Renault brought the Dauphine to North America to compete with the VW Beetle. Initial sales were good. It quickly became the second best selling import, behind VW. In 11 US states it was actually outselling the Beetle.
In theory the Dauphine was a better car than the Beetle. It had 4 doors. The rear mounted engine was water cooled, which meant it had effective heat. It had a comfortable and roomy (by small car standards) interior. It rode better than any small car and as well as many large cars.
The problem was, Renault never sufficiently developed and tested the car for the US market. (A recurring theme for Renault during their time in the US.) It was a reliability nightmare. To make matters worse, Renault's US dealerships often lacked the parts and the expertise to repair even the simplest problems, let alone the big ones. Sales plummeted. After selling close to 110,000 cars in the US in 1959, sales dropped to just over 12,000 by 1966.
In the US, the value of a used Dauphine was next to nothing. If a Dauphine had even a minor problem people chose to junk it rather than fix it. You rarely ever see one today.
Which brings us to this car... As I wrote in the opening paragraph, the seller claims to have owned it for 10 years.
Forget about the seller not knowing what he has; if you're looking for a Dauphine restoration project, this is worth checking out.
As far as I can tell, the car looks to be complete. The interior looks to be all there and in decent shape. The body seems to be remarkably rust free. The bumpers and chrome look good. Best of all, it has a sunroof.
This car is too nice to be ignored. Let's hope some Renault-head buys it and gives it the restoration it deserves.
Located in Liberty, NY, click here to see the Craigslist ad.
A big thanks to Jon for sending me this link.