They made more than eight million in 28 countries and during its 31-year production run it remained essentially unchanged. It’s the Renault R4, a funky little cockroach of a car that’s loved the world over, from the steamy jungles of Colombia to the arid plains of Africa. And this year it turns 50. Bon anniversaire, R4.
The R4 is the third best-selling car ever manufactured—after the Volkswagen bug and the Model T. In Columbia they called it “Amigo fiel” (faithful friend). In Zimbabwe it was known as the Noddy Car. In Argentina it got the name “El Correcaminos” (the Roadrunner). The ugly little bugger won the hearts of people across the globe. And that’s precisely what it was designed to do. Renault launched the R4 project in 1956 in response to the wild success of the Citroën 2CV. The R4 was made to be a car of the people, a cheap and flexible form of transportation for everyone.
The R4 was Renault’s first front-wheel-drive model. It was initially equipped with a 20-horsepower 747cc inline four, mounted in the front behind the front wheels (the transmission and differential sat above the front wheels). It had four-wheel independent suspension with torsion bars out back. The rear setup placed the bars one behind the other, giving the R4 a slightly longer wheelbase on the left-hand side. The car used body-on-frame construction, but the body played a structural role.
Renault made a ton of R4 variants, including a convertible, a van, and a 4WD version called the Sinpar.
The last R4 rolled off the assembly line in 1994. It was part of a series of 1,000 cars marked with the designation “Bye-Bye.”
Cheers, R4. Thanks for the good times.