Renault in America: More Than Le Car
Renault was one of the first postwar car importers, bringing the tiny 4CV sedan to America before Volkswagens were officially distributed here. The disastrously unreliable Dauphine established a reputation that Renault never overcame, even when quite good cars were on offer. Here are three notable Renaults sold in America:
Renault Caravelle - 1960-67
Embodying Bardot-era French chic, the stylish convertible was embraced on both coasts, but sluggish performance, with an 845-cc engine and a three-speed gearbox (later 1108 cc with four speeds) and fragile build quality made it a tough sell for anyone who wanted to use it as an everyday car.
Renault 16 - 1969-72
Certainly cutting a unique profile, the 16 was light, well-balanced, and provided clever seating arrangements. It was decent looking, spacious, and helped establish front-wheel drive and a rear hatch as a family-car norm. Its mostly aluminum engine was used by Lotus and Alpine for sports cars.
Renault 5 (Le Car) - 1976-83
The underpinnings were old (1946 engine, 1961 front-wheel-drive layout), but brilliant styling made it the first popular French car widely admired for its appearance. The in-house design job was good enough that the transverse-engine Supercinq successor was essentially the same, just a bit bigger.