Home » Let’s Just Enjoy The Renault Dauphine: Cold Start

Let’s Just Enjoy The Renault Dauphine: Cold Start

Cs Dauphine

It’s Tuesday! You know what that means! It means that I just remembered I forgot about Mercury Monday and I don’t care, I just don’t care, and I don’t care what David says about it, either. Instead, we’re just going to sit here and contemplate the Renault Dauphine just because it’s so damned charming and I think that’s what I need right now to start the day: a charming-ass car that only wants to be a charming-ass car to make you a little bit happier. Isn’t that all any of us are trying to do, anyway?

Cs Dauphine Int

Look at this interior! All those hounds’ teeth! That rich liver-y color of the vinyl, all the curvy shapes and piping and moldings and that peculiar gray dashboard! Look at that spindly, incredibly delicate gearshift! It looks like a conductors’ baton or a Q-Tip jammed in the floor. This interior is basically this woman

Cs Dauphine Woman

…just, you know, as a car interior.

I want more Dauphine. Give it to me, me:

Cs Dauphine Colors

Aw hell yeah, that’s the stuff right there. Pure, uncut charmium, right from the charmé region of France. Also, is that color really “infant yellow?”

Cs Dauphine Rearcutaway

The Dauphine was pretty unashamed about its rear-engine-ness, with a longitudinal inline-four just slung way the hell out behind that rear axle. Also, look how deep that radiator is tucked back there!

Hey, let’s watch an old Dauphine commercial:

There’s a lot of interesting details in there: the old, American-ized pronunciation of “Ren-ALT,” the showing off of city and country horns, the way they say it’s the best-selling four-door import car, because they were a distant second place after the VW Beetle, but the Beetle only had two doors, so, there you go. Also, check out how the US-spec bumper overriders block a good 1/3rd of the already tiny taillights.

Cs Dauphine Spare

Okay, one more charming thing: I love the special spare tire compartment of the Dauphine, and how it looks like it’s sticking its tongue out at you.

I’ve driven the Lane Museum’s Dauphine. It’s absolutely delightful.

Okay, now go forth into your day, friends, made a bit buoyant with some of the contagious charisma of this little dollop of Gallic charm.

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48 Responses

  1. Thanks for answering so many questions. Such a nice and excellent article, we have been looking for this information and this is a great post about renault car. Thank you!

  2. I’d go for the Gris Pompadour with the blue/black/grey hound’s tooth/blue vinyl interior. Unless my eyes deceive me, all the other combinations use the same blue/gold/red/grey hound’s tooth. So it’s a special treat,

    My family ran a Chrysler-Plymouth dealership in the 50’s. My dad worked there for a couple of years and someone brought a Dauphine in that needed a transmission re-build. On a Plymouth, that might take three hours. It took them 18 on the Dauphine. Partly because it wasn’t familiar to them, but partly because you had to pull the engine to get to the transmission.

    Howard Gossage, the great San Francisco ad man did some fun ads for the Dauphine.

    1. Old Subaru ads did something similar, putting emphasis on the “BAR” in Subaru.

      I guess it was just up to American importers to make ads for them and nobody involved cared to figure out how things are supposed to be pronounced.

  3. The color names are very interesting indeed. It’s not “infant” yellow– if it were french that would be bebe. Infante is a title for Spanish prince. Rejane was the surname of a famous French actress. A gray pompodour– is, well, a gray hairstyle with sweeping curves like this car. Love it!

  4. Ok…sorry Renault…conventional heater…guess it was exhaust fumes! Wish I knew then what I know now. It was cute. Light blue…and it ran. Oh well.

  5. Truth from an ex owner. Back in the day, I was looking thru the Pennysaver, local rag sale paper and there it was! A 1959 Renault Dauphine! Runs! Bought bought it for….wait for it $25. Drove it home. Cleaned out $25 worth of empty bottles out of the frunk. Started trying out all the accessories…lights, wipers, etc. Hmm, wonder if the heater works? Heard some noise and started smelling gas fumes. Gas fired heater? Exhaust leaks thru the vents? That’s it. Sold it next for $50! Double my money. Tripled if count the money for cashing in the bottles! Didn’t want to die from carbon monoxide poisoning!

  6. My best friend in high school bought a Dauphine that needed “some work.” His Dad, an old school car guy, taught my friend how to lap the valve seats by hand, etc. The Dauphine turned out to be a good car to learn how to wrench on if you had a relatively few hand tools and someone to guide your efforts. Driving it was not too exciting.

  7. Charming! We’ve got in our family since autumn the tiny rear engined Smart Forfour, practically same as Renault Twingo. Dauphine must be her grandmother.

  8. I would’ve bought one years ago, other than their well-deserved reputation for unreliability. It’s torture loving the style of some cars so much, but not having the money or space to work on them.

    Now that I have some money and some space, quirky little jewels like this aren’t nearly as common. It’s different when you have to search for an interesting car, rather than choose it because you stumbled onto it at the right time.

    Around the same time I found the Dauphine, and in the same price range, I ran across a Peugeot 403 that needed engine work, a Saab 96 with the front fenders in the back seat, and a Lamborghini Espada that was filthy inside and out. The Espada needed, at minimum, new brakes on all four corners, and looked like it was owned by a hoarder who lived in the car. $20,000 would’ve easily bought all four and restored them to like new, but that was a small fortune in those days.

    I’m finally at a place in life where I can drop my caution about buying truly weird cars, and I’m very grateful for that.

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