I’ll be honest: I may have written about this 1983 Renault brochure before. And, if so, I’ll continue the honesty: I don’t care. If I did, I think it was back at the Old Site if I did, anyway. Point is, I happened to see this brochure for the Renault Rodeo 5 and was reminded of how it’s very clearly based on the paintings of Henri Rousseau, so that’s the justification for jump-starting my only almost useless Art History degree this morning. Let’s talk just a bit about Rousseau and the Renault Rodeo 5!
First, some Renault Rodeo 5 facts! The Rodeo was Renault’s attempt to compete with the plastic-bodied Citroën Mehari sorta-off-road/fun car, which was based on Citroën’s famous 2CV. Similarly, the Rodeo was based on Renault’s 2CV competitor, the wonderful Renault 4, specifically the little van version. A company named ACL did the conversions to the plastic, rugged bodies, and, just to keep things nice and confusing for you, while the Rodeo 4 makes sense as coming before the Rodeo 5, the Rodeo 6 also came before.
While they all share essentially the same longitdinal FWD mechanicals of the Renault 4, you can see that the 5’s styling has been pretty significantly updated from the older 4 and 6, gaining some tough looking black bits making up a facemask, central roll bar area, and autobuttocks. I’ve also read that these were only available in one color per year, and never really sold all that great. Still, I think they’re very cool.
Okay, on to the art stuff. So, the very stylized background of that ad really looks like it’s done to deliberately mimic (I almost used the word “ape” because of those primates there but I think they’re monkeys, not apes, and I just didn’t want to get into all that) the style of the painter Henri Rousseau (1844-1910). Rousseau is best known for his stylized and exuberant paintings of thick, verdant jungles teeming with life, like the bit of painting right above, Exotic Landscape from 1908.
Rousseau never actually left France, so all of his junglescapes were just how he imagined jungles to be, which I think is key to their strange, overdone charm. There’s no attempt here for naturalism or accuracy, they’re paintings of the jungles and wildlife as they exist in the mind of a French former customs officer, not as they exist in reality.
I suppose that maybe fits with the Renault Rodeo, too: it’s a tough, Jeep/Land Rover competitor in the imagination of Renault, if not reality. And that’s why it’s so charming and great.
I absolutely adore the Rodeo 5. Absolutely one of the cars in my dream garage. And I just learned in the comments that they actually sold an AWD version for a single year!
There’s a very small detail that I love about it, which is how they integrated the Renault 4 DRL/indicators vertically (headlights also came directly from the Renault 4 parts bin, as well as the interior). I’m a sucker for parts bin design, and that’s a sub-€10 part right there. Last one I bought new was actually less than €7 a couple of years ago.
Hey, how come nobody imports Renault Rodeos to the U.S.? I’d love a Rodeo 5, that looks like fun.
Because the build quality was terrible, with terrible material, and they all look like utter shit nowadays (condition wise), sadly…
Some people have tried restoration but it often ends up with shitty shinny paint or the rubberized factory plastics. Never seen one in either beautiful factory condition, or properly restored.
Can we picture a British advertisement featuring the kinks ape-man.
This is definitely more tasteful than that Metaverse ad featuring animals in Russo’s “Tiger and Buffalo” twerking.
A car with imaginary adventure vehicle capabilities to explore an imaginary jungle. Perfect combination. Can’t imagine why the world said, “Renault thanks.”
Sigh – found out the difference between Art History Majors and
realthe other history majors. I totally got the wrong Rousseau: Jacque. I was all ready for driving around the jungle in a primitive vehicle gawking at the Noble Savages ©️ maybe with chains on the wheels
THE NOBLE SAVAGE
Philosopher, writer, and political theorist, Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) believed that man’s perfect nature was spoiled by corrupt society. Rousseau’s belief that there is worth and value in all human beings was a revolutionary idea, challenging the nobility who believed in their own superiority. Like John Locke, Rousseau believed in the tabula rasa concept. Rousseau asserted, “Man is born free, but is everywhere in chains.”
“…like the bit of painting right above, Exotic Landscape from 1908.”
That’s not Rousseau’s “Exotic Landscape” from 1908 but his identically-named “Exotic Landscape” from 1910 which is often called “Exotic Landscape 1910” to avoid this ambiguity.
I may not have a degree in art history but my undergraduate degree in geology is, after all, a B.A.
I can imagine Animals in Jungles by China Crisis as the soundtrack for a TV ad although that would only be in export markets, since they would have to use a French band for domestic ads
This is the most interesting article I read all day, and it’s 11.45 pm over here
I feel like this vehicle should be on Mercedes Streeter’s bucket list of cars. it is weird enough and Renault of course means it is about as reliable as anything else she has… 😉
These Renaults are many things, but unreliable isn’t one of them. The Cléon-Fonte family of engines is legendary for its reliability and how easy it is to fix. I daily drive a Renault 4, and while things do need servicing (I’m looking at you guys, carburettor and distributor), the block/head can take almost as much abuse and neglect as a contemporary Toyota engine.
The reason these engines have a bad reputation in the USA is because Renault never bothered to pass on the decades of knowledge on these engines to the AMC servicing network. And of course, buyers of Renaults weren’t normally the most mechanically inclined people, so the vast majority of owners never really bothered learning how to periodically tune the carb and/or distributor for optimal performance and reliability, and just got used to the idea that they got themselves a lemon.
I had a print of Rousseau’s “The Dream” in my college apartment. Never owned a Renault, although my brother did.
The Rodeo was a kind of prehistoric Ford Bronco Sport, n’est-ce pas? I suppose the lack of 4WD was a limiting factor, but as a fan of the R4, I kinda have the good feelz toward this one.
Oh, and also a big Rousseau fan. Tried to get my ex, a pretty good artist, to do a similar scene on our backyard fence. Sadly, she was not interested. But then she didn’t care much for R4s, either, even though she did have an R5….
The 84 Rodeo Hoggar was AWD
Oh wow, didn’t know about AWD this version, thanks for sharing!
I’d call the Rodeo Renault’s take on a Matra Rancho, with soupcon of slicker R4 Fourgonette
The Rancho was a PSA thingie ( yet another weird PSA car ) under the Talbot brand.
due to absorbsion of Chrysler France… Which was the parent company of SIMCA ( after it got absorbed too by Chrysler ). Which was the company that built said Rancho with Matra. ( and initially sold under the Matra-Simca Brand )
“…while the Rodeo 4 makes sense as coming before the Rodeo 5, the Rodeo 6 also came before.”
So the people in this illustration have found the missing link?
Also, you can’t just mention autobuttocks without showing us what you mean.
“(I almost used the word “ape” because of those primates there but I think they’re monkeys, not apes, and I just didn’t want to get into all that)”
It sort of seems like you did want to get into all that. And, considering you brought it up, these do not appear to have tails, so they seem to be apes.
Don’t know about tails as i only see frontal view, but i think the binox and camera are definite giveaways to apeness.
I’m getting more of a “Dora l’exploratrice” vibe, but it clearly predates that.
I wonder if the people are looking at the scene in the painting? It’s not just a mimic but a view behind the scenes.
They could have called it the GauVuin. Get it? Go Van? Like Paul Gauguin? Never mind.
It would be very French for Renault to mimic a French painter in their ads. Definitely would not choose a British or American painter’s style. No sir.