Selling your classic car? It's FREE to list your car on Honest John Classics | No thanks

Renault 4 (1961 - 1992)

Last updated 1 July 2013


Model Timeline

February 1956
Renault boss Pierre Dreyfus instigates a new entry-level model programme

Projet 112

Renault’s newly installed president, Pierre Dreyfus, came up with the idea of a ‘Blue Jeans’ car in 1956. It arose from the ashes of the company’s stillborn replacement for the 4CV, Projet 109, which had been on the back-burner since 1949, and was intended to be an inexpensive and, most importantly, smarter and more usable alternative to the Citroen 2CV.

Dreyfus hired gifted young designer Yves George to work on the new car, encouraged non-conformist thinking in coming up with its new city cars - which needed to be both functional and stylish. ‘Cars should 
no longer be just seats and a trunk,’ he exclaimed during development. ‘Give me space!’ They certainly managed that.

Although it became known during development as Projet 112, engineers and designers preferred the nickname ‘350’ – a reference to its projected price, 350,000 French francs... 'and not a centime more'. To keep to that price, it would need to retain the Dauphine’s 747cc four-cylinder engine and its gearbox (fitted longitudinally, with the transmission mounted ahead) while, to aid practicality, it would have a flat floor with the bodywork simply bolted to it. The pièce de résistance was its tailgate, which arguably made the R4 the first front-wheel-drive supermini.

As part of the car’s go-anywhere ruggedness, it was fitted with long-travel independent torsion-bar suspension. The layout resulted in a wheelbase longer 
on the left side than the right, as the lateral rear torsion bars were offset one behind the other. Thought was also put into reducing maintenance, so the suspension did without lubrication points, and the cooling system was sealed with an expansion tank – an industry first.

Numerous tests and prototypes will be created between 1956 and 1961 to test as many different engines as possible (two- and four-cylinders, air- or water-cooled), as well as suspension and steering systems. Prototypes were tested across the world from the USA to Sweden via Sardinia and Guinea.

Projet 112 (2)

July 1961
Production of the 4 begins

Assembly of the 4CV is stopped, and replaced by that of the R4.

August 1961
Renault launched to the press

On August 26, the Renault R4 and its entry-level counterpart, the R3 are presented to the press in the Camargue region of the south of France.

October 1961
Renault 4 gets its first public outing

The Renault 4 is one of the stars of the 48th French Motor Show in Paris.

The Renault 4 is offered in three versions:

  • R4 (R1120 type). Powered by a 747cc engine (680-01 type) that develops 26.5bhp. The equipment is very basic: manual fuel gauge at the tank, not the rear quarter panel, one visor, no hubcaps, no trim on the doors, no headliner, heating without ventilation, painted tubular bumper.
  • R4L (Type R1120). As R4, but with higher equipment level, and more exterior brightwork. Six-light, rather than four-light, with two visors, door trim, headliner, heater fan, grille surround and chrome everywhere hubcaps, bumpers, wipers.
  • R3 (R1121 type): Identical to base level R4, but with a 603cc (690-type) engine, developing 22.5bhp.
March 1962
Model range extended

The R4 Super (R1122 type) is introduced. Powered by the 747cc engine (680-02 type), but with 32bhp.

January 1965
Range designations changed

The R4 name is dropped in favour of, plainly, Renault 4. The base R4 becomes the Renault 4 Luxe, and is fitted with fixed quarter windows, chrome hubcaps and chrome bumpers. However it retains are 4CV motor (type 680-02).

January 1967
Renault 4 facelifted

The front of the car is redesigned with a new, grille and headlamps. A new Type 334 four-speed all-synchromesh gearbox replaces the old three-speeder.

January 1970
Front seatbelts fitted

September 1971
Engines upgraded

The capacity is uprated to 782cc by increasing the bore - and is redesignated 839-06. The power is still 27bhp.

October 1971
Uprated high-top Fourgonnette van launched

Renault 4 Fourgonnette

September 1973
Gearbox changes

The type 334 gearbox is replaced by the unit found in the Renault 6TL (354 type).

January 1974
More visual changes

The aluminum grille is replaced by a black plastic one. The fuel tank capacity is upgraded to 34 litres (from 26 litres).

January 1976
Renault 4 Safari launched

A new variation based on the 4L. All chrome replaced by matt black.

September 1977
Renault builts the 5,000,000th 4

January 1978
Renault 4GTL launched

Renault 4GTL

A new, higher-powered 4 powered by the 1108cc Cleon five-main bearing engines. The GTL gets a new grille and its flanks clad in parking-proof plastic.

January 1980
Rear exit exhaust fitted

January 1986
4TL fitted with a new engine

The Renault 4TL receives the 956cc Cleon engine as used in the 5.

January 1993
Production finally ends

The final Renault 4 is built, following a run of 8,135,424. That makes it the most produced French car of all.

Back: IntroductionNext: Driving