Welcome to Found Around Town, where we feature cars we find in a city where interesting ones are rare because everyone drives a Prius or rides a bicycle: Austin, Texas.
It was impossible not to notice this neon blue roadster in the parking lot near Austin Municipal Court a few weeks ago. The thing is, as I approached it from the rear, I wasn't immediately sure what it was until I was able to get a closer look at it. Could it be a Fiat, an MG, an Alfa Romeo? Maybe even a Honda S800?
But once I got close to it, everything became clear. What we have here is a Renault Caravelle, a small sports car made between 1958 and 1968. I had heard of the car before, but this is the first one I had seen in person. There's not a lot of call for obscure French roadsters here in Texas — even in weird-ass Austin.
This one was an impressive piece of kit, though. It's obviously been cared for extremely well. The paint was sparkling, the chrome was shiny, and the interior was in fantastic shape.
Of course, the first things you notice about the Caravelle when you see it from the rear angle are those vents over the trunk. I know what you're asking: this couldn't possibly be rear-engined, could it? Oh yes it is, baby girl. The rest of the car follows a fairly generic 50s/60s European roadster styling pattern, but an engine in the back makes it really unique. I think it's an interesting find since we almost always think of cars like this as having the traditional FR setup.
The reason the engine is in the back is because the Caravelle is essentially a re-bodied version of the staid, rear-engined Renault Dauphine sedan, not unlike what Volkswagen did to the Beetle to make it into the Karmann-Ghia.
But if you're worried about encountering murderous snap oversteer, worry no more. Power for the Caravelle lineup came from a variety of inline fours ranging from 845 cc to 1.1-liters in size. Depending on the year you bought one, your Caravelle had between about 30 and 50 horsepower to work with. It may look cool, but don't expect it to win any drag races against… well, anything, really.
Maybe its owner was at Municipal Court after getting a ticket for driving too slowly.
What do you think of the Caravelle and other classic Renaults?