The Renault Company was founded in 1899 as Societe Renault Freres by the Renault brothers. The first car, a Voiturette ICV had been built and sold in December 1898.
The Renault brothers - Louis, Marcel and Fernand - decided that their reputation could be built through motor racing and entered many European races. Both Louis and Marcel Renault raced. However, Marcel was killed in the 1903 Paris-Madrid race and although the company continued to participate in racing, Louis never raced again. Fernand retired in 1906. Despite the brothers not participating in racing, Renault race cars were successfully campaigned by some of the most noted European race car drivers of the early 20th century. Their victories were numerous including a win by a Renault AK 90CV driven by Ferenc Szisz which was the winning automobile in the first-ever Grand Prix race in 1906.
By 1907, Renault automobiles were being successfully built and marketed worldwide. The company had distributors in all of the major countries and cities. In the US, Renault distributorships were in New York, Boston and Los Angeles. William K. Vanderbilt was one of the first Americans to purchase a Renault, which he raced at one of the early Vanderbilt Cup Races in Long Island, New York.
Like most of the early, luxury automobile companies, Renault built and sold a running chassis assembly and the buyer, or sometimes the distributor, fitted the chassis with a coach built body. The bulk of the Renaults that were imported into the United States were fitted with coachbuilt bodies by some of the premier American coachbuilders such as Quinby, Holbrook and Brewster.
This magnificent 1909 Renault Series B, Type V1 is one of the larger Renaults built and is fitted with a large 4.4 litre 20/30 horsepower, four-cylinder engine coupled to a four- speed transmission and was built on a chassis with a 130" wheelbase.
This chassis is outfitted with a Cape Victorica body by the Brewster Company, of Long Island, New York. The Brewster Company was one of the foremost, American carriage builders during the 19th Century. With the advent of the automobile in the early 20th Century, Brewster naturally used their designs and talents to outfit many of the premier European and American cars of the pre-World War I period. It is not surprising that many of Brewster’s early automobile bodies resembled carriages. This particular Cape Top Victoria is one such example. This car has a rearward flowing body design where the back seat is higher than the front. The top assembly is made to protect the rear passengers from sun and it is likely that the original intention of this vehicle was to be used as a owner-driven sporting car during warm weather months. In the typical Brewster fashion, the fenders are patent-leather and are free flowing from the body. The result is a majestic and towering automobile, which stands nearly 8 feet tall at the rear.
While the early history of this Renault is currently unknown, this vehicle was purchased by the noted collector Art Doering of Grand Rapids, Michigan in the early 1970s. Doering was already the owner of a similar Renault with a limousine body and was in search for parts to complete his restoration. One particular parts lead found Doering in Detroit at the collection of B.J. “Barney” Pollard. A visit to Pollard’s famous collection produced not only some much needed parts, but this complete Brewster-bodied Victoria which proved to be completely intact and in very well preserved condition. After several years of negotiations, Doering was able to successfully acquire this imposing Renault. The restoration of the limousine continued and the Cape Top Victoria was often used as a point of reference due to its originality and completeness. In fact, this car was often studied by other early Renault owners as it was such an undisturbed example. After completing the restoration of the limousine, Doering decided to restore the Cape Top Victoria and the restoration was completed in about 1996. After the restoration was completed, the car was shown on a very limited basis. It received its Junior and Senior National First Prize Awards by the Antique Automobile Club of America in 1997 and that same year was shown at the prestigious Meadowbrook Concours d’elegance where it also won an award. By this point, Doering had advanced in age and was no longer able to participate in events. His collection was carefully stored in a vault-type setting and maintained by his family. After Art’s passing, the car was quietly and privately sold to another collector who also kept the car hidden but continued to maintained the car in the exquisite condition that it is in today.
Although the restoration was completed nearly 20 years ago, this Renault looks like it was restored this year. The overall condition is not only attributed to the quality of the restoration, but to the well-preserved condition which the vehicle was first discovered. The wood body shows no signs of cracking or separating. The dark blue paint appears like new with no checking, bubbling or cracking. The gloss is even and bright throughout the entire body. The diamond tufted, burgundy leather interior remains like new with no cracking or separating. The leather, folding cape top is cloth-lined and is also like new. The trademarked Brewster patent leather fenders are also like new as are the leather splash aprons between the body and running boards.
When the car was first discovered, it was found to have traveled very few miles from new. Still, the car was given a complete mechanical restoration and has been driven very few miles since. The 20/30 horsepower, four-cylinder engine retains its proper Renault carburetor and mechanical oiler as well as a correct Bosch magneto ignition system.The engine compartment remains immaculate showing virtually no signs of corrosion, leakage or discoloration. The chassis is also like new and shows hardly any evidence of use. This car retains its original, metric-sized wood artillery wheels with the proper clincher rims and has a near new set of proper Michelin tires.
The car is fully equipped per original specifications with many desirable and scarce period accessories including a set of large, Bleriot headlamps which are fed gas by a proper, Ducellier carbide generator. Additional brass accessories include a pair of oil side lamps and matching tail lamp, a large-faced bulb horn as well as a hand-crank Klaxon horn. The car retains its original wood and brass-folding windshield. It should be noted that the original brass identification plate as well as the original Renault export plate remain on the dashboard.
This magnificent Renault is being offered publicly for the first time in many decades. It has been a well kept and highly regarded secret for many years. It will be a sought after and welcomed contender at any of the world’s leading concours d’elegances as well as a tour d’ force for Edwardian and brass-era driving events.
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