In the early Sixties, despite the upheaval caused by the tragic death of their general manager Pierre Lefaucheux, were enjoying a wave of success.

Renault's success was driven by to two models, the 4CV developed by Lefaucheux, and the Dauphine, developed by Lefaucheux‘s successor, Pierre Dreyfus.

By the early Sixties, both of these models were looking jaded, and sales were slumping, against strong opposition from Citroen’s 2CV, which had rapidly become France's best-selling car.

Renault made no secret that they had launched the 4 to act as a rival to the Citroen 2CV, and although the four may have been a better-looking vehicle, it bore a lot of similarities to its main competitor.

These included super-soft suspension making for a bouncier ride than most, unpredictable handling and a strange push-pull gear change.

Early versions of the 4 were totally underpowered, even for such a light vehicle with just a 603cc (37 cu in) straight-four engine initially installed as standard.

Renault were alert to the obstacles that fitting such a small engine in the 4, and gradually increased the engine capacity, testing units from the 4CV, Dauphine, and Caravelle till they reached a 1.1-litre (67 cu in) unit.

This engine would go on to Renault excellent service, later to be used on the Renault 5.

As well as a five-door hatchback body style, the four could also be ordered as a delivery van, crew cab, pick-up truck and even a beach buggy.

Positive attributes that the Renault 4 did offer was its simple mechanical layout, reliability and meagre running costs made the four an inexpensive and highly popular choice for French buyers, with exports proving to be particularly successful in developing markets.

Within a few months of its launch, Pierre Dreyfus and his management team at Renault began to realise that they had a major bestseller on their hands- although it took them a lot longer to absorb precisely how successful the 4 would become.

The Renault 4 remained in production for more than three decades, during which time more than eight million was sold, with only the Volkswagen Beetle and Ford Model T generating more sales during the Twentieth Century.

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