1919 Renault Type GR Skiff

Louis Renault was expected to follow his father and brothers into the family button and textile business but he had other ideas. After a stint with boiler maker and future automaker Delauney-Belleville and a year in the French Army, Renault’s mechanical interests blossomed and he began building a small, light automobile using a De Dion engine. Unlike most of its contemporaries, the new Renault automobile had a front-mounted engine, shaft drive to the rear wheels, and a steering wheel instead of a tiller. He demonstrated his first car on Christmas Eve 1898, and his impressed friends wanted replicas.

Joined by brothers Marcel and Fernand, Renault Frères was born and the firm grew rapidly. Within a year, the company’s cars had fared well in competition, and the engines had grown size and cylinder count. By 1913, Renault had grown to become the largest automaker in France, with a reputation for luxury cars of exceptional quality, often fitted with the latest in formal coachwork. In the formative years from 1904 to 1928, Renault’s primary identifying features were a shovel nose bonnet and a radiator positioned between the engine and the firewall, something many competitors soon adopted.

Following World War I, the Renault product line included both a traditional four-cylinder range, and a six-cylinder model as it expanded its offerings. The Type GR was the top four-cylinder model, powered by a long-stroke 4,534cc Monobloc engine rated at 18 taxable horsepower (CV, or chevaux vapeur). Lacking a water pump, it relied on thermosiphon cooling, and the engine was fired by a Dynastart combination generator and starter. Powerful, durable, and suited to high-quality coachwork, the Type GR was an excellent mid-range Renault for the upscale driver.

This rare Type GR tourer wears stylish and sporty skiff-style open coachwork by the seldom-seen coachbuilder Belvallette & Cie, and bears chassis number 64533, suggesting the chassis was built in 1918 and that the body was not completed until 1919. The charming, nautical-inspired body features African Mahogany decking and a full canvas top with matching side curtains. The two-tone light blue livery suits the boat-like body, and is believed to be close to the original color scheme. Accents are provided by black fenders and light gray coach lines, with body color artillery wheels. A copy of the production ledger shows it was first delivered to New York, and while the original owner’s identity is a mystery, they undoubtedly had fine taste in motorcars and the means to afford such a car!

The history picks up again in 1962 when George Shafer of San Bernardino, CA sold it to the world-famous Harrah’s Collection of Reno, Nevada. William Harrah had an eye for rare and interesting cars, and surely recognized the significance of this Renault when he acquired it. The GR remained in the Harrah’s Collection until the early 1980s, when many of the cars either became part of the National Motor Museum in Reno or were sold at auction.

Photos on file show the car as-found when it came out of Harrah’s and was acquired by M. Sharp of Glendale, CA. Looking a bit tired but remarkably complete, it was the ideal candidate for a straightforward restoration. It came into the care of its most recent owners in 1996, who returned it to Europe, for a full restoration by Carrosserie Lecoq Paris, with the work completed in 2002. The process is well documented in an accompanying photo album, showing every aspect of the rebuild, from the coachwork, to the chassis, to the engine and mechanical overhaul. Refinished in two-tone ocean blue with tan leather upholstery, it is handsomely presented and well-detailed throughout. Carefully maintained since restoration, it has mellowed nicely, and shows signs of occasional use while remaining worthy of display. As recently as February 2019, it won the “Rolling Sculpture” award at the Boca Raton Concours d’Elegance, a testament to the care and attention it has received.

This Renault Type GR is accompanied by several volumes of restoration photos, a Harrah’s Verification Certificate, copy of a Nevada title in Harrah’s name, and an owner’s manual. It is a stylish and eminently charming European tourer, and is ideal for many Vintage and Veteran motoring events world-wide.

Offers welcome and trades considered



Stock number 7505

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