Debunking the most common old wives’ tales
1 IT’S THE PIONEER ‘TWO-BOX’ HATCH
Not so. That accolade belongs to the Austin A40 ‘Farina’ Countryman, which appeared about two years before the Renault 4 was unveiled. While Renault’s offering was indeed the first small car with a one-piece, top-hinged tailgate, the little Austin was more in the idiom of the supermini later typified by the Ford Fiesta, with two doors in a ‘two-box’ profile – the Renault 4 was a five-door car from beginning to end. The A40’s tailgate was split horizontally, Range Rover-style, with a lift-up window above and a drop-down section below.
2 OUTSHONE BY 2CV
Many people consider Citroën’s two-cylinder 2CV to be a rather more characterful French vehicle, with its air-cooled, twincylinder engine, unforgettable tin snail looks, and its overall levels of minimalism. Latterly, the 2CV stopped better too, with front discs, while the 4 soldiered on to become the last French car with all-round drums. But the Renault 4 was far more successful. The 2CV sold 5,114,267 examples between 1948 and 1990. Yet Renault shifted 8,135,422 examples of its 4 between 1961 and 1992. That makes the Renault 4 the fifth bestselling single car design ever, while the 2CV doesn’t even make the top 10. However, in a quirk of fate, both cars ended their days being manufactured in Portugal.
3 THE REAR SEATS COULD BE FOLDED
Super-low running costs, comfort on rough roads and versatility were among the Renault 4’s list of key attributes. Certainly, there was a huge amount of cargo space in the back – almost as much as in the smallest purpose-designed vans of the early 1960s. However, the tubular-framed seats used in the first few years were all fixed; the bench in the back couldn’t be folded, although it could be unbolted and removed entirely so you could carry your new washing machine home. Only later, when the seating was redesigned, was a folding rear bench made part of the package. Giles Chapman