Monday, March 19, 2012

Smart Roadster, 2003

 Smart Roadster, 2003

Smart Roadster
The Smart Roadster is a two-door microcar first introduced in 2003 by Smart GmbH. Unfortunately, sales of the Roadster and Roadster Coupé were far below expectations, resulting in a halt of production of both models in November 2005.

At the 1998 Paris Motor Show, the two-seat, 2.5-metre Smart City Coupe (later named Smart Fortwo) was launched. This was the beginning of a new car brand and one of the more radical vehicle concepts to hit the European market since the bubble cars of the 1950s. It was also the beginning of a difficult period for Smart. The City Coupe had stability problems that were uncovered only immediately prior to launch. These forced a package of alterations to be made that were both expensive and compromised the car’s handling, ride and gear shift. Public concerns over the car's stability, combined with Smart’s elitist marketing and the sheer radicality of the car’s design, proved damaging to initial sales. Production projections were slashed from 200k per year to 80k, close to disastrous for a new brand with just one product.

Inside the company, the evangelical buzz surrounding the launch of the radical City Coupe quickly evaporated. With new management, new marketing initiatives and continuing revisions to the car’s engineering to answer pulic concerns, future vehicle plans, including development of a four-seat model, had not been far advanced. It was under these inauspicious circumstances the Smart Roadster was born.

The Design & The Development
Under design director Jens Manske in autumn 1998, Smart's 14-strong design and engineering team began to sketch possible future Smart cars. They soon realised that the powertrain of the City Coupe was ideal for a small sports car, with a compact turbo engine driving the rear wheels via a sequential 6 speed gearbox.

Following Smart’s ‘reduce to the max’ philosophy and general innovative approach, a concept for a super compact, practical and pure sports car was generated. Two quarter-scale exterior and two quarter-scale interior models were made in February 1999 with Volker Leutz’s exterior and Christoph Machinek’s interior proposals selected for development into full-size development models. The design of the car had progressed considerably by the time Michael Mauer officially arrived from Mercedes Benz's Japan design center to take over Menske's position in May 1999. Mauer worked closely with the design team to quickly develop the roadster, with the intention now of producing a show car for the upcoming 1999 IAA motor show in Frankfurt.

The Roadster concept was well received at Frankfurt and helped to convince management that the car should be developed for production. At the same time a decision was made to develop Mauer’s idea for a coupe version as a concept car for Paris motor show a year later. As development of the coupe concept began, so the roadster show car was developed over the following year with both exterior and interior designs completed by November 2000 However, colour and trim design continued until a year later.

By early 2000 the Smart City Coupe had finally started to gain sales momentum, with its cabrio version making a significant addition to total Smart sales. In March Mauer left Smart for Saab, succeeded by Hartmut Sinkwitz in May. As the third design director of Smart during the Roadster's development, Sinkwitz had to bring the concept to production in a very short time. This task may have been made somewhat easier by the Roadster having been designed from the start to use existing powertrain and other City Coupe components. Given some of the advanced design features, it is a credit to the design team that so much of the concept car made it to production.

Concept Car
the ‘Roadster Coupe’ as shown at the 2000 Paris motor show was already on its way to production form. It shared the design of the Roadster from the doors forward, but had a glass targa roof and rear structure resembling a very small estate (station wagon) in the same way as the BMW Z3 coupe and the Saab 9X concept car developed under Mauer at Saab a few years later.

Production versions of both Roadster and Roadster Coupe debuted together at the 2002 Paris Motor Show and were available to buy within a few months. Both cars were unique in the market, being significantly smaller that the Toyota MR2, MG TF, Fiat Barchetta and Mazda MX5, but offering similar performance and practicality to the base versions of these cars while significantly more fuel efficient.

The Smart Roadster and Roadster Coupé were introduced in 2003, based on a stretched platform of the Fortwo (full length is 3427 mm). The two variants are meant to be reminiscent of the British roadster of yore, such as the Triumph Spitfire or the MG B. Both the Roadster and Roadster Coupé are available with a removable Targa roof or an electrical Softtop. The Roadster is powered by 45 or 60 kW (61 or 82 PS) versions of the turbocharged 3-cylinder engine in the rear, which is engineered by Mercedes Benz. The Roadster Coupé has only the more powerful 82 PS engine. A steering wheel with Formula 1-style gearpaddles, to control the semi-automatic sequential transmission, is optional. With weight as low as 790 kg, it is meant to provide the emotion of driving a sports car at an affordable cost. Still, the Roadster's price is not very far from that of a Fiat Barchetta or Mazda MX-5.

Both the Roadster and Roadster Coupé are available in Brabus-tuned versions with power increased to 74 kW (101 PS). The Brabus versions have a different twin sports exhaust, lower suspension, polished six-spoke aluminum alloy Monoblock VI 17" wheels, front spoiler, side skirts and radiator grille. Exclusive Brabus interior includes leather trimmed dashboard, alloy-effect accent parts, instrument graphics, leather/aluminium gearknob, aluminium handbrake handle, aluminium pedals and Brabus labeled floor mats.

Lexus GS300, 2004


Lexus GS300, 2004

The Lexus GS is a mid-size luxury sports sedan / executive car manufactured by the Toyota Motor Corp. under the Lexus brand and sold as the Toyota Aristo in Japan. Based on the platform and running gear of the Toyota Crown, it was introduced in 1991 in Japan and two years later in the United States, Europe and selected markets in Asia. The model was designed to fill the gap between the ES and LS and to provide Lexus with a sports sedan that could compete with the BMW 5-Series and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. For most of its life, the GS had a wider wheelbase than the ES, and was shorter than the ES in length.

Though essentially identical, GS and the Aristo differ in their engine and transmission combinations as well as equipment packages.

The second generation Aristo was launched in Japan, codenamed JZS160 for cars with the 2JZ-GE engines and JZS161 for those with the 2JZ-GTE twin-turbo engines. VVT-i was now standard, resulting in a bump in torque. The twin-turbo version was available with electronic four-wheel steering, VDC and an automatic gearbox with a manual sequential mode. No 4WD models were offered.

The GS began production in the JZS160 body style on August 4, 1997 and was launched in 1998. The American market GS 400 was equipped with a UZ-series V8 that produced 300 hp and 310 ft·lbf of torque. reported a 0-60 time of 5.4 seconds for the 3693-pound sedan. Again, no turbo models were offered outside Japan.

In 2001, the engine received a 0.3 liter bump in displacement and the model was renamed GS 430. Peak horsepower was unchanged, but torque increased to 325 ft·lbf.

The GS was Motor Trend's Import Car of the Year for 1998. It also made Car and Driver magazine's Ten Best list for 1998 through 2000.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Suzuki Swift Rally Car, 2005

Suzuki Swift Rally Car, 2005

A redesigned Swift was announced at the Paris Auto Salon in September 2004. This Swift is intended to compete in the European B segment with the likes of Peugeot 206, Opel Corsa and the Fiat Punto. Available with 1.3 and 1.5 L engines, the new Swift is Suzuki's new "global car", to be produced in Hungary, India, Japan and by Chang'an in China. 3- and 5-door bodies are available.

The the new model is the first of its kind during which a Suzuki employed Indian engineers to design a car that would compete in the global market. The design of the new Swift was previewed on the Concept S and Concept S2 concept cars at auto shows, in the years leading up to its launch. It's proportions & essential shape are unmistakely like the BMW MINI, due to the blacked-out A-pillars and bumper-car stance. The exterior shape is described by some as "1.5 box".

Despite Suzuki's long-standing relationship with General Motors (which itself had prompted the development of the very first Swift), the new Swift is entirely Suzuki, and not based on the GM Gamma platform. The prestigious British Autocar magazine gave the new Swift a favourable 4/5 stars in road test, badging it a "thoroughly impressive all-rounder". Mk4 Swift has received a 4 stars out of 5 rating in the EURO NCAP crash tests.

The Standard equipment include leather steering wheel, dual air-bag, ABS with EBD (Electronic Brake-force Distribution), front disk brake with rear drum brake, sliding storage under passenger seat, single CD player.

Since its global launch in 2005, Mkq4 Swift recorded above forecast sales. In Japan, sales figure doubled forecast. Mk4 Swift enjoyed healthy sales in India where a substantial percentage of the car is built with locally made components. Rapid sales of the new Swift model contributed to the 64% rise in Q1 profits for the Maruti corporation. Waiting period in India for the car is at least 3 months.

Morgan Life Car Concept, 2008

 Morgan Life Car Concept, 2008

The green car that will deliver on performance and looks as well as emission reduction

Now less than 12 months from reality, the British consortium involved in the project, which includes the legendary sports car manufacturer Morgan, QinetiQ, Cranfield and Oxford universities, BOC and OSCar, is on target to unveil the completed and running prototype at the 2008 Geneva show.

The new vehicle, known as Morgan LIFECar  ultra quiet, and its exhaust system will produce only water vapour thanks to its fuel cell converting hydrogen into electricity.

"The real challenge is to design and build a car that is fun to drive - a proper sports car" quoted Charles Morgan, the strategy director for the Morgan Motor Company. "The use of ultra capacitors to store the surplus energy and then use this for acceleration and braking does promise a dynamic ride, especially when combined with our ultra light chassis. The pairing of weight to a minimum is our strength, and allows a much smaller fuel cell than conventionally thought necessary. This gives energy and yet more weight savings"

Part funded by the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI), Morgan LIFECar has been a 2 ½ year project. The consortium hopes that the LIFECar will produce a combination of performance, range and fuel economy that should alter our view of motoring for the future.

The key to delivering this step change in energy efficiency lies in a combination of factors, including weight reduction and a different design approach. Costing a total of £1.9m, with a mix of industry and DTI funding, the two and a half year project has been broken down into the following areas of responsibility.

The technical background
The car's fuel cell system operates by electrochemically combining on-board hydrogen with oxygen taken from the air outside.

Though in most respects fuel cells are more like engines than batteries, to the extent that they generate energy from fuel in a tank rather than store energy, like batteries, they use electrodes (solid electrical conductors) with an electrolyte (an electrically conductive medium). When the hydrogen molecules come into contact with the negative electrodes, the molecules split into protons and electrons.

The protons are then carried across the proton exchange membrane to the positive electrode of the fuel cell whilst the electrons travel around the external circuit as electricity. The molecules of the hydrogen and oxygen are combined chemically, with water as the only waste product.

The only emission from the QinetiQ fuel cell will be water vapour. The electric power generated by the fuel cells powers the electric motors and turns the wheels of the vehicle.

Morgan Aero 8, 2006

Morgan Aero 8, 2006

The most striking change is the restyled front, that bears more than a passing resemblance to the graceful lines of the AeroMax coupe that starred at last year's Salon de L'auto at Geneva. Now the all-aluminium super performer sports more traditional Morgan lines, whilst preserving its remarkable handling and performance.

The race proven bonded aluminium chassis and the coach-built body remain …..a hallmark of all Morgans. Under the traditionally styled bonnet you will find the very latest version of the 4.4 V8 from BMW, incorporating their brilliant Vanos and Valvetronic control systems. Combining its 325 Bhp with the lightweight construction delivers a class busting 284 Bph/tonne adding up to a 0-62mph time of under 4.5 seconds and a top speed of over 160 Mph (256 Kph). Yet it also possesses the ability to come to a full stop, from 62 mph in just 35.8 metres, or put another way, less than 9 car lengths.

Bosch ABS, Electronic Brake Distribution and Drag Torque Control all combine to maximise balance and poise without over compensating for driver involvement, leading to a unique driving experience delivering safety, high performance and a highly involving driving experience.

The range of standard equipment has been further improved, with the addition of Driver and Passenger Airbags, ABS, cruise control, remote central locking, remote tyre pressure monitoring, headlight wash and an optional lightweight hard top.

Over 400 Aero 8s have now been produced by the Malvern Link factory since 2001, and 2006 is set to be a record year for Morgan's top model.

The priced at £62,500 including UK VAT, this coach-built supercar exemplifies the individuality for which Morgan is famous. Delivery is currently estimated at 6 - 12 months.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Renault 16, 1965

Renault 16, 1965

The Renault 16 was an executive car produced by French manufacturer Renault between 1965 and 1980 in Sandouville, Le Havre, France.

The R16 was voted European Car of the Year by a board of European motoring journalists in 1966. Over 1,845,959 R16s were produced during the model's lifetime.

In the autumn of 1965, Renault launched one of the world's first hatchbacks - a halfway move between a saloon and estate bodystyle which would eventually become the most popular car bodystyle in the world.

It sold well in most of Europe, winning praise for its spacious and comfortable interior. Equipment levels were also high for the price. Initially, Renault sold the R16 with just a 1.4 L gasoline engine in GL specification; then followed the 1.6 L TS which could top 100 mph. The top-line model was the TX, which was launched in 1973 and had a 5-speed manual transmission. Equipment included power windows and central door locking, features previously unknown on family cars in Europe.

Production of the Renault 16 lasted until 1980 when it was finally replaced by the less successful Renault 20. Even by this stage, when it was nearly 15 years old, the Renault 16 was still one of the most popular and highly rated family cars on sale in Europe. Current Renault styling chief Patrick le Quement has made no secret his admiration for the R16 - and incorporated a subtle tribute to its "bird-beak" grille in the corporate look he devised for many of the models (Laguna, Mégane, Scénic) that the company launched in the 1990s.

By the time the Renault 16 ceased production most other European manufacturers had at least one hatchback on sale, with the idea just starting to rub off on Asian and American makers. The most significant hatchbacks influenced by the Renault 16 between 1965 and 1979 include the following: Austin Maxi (1969), Fiat 127 (1971), Peugeot 104 (1972), Volkswagen Golf (1974), Chrysler Alpine (1975), Opel Kadett City (1975), Rover SD1 (1976), Ford Fiesta (1977), and the Chrysler Horizon (1977).

    * August 1964 - First official pictures of the R16 are released to the media.
    * December 2, 1964 - The first R16 is completed at the factory in Sandouville, near Le Havre, a facility purpose-built for the R16.
    * January 5, 1965 - The Renault 16 is introduced to the world and the press in a presentation on the Côte-d'Azur.
    * April 1965 - The R16 is made available to the public, in two specifications: Grand Luxe and Super, both powered by a 1470cc engine
    * 1967 - Ventilation and heating are both improved, and the dashboard is redesigned. An automatically operated choke is also made available.
    * 1968 - The 16 TS is introduced. It features a new 1565cc engine, an all-new instrument panel that included a tachometer and water temperature gauge, and many other new features including two-speed windscreen wipers, rear defroster, passenger reading light, and optional power windows.
    * 1969 - The other R16 models get the wheels and brakes of the TS. Reverse lights are installed as standard on the TS, placed under the taillights (they are optional on other models).
    * 1969 - The R16 TA, with an automatic transmission, is introduced. The TA is effectively a R16 Super with some features from the TS.
    * 1970 - Front seatbelts are installed on all R16s.
    * 1971 - The R16 undergoes a mild revamp. Among the most obvious changes are new rectangular taillights. The Grand Luxe and Super are replaced by the L and TL specifications, and a version of the TS's 1565cc engine (with the cylinderhead from the 1470cc) is installed on both. The TA is discontinued and an automatic transmission is made available as an option across the whole R16 range.
    * 1973 - An upmarket 16 TX model is introduced at the Paris Motor Show, equipped with a 1647cc engine (an enlarged version of the TS engine) and a five-speed manual transmission. The TX was distinguishable from other R16s on the exterior by its four rectangular headlights with large turn signal lights underneath. Among the other features available on the TX were Gordini wheels, a rear spoiler, a rear windscreen wiper, a laminated windscreen, automatic seatbelts, power windows, central locking and optional air conditioning.
    * 1974 - The aluminium grille on L, TL and TS is replaced by a black plastic grille.
    * 1976 - The automatic transmission ceased to be available as an option on the L, TL and TS; however, a TL Automatic model was launched.
    * 1977 - The L and TS are discontinued.
    * 1978 - Reverse lights are installed as standard on all models.
    * 1979 - Rear three-point seatbelts are made standard on all models. The TL Automatic is discontinued.
    * January 1980 - R16 production ends.

Oldsmobile Intrigue, 2002


Oldsmobile Intrigue, 2002

The Oldsmobile Intrigue was a mid-size sedan manufactured from 1998 through 2002 by the Oldsmobile division of General Motors. The Intrigue's design cues were first seen in 1995 with the Oldsmobile Antares concept car. The Intrigue was the first casualty in the phase-out process of Oldsmobile.

The Intrigue was designed to compete more with Japanese automobiles, and replaced the Cutlass Supreme. It went into production on May 5, 1997. It was similar to a range of mid-sized sedans from other GM divisions, including the Buick Century, Buick Regal, Chevrolet Impala, Chevrolet Monte Carlo and the Pontiac Grand Prix. The Intrigue diverged from its siblings in its chassis tuning, equipment, and some dimensions. Wheelbase, for instance, was 1.5 inches shorter for the Intrigue than the Grand Prix.

All were built at the GM Fairfax plant in Kansas City, Kansas, where the Grand Prix was also built (the Buick Century and Regal, and the Chevrolet Impala and Monte Carlo were all built in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada). For the 1999 model year, a new, sophisticated DOHC 3.5L "Shortstar" engine, a six-cylinder based on the GM Northstar V8, was introduced. On June 14, 2002, the final Intrigue rolled off the assembly line, as part of the Final 500 Collectors Edition.

    * 1998-1999 OHV 3.8 L L36 (231 in³) V6
    * 1999-2002 DOHC 3.5 L LX5 (214 in³) V6

Year-to-year changes
    * 1999: For the beginning of this model year, the DOHC 3.5 L "Shortstar" engine was standard in the top-line GLS and optional on mid-level GL and base GX models. Later, it became standard on all models. Decklids now wore Oldsmobile badge (in the previous model year, there was a complaint that some people couldn't tell that Intrigues were Oldsmobiles). All models now got a thicker, leather-wrapped steering wheel. New to the option list was GM's OnStar emergency/communications system.
    * 2000: New to the option list for 2000 was an antiskid system called the Precision Control System. Precision Control System was designed to help keep the car on its intended path by selective braking of one or more individual wheels. Though optional on all models, GX buyers had to order optional traction control to get the new antiskid system. Heated power front seats were now standard on GLS models. Retained accessory power was standard this year. 
    * 2001: On GX models, traction control became optional instead of standard. New standard automatic headlights were now standard on all models. Premium Leather and Precision Sport option packages were also available for this year.
    * 2002: GLS models now featured a two-tone interior with sterling accents, as well as standard Homelink, sunroof, and driver lumbar. All models featured new family of radios with RDS and standard CD player (borrowed from the newly-redesigned Aurora). Tropic Teal and Indigo Blue were two new exterior colors. All models had new LATCH (Lower Anchor and Top tether for Children) in three rear seat positions. Sun & Sound package was available on GL models (includes Bose sound system and sunroof). New winchester headliner was inside. Production of the Intrigue ended in June 2002 as part of the phaseout of the Oldsmobile brand.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Renault 8 Major, 1965

Renault 8 Major, 1965

The Renault 8 (Renault R8 until 1964) and Renault 10 were compact automobiles produced by the French manufacturer Renault in the 1960s and early 1970s. The 8 was launched in 1962, and the 10, a more upmarket version of the 8, was launched in 1965. Both ceased production and sales in France in 1971, although they were produced in Bulgaria until 1970 (see Bulgar Renault), and continued to be produced in Spain until 1976.

The 8 was released in july 1962 and was based on the outgoing Renault Dauphine. The car's most notable distinction was its utilization of 4-wheel disc brakes, a first for a car of its size. The 8 was powered by an all-new 956 cc engine developing 44 PS.

A more powerful model, the 8 Major, was released in 1964, featuring an 1108 cc engine developing 50 PS. A still more powerful version, the 8 Gordini, was also released that year, with a tuned engine of the same capacity but developing 90 PS and a five-speed manual transmission. The Gordini was originally available only in blue, with two white stripes. In 1965, the Renault 10 Major, a plusher version of the 8 with a different front and rear, was released, replacing the 8 Major. The 10 is significant as the first Renault model to be offered with a fully automatic transmission, which unlike all later automatic Renaults had a push button gear selector.

In 1967, the 8 Gordini received a facelift, adding two extra headlights, and its engine upgraded to a 1255 cc unit rated at 100 PS. Both the 8 and the 10 (already lost the word Major) were heavily revised for 1968, with some of the 10's features making it in to the 8, resulting into a reappeared 8 Major which replaced the basic model. The 10 itself was facelifted, with rectangular headlights added. The changes also saw the addition of the 8S, a sportier model with a 1108 cc engine rated at 60 PS. A larger unit, the 1289 cc engine from the new Renault 12, was added in 1970, giving birth to the R10 1300.

French production of the 8 and 10 ceased in 1971, with final sales as late as 1973. FASA-Renault, the company's Spanish arm, continued to produce models 8 and 8TS (quite analogue to the 8S) until 1976 for the Spanish and Mexican markets.

Renault 4 Parisienne, 1963

Renault 4 Parisienne, 1963

The Renault 4, also known as the 4L (pronounced "Quatrelle", which could be heard as "4 wings" in French), is a supermini produced by the French auotmaker Renault between 1961 and 1993. It was the first front-wheel drive Renault.

The History
The Renault 4 was Renault's response to the 1948 Citroën 2CV. Renault was able to review the plusses and minuses of the 2CV design and come up with a larger, more urban vehicle. In the spring of 1956, Renault Chairman Pierre Dreyfus launched this new project: designing a new model to replace the rear engined 4CV that would become an everyman's car, capable of satisfying the needs of anybody. It would be a family car, a woman's car, a farmer's car, a city car. It would also be suitable for motorists around the world.

The production Renault 4 was finally revealed at the Paris Salon de l'Automobile in 1961, in the L version (L for Luxe), hence the popular name 4L.

Early versions used engines and transmissions from the Renault 4CV. The initial transmission was a 3-speed manual, an obsolete feature when compared to the four-speed manual of the thirteen-year old Citroën 2CV. Unlike the 4CV, which was a full monocoque, the R4 body was bolted on to a chassis. However, the body had a structural role and the chassis could twist if the body was removed without proper shoring. This semi-monocoque construction would later allow Renault to build other models on the R4 platform like the Renault 6 and the successful Renault 5. The R4 had four-wheel independent suspension. A surprising, yet often unnoticed, feature on the R4 is its shorter wheelbase on the left than on the right. This allowed a very simple design of the rear suspension using transverse torsion bars, and didn't affect the handling of the car. The front torsion bars were longitudinal. During its production run it was regarded as an estate car but in retrospect some now say the Renault 4 pioneered the hatchback body style, and is therefore significant in the history of car design. It was not the first, however, to introduce a top-hinged single-unit tailgate, which is one of the distinguishing features of the hatchback body style: the 1954 Citroën Traction Avant also included this innovation, while the earlier Aston Martin DB2/4 Mk1 of 1953 also had a small top-hinged tailgate.

While never achieving the same curiosity appeal as the Citroën 2CV, the R4 was the most successful French car of all time, with 8 million units being produced between 1961 and 1993. RHD market sales of the 4 Sedan ended in 1985, but LHD production and European sales continued until 1993, when the R4 was finally shelved.

In Colombia, the car was one of the most sold, and remained in the memory of many colombians, the car was nicknamed "Amigo fiel" (Faithful friend). The car was manufactured in the SOFASA plant in Envigado (a city near Medellín) from 1970 to 1992.

Though the Renault 4 had a long production run, development of the design was limited - it never changed size or shape. The engines were significantly larger than the small 425 cc engine in the 2CV. The R4 always had a four-cylinder watercooled engine. The original engine's capacity of 782 cc was increased to 845 cc from 1963 onwards. In 1978, a new 1108 cc engine was introduced, a smaller version (956 cc) of which replaced the 845 cc engine in 1986. Chrome trim was eventually phased out on all models and aluminium grilles were replaced with plastic items. There were three different dashboards, all of which were simple in design. Changes to the body panels amounted to nothing more than a slightly altered hood and hinge alterations.

Despite the runaway success of the Renault 4, or perhaps as a result of it, Renault directed a lot of effort into developing its small cars. They designed the Renault 6 and the Renault 5 while the Renault 4 was still selling extremely well. Some criticised this at the time, but the Renault 5 competed in a different sector (3-door supermini). The Renault 4 is thus a bridge between the small utility vehicle (2CV) and the supermini design (R5, Peugeot 205).

The Renault 4 remained an extremely basic car throughout its life, and development never extended to making the design any less simple or spartan. However, in spite of its basic design, the Renault 4 had an extremely comfortable ride, due to well-designed suspension (which lent the Renault 4 a softer, more fluid ride than many modern cars) and a habitable interior due to comfortable seats, powerful heater and effective ventilation. However, the windows lacked winding mechanisms and instead used sliding mechanisms. To some this gave the Renault 4 character, but to many others it was just annoying and a tell-tale sign of the age of the design.

Another detail which made the Renault 4 different from other cars was the gear lever, which was on the dashboard. This was an effective means of creating a flat floor, using a simple design borrowed from the 2CV. It passed over the longitudinal engine and clutch to the gearbox at the front. Though unconventional and criticised by conservative motoring journalists, the dash-mounted gear lever was easy to use and left more interior space free.

There were many different 'special edition' Renault 4s. Some (including the Safari, Sixties and Jogging) were sold in special colour schemes, upholstery and other details, while others (Clan, Savane) were really nothing more than standard models with decals.

There were also special models which were not solely a marketing exercise, such as the Renault 4 Sinpar 4x4, the Plein Air, a pickup truck, LPG versions and electric versions.

In 1978, the R4 GTL arrived. It had the 1108cc engine from the Renault 6 TL, albeit with the performance reduced for better economy, and bigger drum brakes. The GTL was identifiable by its grey front grille, grey bumpers, and grey rubber strips along the bottoms of the doors. It also had an extra air intake below the front grille (as a result, the registration plate was moved down to the bumper), and 12 inch wiper blades instead of the original 10 inch ones. Inside, there was a modified dashboard and cloth seats.

There was also a panel van version of the R4, which with its "high cube" bodyshell became the idiosyncratic French "Boulangerie" van. For many years, this was surely the most successful vehicle of its type and for many people it represents their idea of a Renault 4 more than the passenger version. It remained on sale in Europe until 1993 and was replaced by the Renault Express, based on the R5.

End of the R4

Though reasons such as emissions and safety legislation are often given for the Renault 4's demise, its popularity would not have lasted anyway. Outmoded production methods, more advanced competition and the reasons outlined above meant that the Renault 4's days were numbered, at least as a mainstream product. In any case, projects to replace the Renault 4 had been in development since the early seventies. However, the continuing success of the Renault 4, the need to replace the Renault 5, the difficulties coming up with a suitable replacement (and the idea that the Renault 4's market would die with it) all meant that the Renault 4's replacement did not appear until 22 years later. When the Renault 4 finally went out of production in the early nineties, a retrospective series of ten black and white photographs by Thierry des Ouches was published in Libération in early December 1992. This series later won first prize from Le Club des Directeur Artistiques in the category of daily newspaper. It was also award the lion d'or at the Cannes International Advertising Festival.

In 2003, a Japanese car modification company called DAMD came up with a design called the Ancel Lapin, which could transform a Suzuki Lapin into a Renault 4 lookalike.
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