Friday, July 8, 2011

1967 Renault Caravelle - So Right, So Wrong

The Caravalle is case of "so right, so wrong".

"So right" was the styling. Renault commissioned Ghia to do the work and they assigned the job to Pietro Frua. Introduced in 1958, some of the Caravelle's styling cues would be used by other manufacturers on some very famous - and classic - cars. The recessed headlight design was used by MG on the MGB and the Ford Mustang borrowed its bodyside scoop/sculpture. Also "right" was the interior, which, when compared to Volkswagen's Karmann Ghia - the car it was built to compete against - looked downright luxurious.

"So wrong" were the mechanicals and build quality. The Caravelle was first based on the Dauphine. In 1962 it started using the R8 chassis and and basic suspension components. That meant that, like the Karmann Ghia, Corvair and Porsches of the day, it had a swing axle suspension and a 40/60 front to rear weight distribution. In theory that could make its handling very interesting. That's just a theory, though. The Caravelle could never really get going fast enough for you to get into any trouble. The engine put out a whopping 51 HP and 60 MPH came in around 20 seconds.

The big "wrong" was Renault's awful reliability. Renault - really right up until they stopped selling cars in North America in the 1990s - just couldn't build cars that could withstand North American driving styles and conditions. The early rear-engined cars - like the Caravelle - were the worst. Overheating, blown headgaskets, fragile clutches and iffy electronics were all part of Renault's woes. To make matters worse, many of Renault's dealers often didn't have the parts and / or skills to repair the cars.

Like most cars from this era, rust took it toll on the Caravelle. And although they were good looking, their lack of performance and the Renault name meant that they were rarely saved as a future collectable. Very few are still around.

This is a pretty remarkable Caravelle. According to the seller it has just 37,617 miles on it. The body has been "refinished", but everything else is original.

There are many sports cars from this era that will perform better than a Caravelle - and just about all of them are easier to find parts for - but few are as good looking and unique as a Caravelle.

Located in Milford, MA, click here to see the eBay listing.


rrshadow2 said...

the Caravelle is kind of cool not that it will ever be this hugely desirable collectors car...Now if it was a 78/79 R-17 Gordini which is even less wanted, I would be All over one of those!!

Scotty said...

I have never seen one of these before. Are there many in the US?