I Just Learned A Wonderful Fact About Renault Dauphine Trunks

Illustration for article titled I Just Learned A Wonderful Fact About Renault Dauphine Trunks
Illustration: Renault

It’s been a while since I’ve presented you with a good trunk to be inspired by, which is a real failing on my part, because this year I feel like we need our Inspirational Trunks more than ever. Those clever enclosed volumes don’t just hold emptiness, they hold potential, limitless, boundless potential. Well, maybe actually limited, bounded potential, but still potential! So let’s talk about the lovely Renault Dauphine and the clever thing I just learned about its trunk.

Now, I’ve always felt the Dauphine is a positively charming little car, and I’ve even discussed a very clever trunk-related feature about it before, the little special spare-tire storage locker it had under its trunk.

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This feature I just learned about, though, is different, and I find it appealing in the same way I find the windshield-washer setups pressurized by the spare tire, used by air-cooled Volkswagens, appealing. It’s a very clever re-use of parts of a car for a wonderfully unexpected purpose.

To understand how this feature works, it helps to understand the somewhat peculiar deign of the Dauphine. The Dauphine was a rear-engine car, coming from that midcentury renaissance of rump-motored vehicles, so it had its trunk up front.

Illustration for article titled I Just Learned A Wonderful Fact About Renault Dauphine Trunks
Photo: Renault

Renault did an excellent packaging job with the Dauphine, leaving a nice big, rectangular trunk area, something that’s not always that easy to accomplish on a rear-engine vehicle. The hood of the Dauphine also opens backwards and includes the front fascia, so the headlights are inset into the hood and their buckets are very visible and accessible when it’s open.

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OK, so that sets the scene. Here’s the bit I liked, from the Dauphine owner’s manual:

Illustration for article titled I Just Learned A Wonderful Fact About Renault Dauphine Trunks
Screenshot: Renault
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See that? The trunk is illuminated by the “town lights” in the headlamps!

In the vanishingly unlikely case you’re unfamiliar with town lights, they’re also known as parking lights, and in the case of the Dauphine were little bulbs inside the main headlight unit that were dim but showed the car’s position and suitable for driving in well-lit urban areas. Hence the name.

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My Pao actually has these:

Illustration for article titled I Just Learned A Wonderful Fact About Renault Dauphine Trunks
Photo: Jason Torchinsky
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Anyway, on the Dauphine, it seems there was some sort of little window or lens in the rear of the headlamp bucket so they could also illuminate the inside of the trunk! It’s brilliant!

What’s driving me crazy, though, is that I have yet to find a good picture of just where these little lamps are shining into the trunk. I think I see where the town lamp bulb is from the outside:

Illustration for article titled I Just Learned A Wonderful Fact About Renault Dauphine Trunks
Photo: Renault
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I’ve seen some pictures with things that look like they could be the lenses on the back of the light buckets:

Illustration for article titled I Just Learned A Wonderful Fact About Renault Dauphine Trunks
Illustration: Renault
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...but I’m just not sure. In photos, I’m less certain:

Illustration for article titled I Just Learned A Wonderful Fact About Renault Dauphine Trunks
Photo: Retro Emotion (Other)
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Maybe? Maybe it’s a window near the base of the bucket?

I love the idea of this feature, but I’d really, really love to see it in detail — ideally at night, in action. I know it’s a longshot to reach out to Dauphine owners, but if there are any out there, would you mind snapping some pics of this very clever trunk-illumination system in action?

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I promise I’ll appreciate it more than most people you’re likely to encounter, if that matters to you. It should.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!: https://rb.gy/udnqhh)

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DISCUSSION

So you need to make sure that the girl you kidnapped and stuffed in the trunk can have lights?