Loony Mechanic Driving $200 Renault From Texas To Alaska

Illustration for article titled Loony Mechanic Driving $200 Renault From Texas To Alaska

The Renault Dauphine isn't the most reliable, well-built, or powerful car to come out of France. That's why mechanic Jonathan Burnette is taking one on an epic road trip from Austin, Texas to Alaska — more than 7000 miles.

Jonathan Burnette isn't your typical mechanic. He's kind of a weirdo — a nationally known expert on all things old and Renault. If you own a car that fits in that category and have had something break, you've probably heard his name. His obsession started when he was 16 and drove to California from Colorado in a 1961 Renault Caravelle, off-roading through a mountain pass that didn't have a road. Now 48, he's got enough experience fixing and fabricating parts that he's taking a $200 1959 Renault Dauphine from his home in Austin out into the wilds of Alaska.

Illustration for article titled Loony Mechanic Driving $200 Renault From Texas To Alaska

Jonathan will be starting his trip today. He spent yesterday in the final shakedown stages and running over in his mind all the things that can go wrong and collecting the tools he'll need just in case. He'll be posting his progress on Facebook at his "Alaska Renault Trip" page, and you can follow along if you like. One man, one terrible but lovable French machine he knows inside and out, and the open road. That's good stuff right there.

[Alaska Renault Trip Facebook Page, Statesman]

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My father owned a Dauphine while in the Army in the late 1960s when he was stationed in Germany. He was probably the 7th or 8th GI owner, he bought it for a few (very few) hundred bucks and drove it until he bought a new Spitfire. He remembers it as a simple, but reliable car. It would always start and even had an auxiliary hand crank. It was required to have a big 90 (or maybe it was 100) sticker/plate on the back to warn other cars on the autobahn that 90 kph was the max speed.