a car brand like Ferrari or Mercedes-Benz.
This did not exactly surprise me, because it’s a relatively small island. The ”main land” Spain could be producing the cars. They are simply there for tourism and other things like that. Even if, for some strange unknown reason, Seat’s were/are built there, it wouldn’t be interesting. Not to me at least, since I don’t really care for them that much. They’re part of the VW Group, as you might be aware of, so nothing really original will come from them. (except for this latest crossover maybe)
The very first time I met the Renault 4 here, was just over an hour after we touched grounds at La Palma Airport. Just moments after landing, I already met the unpolished pearl that is the small Renault 4. I saw it before, so my feelings for it were able to develop slightly, but it spoke to me in a certain way nevertheless. This feeling exists for several reasons. One of these is the, at least to me, distinct exterior. It’s a very typical car if you ask me, so I always spot it with ease, as any other car-nut probably would too.
In its thriving days, it must have been a terribly useful, handy, nifty car. This could well explain why you still see them that much on Mallorca. The place is littered with them, but in a healthy, good way. Especially in the more rural areas of the island is where you’ll spot them more than often. These parts are overflowing with rusty dusty examples. I’m not trying to be degrading or generalizing, but the owners of these Renault’s are likely to not give the next damn about cars. They probably bought one new when they were younger and it kept working, or they bought it secondhand because they liked it for personal reasons. If it does its job, why get rid of it? Either that, or they fell hard for this tiny car, like I did too in a way.
A relatively small fact about this car, and its history, can be turned into an entire conversation, so let me start the train of thought for you. As you might know, the Renault 4 did pretty well in the world of car production and sales. This is quite the understatement, because it is the third best-selling car of all time, an achievement that many car companies dream of. Few have managed to reach such amounts, but the French are right up there in this category. This, in contrast to their reliability, which is an important yet not very convincing point in their catalogue, is a striking point. They sell in large amounts, but they either: keep driving forever or fall apart, piece by piece.
So what made the Renault 4 do so well across the board? To get an answer to this question, we have to take a few steps back into the history of the car. When Pierre Dreyfus rose to power after an unfortunate incident with the former CEO of the company, he was put to the task to do exactly what his predecessor did: create a long-lasting legacy for Renault by building cars that the masses would crave. He did this by being in control while cars like the Dauphine, the 5, the 16 and, of course, the 4 were produced.
What made it do so well, was that he had the notion that the cars they built had to be loved by everyone. As an example, he took the ”blue jean” type of trousers. To quote the guys and girls at citedelautomobile.com:
”he wanted to create a car that was versatile, economic, global and adapted to the social evolution that was taking shape at the dawn of the 1960s.”
Even though certain trends might take over now and then, there will always be the denim jeans. After 31 years of production and 8-something-million cars later, we can confirm that he, as well as the entire team that created the idea of the car, did the right thing. They’re as every day as blue jeans, which was their initial goal.
What I love about this, is that even though the 4 has now passed the 50-year-mark by 4 more years, it is still everywhere. The automotive clubs and gatherings belong to the biggest ones, because it is so damn simple and lovely. Mallorca was the reason that made me realise just how much of an impact this car had, and its mark on the world map will not disappear anytime soon, not that I can foresee at least. May the 33 Renault 4’s on the Island never decease, and be forever in our hearts.