On the drawing board she was “Project 112”. Early on, they toyed with calling her Domino, but finally settled on R4, plain and simple. It was 1956 when Renault’s chairman, Pierre Dreyfus, had a hunch people were ready for a “blue jeans” kind of car. Something they could live with every day, whether packing it to the gills with work tools, loading up the week’s groceries, or taking the family for a Sunday picnic.
As the first multi-purpose car, this was a revolution. It took some back-to-front thinking to get there, though, starting with putting the motor up front. This made it possible to morph from family sedan to utility van in one flick of the fold-away seats. Even the flip-up boot door was a world first, copied by every carmaker since. Talk about “driving the change”!
The second revolution was the price. Dreyfus wanted to make this the French car anyone could afford, so he told his designers it should cost the customer “350,000 francs and not a cent more” (or roughly $50 in 1961 money). Office wags called it “Project 350”.