The French surrendered Paris to the Germans in June of 1940, having been overwhelmed by the invading forces. Today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe Renault lets bygones be bygones as it has a VW Type I invasion of its own and seems pretty happy about it. The question however, is whether this Franco-German mashup is worth invading your bank account over.
The history of Renault’s Dauphine is an interesting one. Originally contemplated to be named the Corvette, the tiny four door was - somewhat comically from today’s point of view - also considered to be the marque’s upscale product positioned to satisfy the needs of France’s burgeoning post-war standard of living. Vive la Marshall Plan!
The Dauphine was the titular replacement for the 4CV a car that had been developed in secret while the company was under orders from occupying German forces to exclusively produce trucks. After the war Renault was under pressure from the reconstituted French government to continue this production limitation, forcing Dauphine development to undertaken on the DL as well.
One nation over, across the mime-engineered Maginot Line, VW fired up production of their “People’s Car” as though the war had never happened. Unlike the French four-door which is today little more than a car with its hood up alongside the long road of automotive history, the VW proved to be one of the most famous.
What if - in the name of European unity - these two could get together and live in harmony?
It’s hard to say just how harmonic today’s wickedly weird 1959 Renault Dauphine on a 1959 Volkswagen Type I platform might be, but it is undeniably cool. The Dauphine was once touted by none less than that lexicon of automotive authority Time Magazine as one of the worst cars in history.
The magazine lamented the rust seemingly included as standard equipment, and the sad fact that the 32-horse car could only manage 60 miles per hour after an interminable half minute of steam gathering, and a stiff tail wind.
I say screw Time. And Space too. Eff both time and space. After all they’re just concepts that allow us to interact with, and make sense of our environment. Who needs that?
Part of someone’s environment is this Franco-germanic hybrid which, while not exorcising all of the Dauphine’s historic demons, at least should be a lot easier to find parts for.
The car looks pretty stock on the outside, with original and hipster-chic worn black paint. All the trim seems intact and the chrome appears applaudably shiny. It’s also been slammed and rolls on a set of 15 inch JGE Raiders, which look awesome.
Those are bolted to a narrowed 1959 Type I suspension which means transverse torsion bars front and rear along with axles from a '70 in the back so it no longer swings low sweet chariot.
The whole VW tub has been narrowed 5.5” (!) to fit, snug as a Bug in a Renault, under the once unit-body Dauphine’s outer skin. Tubular steel and sheet metal bridge the gap between German and French and there’s a little bit of England thrown in as well with Jaguar brake parts, again melded with some VW bits.
The gas tank has been moved to the trunk, and of course all of the water cooling parts for the original Ventoux four have been given the heave-ho as the rebuilt Vee-Dub 1600 needs it not. That flat four mill ought to pump out a lot more ponies than the French one, and has the potential for lots more.
Other issues include weatherstripping that’s no good, working about as well at quelling leaks as Robert Baratheon’s rubbers, and gauges that need to be re-calibrated. Nothing that an enterprising individual couldn’t tackle, but insurmountable for the acutely lazy.
I’m going to have to recuse myself from today’s vote because I think this car is totes badass, but of course don’t have anywhere near the scratch that is being asked for it. That means it’s up to you to determine whether this wonderfully weird but obviously still in process Dauph-vee-double-you is worth the Minnesota-plated car’s $6,200 asking price.
What do you think, is it worth that kind of cheddar? Or, is this a European union that needs a different exchange rate?
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