The Renault 4CV is a small car with a big story. It was designed during the German occupation of France when Renault was under strict orders by its occupiers to stick to commercial and military vehicles only. But Renault engineers knew in their hearts that the occupation would not last, so they set to work designing a simple, inexpensive car that would get France back on wheels after the war. Thankfully, the German general in charge of Renault turned a blind eye to what was going on, partially out of his fondness for France, and the project carried on secretly throughout the occupation. Even Louis Renault himself was surprised at how far along the project had come by the time he discovered it.
As the engineers and designers predicted, the occupation ended and Renault found itself first on the market with a new car. It was called the 4CV; named simply for its taxable horsepower (CV standing for Chevel-Vapeur, the French equivalent to horsepower). It featured a four-door unibody shell, and a rear-mounted, 760cc inline four. Production began in 1946 for the 1947 model year. Early cars were painted in surplus German military beige paint, earning the 4CV an endearing nickname "La motte de beurre", literally, “the lump of butter”. The 4CV became one of France’s most popular cars, returning the population to motorized transport after the war and selling strongly through its final year of production in 1961.
This 1961 Renault 4CV features very rare and unusual “Jolly” bodywork. Most commonly seen on the Fiat 500 and 600, the concept of the Jolly beach car originated from the Italian coachbuilder Ghia, though others built their own variations on the theme. It is believed that Ghia’s boss, Gigi Segre, saw large taxi cabs being used on small resort islands and came up with the idea for a compact beach car that could be used by resorts and hotels, like a motorized rickshaw with an Italian flair. The Jolly (Italian for Joker) featured a stripped out body, no doors, wicker or plastic seats and a whimsical surrey top. The majority of Ghia Jollys were built on Fiat platforms, though a few were built using the Renault 4CV as a basis. The 4CV was a superior platform as it was larger in size than the Fiat, had a more powerful, rear-mounted engine and simply had a delightful look that was ideally suited to the happy, relaxed nature of a beach car.
This Renault 4CV Jolly has been painstakingly restored and is surely of the best available today. Discovered in Texas, the previous owner’s father had purchased the car and stored it up on a pallet rack where it remained for many years. It was totally solid and complete, though in need of a full restoration. An extensive, exhaustive nut and bolt restoration began, which was completed approximately four years ago. Finished in a beautiful shade of blue, it is simply outstanding in every way. It has seen very little use since the restoration was completed and is ready to be enjoyed. The highly desirable wicker seats have been completely restored, and a new surrey top has been fitted. Mechanically it is excellent throughout and is ready to cart you and your guests around the marina or the beach. As a final year 4CV, it is fitted with the 747cc engine which is more efficient and powerful than the earlier units, allowing a 65mph top speed – of course keeping in mind there are no doors and it has wicker seats! Rarer, more desirable, more powerful and arguably more stylish than the Fiat counterparts, this Renault 4CV is the ultimate choice for a Jolly good time.