Adey’s Renault Dauphine (1957)

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The Renault Dauphine was designed and developed with one goal in mind – create a peoples’ car to replace the 2CV, and importantly, make it one that would cater to the more modern consumer’s desire for style, as well as substance. Brought to market in 1957 this little car sold 2 million units over an 11 year lifespan.

The Dauphine used the water-cooled “Ventoux” engine (from the 4CV) but capacity was increased from a meagre 760cc to a (slightly less meagre) 845cc – giving it a pokey 32bhp, and just enough puff to make it useable on France’s new highway system. Like it’s predecessor the engine was mounted above the rear axle. The Dauphine really was an instant hit (and not just with the French!) and was lauded for it’s elegant styling and affordable price. In 1957 the US motoring weekly The Motor called the Dauphine the “prettiest little four-seater in the world”.

The Owner: Adey, Age 36, Lives in Gloucestershire, UK
The Owner: Adey, Age 36, Lives in Gloucestershire, UK

Dream Car: Renault 5 Turbo 2 (the old Group B rear-engined jobby) is pretty high up there, though a Lamborghini Miura could take that spot!

Well it’s safe to say Adey has embraced the “rat look” with his Dauphine… and doesn’t it look great! Some cars really suit this style and the Dauphine fits the bill perfectly.

We love how Adey’s got this Renault sitting super low on it’s original wheels. The car also has a gorgeous patina with it’s washed-out blue paintwork – it sort of reminds us of an old faded pair of denim Levis jeans!

When we laid eyes on this Dauphine, we reached out to Adey to find out more – it’s not a car you often see on the enthusiast scene, so it’s been a blast featuring it on the site, but also getting the opportunity to learn a bit more about these quirky little motors!

Renault Dauphine (1957)

This little rear-engined Renault suits "the rat look" down to the ground!
Model Year 1957
Model Dauphine
Make Renault
Keywords classic car, french, Modified, rat look, renault, restomod

Highlights

  • Adey's owned this car twice, selling it once and then buying it back again in 2020! (he's not the only one we know to have done this!)
  • In Adey's own words… "It used to be crap, slow and scary. It would literally get overtaken by lorries" – but an engine and gearbox swap has fixed this problem (more on this below!)
  • The car was remarkably solid, but has had some chassis repairs done – to be expected for a car of this age!
  • As you can see, Adey's embraced "the rat look" with this one and the car looks fantastic with a genuine patina and washed-out blue paint.
  • The biggest mods have been done to the suspension to get the car running really low, though Adey still has potential plans for air-ride suspension!

Modifications

  • Engine swap! 1108cc engine built up from 3 spare units. The block and camshaft from a seized 956cc engine and the crank out of another earlier engine to ensure the car had the correct flywheel for the custom gearbox.
  • A retro-fitted early Renault R8 4-speed gearbox.
  • Custom shortened driveshafts to fit the R8 gearbox and Dauphine axle tubes.
  • Front suspension is running on custom conical bump-stops (actually vibration dampers for some heavy-duty machinery). The rear-end has undergone a spring chop.

Interview with the owner

  • When did you first purchase the car?
    2016 (first time round). Then I sold it, and bought it back the start of 2020!
  • What made you buy a Renault Dauphine?
    Im a bit of a Renault nut, both the modern and old retro stuff tickle my fancy.
    I've had plenty of Renault 5 GT Turbos, a few 5 Gordini's and some other weird odd-balls like my R12 and an R8. Thrown in with plenty of Clio's and Twingo's that are meant to be the reliable daily's.
    I spotted this one back in 2015 on eBay but missed out by being one of those who doesn't put down the full bid then missed the end of the auction. I briefly started looking for a notchback VW but in the end… it wasn't a Renault!
    I tried to buy another off someone else but the chap wasn't having any of it. Then finally this car popped its head back up on another website, knowing the price it sold for first time round, I was able to haggle a little and ended up buying it.
  • What's it like to drive?
    It used to be crap, slow and scary. It would literally get overtaken by lorries but in the last year I have fitted a bigger engine and 4 speed gearbox, raising the horsepower from about 25bhp to a HUGE 41bhp.
    Being so light it'll keep with modern traffic easily now, suspension has been pretty much removed/chopped/cut but it's actually very comfy to bounce along in.
  • So, has the car been restored / rebuilt?
    Yes, partly. The chassis has been repaired where needed and fully undersealed by Simon Gallimore, top bloke who had it from me for a few years.
  • And you've done a few mods to it, tell us more about that…
    It's had an engine swap! I installed a 1108cc engine built up from 3 spare units. The block and cam were from a seized 956cc engine and the crank out of another earlier engine so it had the correct flywheel for my gearbox.
  • What have you done to the gearbox?
    I retro-fitted an early Renault R8 4 speed gearbox.
  • So with all these engine and gearbox changes, we assume you've had to make some changes to the axle / drivetrain?
    Yeah, it's had custom shortened driveshafts to fit the R8 gearbox and Dauphine axle tubes.
  • It sits LOW, how did you do that?
    The front is running on custom conical bump-stops (actually vibration dampers for some heavy-duty machinery). At the rear end it's had a spring chop.
  • Do you plan to do any further modifications to it?
    Yes! First up I will be getting the original rear wheels banded a touch. I'm also tempted to fit air-ride suspension all round so I can go a little lower when parked up.
    A little more power would be nice and a stronger gearbox. A brake disk upgrade is also on the cards.
  • Is the car a "keeper" or will you sell it one day?
    Hmmm I'm not sure right now.
  • Do you own any other interesting cars?
    Yes, a Renault of course! I'm just finishing a Twingo Mk2 GT that I've retro-fitted a Renault Sport Megane R26 2.0T engine into! It should make an easy 250bhp in a 950kg chassis.
  • Ok final question – ignoring cost, and assuming you couldn’t go and sell it for profit… what’s your dream car and why?
    Way too many cars too chose from!
    A Renault 5 Turbo 2 (the old Group B rear-engined jobby) is pretty high up there though a Lamborghini Miura could take that spot.

Gallery

If you want to read a bit more about Adey’s journey buying, restoring and modifying his Renault then you can visit: https://forum.retro-rides.org/thread/185634/1957-dope-dauphine
Owner: Adey
Model: Dauphine
Make: Renault
Keywords: classic car, french, Modified, rat look, renault, restomod

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