Sheep In Frencher Sheep’s Clothing: Cold Start

Cs Dauphinemiata

This is a car I’ve seen at my local Cars and Coffee a couple of times, and it never fails to delight and amaze me. It looks like a well-patina’d Renault Dauphine, mid ’60s vintage, but there are hints that more is going on, as the wheels and those black rubber flares suggest. There’s actually a lot more going on. As in a there’s an entire other car under that Dauphine. A Miata!

Yes, this bonkers creation is a Miata – I think an NB? – that’s wearing the dead skin of a Dauphine, sort of an automotive version of the Mesoamerican god Xipe Totec, who was always portrayed wearing someone else’s flayed skin. Like Xipe Totec, this combination is likely to conjure up feelings of alarm, maybe terror, but in this case the fun variety instead of the scary-god variety.

It’s incredible how well the Dauphine’s wheelbase aligns with a Miata, especially when you consider the Dauphine was a four-door family car. In its new role as a Miata body, you drive this Dauphine from the rear seat, as the dash consumes most of the front passenger area of the car.

A Dauphine is rear-engined, so air intake for the Miata’s significantly more potent (think a conservative 116 hp or so compared to 32 hp) engine comes through the below-the-bumper hole that once housed the Dauphine’s spare tire.

I bet this thing is an absolute blast to drive, and I bet the experience of driving from that back seat is surreal, at the very least. Next time I see this thing I’ll leave a note and maybe we can do a little video about this delightful lump of raw bonkersism.

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35 Responses

  1. Alright, I’ll just say that “the emperor has no clothes” when it comes to patina. The Dauphine is a cool looking car that I’ve never seen before, and the way that its shell has been mounted to a Miata is very impressive, but the rust covering the whole thing makes it look more at place in a junkyard than a car meetup.

    I have tremendous respect for quirky cars that are daily driven and as a result not necessarily kept in showroom condition, but this is too much deterioration.

    1. I’m almost ok with this one. It definitely needs something more appropriate than rubber flares and modern wheels.
      At least it hasnt got a clearcoat over the rust -that kind of tackiness drives me nuts!

  2. Does this mean there’s also a Dauphine with a Miata body out there somewhere? The mind boggles….

    Back in the 1960s, there was a guy in Southern California who had a Dauphine with a Corvette engine where the rear seat would have been. I don’t remember now what he used for a transmission/diff, but am pretty sure it wasn’t the stock Renault unit.

    Always wanted to see him drag race the guy who built an OG Mini with a Cadillac engine stuffed (longitudinally) under the hood at roughly the same time.

  3. That’s even more bonkers than the creation that rolled through town from a neighboring state a few years ago which was a patina-ed (patina’d? patinated?) early 1950s Nash station wagon with a paint job designating it as a press car for The Daily Planet and the interior (and presumably engine) of a late-model MINI. It was impressively well-done. On second thought, hard to decide which is more bonkers, a hot rod in sheep’s clothing (since that’s not all that uncommon (!) like with all those Fiat Topolinos and Ford Anglias that were turned into drag racers in the 60s & 70s) or a MINI (yeah, leave it to BMW to use all caps) lovingly clad in the skin of a prop from a 70-year-old television show about a costumed superhero? On third thought, that Dauphine is more bonkers for putting the driver in the rear seat…

  4. We owned one of these in the early 60s. On day Mom hit ice on rt 22 and went into the guard rail, bending the frame. Dad had it towed home and put it in our basement garage. The next Saturday, my brother, Mom, and I were sitting in the kitchen when we hear this loud bang in the basement and the house shook. We run down stairs to find that Dad had tied one end of a chain to a lally column and the other to the rear corner of the car. Revved the engine, popped the clutch, and one bang later he had the frame straight again. We drove it for several years after. Dad would have enjoyed Autopian.

  5. This is awesome. Our family’s first second car growing up was a Renault Dauphine. I remember it much better than the series of domestic station wagons we had as family cars back then. He later got a Renault 10, which he said was one of the best cars he ever had, when it ran.

    1. We didn’t own a Dauphine but our neighbors did. We owned a 2-stroke 3-cylinder SAAB 93. This would have been maybe 1963? Anyhow the neighbor kid and I used to have big arguments about which one one win in a drag race. Yeah, I’m still embarrassed about that.

  6. Years ago, at a local cruise night, I saw a fantastic re-body. Up top was, I believe, a 1940 Ford. Underneath was, again, if I remember correctly, a shortened 1970 Cutlass chassis. What I remember very clearly though is just how much room the big block Oldsmobile engine had in the Ford engine bay. More than enough room to drop a supercharger on top and still close the hood.

  7. I would like to open with a simple idea. Art inspires emotion; whether it good or bad.

    This Dauphine was owned by the late James A. Oster (J.A.OSTER), it was rotted and pulled out of a pond in eastern NC and was purchased to be made into furniture. I moved from Texas to NC and I was losing my passion for cars and was on the verge of selling everything… The desire to create was fading, but like all car people I found myself on Facebook marketplace looking at odd cars. This Renault Dauphine popped up and I immediately saved it.

    I waited for my wife to come home and I showed it to her, I told her that I think it was the same wheelbase as a Miata. Then professed how cool it would be to put this body on a Miata. Well, 94.5 inches was the golden number, but by the time I contacted the seller… The car was sold. Determined to have it, I asked if he had the buyers contact information. He informed me that the buyer also had another one that he was possibly looking to sell. I reached out to the buyer and told him I was looking to buy the car. He was very nice to inform me that he did not believe the car could be saved.

    I drove up to his house to pick up the “unsalvageable” car, and what is sitting there? A Henny Kilowatt. I took some photos of the Henny and scooped the body up. Later I would go back to take more pictures of the Henny to facilitate the sale of it to a guy in California. Over a year without telling anyone I put the car together in my backyard. The goal was to create something with no rules.

    Owning a Skyline GTR becomes taxing, people want you to make what they want. It always created the wrong crowd. After going out a few times with this car, I realized the crowd it made was the right people. The dreamers, the creators, the people who just want something different.

    In a world of copycats… Be different…

    P.S. My first video of this car on IG, I profess that I should probably go put this car back in the pond it was found in. I am glad I didn’t.

  8. That’s neat, really keen to see how you drive it from the back seat.

    There used to be a 90’s Camry wagon around here on a lifted Hilux chassis. Seeing it in traffic would bust my brain for a second as it would assume it was a Camry on a car trailer until you saw it move independent of the other vehicles around it!

  9. Saw a hat car in Denmark that was a tiny 50s-60s Austin van on …something with an automatic transmission.
    I still can’t get over that project where someone dropped a Datsun 510 body on a Miata and had to WIDEN it by like 6 inches. I always forget how delightfully compact those cars were.

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