The biggest problem with Le Car ownership has always been dealing with all the increased sexual appeal one gets when owning the car. Sex in the back of the conventional Le Car is usually too cramped and too exposed via those large windows. If only there was a solution! Guess what, pals: there is.
Last night, in the comments section of my post about wormholes in car trunks, longtime Jalop Jonee posted a picture of a car that gripped by gaze like a baguette to the face: a Renault Le Car Van, done in classic Late American Van style, with porthole windows and shag carpet. I had to know more.
Incredibly, this limited-edition (only 450 made) Renault 5 was never actually sold in the US, even though the inspiration clearly came from America, as advertising materials even state. Even more puzzling, it used the goofy name for the American (via AMC dealers) market version of the R5: Le Car. It was built by Heuliez, a recently-departed French coachbuilder who specialized in making short-run niche cars, including station wagons and convertibles.
The Le Car Van differed from the stock Renault 5/Le Car in a few key ways: the rear quarter panels from the B-pillar to the C-pillar were replaced with plastic panels that incorporated a round bubble window, the spare tire was relocated to an exterior mount on the rear hatch, which also had a new license plate mount and a tiny caplet-shaped window.
It was a lot like a French version of the Pinto Cruising Wagon, and that's high praise.
The interior could be had in 2 and 4 seat variants, but all were luxuriously appointed in thick, sensual red shag carpet, creating an intimate love-nest inside that must have felt a little bit like sitting inside a strangely shaggy whale heart.
The exterior was (at least originally) painted all in sleek, glossy black with some snazzy red-yellow-blue striping, with a bunch of "Le Car Van" decals on pretty much every side of the car, so sticklers for proper French had plenty of opportunities to pop out their monocles.
I really do love this little kook. I really would love to see more car companies have the guts to not take themselves so seriously and try something like this, especially for low-end cars.
I did try to convince some Ford guys to give it a try with the Transit, but they weren't biting. So, the opportunity is still there for some enterprising automaker to shake things up. I'm looking at you, Mitsubishi. A Mirage Cruiser could be just what you need to claw your way back to the bigtime in the US! Call me.