I think the last Renault R4 I showed was a red Sapeurs-Pompiers (Firefighters) version over a year ago. So it’s about time I did another. I’m sure I did quite the 2CV posts so it’s only fair to give the R4 some additional airtime. And there’s a reason I mention that 2CV as this R4 has somewhat the same roof.
It’s not a car constructed by La Régie themselves though, it was built by coachbuilders Heuliez. This Cerizay based company had converted cars to convertibles for years (like Citroën’s DS) but in the late ‘70's Heuliez tried to lure a bigger company to have them produce big volumes of one of their cheaper cars. Hence this R4.
And of course I mentioned Heuliez quite a few times before on LaLD as they were hired to produce a vast amount of awesome cars for PSA like the 205T16 and the BX4TC. And for producing lots of wagons like one of the Xantia I showed a few weeks ago.
For this one however Heuliez and Renault worked together intensively for this Découvrable. It’s floorpan was strengthened for the loss of rigidity due to cutting large pieces of metal to create that roof. But when the running prototype was showed to the Board of Directors of Renault decided not to have it actually produced. Because they felt there wasn’t enough market for such a car.
As driving a convertible was for the rich and therefor the base car at least had to be more premium than their high volume workhorse. Sinpar had created a small series of open R4s years before Heuliez did: the Plein Air. As Sinpar was a Renault subsidiary the Board had first-hand experience in open R4s. Heuliez still believed in a concept like this and would eventually trick PSA into producing the Visa Décapotable for Citroën only 2 years later.
That Visa wasn’t a success so the Board of Directors definitely had a point. Heuliez already had marketed the R4 a bit already actually, with all kinds of promotional material readily available.
The original prototype still exists. In 1981 it was grey but currently it’s painted blue. The current owner found it, under a fig tree, in the garden of one of the directors of la Régie des transports de Marseille, a company that had bought buses at Heuliez for decades.
The car was restored intensively, the top is slightly different as well. And why this 1/43, produced by Universal Hobbies, has this green color is beyond me. How easy would it be to make it in one of the two actual colors?
The black rear view mirror is correct but there’s more stuff that isn’t right. That grille was black. There should be a small Heuliez badge on the C-pillar. The tail-lights are completely red while the center light should be an orange clignoteur. A brown interior suits the green good but the original one was grey. I do like the shift knob sticking out of the dash though.
C’est tout! The pictures appear to be a bit hazy now and then but I only used my old Canon 50mm lens this time and focusing that is a bit harder without any aids on the camera.