In the last post we told you about how we restored Mario’s brother Regie the 4cv. Well two years after in 1996, the Renault 4cv as a model celebrated it’s 50th anniversary and of course Regie and the humans wanted to join in!
The event was being held at Renault’s Test Track, the Centre Technique et d’Essais Renault at Aubevoye, France, so we set off via a Portsmouth to Le Havre ferry, followed by a fairly short drive to the venue which was about half way between Rouen and Paris and a night in a nearby hotel. The next morning as we approached the event we saw 4cv’s going in all directions, now bearing in mind we had only ever seen one 4cv before this, it was quite extraordinary. We stopped for fuel and there were three other 4cv’s filling up! As far as I can remember there were nearly 500 at the celebration and they had come from all over Europe, we felt very sorry for the Swiss car which arrived with a very large dent in the front having run up the back of another 4cv on the way to the event. Unfortunately it was rather wet but that didn’t diminish the sight of 4cv’s stretching into the distance along the test track. Renault were superb hosts and provided food and drink for the whole weekend, the whole event including accommodation was a really reasonable cost too. In Europe and especially France the car manufacturers seem to support the classic car movement much more than they do here.
There was an exhibition in a marquee with some great historical documents and some display cars including some of the special bodied versions and a very early Alpine which was built on a 4cv. Many of the cars had interesting trailers and luggage racks, probably a necessity for travelling a long way in the small car. Regie got a lot of attention and it was interesting seeing him with an original factory convertible. There were all sorts of modified versions on display as well. The weekend included runs out, entertainment from a display team of modern Renaults, auto jumble and a Concours de Elegance competition. In France there is none of this British nonsense of shiny stuff and having the screws aligned, the whole thing is much more fun and involves people dressing up and doing little set pieces to an audience of judges who award marks. It could be as simple as a Gentleman opening the door for his lady but some entrants went completely to town and there was a car which appeared to drive itself and several children with matching toy cars which was a guaranteed extra 10 points!
We had met a delightful family in another convertible, Jean-Pierre and Jeanie Vincent with their children Remy and Sydney. They were from America but at the time were living in Switzerland and had acquired the 4cv (they took it back to the States when they returned). They were great fun and we all got on very well, they looked fabulous and won the competition to our delight – I think a combination of a convertible car and two cute kids was just too much for the judges!
In the evening we went to a local sports hall for the Gala Dinner. Armed guards protected the cars while we had a superb 6 course meal with champagne and wines before an awards presentation. Bearing in mind this was 18 years ago, drink drive laws in France weren’t that strict but we were very aware of how much alcohol was being offered and how much the French in particular were consuming and we were being very careful knowing we had to drive back to the hotel later. When we came to leave we discovered that there was a Police escort ready to lead nearly 500 4cv’s with their owners back to their hotels! It wouldn’t happen now and it certainly wouldn’t have happened in the UK but everybody had had a good time and everybody and every car got back safely. Before we left to go home all the cars were lined up around the track for a photo opportunity. All in all it was a fabulous weekend, brilliantly organised with typical French hospitality and we were already looking forward to the next one…