A Car with Personality.
Older readers will remember the "Renault 4"
It was an odd looking humpy thing with nothing to recommend it visually. Once inside and driving it, things didn't improve either. Measured in available horse-power it was about a hoof-and-half. When turning corners it gave it's exaggerated impression of overturning completely. It offered an experience akin to an aircraft making a sharp turn, (pointing one wing towards the earth before leveling off again).
If you liked basic simplicity though, this junk-heap was a right charmer. There wasn't a single frill or bauble anywhere in or out of that car. It had five wheels of which one was the steering wheel, the heater worked weakly in summer and not at all in winter. You had to provide and wire up your own radio & speakers and the bench front seats were deck chairs with cushioning. The one I bought for £400 (Punts) was chocolate brown and damned sad looking even before we met. Two tyres were bald, (Front right and back left), and one of the many windows was badly scratched but as it was a side one, it ended it's days like that. A screwdriver and monkey wrench was all you would have needed to strip it down to a chassis only. The brilliance lay in the simplicity.
And I loved it after less than a week. It was huge inside, I'm not kidding. Loads of legroom and headroom and because the mats were black and made of rubber, muddy boots didn't matter. I drove to Dublin and back in it one time and apart from the fact it took four times as long as a normal car to do the journey, I was as happy as Larry with my secondhand Renault-4. On that trip too I was traveling so safely within speed limits that I relaxed with a few beers on the way home as I drove.
The back door was like a van door and the space inside was similar to that of half a van floor in space. Then, two clips flipped at either side of the back seat and two floor clips then slid easily out, allowing you the remove the whole thing in one (folded) piece. The resultant space was enormous. When the (Polish) Pope came to visit us all in Ireland in Sept. 1979, I took my then girlfriend with me in the 'Brown-Horror' to Limerick. The deal was that we had to get parked in a muddy field with all the other thousands of pilgrims in their cars and then wait in that wet rainy field until dawn. When they sun tried to come up, we were allowed to walk the five miles to another muddy field and watch El Papa fly in. I often believe that her Father took one look at my sad brown car and assured his wife that their daughter would come to no harm in it. Remember at the time there were skin-headed youths skidding all over the place in souped-up Escorts. Those guys never even gave this long-hair a second look.
Never mind the Pope though, the car was brilliant. I kitted out the huge floor space with a mattress and slumber down and stocked up with beer, wine and some sandwiches. Add a shapely sexy girl for the night and I was in heaven, (arf, arf). And when many other cars got bogged down trying to get back out of the field, the mischievous Renault slipped and slithered out the gap in the field and down the road for Cork, dirty but undaunted.
A most useful tool I always carried in the Mini was a hand-held wooden mallet and like the Mini, it worked a treat on the Renault too. Any attempt at spluttering starts and a judicious couple of taps of the mallet to the engine block worked a treat.The first time I opened that long bonnet I was taken aback by an equally long aluminum pole than ran from behind the dashboard, over the top of the engine and right down to the grill in front. This turned out to be the gear lever, the knob of which poked out from the middle-top of the dash inside. There was plenty of play on it too because when you went from third to top, (ie. fourth) the whole apparatus came back about two feet or more.
Following the aluminum pole to the grill, it curved down at a right angle to the gearbox which was right up forward and below and a big clip attached the pole to the gears. One day while putts-ing along minding my own business I went from third to fourth when damn me, the aluminum pole just kept on coming. The clip attaching it to the gearbox just fell off and the pole lay limply on top of the engine. But my mini toolkit had many useful things in it including some wire and a pliers. Arse in the air then and head and arms buried deep down the front of the engine, I reconnected the pole and the gearbox with wire and was once again putts-ing.
A few months later I put the car up for sale and the guy who called around to me first just drove it once and gave me £450 for it as was. It was several months after that before I saw that bloke again. He was in a city boozer one night and we did a double-take before remembering the Renault-4. For some reason I remembered the patch job done on the gear lever and asked him if it had ever given him bother.
"Naw-boy! She's grand," he answered cheerfully.
Even if the body rusted completely and fell off that baby, I like to think the aluminum pole is still wired to the gearbox somewhere. The crazy Renault-4 just had that kind of personality, a sort of beautiful ugliness. I liked it! You know the Pope was memorable too but for me that day and many more days to follow, my little ugly Renault was the star of the show.