In a previous post we reported on taking Regie the Renault in 1996 to the 50th anniversary celebrations for the Renault 4cv. Well Renault also choose to celebrate this significant date in their history in another way, by producing a ‘modern’ version of the 4cv – The Renault Fiftie which was ‘launched’ at the 1996 Geneva Motorshow.
We were very excited about this and had hoped to see it at the anniversary celebrations but unfortunately it was on display elsewhere. We did manage to get a look at it, at the Goodwood Festival of Speed the following year and thought it looked even better in the ‘flesh’. We have seen it again since at Retromobile. This was the first of the ‘rebirth classics’ – a new car designed based on a loved classic, it was followed by designs for the new VW Beetle, BMW Mini and of course the Fiat 500. Unfortunately unlike the rest, the Fiftie was never put into manufacture, although the prototype was a fully functioning car. The all new mid-mounted 1.2l engine survived and made it into production in the Twingo and Cleo.
Designed by Benoit Jacob under the direction of Patrick le Quement, Renault’s vice president of corporate design, the Fiftie was built on a cutting edge carbon fibre and aluminium platform lifted from the Renault Spider. The body work drew heavily on it’s predecessor with a three slat ‘Moustache’ front grill, a pointed front end, curves, rear louvers with the overall shape also bearing a passing resemblance to the 4cv. The prototype was even in yellow in honour of the original little ‘butter pat’ as the early yellow 4cv’s were known. The wheels were inspired by the ‘star’ wheels of the early 4cv complete with the air vents in the rear wheel arch and added to the period look.
Inside the design was utilitarian in the spirit of its ancestor with linoleum on the floor and linen and wickerwork upholstery but the dashboard was something much more futuristic with a large screen mounted in the middle of the dashboard that grouped the car’s entertainment, climate control, driver assistance and telephone functions into a single unit. The seats were fixed with the steering wheel and pedals being adjustable. The roof was in four removable panels that could be stored under the rear window so the Fiftie was a decoverable – just like Regie! The design included a wicker picnic basket hidden in the boot.
The contemporary, fun, Fiftie received very good reviews at the time with people loving the mix of past and future, it’s happy go lucky attitude and cute but dynamic styling but the carbon-fibre body was expensive – the one off was reputed to have cost £3 million and was too costly to put into production and so the Fiftie remains just another one of Renault’s wonderful concept cars. Looking today of the huge success of the ‘retro’ remakes of the Beetle, Fiat 500 and Mini one can’t but help wonder if this was a costly mistake by Renault, especially as nearly 20 years on it still looks up to date. We for one would have loved one!