1984 Renault 4 Van – Project Profile

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By Chris Pollitt

There is a lot to be said for a promotional vehicle. After all, the car has been used in this way pretty much since its inception. Sometimes they’re just used in adverts, sometimes it’s a bit of product placement on the telly, other times cars are custom made for promotional purposes (have you ever seen the Minis with a giant can of Red Bull on the back?). And that’s just cars.

Vans, of course, are even better for promotional purposes. They are in effect big, wheeled, blank canvases on which you can shout about whatever you like. Look at Dyno Rod and their luminous red vans, or the AA with their trademark yellow vans. They become a way to instantly recognise a business, and there is a lot of value to that. 

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Classic vans have an even bigger advantage though. By virtue of their age, and thus their period styling, they again attract attention. Take this Renault 4, for example. You could keep it in the attractive shade of hearing aid beige, and it would still be a valuable promotional tool, as people would recognise it. Imagine it though, with hand-painted livery, a brighter colour and the name of your business on the side. Make sure it gets used lots, and people will see it out and about, and thus the good work of your business will be spread. And you get to keep an old van on the road. What’s not to like? 

What is it? 

What we have here is the van version of the legendary Renault 4. A car built to take on the mighty Citroën 2CV, the Renault 4 was just as quirky, just as cute and ultimately, just as French. It was the perfect response to the 2CV. The Citroën had, like some sort French Model T, brought motoring to the masses, but now those masses wanted choice, and that’s what the 4 would give them. It was a simple, boxy design, but it was spacious, comfortable, reliable and above all, cheap. 

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A great many features were, ahem, borrowed for the Renault 4. Suspension with long travel, a small engine powering the front wheels, a boy that sat atop a flat-belly chassis and deckchair seats that could be easily removed. So nothing like a 2CV then. Nothing. 

It may have used similar ideas, but even so, the 4 was very much its own car. It looked nothing like its rival, and that gave people a reason to buy it. It was a different solution to a shared problem. And of course, Renault wasn’t going to miss out on the commercial angle, thus the launch of the van, or fourgonette, as it was known in France. With its large, boxy rear end and ‘giraffe’ opening top edge of the loading bay, it was a hugely practical vehicle. It soon found favour in France and beyond. 

Why is it a project? 

Well, as you can see, it’s still on French plates and it’s also a little bit battered, bless it. However, while it seems to be lacking a single straight panel, it is running, driving and seemingly free of any serious corrosion, which is pleasing. There looks to have been some home DIY repairs done to the rear arch and one of the front wings, but it comes with a new one, so no issue there. 

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The interior is a bit worn, but it’s all simple in its construction, so re-covering the seats is the kind of thing you can do yourself without much effort needed. That said, you could get away with a patch on the driver’s seat and leave it at that. 

The good thing about this van is that it’s solid, running and driving. The engine bay looks to be presentable, the van seems to sit level on its suspension and as such, it strikes us as being a good foundation for a project. Knock the dents out of the body, fit that new wing, get it registered on UK roads and then get it painted up in the livery that best suits your business. Job done! Tres bon. 

Five things to look for? 

1) Rust 

The Renault 4 likes to rust for fun, especially in the chassis, so be sure to have a good poke about. The tall suspension is your friend here, as it means access to the underside is easy. 

2) Engine

The vendor describes it being in running, driving condition, but that could mean anything. Just because an engine runs, it doesn’t mean it runs well. Check the oil, check it can get up to temperature, listen for knocks and grumbles. Parts are readily available should you need them. 

3) Transmission

The four-speed manual transmission is engaged by a gear stick that protrudes straight out of the dash. If it’s been driven in an unsympathetic way during its past, the bushings or linkages might be shot. 

4) Load Bay

The 4 was never a van for carrying bricks or lead – it was and still is a light commercial. However, still check the load bed for any excessive damage or corrosion. It’s simple enough to fix, but even so, you want to be aware of how bad it is now rather than later. 

5) Paperwork 

Usual rules apply here. The 4 is still on French plates. The vendor states that there is NOVA paperwork present, but be sure to check it so you know you can eventually register the 4 on the road. 

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What should you do with it? 

As we’ve been none too subtly suggesting throughout this article, we would go down the route of using this little 4 as a cheeky promotional vehicle for whatever business you may have. However, there is nothing to stop you from using it as, you know, an actual van. It is one, after all. 

Or you could go wild with it. What about building it into a micro camper – some insulation, sound deadening, some clever storage – beats a tent, that’s for sure. Or you could just buy it, drive it and enjoy it. The Renault 4 is a brilliant thing to own and drive, even in van guise. It’s the kind of vehicle that will always put a smile on your face, and there is a lot to be said for that!

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