Renault 4 

A social phenomenon in itself!

The 4L, Renault's first "voiture à vivre" or "livable car", was based on a brilliant idea: to create a more relaxed car, a car that would break down the barriers assigning one function to each vehicle. A versatile, go-anywhere sort of car, convenient for all occasions.


New opportunities were developing for leisure and consumption. Renault wanted self-employed workers to be able to use the same car to carry their ladders during the week and to take their family on a picnic at weekends. The trunk had to be made bigger to carry children's bikes or to bring the shopping home from the new supermarkets. Hence the idea of designing the first truly versatile car with a more spacious cabin. It's a wonder nobody else thought of it first!


The Renault R4 was presented in July 1961. It was a 5-door vehicle with a tailgate and modular cabin. The rear seat could be tipped forward to turn the car into a van, if required. Revolutionary!


This versatile car doubled up as a commercial vehicle with an innate sense of service Renault innovated by fitting the car with a roof flap that let users transport long objects not usually carried on this type of vehicle.

Simplicity and strength 

Drivers had changed too. They no longer wanted to spend all Sunday servicing and cleaning their cars. For this reason, the 4L was designed to be both easy-to-maintain and economical.


The 747cc engine and 3-speed gearbox were built to last. At the same time, Renault developed a unique cooling system requiring no top-ups with anti-freeze. The Renault 4 also did away with lubrication points, thus avoiding regular visits to the garage.


Simplicity became a philosophy. Even the appearance of the first vehicles was deliberately uncluttered, with no frills. The cabin had a minimalist dashboard with little use of chrome. Comfort replaced show. The 4L was simple but strong, at ease on both city streets and rutted country tracks.

Sophistication too 

In 1963, Renault joined forces with women's magazine Elle to launch a campaign entitled "She (Elle) takes the wheel".  A total 4,200 readers test drove a 4L – a version called the Parisienne – for 48 hours. The bodywork was black with straw-colored "canework style" painted door handles.


Overnight, the 4L became both a Parisian car and a ladies' car, thus widening its public even further. Renault then started to produce more luxurious, urban models, without losing sight of the original philosophy.


The Renault 4 also had a sense of adventure. Not only because it travelled roads the world over, but also because it almost clinched first place in the Paris-Dakar rally.


The 4L beat all sorts of records. Produced in more than eight million units and exported to more than 100 countries, the Renault 4 ended its career on December 21, 1994. It was a car that appealed to everybody. Few people failed to succumb to its charm. Today, the Renault 4 continues to be coveted by collectors all over the world.



Video: the 50th anniversary of the Renault 4