THE RENAULT 4CVs OF AUSTRALIA
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It is surprising that the specialist books about the 4CV contain almost no reference to the Renault 4CVs sold in Australia, although that country was a relatively major export market for these cars.
The first 4CVs reached Australia early in 1949, with sales commencing in the week beginning 21 February that year. These first vehicles were produced late in 1948 and at least one from this first batch still exists. Apart from being built as right hand drive, these cars were identical to their French cousins.
The Australian government encouraged vehicle production in Australia, so local assembly of the 4CV (known in Australia as the 760, then 750 because of its engine size) began in 1951. At different times, at least two Renault distributors operated assembly plants for Renaults in Australia. It is interesting to note that the later and more major plant also assembled other vehicle marques including Studebaker, Peugeot, Citroen and NSU. Renault purchased that assembly operation in 1966 when it established its own company in Australia. Strange as it may seem, even under Renault ownership, various models of Peugeots and Renaults continued down the same assembly line until the factory finally closed in 1981 with the Peugeot 504 and Renault 20 then in production. But we digress.
Australia is a very different country from France. It is hot and dry and, at that time, even the main roads between larger cities often were unsealed. Dust was a real problem, and the little Renaults with their single dry air filters in the engine bay were not well protected.
In 1951 came a modification which, as far as is known, was fitted only to the Australian 4CVs. The air filters were mounted at the front, alongside the battery. These were connected to the rear by a long steel tube, which entered the engine bay from below the car and led directly to the carburettor via an expansion chamber fitted to stabilise pressure in the tube. At the same time, presumably because of the hot climate, from 1951 all Australian 4CVs received the descending front windows fitted to the "export" models.
Following the 1951 model, the 4CV returned to a rear-mounted air filter system, but with both a dry filter and an oil bath filter. Although that continued for several years, it evidently was not enough to overcome problems from the very fine dust found on many Australian roads. From about 1955, the filtering arrangement again adopted a front-mounted air collection, leading through a tube below the vehicle to the two filters at the rear. This air filtration arrangement was known as the "tropique" and is illustrated in Renault brochure NE668EA (Edition Anglaise). Less obvious in the "tropique" are different carburettor jet settings.
Unlike the vehicles sold in the United Kingdom, all Australian 4CVs had the normal Jaeger instruments fitted to the French models, but with the calibrations in miles not kilometres.
Not all Australian 4CVs were assembled there, some also arrived from France fully assembled. Magazines of the time list slightly different prices for fully imported and locally assembled 4CVs.
The choice of "imported" and "local" may account for one of the more perplexing differences - about half the Australian 4CVs have external petrol fillers. The brackets for the usual engine-bay mounted filler are there, but a hole is cut in the bodywork and a large external filler is mounted on the driver's side. This change may have been made to vehicles assembled in Australia because, in the 1950s, petrol station attendants unfamiliar with the 4CV were known to put petrol into the external radiator filler. Now there are no longer attendants at petrol stations, this problem no longer arises!
Shortly after the war, motor cars were nearly impossible to buy and there were large waiting lists but, as the 1950s progressed, Australian expectations of motor cars became more demanding. Over half the local market was taken by the Holden, a Frégate sized car built locally by General Motors and with a six cylinder engine. The 4CVs, which had taken 2 percent of the 1951 new vehicle sales, found themselves competing with a huge range of cars of all types and sizes from Europe (mainly the United Kingdom) and the USA. For much of the 1950s, they were the cheapest cars available. But while it was acceptable for the "Thriftmaster" (the "Affaires" in France) to be basic and inexpensive, it was equally important that the "Deluxe" model look as distinctive as possible in order to compete.
The Australian Renault agents achieved a more distinctive appearance by having "stone shields" made locally and fitted between the bumpers and the bodywork. These were not components imported from Hino in Japan, though the Hino may have inspired the concept. As a result, a different type of mounting was needed for the rear number plate. At this time also, many vehicles were fitted from new with the "turbo emblem" front trim, as illustrated in Votre Auto No 2 page 31. This appears to have been fitted by dealers, rather than being sold separately as an accessory.
The colours of 4CVs assembled in Australia were not restricted to the range available in France. Thus, although no 4CVs were painted red by the factory in their homeland, the red paint of the car in these photos is an original colour. Somewhat less visible, and unlike the 4CVs of France, the Australian 4CVs from 1956 were fitted with an electrical fuse under the dashboard. This protected all circuits except the ignition.
The Commercial, R1063 (except a very few fitted with the SAPRAR kit) and Decapotable models were not sold in Australia.
Old vehicle registration data indicate that some 12,500 4CVs were sold in Australia, the last as late as 1963 from storage. Sadly, in the late 1950s and 1960s, these little cars were not recognised as having classic value and were discarded when even minor problems arose. Today, nearly 100 are owned by members of the Renault 4CV Register of Australia. About 60 of these grace Australia's roads from time to time and never fail to gain attention and admiration.
George COOK National Coordinator of RENAULT 4CV REGISTER OF AUSTRALIA