How Louis Re­nault changed the car you drive to­day

The Oban Times - - THE GREAT WAR -

Of all the car man­u­fac­tur­ers to par­tic­i­pate in World War One, Re­nault was by some mar­gin the most ac­tive.

Like Rolls-Royce, Re­nault did ini­tially con­trib­ute to the French war ef­fort by sup­ply­ing cars to the mil­i­tary. More im­pres­sively, every sin­gle Re­nault taxi cab in Paris was tem­po­rar­ily re­pur­posed as a troop trans­port in 1914, to help counter the Ger­man of­fen­sive dur­ing the First Bat­tle of the Marne.

As im­por­tant as the com­man­deered cab­bies were, of even more sig­nif­i­cance to the war was Re­nault’s FT light tank. Al­though no-where near as heav­ily armed or as im­pos­ing as the Bri­tish heavy tanks, their (rel­a­tive) speed and the sheer quan­tity of them made this dinky lit­tle de­vice a dev­as­tat­ingly ef­fec­tive as­set. Re­nault pro­duced ap­prox­i­mately 3,600 of them, and more than half of the tanks used by the Al­lies dur­ing the war were FTs.

Cru­cially for the firm’s fu­ture in­ter­ests, World War One in­ad­ver­tently gave Re­nault the tools it needed to cre­ate com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle off-shoots with. Its first trac­tor, for ex­am­ple, was heav­ily based on the FT tank. Re­nault’s var­i­ous com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle sub-divi­sions still ex­ist to­day, al­though most have now been separated from the car com­pany.

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