Cold Start: So Many Lights

Cs R4dash

Last night, David and I were talking on the phone, our usual nightly conversation where we confirm that the Masonic messages embedded into every story were effective and accurate, as well as adjusting our ranking of which commenters we’d most like to go boating with. The conversation soon degraded into the two of us going on and on and on about how much we like the Renault 4. There’s a lot to like about the Renault 4, and it deserves a full article, but right now I just want to point out a funny trait of the R4: later ones had a crapton of idiot lights.

Yes, a crapton, which in this case, is equal to 14. And that’s with the turn indicator dash light being just one that served both arrows. That’s so many idiot lights, all arranged there in a huge grid. Other inexpensive peoples’ cars had at most a handful of idiot lights; the VW Beetle, for example, had, normally, just four instrument cluster lights: oil, generator, turn arrows, and high beams. That’s it! Why does the R4 need ten more?

Cs R4

If you look at the lights, it’s clear Renault was being lavish with their warning light generosity. There’s a low beam, high beam, and foglamp light. There’s a choke light. A temperature light. Mysterious unmarked red and yellow lights. A temperature light. There’s so much.

But whatever; let the R4 have as many dash lights as it wants! These are fantastic and still largely under-appreciated cars, so I’m not going to begrudge it an instrument cluster that looks like a well-organized spread of Skittles.

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56 Responses

  1. David/Jason, come visit central Minnesota and boat with me! You have the choice of a bow rider or the pontoon. Or, the kayaks? David can help me fix the leaking snow mobile expansion pipe with his welding skills! 🙂

  2. The dash is not from the car pictured below! 🙂
    The Renault 4 pictured had the hardcore 60’s speedometer, an elongated affair. It also had the rearview mirror screwed down into the dash itself, not glued to the windscreen. I think the newer dashboard was put in after 1983.

    Had the same dash as posted in my Renault 4 GTL built in 1987. This dash was lifted from Renault 5 and I combined the warning lights from the newer Renault 5 with the speedometer from my 4 GTL. The lights from Renault 5 were less colourfull, looked much nicer 🙂

    One tidbit regarding rear lighting situation for Torch:
    My R4GTL had no reversing light from factory. I got the switch from the Renault 5 from the brakeyard and mounted some kind of tractor light beneath the rear fender. It worked great 🙂

    1. came here to say this, the dash shown looks like a Renault 5 to me too.. source, drove a Renault 5 for ten years.. 40-45mpg, it was a fun little car, particularly the disco effects from all those warning lights 😉

  3. “as well as adjusting our ranking of which commenters we’d most like to go boating with.”
    I really hope you have separate rankings based on vessel. The people you want on a sailboat aren’t necessarily the ones you want on a speedboat. And a party barge pontoon boat is a whole other thing, not to be confused with a calm fishing pontoon boat.

  4. I kinda like the lone light for both sets of turn signals.

    One of my motorcycles has this, and I’ve come to appreciate its efficiency and seeming allusion to a more connected era of motoring.

    As in, as the driver/rider engaged in what you’re doing, you know which way you’re indicating…all you really need to know is if your indicator is on (critical on bikes b/c no auto shutoff after turning).

  5. I always thought the late R4s just got the R5 cluster, but it looks just slightly different. My R5 has 5 lights in the top row. You can see there’s space for extra lights in the top row but I can’t remember what goes there. O2 sensor? Now I’ll have to check when I get home.

    It kind of makes me think I should play ‘Connect 4’ when I get home from a drive.

  6. My Renault 5s — yes, plural — didn’t have as many lights, but did have one quirky feature: when the red oil pressure warning lit up (hard braking/hard cornering would occasionally slosh the oil away from the pump pickup) all the red warnings illuminated. This, I suppose, was analogous to the Citroen DS warning light array, which surrounded one gigantic “STOP!”light on some versions.

    I could only stand this for so long before buying aftermarket gauges at the auto parts store and wiring ’em in.

    But at least this beats the daylights out of the cheap-Os at Toyota who, IIRC, equipped the Echo with a little blue light to warn you when the coolant was, well, cool.

    1. I was hoping you’d say there’d be this big light along the bottom that lit up “Arretez Monsieur!”

      I drove an Echo once many years ago, and I’m so annoyed I didn’t notice that. Certain models of Scions (at least) beeped at you when the traction control engaged.

      1. Yes, that would have been a nice touch. Renault generally saved the French Weirdness for their engineering, as of course did Citroen.

        I didn’t even know Scions HAD traction, much less any way to control it. I do remember the plethora of beepers, bleepers, and dingers that were built into virtually every Japanese car from the ’70s and ’80s. Subaru was a leader in that and other video-game goodies on the instrument panel; think “XT-6″….

        1. I rode in an XT-6 once, back in high school, and that dash is forever seared into my mind. In a good way. I can hear synthwave in my brain now, just thinking about it.

          A few years back, I briefly got to drive a 300ZX LeMons car. The owner encouraged me to get on her a little, but I was more enraptured by the gauge readout thing. I’m be a terrible racer.

            1. Because the same display would have been used in metric markets where the temperature in Celsuis was adjustable in half degree increments. Seen that on many modern cars that allow you to switch between metric and imperial.

      2. My grandfather got a Renault 25 (the absolute flagship of the mid-80s Renault fleet) and being French, it had ALL the electronic gadgetry, including a hilariously posh English voice that would announce the status of the car through the speakers.

        For the first 6 months, it was “All systems are operating correctly”.

        Then (being French) things went downhill. By the time he got rid of it less than a year later, the posh voice was taking 30 seconds to list all the crap that was going wrong at engine start…!

  7. I like it. 14 seems manageable, I can’t fathom how much dash space would be required if every warning or indicator in my Ram needed it’s own little round light.

    And two Renaults in a row? You turning French on us Torch?

  8. My mom had an orange R4 when I was kid. At five years old I managed to drive into a bush on the side of our driveway. Don’t remember getting into much trouble, but then there was no damage besides a few minor scratches.

    It was replaced by a white 1975 Ford Taunus GL fastback with the 2.0L Cologne V6. My dad was driving a red Ford Granada fastback with the 2.3L Cologne V6 at the time. Both very cool cars, despite the black vinyl tops.

    1. I also grew up with a Quatrelle, my dad’s second, a dark blue base model he bought in 1980 and got traded off in 1990 for a burgundy Ford Fiesta. He had owned a white TL from 1970 to 1980, which I only knew from photos, but in 1985 he bough a used 1977 Renault 12 break (in the exact same shade of blue as the Renault 4) and my love for Renaults was forever set in stone. I actually felt betrayed when my father switched to Fords (the Fiesta got replaced in 1994 with an Escort).

  9. In my imaginary parallel universe, the 2022 Renault 4 has a retro dash just like this, except each light on the cluster represents a submenu of the touch screen that can only be accessed by reaching under the glovebox and inverting your left hand into the shape of a shadow puppet swan.

    1. This is so cool – nice work!

      Your art version shows the fuel gauge so much better and I LOVE that the speedo has the poor man’s tach/shift points on it!

      Once rode a Honda motorcycle with that feature, and thought it was an inspired thrifty quasi-solution to a problem, certainly better than nothing.

      1. Yup! It’s a pretty cool little cluster…literally all the info you NEED and nothing you don’t! The printed-on shift points are cool too…..not sure how the French did it, but the classic FIAT 500’s and FIAT 126p ST’s cluster had marked shift points too….I think on the 500/126p it wasn’t a SHIFT POINT (for economy or power), per se, but the highest speed the car could be in that gear for the sake of mechanical sympathy? I’ve done art for those two clusters too, haha!

        500:
        https://www.redbubble.com/shop/ap/49622815

        126p ST:
        https://www.redbubble.com/shop/ap/53941983

        The Citroen 2CV had shift points of a sort marked on it’s cluster as well, I believe? (Which I’ve also done art for! I have a thing for cheap and simple little cars 🙂 )
        https://www.redbubble.com/shop/ap/49880535

      1. Thanks man! Don’t feel you need to, haha! It’s nice to get a few bucks here and there, but I enjoy making it 🙂 Most of my other stuff are car exteriors, not gauge clusters…mostly quirky cars…Blipshift has turned a lot of it down for not being mainstream enough, lol.

  10. Oh wow I literally jumped in my seat and screamed towards my wife ” THEY POSTED A RENAULT 4 INSTRUMENT CLUSTER IN TODAY’S COLD START”.

    Really loving all the appreciation this website dedicates to Renault. I should point out only eleven of those fourteen are actual dummy lights (the ones with pictograms, duh). These clusters were used in other models that had more lights (even a temperature gauge in some early Express models and possibly other Renaults, to the right of the yellow light in the top row)

    Keeping an eye out for a decent deal for you, David 😉

    1. None that I know of. Mine has that fake button as well, and I’ve never seen one with a button there that wasn’t an aftermarket mod. It’s where most people put the switch for aftermarket front fog lights. Another popular use for that slot is adding a radiator fan switch. You can use the same switch as for the rear defogger or the rear fog light (they’re interchangeable, only difference is the pictogram) and hook it up to the electrical system to bypass the thermostat and turn the fan on. Many owners who install aftermarket temperature gauges also end up adding the fan switch when they realise how often the engine runs near overheating temperatures.

  11. Here’s what I want to know:
    Look the second picture again (ok I’ll wait…)
    What does that nasty lady and dumbass man think is sooo funny about kicking a puppy? especially when wearing riding boots? Did is just pee on your Renault?

  12. I had an R5 and the alternator went out, I drove it 528km home- even the warning light went out about 25 km out and I stalled it about 300m from home- I pushed it the rest of the way, installed the alternator from my garage push started it and kept driving. That oil pressure and the seat belt light was about all of the warning lights that car had

  13. Wow, this has been up for hours and nobody has commented on the enormous temp gauge that looks like an aftermarket afterthought? Was this car originally sold with an air-cooled engine? Why wasn’t the temp gauge included in the cluster?

    1. Yes, that’s an aftermarket gauge, very popular among Renault 4 owners as they sometimes do overheat (especially in the summer, and especially GTLs with the license plate improperly mounted right on top of the extra air vents below the grille that were added with the final(-ish) redesign. The cluster actually has space for a temperature gauge, and some early Express models had this cluster with it, to the left of the blank yellow slot in the top row (which is not a light by the way; the ones without a pictogram don’t do anything).

  14. Check out that rear defroster light dead-center! No looking around the HVAC to find that lil’ gem.

    I hope I’m on that boating list but I’d probably have to turn down the invite. Not that I wouldn’t want to hang out, but my last experience ended poorly. It was a fishing trip, one of the guys died horribly, it was a whole thing. Roy Schneider and I haven’t spoken since.

  15. My dad knew someone who could have used the choke light – she had a seventies’ Renault R4 and was constantly dealing with fouled plugs and other fuel related issues. The mechanic was stumped, it was a fairly new car. Eventually he went for a drive with her (assuming she put it in a high gear and lugged around the corners like my grandpa started doing when his clutch foot gave out from an old injury he sustained from jumping out of a second-story window out of fear of his wife after having been discovered in the arms of another woman), and observed her pull out the choke and use it as a purse hanger. That was how she always drove.

  16. “I remember every little thing
    As if it happened only yesterday
    Parking by the lake
    And there was not another car in sight
    And I never had a girl
    Looking any better than you did
    And all the kids at school
    They were wishing they were me that night
    And now our bodies are oh so close and tight
    It never felt so good, it never felt so right
    And we’re glowing like the metal on the edge of a knife
    Glowing like the metal on the edge of a knife
    C’mon! Hold on tight!
    C’mon! Hold on tight!
    Thought it’s cold and lonely in the deep dark night
    I can see paradise by the dashboard light….”

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