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Well……Louis Renault was founder of Renault. In 1877 he was born in Billancourt, Paris, and he created his first motorcar at the age of 21 in a small garage near his parents’ house. On Christmas eve Louis made his first demonstration tour and immediately after that he quoted 12 orders; production could start. Together with two of his brothers he founded Renault-Frères. In the first half of 1899 already 80 cars were built. The best way to promote your cars is to join in races and try to win, which was the case from 1899 to 1903. Demand increased, unfortunately fate too: in 1903 Marcel Renault crashed and was killed during a race.

Louis Renault's first workshop His first car: Voiturette Type A The Renault Frères factory

Production increased; more types and versions with different engines appeared. Renault also introduced themselves on various exhibitions. Beside private cars they started to produce taxis. In 1906 started the production of lorries, buses and 4x4 vehicles. During WW I The French army bought many Renault vehicles.

Renault's first race

FT-tanks used in WW I and WW II

A Renault dealer in the twenties

During WW I and WW II, Renault produced tanks, which later on served as the base of tractors. The first tractors date back to 1919 and after 1930 Renault produced diesel engines too. Renault broke speed records regularly, and made more and more luxury cars, until the factory for the greatest part was destroyed in WW II. At that time they also supplied airplane engines to Caudron. It was in this war that Louis Renault was arrested by the French government, accused of collaboration with the Germans, and he died in prison under mysterious conditions.  

After the war the French government got the leadership of the factory, which henceforth got the name Regie Nationale des Usines Renault. However, Louis Renault had, before he died in 1942, already done the preliminary work for the creation of the 4CV. The 4CV was designed and tested secretly, and it was with this car that a new period for Renault began. Every Renault had a name or a number as indication of its type. Again they competed within rallies and races, such as, for example, the Monte Carlo races.

The 4cv prototype in 1942 Alpine brought Renault race and rally victories Renault Fregate

Other brands and designers joined Renault in the course of time. Brands like Berliet, Latil and Mack belong to the history of Renault, but also the names Gordini an Alpine regularly appear.

Mack is a subsidiary of Renault

Renault Formula 1

Kangoo and Master

In 1977 began the Formula I adventure. Renault joined every race until 1986, and got a second place in the constructors championship of 1983. During this period Renault supplied Lotus and Tyrell with V6 turbo engines. From 1992 to 1997 the Renault engine was successful for Williams and Benetton; 6 times as a world champion. Since 2001 Renault tries to gain the championship for constructors in Formula 1. About 1981 the colour of the tractors changed; from red to the present-day orange-ochre. However, through the fact that Claas since 2003 owns 80% of the Renault-Agriculture shares and a 100% in 2008, in many countries the Renault tractors will be sold as Claas. Only the type indication has survived.

The new orange-ochre colour Magnum with Mack engine A suitable Renault for everyone

Renault also has a majority interest in Nissan Motors They supply delivery vans to General Motors; Midlum truck cabines to DAF. Renault is using John Deere engines for their tractors and Mack engines are used for the Magnum trucks. Volvo has a majority interest in Renault trucks, and Renault trucks, in turn, has a great part of the Finnish Sisu shares. All in all it is quite a story, about a brand with one goal: create a suitable vehicle for everyone. It is the great diversity of products that fascinates me.

Under construction, new Family tree page:

Louis Renault: his life and work

Louis Renault was born on 12 February 1877 as the fourth of Alfred and Berthe Renault’s six children. His father earned a living for the family by producing and selling linen and buttons. Louis shows a preference for technology at a very young age. In 1888 the young Louis, recently turned eleven, has already installed electricity in his room! He invented a system of cables, pewter battery plates and an acid bath, in order to generate electricity. Unfortunately, young Louis isn’t able to find a destination in life. Worse still, he hates the earthly existence and he is rather misanthropically. It’s only his passion for engines that motivates him. Life is only bearable for him with the hands full of lubricating grease. His education doesn’t run as meant on forehand by his parents. But, in the end they had to admit that skipping from school every now and than worked out to be an advantage for him. If only the fact that he made a battery at the age of eleven, but also that he hid himself in a steam train’s coal tender on the track Paris-Rouen, in order to discover how a steam locomotive works!

The shed of Billancourt! It is still there; the last, silent witness from which it all begun in 1898, where the foundations lie of the world’s fourth biggest car manufacturer. But, at that time Louis Renault didn’t know what a gigantic industrial enterprise he was about to establish from this shed.

He is only 13 when receiving his baptism of fire behind the steering wheel of a steam car, owned by Leon Serpollet. Old Serpollet can’t resist the inquisitive, young Renault! One year later Louis keeps on begging until his father buys him an old Panhard engine. He tinkers with the old engine block for hours and hours in his parents’ shed behind the stately home in Billancourt. At “Place de Victoires” one is hoping that joining the Army will learn the confirmed, truant troublemaker to forget inventing. But all hopes were in vain! He saves up his payments and buys, by chance, a small, 3/4 hp “De Dion-Bouton” engine block.. At the age of 21 he employs 2 persons and works tirelessly on the reconstruction of his “De Dion”. He replaces the gearbox with a so-called Prise-Direct gearshift system, a direct-drive transmission, invented by himself. 

On a November night in 1898 Louis sets off for his first pleasure trip in a four-wheeled vehicle, adapted by himself, under Boulogne-Billancourt ’s plane-trees. He is wearing a suit and a hat and hides his, by the grease attacked, fingernails in white gloves. He manages to bring his prototype at the, in these times, incredible speed of almost 50 km/h. Parijs, 24 December 1898. With Paris completely in Christmas spheres the astonished passers-by on the Boulevard Montmartre can admire the second test drive of his prototype.  The small vehicle takes the impressive slope on the “Rue Lepic” slow but firmly. It’s as early as Christmas Eve as he gets his first orders to construct 12 small vehicles named type A. The birth of the Renault concern is a fact!

Louis Renault taking a drive in type A. The picture is probably from 1898.

However, Louis Renault has to be patient too. Technical problems kept on pursuing him, but he refuses to give up until he has found a solution. He carries on according to his own will, in business, as well as under private circumstances. Even during the great strikes of 1912 and 1913 he doesn’t give in.

More text coming up...




 The Renault Frères factory

Renaults first race


The Marnetaxi, The RENAULT Type AG




FT-tanks for world war I & II




The 4cv project


“Régie Nationale des Usines RENAULT”!

The company

Marcel, Louis and Ferdinand Renault, the "Renault Frères"




Renault FT-17 tank

Farman mf-7 mf11 Renault 1910



Marcel Renault

Ferdinand Renault




The Régie


Pierre Lefaucheux




Renault AHS 1940

Renault R35 Tank

Renault 4cv "Mot de buerre"

Project 108

Renault Frégate





* 30.06.1898   + 11.02.1955




Pierre Dreyfus


Pierre Dreyfus

Saviem JL 25, 1957



Pierre Dreyfus




Renault Dauphine Ondine Alfa Romeo


Renault 10


Dacia 1300 1970



*18.11.1907  +1994

Bernard Vernier-Palliez


Berliet TR350 1978

PRV V6 engine





Bernard Hanon



Raymond Levy

Louis Schweitzer



Carlos Ghosn



Carlos Ghosn



Nissan Primastar




Renault 2008: Laguna GT

2009: Laurens van den Acker, Senior Vice President of Corporate Design.


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