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Only 2 Owners and 20k Miles: 1966 Renault Dauphine

Like the Volkswagen Beetle and Morris Minor, the Renault Dauphine was one of the entrants to create Post-WW2 European-built economy cars. It was in production from 1956 to 1967 with more than two million copies, although only a small percentage of those made it to the U.S. From Oakland, Michigan, this survivor produced in 1966 is quite the looker and should attract attention wherever it goes. With less than 20,000 actual miles, this French car is available here on eBay where it will take more than $5,300 to crack the reserve.

If you bought a Dauphine when new, you only had one choice of a body style, a small 4-door sedan. The inline-4 engine was mounted in the back with rear-wheel-drive and displaced only 845-cc. You did get to choose between a 3-speed manual transmission or a push-button semi-automatic transmission. The seller’s car came with the automatic, but he/she transformed it into a manual, but the former hardware comes with the car should you want to go there (the car apparently is peppier with the manual).

The seller’s car is a rare find due to its mostly original condition. He/she bought it off of the original owner in 2013 and it’s been in Michigan since Day One. Incredibly, neither owner has driven it enough to crack 20,000 miles, another reason for its rarity (when was the last time you saw a Dauphine?). The Renault is wearing its original blue/green (seafoam?) paint and there is only a bit of surface rust. From what we can tell, the interior is quite tidy, too. As the seller says, it’s a “very presentable honest car.”

This French auto will need a bit of attention going forward. For example, the weather stripping should be replaced, and the seller will send along a roll to get the job done. The speedometer has stopped tracking speed though the odometer still works. And the gas gauge can be erratic. But overall, it seems like a cool and not especially needy car that you can enjoy showing off because no one else is likely to have one.


  1. Howard A Member

    I guess I’ll never know how BFs gets these out of my head, but they do. Renaults,,or “Renultz”, as the old man called them, are very dear to me. It upset me terribly that someone would diss the Alliance, then go on to rip on everything French. I guess they just don’t value what some people went through for OUR freedom, ungrateful snot. The French took a pasting.
    Perhaps they didn’t have an old man that slogged through the French mud( or so the story went) like I did.
    As said, my old man only would allow American, British, and French cars in his driveway, and was very serious about that. As a kid, the old man dabbled in used cars, and had a few Renaults. A white Dauphine, and a red Caravelle. My 1st car was a 1959 4CV. Believe it or not, Renault was actually quite popular. Asian cars were a ways off in any numbers, and there wasn’t much to choose from. Maybe a couple Minis, or a Fiat or 2, but Renault was in there. The guy across the alley had this exact car, a blue ’66 Dauphine. Even Jay Leno had something to say about one that turned up at Pebble Beach. It bdrew as much attention as the others. The motor has 32.5 hp( Jay commented, it’s the .5 that gets you over the hill) the “Gordini” motor, a bit more( 30hp)and certainly not for our roads today. In the 60s, however, all attention was on the VW Bug, and say what you might, this car had several distinct advantages over the Bug. 4 doors, a real heater,,of sorts, more room, better handling, AND,,, a 2 way horn. I believe the 4CV and Dauphine were the best selling French cars ever,,worldwide, that is. Here, not so much, and a shame, because many missed out on a great small car.

    Like 31
    • Howard A Member

      And I say this everytime with these, 2 extra points if someone can tell where the spare tire is located?

      Like 11
      • Rosseaux

        In a slot under the front bumper! Or, once the rust takes hold, hanging precariously under the front bumper.

        Like 24
    • Greg Gustafson

      People, cured or not, or nations without guns are called victims! I thought this was an anti politics site.

      Like 4
    • MGSteve

      NO POLITICS . . . administrators . . . please do your job

      Like 4
    • Martin Horrocks

      Your opinions are your right and are clearly not political.

      Like 5
  2. bobhess bobhess Member

    My boss’s daughter when I was in high school had one of these. Nice little cars but everything on them seemed fragile. Rust was the real killer of these cars if used for transportation in damp or snowy climates. Always thought the design was good looking but the engine really was weak. Girl I dated in college had a red Caravelle. Just couldn’t get away from them. (the cars, not the girls).

    Like 12
    • Eric_13cars Eric_13cars Member

      I think that you’re spot on, Bob. Nice looking design as are most French cars (albeit very different), but grossly underpowered for the US environment and dissolved with rust in short order. Just as with VWs, if you didn’t take very attentive care to the engines, they were done in 30K or so, i.e. change the oil very often. On the other hand, the engines lasted about as long as the bodies in salt/damp country. American metal dissolved too, but took longer. Maybe it’s just my imagination, but Swedish and German vehicles seemed to last a bit longer than the French, Italian, and Japanese early imports as far as the tin worm goes.

      Like 11
      • Steve RM

        I don’t thing any car rusted faster than the early Japanese cars. I don’t really care for most French cars but this thing is kinda “cute”.

        Like 3
      • Ronny Reuts

        The Swedes were used to salt conditions, and made sure to use a better and heavier gauge of steel that they rustproofed. I had a 72 Volvo 144E and the car had no rust and was a New York [Long Island] car with all of the snow, sleet, ide rain and especially salt to melt the snow and ice. Even though those conditions existed over the life of the car, it never showed major signs of rot. Basically one saw some surface rust here and there, but the car held together better than any other car I ever owned, American or foreign. They cost more than other cars but were well built, sturdy, and held up through just about everything.

        Like 5
      • JGD

        In the early 1980’s, I was given a tour of the Matra plant in Romorantin-Lanthenay and watched Murena models roll off the line. The French seem to have a penchant for automotive oddities which is well displayed in the Murena as the car is a mid-engined three seater (3 separate seats side by side by side).

        Matra addressed the disastrous tin worm problem of the previous Bagheera model by completely galvanizing the Murena’s welded uni-chassis. Ignoring micro-thin electro-galvanneal coated steel sheets, Matra chose to employ on-site hot-dip galvanizing of CRS and HSLA steel. The process transfers the uni-chassis, dripping wet, from the degreasing tank and submerges it into a vat of molten zinc to completely galvanize the steel including all nooks and crannys. This produces a spectacular, almost fireworks type, display that I viewed from behind a safety glass partition. The result is probably the most rust free steel uni-chassis ever produced (Its my understanding that Matra was the first automaker to fully galvanize all the steel chassis/body parts). Further down the production line, the mechanicals and fiberglass-epoxy body panels were attached to the uni-chassis. It was a very interesting visit.

        FWIW, the mid-engined Murena used a variety of mechanical parts sourced from other automakers. Some trim parts are readily identifiable as coming from other makes.

        Like 5
  3. Rex Kahrs Rex Kahrs Member

    I think I’d have kept the push-button automatic for it’s originality and ultra rarity. Having owned a 66 Caravelle, I can tell you these cars aren’t dragsters.

    Like 8
    • Greg in Texas

      I agree. But it’s good to know they say they have the original push button transmission to go with the car. Myself I think the Geo Metro FWD 3 cylinder automatic if it can be swapped back there without cutting anything up, making special brackets to attach to what’s there, this would be a fantastic little car. It would probably be slightly lighter as well if that 3 cylinder ICE engine was fuel injected with CDI ignition, no catalytic converter required for years, and that water cooled engine with a catalytic converter cooking the engine bay would probably get 50mpg and be decently quick. I believe it would be around 60hp in a 1700 lb curb weight well balanced RWD RWE car. From just under 40hp, shaving a little weight and going up to 60hp…is a car that if new today would sell like hotcakes. But I’d overhaul the original drivetrain and auto push button trans and put them on display. Vintage components can themselves be beautiful display items.

      Like 4
    • PiffinNC

      I had a Caravelle while stationed in Germany in ‘66. Back then, autobahns were pretty open and I remember getting my doors blown off by Mercedes and BMWs going over 100 mph vs my pedal-to-the-metal 60 at best. Loved that car though.

      Like 4
    • kaf

      I had an R-10 with that automatic.

      It had a box the size of a small suitcase full of relays that controlled it. It went south and I couldn’t find a soul who would work on it and it was far beyond my meager abilities.

      I said all that to say I can understand why it was replace with the manual.

      Like 1
      • Joe

        I had a perfect R-10 with pushbutton 3 spd. automatic, which stopped shifting. My mechanic quickly got a new replacement and popped it in. I think it cost about $90 around 1965. The car was slow but had very comfortable seats. Wish I had it back.

        Like 2
      • Pete

        My dad had a 1969 R-10 in the early 80s- I learned to shift from the passenger seat on that car. Then he was trying to persuade his friend to buy one too, but he needed an automatic. I remember the mechanic/seller had him test drive the car with a big box inside to control the transmission. He chose to not buy it.

        Like 0
    • T. Pond

      If I could find a decent Caravelle today , I would buy it. I rove a new one at a dealer and almost bought it then but didn’t. Wife wanted a Kharman-Ghia and we didn’t get either one.

      Like 0
  4. Joe Machado

    My memory of a 1959 Dauphine.
    Pastors car, and we teens did two things with his:
    Got 13 of us in it and I did not know I was a contortionist.
    The other, well ya know, you know, you did it too ya know, picked it up and parked it between two telephone poles.
    Ho hum. Yep, we iz normal.
    Admit it, you ALL dit these two things.
    Forgot one more, we picked it up, turned it around so the Pastor could just drive out.
    I remember riding in it, the speedo should have been in 10ths of a miles per hour.
    That was so we could count faster as it picked up speed, sorta.

    Like 4
    • bobhess bobhess Member

      My first car was a ’59 Crosley station wagon. Paid $39 dollars for it but had to wait a week to get as the high school kids put it on top of a hardware store after a Friday night football game. I’m assuming they won the game.

      Like 2
      • Stu Member

        Must have been a ‘49?

        Like 0
  5. Greg in Texas

    Beautiful car. This is not one I could part with, but it definitely deserves a life someplace without snow and no salt on the roads.
    Congratulations to the next happy garage where this little French Beauty parks. Your owner is going to be a show off. On the merits of minimalism = sustainability.

    Like 9
  6. Troy

    With the speed most people seam to travel today I have to disagree with the seller the add states that you will get a thumbs up everywhere you go I think you will definitely be getting the one finger gesture but it won’t be the thumb. Looks like a fun little car to put around town in.

    Like 3
  7. oldnash

    My dad had a 57 Dauphine. Excellent running car but rust was definitely the enemy. He got rid of it when the steering wheel started coming up from the steering column upon braking.

    Like 2
  8. Solosolo UK Solosolo UK Member

    The French are everybody’s enemy! They bring it on themselves by insulting and running down every other country they think about. I went there as an English speaking South African but none of the market vendors would speak to us until we spoke to each other in Afrikaans, and then they couldn’t do enough for us and all spoke fairly good English!

    Like 6
  9. william bolinger

    “You can enjoy showing off because no one else is likely to have one”.

    And likely no one else will want one!

    We had one when i was a little kid. I don’t remember riding in it as much as my dad and his mechanic friend trying to keep it going. What a dog with fleas/mange. Couldn’t take it any longer and traded for a ’65 beetle. What a difference.

    Like 2
  10. sourpwr

    I had one back in the day and used it when building on undeveloped property out in the middle of nowhere. I took out the back seat and put my tools there and took out the passenger seat and put an oak barrel filled with water there.I had to hit it hard from the road to get up the driveway with a hill. Good times!

    Like 2
  11. David A Sanford

    The Dauphine was extra cool because the little four-cylinder engine had wet sleeves, like heavy duty commercial grade engines do for in-frame rebuildability. Theoretically the engine could last forever as all wear surfaces are replaceable. Too bad the bodies didnt hold up so well. .

    Like 4
  12. William D Wiseman

    in February 1962, my old dad, who was an Air Force Master Sergeant, drew orders to the MAAG mission in Addis Ababa. He was advised that American cars were not recommended on the roads of Ethiopia. As it happened, there was an airman on base who was being reassigned to somewhere on the west coast and Dad swapped him our 1956 Pontiac Chieftain for his 1960 Dauphine. We drove from Little Rock AFB with suitcases jammed under the hood and a large suitcase laying across the back seat. My brother and I, aged 3 and 4, rode on top of that suitcase on blankets all the way to McGuire AFB NJ. We drove that Dauphine all over Ethiopia for almost 4 years and sold it to Dad’s replacement when we left.

    Like 4
  13. Michael Johnston

    Love French cars, pwned many and my favourite was my R8 Gordini and my R12

    Like 4
  14. Robert Hagedorn Member

    Fix the speedometer, steam clean the engine, and the new owner has an almost new car for a reserve of…$5300 in 2023. Maybe this is a bad deal, but I’m not seeing the “bad” part. I’m only seeing a beautiful little car that looks like it’s in mint or close to it.

    Like 8
    • Cam

      You will have the only one at Cars N Coffee.

      Like 2
    • Bub

      Steam clean the engine and wash away any hope of it starting again

      Like 1
      • Solosolo UK Solosolo UK Member

        Rubbish! My mother -in-law used a hosepipe to wash her Dauphine engine every Sunday morning and it always started right up when she had finished. She always said that a clean engine is a good engine!

        Like 1
  15. Mark Genereux

    Our family’s first car. We had a black 1959. Three kids in the back (me included). Just a little tight.

    Like 1
  16. BlondeUXB Member

    The most memorable feature may be the “town & country” horn…

    Like 1
  17. Thomas Jesson

    My mom had one of these back in the early 60s. White (or cream) in color. Seemed to be the most trouble-prone car we had. Seemed like it spent more time at a repair garage in Marion, OH than actually driving it! My dad would drive it there, and I believe the mechanics would hate to see it come in. The first, and only, foreign car my parents would ever own in their life. My mom should’ve gotten a VW Beetle from that era.

    Like 0
  18. Robert Dicken

    Had a 59 Dauphine in high school. It was painted pink with red wheels. It was a ball for a teenager. Parts were fairly easy to get then and my dad and I became experts on Renault repair. Wish I still had it!

    Like 0
  19. Len

    Bonus. His one has a heater, upper right in the engine pic.

    Like 0
  20. Rex Kahrs Rex Kahrs Member

    Assuming this Dauphine has a similar heater arrangement as the Caravelle, then a rusted-out Bug would provide better heating.

    Here’s how it works: there is a heater core in the rear engine compartment (assuming water cooled) and there is a fan in that black box pictured. Out of the black box there is a flexible tube (about 3″ in diameter) of rubber, surrounded by a burlap overcoating. This tube runs underneath forward (outside of the floorboards) and enters the passenger compartment under the dash to supply “hot” air to the passengers.

    Imagine what abuse this poor heat tube takes underneath the car, as the completely anemic heater core and fan try to push the air 8 feet forward into the cabin through this barely-insulated tube being conveniently cooled by the passing air, rain, and snow from under the car. It totally flies in the face of gravity, thermodynamics, aerodynamics, you name it. And the tube just rots from all the water etc. Solid French engineering.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love Paris, have been there a couple of times, and would recommend it to everyone.

    Like 0
    • Joe

      I live in Florida. Need heat in cars one week per year. In fact, I have the engine fan driven air supply to the blower motor on my Corvairs, blocked off. Actually more because the blower air supply robs air from #5 finned cylinder barrel for engine cooling. #5 is THE cylinder on Corvairs where most valve seats come loose. Happens mostly on the 4 carb. engines.

      Like 0
  21. Fred

    A friends parents had a white one in the early 60s. I don’t remember it ever being driven. They must have used it some, but for at least a decade it sat just off the driveway and never moved. Sitting on a lawn or gravel in upstate NY for years I can only imagine it’s fate. Probably not enough metal left to scrap.

    Like 0
  22. Bob

    At 5800 and still hasn’t cracked the reserve. It looks to be a nice car but needs some work. The interior looks great. I always liked these and the 4CV

    Like 0
  23. chrlsful

    we had 1. It wuz the mommie-m0bile/kid buss in early ’60s. Even had semaphores. We had the 10, 16, Simca 1000, fiat 128 and more in a line of ford del rio replacements (tank ofa waggy). Dad hada company car. She never hada vedub, Brit or english~

    We graduated to our own, she – the 850 1st, buncha 124s then the lancia beta coup, ford EXP a lill later…

    Like 0
  24. Cobra Steve

    Holy smokes are there a lot of comments about the Renault Dauphine! Amazing so many people remember good and bad things about them.

    The 1961 Dauphine I have has been a bit of a pain going through the restoration process, but it is an interesting car nonetheless. Car was significantly misrepresented on FleaBay who did not honor their buyer protection plan. I rebuilt the engine and part of the transaxle during the CCP virus lockdown and I think I may have managed to squeeze a few more ponies from the 27 it had in stock form.

    Moral of the story is never ever purchase a vehicle on FleaBay, number one, and number two if you cannot look at it personally, pay a professional to inspect it prior to bidding.

    Assuming this car is as presented, I would expect it to bring closer to $10K?

    Like 0
  25. V8Roller

    In the 70s, I had an Austin 7 special with a Gordini engine, sadly I never got it running.

    The Dauphine was made with very thin steel so save cost and weight. Keep it away from water.

    Like 0

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