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Lot 533: Renault Six Cylinder Dual Cowl Torpedo

Grand Palais Sale, Bonhams (7 February 2013)

Founded by Louis Renault and his brothers Marcel and Fernand in 1898, the company that would become France's biggest automobile manufacturer started humbly enough, with a solitary 1¾hp De Dion-engined prototype, the sprung rear axle of which would soon be copied by many contemporaries. Production at the Billancourt factory was soon under way on a large scale, demand for its products being enhanced by the performance of Renault cars in the great inter-city races so popular in France at the turn of the 19th Century. From the outset Renault engineering was of the highest quality and the arrival of multi-cylinder models really put the company on the map. By 1904 Renault was building its own engines - large-capacity fours at first, followed by the AX twin - and in 1908 introduced its first six-cylinder model despite Louis Renault's aversion to such complication. Renault built tanks, trucks and aero engines during The Great War and it was not until the 1919 Paris Salon that the firm exhibited its first new passenger cars. Through the 1920s, the company offered a range of products, topped by its luxury six cylinder models of which this is an example. There were three models offered, the massive 40 CV, an 18/24CV, and a 15CV. The refined six cylinder engine was said by Renault to be without any vibration, all models benefited from servo-assisted four wheel brakes and the transmissions were described as 'simple, but robust'. In contemporary advertising here in France, they were marketed as 'Les 6 cylindres de luxe'  and playing strongly on the quality of their aviation origins, they reminded customers that 'since the beginnings of their aviation engines they were dedicated to high precision engineering.' - for French translator the original is  "Depuis l'origine du moteur d'avaition. Renault s'est consacre aux fabrications de haute precision". Naturally the market for luxury cars reached beyond the continent and in America, advertising in The New Yorker magazine, the luxury Renault was marketed as 'A French Car that interprets in mechanical terms, a brilliant heritage of art and culture  A Twentieth Century expression of the French Civilisation'. Renault's distinctive 'coal scuttle' bonnet design, which was present from the very earliest days of the company's production, never looked more in vogue that in the Art Deco time of the 'Roaring Twenties'. It was at once avant garde, aerodynamic by definition and completely individual. By this stage, the scuttle mounted radiator was able to be blended into the overall styling of the car and allowed an almost exclusive purity of line for coachbuilders, its only tell tale being louvres on the side of the body. In this particular case, the marriage of car and coachwork is very successful and incredibly striking. Rather like the contemporary Renault advertisements, the car has the sensation of being on the move standing still, or literally leaping off the page. The car is thought to date from 1927, it is certainly later than 1925 as that was the year that the company adopted the diamond shaped badge for the front of their cars. It was acquired by Charles H. Brown in 1997 and correspondence on file establishes its history going back to the immediate post war period, when it is understood to have belonged to the Commune d'Izeaux in southern France in 1951. The car later passed to Jacques Vincent of Vidauban, from whom it was purchased by noted car aficionado Dr. Gerald Rolph in 1969. It was subsequently shipped by Rolph to his Ft. Worth home, and remained in the U.S.A. until 1997. During the Rolph ownership the car was featured on the cover of the May/June 1974 issue of Antique Automobile Magazine, and later was exhibited in the Briggs Cunningham Museum in Costa Mesa, California. At some point in this era, the car having long been thought to have been bodied by Kellner received the coachbuilder plates that it wears to this day, and was repainted from a light French blue to the current grey. The car was sold by Robert Pass to Charles H. Brown. It is easy to see how Charles Brown was attracted to the car, an architect by profession he would certainly have appreciated its imposing lines as well as the finer details which are found throughout the car. The bodywork is a tour de force with dual cowls, vee screens front and rear and wood decking tapering from ahead of the front screen to the back of the car. The diamond of the Renault badge so proudly presented on its bonnet is continued in various places on the car, even down to the intricate internal door hinges. Once seated in the driving compartment, one is surrounded by heavy aluminium cast floor board coverings and precise controls, the handbrake lever resembling an aircraft control, in every aspect the quality of build is self evident. Beneath the huge bonnet, is the imposing 6 cylinder engine, which is itself a joy to the eye and stretches back to the bulkhead. The visual presentation is completed with huge Marchal Bullseye Headlamps, and twin side mounted spares, all in all it is a most impressive automobile. After Mr. Brown acquired the car, it was entrusted to Alan Hancock in the U.K. to re-commission and put it back into roadworthy order and it has remained ready for road use being MoT'd until 2011. The Renault was used infrequently by Mr. Brown, but was shown on occasion and in 1999 it was exhibited by him at the Louis Vuitton Classic at The Bagatelle here in Paris. A stunning piece of Art Deco design, and a fine pairing of both quality car manufacturer and coachbuilder, this exquisite Renault is certain to make an impression wherever it is seen.

Lot Details
Auction Grand Palais Sale
Bonhams, Paris, France
Lot Number533
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price€145000
Hammer Price (inc premium)€166750
Condition rating2
Registration number
Chassis number116
Engine number93A
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors