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Usines Renoir


#1

Frunia, 1945.
The great war has ended and the continent was destroyed. The resources were limited, the people poor, but the will to start the reconstruction large.

USINES RENOIR in southwest Frunia (aka France, but my companies are located in the Automation World) have been founded by Raymond Renoir in 1905 and produced looms, bicycles and some cars, basic three-wheelers or some better motirbike-based fourwheelers for the masses before the war started.
The factory was bombed, but still good enough to be rebuilt, and what lacked the most was a cheap, reliable and efficient van. So the owner, Charles Renoir, decided to build exactly that.


In 1946, the Renoir Fourgon arrived, a very simple and basic car, but more capable than it looks.
Based on a ladder frame with leaf springs, it offered almost 4500 liter cargo space despite being four meter short. Being made full of steel, the car was immune to wind and weahter (until it started to rust, but none of the 40s cars lasted long by default). Nevertheless it was very basic, having only a steering wheel, three pedals, a three-speed manual, an odometer and a warning light if running out of fuel. The two seats were made of space frame with canvas fabric.
The engine was a 1,1 liter OHV inline four, remarkably powerful with 45 horsepower. Two eco carburetors were a quite complex and sophisticated fuel system, but otherwise everything in the engine was basic but used parts made with a satisfying build quality considering the economy had been down to zero.
The Fourgon was able to reach 123 kph, a lot when most simple passenger cars were barely able to maintain a speed of 100 kph. Those 100 were reached after 25 seconds - not that big problem as the roads were empty. The consumption was more than acceptable with 14,7 liter, but it required regular gas - but most gas sold had a poor quality, and therefore the Fourgon was only usable if the Gasmean army sold their better-quality-gas to the public, what luckily happened.

The Fourgon was not as terrible to drive as its low $ 7440 price indicates, and $ 300 annual maintenance pleased many Frunian companies that were on a tight budget while re-starting their businesses. The Renoir Fourgon had a good start as delivery vehicle. Yes, there were others sold for $ 6000 but those were avoided within the next 24 months when the Frunian economy started to recover, while the qualities of the Fourgon were still desired.

1950 - a risky move

Charles Renoir wished he was named with the rich and beautiful. Barely possible if the one and only product is a small basic van. In april Renoir unveiled a 4,5 meter two-door sedan, the Renoir Gaulois. The car’s styling by the company’s designer Hugo Curvilleux was totally extravagant as Renoir aimed for local artists and the haute couture.




The ladder frame swapped leaf springs against coil springs for a ride comfort accepted in the premium class, and power came from a new 1,9 liter inline six-cylinder, the Série B engine, while the 1,1 was now named Série A. The “B” made use of two new two-barrel carburetors, the rest was more or less the same as in the “A” despite size and cylinder count. The result were 77 horsepower, definitely enough for an upper-class car. The interior was made of fine materials and very premium indeed, and the car had a standard AM radio.
With 16,5 seconds acceleration, the Gaulois kept up with sports cars or the models of Gasmean soldiers, and 151 kph top speed were remarkable for a family car, while 15,7 liter regular gas were a reasonnable consumption. Even the price was not exaggerated in comparison to its power and comfort with $ 12.000, but the car had not been a real success.

First of all, Renoir was known as a brand for the “blue collar”, and aiming directly at the Frunian “white collar” avantgarde and haute couture might have been irritating. Yes, Renoir sold almost 10.000 of those in Frunia until 1955, but the developement costs where immense.

1951

As Renoir wasted almost all their money on the Gaulois, only little improvements were made in their main product, the Fourgon.
Some smaller saftety improvements, like a second wiper, electric indicators, an improved suspension geometry and setup and a more refined engine with slighty better reliability and response were the benefits of Phase II models.
The Fourgon phase II performed a little better on the road, as it now needed 24 seconds to 100 and could theoretically reach 124 kph. More important was the lower consumption, dropping to 13,6 liter. The price rose only marginally to $ 7460. As the overall demand was lower as in 1946 because there were more vehicles to choose from, the sales were quite good in relation. The Fourgon remained a very common vehicle on Frunian roads.



#2

1955 - large ambitions

Charles Renoir was still willing to establish the brand as a “first-class” brand, offering cars for the upper class. This led to a new car called Boulevard.
As the Gaulois as a two-door did not work well as chauffeur car, the 4,93 meter Boulevard came as four-door sedan. But Renoir lacked money for a larger engine, so a rework of the “Série 2” had to be enough, now delivering two horsepower more, in total 79. Still enough for mid 50s Frunia, although the 1,9 liter engine got a bit lost in the giant engine bay, but this helped maintenance a lot. And $ 12.200 were not much for a premium car, so it was rather considered a Premium Budget car, but mostly scored as Family Premium in Frunia as it was spacious, durable and not too expensive to run.
18,2 seconds to 100 kph were at least enough to shake off the cars of the working class, and 149 kph were a mediocre speed. 15,5 liter consumption are rather economical considering it was a full size car with six cylinders. A four-speed manual would have made it faster, but Renoir lacked the money, so the transmission of the 1950-onwards Gaulois was reused.



The Boulevard has not been very innovative, even for it’s time. Most had been carried over from the Gaulois, as the ladder frame, the suspension and the drivetrain. This kept the sales in a medium range. The Renoir Boulevard did neither become a flop nor the sucessful premium car it was planned to be. Despite the all-premium interior, five seats made it versatile as family car, and it was by far the safest Renoir in the 50s.

The sales of the Gaulois dropped from medium to low. One reason might have been the design, so it was styled to match the Boulevard - and looked definitely less extravagant, but not boring. The 79 horsepower engine brought no real performance boost, but the reliability of the car improved as Renoir had gained more and more experience. The consumption was the same as in the Boulevard, but the smaller car needed 16,4 seconds to 100 kph and was able to run 153 kph. Those specs might have been no real improvement compared to the 1950 model, but the price remained the same, so those small changes were welcomened. Duplex drum brakes in the front were a noticeable feature in daily driving for example, something taken over from the Boulevard. Despite becoming a better car, the Gaulois did not recover a lot and was lost somewhere further down in Frunia’s car market, and became more and more an unpopular model, so it was replaced in 1959.


1956

As Charles Renoirs plans were risky, his younger brother Fréderic urged for “blue collar” models, small and cheap cars for the masses. The low budget for the Boulevard might have been responsible for its missing breakthrough, but there was nothing wrong in facelifting the Fourgon as it was the brand’s main product.
New taillights, a small engine update and duplex front brakes were enough to keep it one of Frunias most-sold delivery vehicles.


The performance remained more or less the same with 23,9 seconds and 128 kph, as well as the consumption with 13,3 liter. $ 7510 were a justified $50 more than before, mainly due to the better brakes. The maintenance cost was still below $300 annualy, so there was no surprise in seeing your plumber, milkman or parcel service coming in a Renoir Fourgon.

But Fréderic Renoir, mostly called “Frédo”, wanted an alternative to the Bitron BCV2, one of the most basic cars of all time. The result was the Renoir Gaston, a three-meter car with the engine of the Fourgon. The developement was very expensive and ruined the company completely, but the result was a radically modern car - Renoir’s basic car for the working class was a lot more modern than their sedan for the upper class.

The car switched to a monocoque, something still quite rare in the 50s and to front-wheel drive, as Renoir engineers were convinced that FWD is a lot better than traditional RWD. Originally, a traverse engine was planned, but the engineers failed, and the Gaston came with longitudinal engine position. While the rear leaf spring axle was simple and cheap, new innovative McPerson struts were used in the front instead of a solid axle, which gave the car a quite good handling.
In addition, 46 horsepower were quite a lot for a 557 kg car. To keep the car accessible despite its power and innovations, everything was terribly basic. Some standard safety, some gauges, five seats.


$ 9150 were definitely a lot for a budget car, but the excellent performance and the funny handling made it one of the leading family sport cars despite being a lot smaller. 16,9 seconds to 100 kph were as fast as most domestic Frunian midsize cars. 123 kph were enough for a simple family car, and 11,8 liter consumption combined with $ 295 service cost payable for an average worker. The Gaston worked and sold nicely as family sport, fun and pony car in Frunia.

But Renoir knew that for a “regular” family car, the people urged at least for minimal comfort. For that reason, Renoir switched the basic interior to a standard one, added chrome on the exterior and such goodies like a passenger side mirror and a reverse light, calling it the “Gaston NE” while NE stood for “niveau élevé”. The only technical change was using progressive springs for the suspension.
The NE did work as family car for $ 9410 and sacrificed sportiness for comfort. While running 123 kph, it needed 17,1 seconds to 100 and 11,9 liter regular gas, so there was no real downside except the price and $ 445 maintenance cost. The NE sold noticeably less units, but it was definitely necessary to offer a better equipped model for those that liked the car but considered it as too frugal.

Renoir did improve their sales and market position, but they were broke and had to rely on what they had for the next years.



#3

1958 - Renoirs first really remarkable car

When the Gaston had been unveiled, one of the curious spectators was CMT boss C.M. Thandor. He had to admit that the brand-new CMT City was no match against Renoirs latest vehicle when it came to value for money and technical sophistication, as the Gaston was simple where it was not obvious and innovative where it made sense.

The Renoir brothers and Thandor agreed on a cooperation, as Renoir did not have the money to develop a successor for the aging Gaulois on it’s own, and CMT already considered a small sedan using the platform of the upcoming Libra compact car, but doubted that it would be worth the cost for developement.

In 1957, CMT aquired one third of the Hetvesian sports car manufactor Wagner and suggested Renoir the use of their brand-new boxer engine. The Renoirs refused at first, but then agreed to build a prototype.
It was done in early 1958 and was definitely one of the most unique cars of the 50s, as it was still three meter short and only 689 kg light, but sent impressive 118 horsepower to the front wheels.
As it had noticeable amount of wheelspin, Renoir kept a three-speed manual as a four-speed did not improve performance. The car was at 100 kph after only 8,23 seconds and got up to 168 kph top speed, miraculous specs for a souped-up 1958 city car. 10 liter premium gas seemed adequate, and it was propably the cheapest performance vehicle to own and run, as $ 518 service cost were far below a “real” Wagner and $ 13.000 definitely too.


The trim was the same as the NE, but it still had no radio. Instead, the car recieved a black roof and painted hubcabs to be exclusive from other Gastons. In Frunia, the car sold surprisingly good as Fun Premium, and not few of them were in use as sporty family car as it was nothing for douchebags but still controllable for amateurs.
The Gaston Racing was also the first Renoir to be exported, as Wagner sold the five-seater in their home market Hetvesia as “Wagner Renoir”, and it became quite popular especially as basic car for rallyes, as it was affordable, fast and easy to modify.

1959

When CMT planned the Libra-based Familia II, the roles were clearly set apart: CMT offered the 4,2 meter sedan only with six-cylinder engines and fancy premium interior, while Renoir used four-cylinders and a standard trim level. Renoir also changed the design to their taste
But that was not enough for Renoir as they preferred front wheel drive, meanwhile common for small cars in Frunia and used in some domestic sedans, while CMT wanted to stick to rear wheel drive.
As the Libra platform theoretically allowed for both, Renoir developed own driveshafts, reinfoced ones from the Gaston, and gave their version of the car a totally different character.

It was called the Avenue and even recieved a brand-new engine:
The “Série C” was a 1400 ccm four-cylinder with a lot more stroke than bore, as Renoir hoped for good economy. The valvetrain switched from Série A’s OHV to a modern OHC layout. The result were 64 horsepower, a good amount for a midsize sedan, and 14,2 % economy, not bad for the late 50s. 100 nM torque guaranteed for a good use of the four-speed gearbox provided by CMT.

The differences were also noticeable in the handling, as the CMT Familia aimed at sporty drivers accepting a harsh ride for good handling. Renoir cared a lot more about ride comfort, especially as they had agreed on using standard trim and no premium features in the interior. The FWD limited oversteer and went more for understeer, so reducing stiffness AND a secure handling were possible. Nevertheless Renoir left a little “firmness” in it and avoided making it really soft.
The Renoir Avenue was slower than the CMTs, but not sluggish, as 15,4 seconds to 100 kph were still better than most established rivals in the 60-horsepower sedan class. 141 kph meant that the car was able to maintain 120 kph as long-time highway speed without much stress, and 13,6 liter consumption also pleased drivers that used it on long trips.


As the Renoir Avenue was almost flawless, reasonnable in price and power, as $ 12.600 were a fair offer, there was no wonder in becoming the leading Frunian family sport sedan, but also CMT had a benefit from that, as 25 percent of the money earned with each sold unit were transferred to CMT as “license fee”, and the cars did not even have many overlaps and approached different buyers. The solid sales of the Gaston and the great success of the Avenue guaranteed Renoir’s survival and prepared the company for the next decade.
The Gaston Racing gave the brand some attention in motor racing, as it was a strong participant especially in rallyes.


#4

1960

The Renoir Boulevard was the last passenger car with a ladder frame, and its overall construction wasn’t very progressive for 1960. This made an update very urgent. Power steering, front disc brakes and - most important on a premium car - automatic transmission became standard. The modern thee-speed was bought from CMT, as this was their new ComfoShift gearbox.
This brought the 1,9 liter SĂ©rie B engine to its limits in the heavy car. The engineers tried hard and squeezed 82 horsepower out of it, with the help of forged pistons and two brand-new four-barrel carburetors.

The car needed quite slow 19,4 seconds to 100 kph, and 152 kph were not really fast even in comparison to its time, but 16,1 liter regular gas were ok for a full-size car, as it was huge for Frunian habits.
Considering the high premium trim level, $ 13.900 were not a bargain but definitely a good offer. The simple chassis allowed to offer modern features for the price, and it still sold not bad in Frunia, although not excellent. But the Renoir Boulevard did not exaclty what Charles Renoir wanted, not actors and musicians were driving it, but rich old people. A rather surprising popularity was archieved among wealthier blue-collar people, self-employed plumbers or other craftsmen loved it for its very high load capacity.

1961

With the begin of the new decade, the sales of the Gaston started to decrease. This was the worst case, as the Gaston was the most important model by 1960.
But Renoir prepared for that and started with a facelift in time.
In April 1961, the reworked Gaston rolled into the showrooms.
The 1100 kept the SĂ©rie A engine, but it recieved a small update, the power was almost identical. Drivability, safety, reliability and economy improved. Accelleration and top speed remained almost identical the acceleration even dropped to 17,1 seconds, but the consumption also dropped from 11,9 to 11,6 liter. The price increased to $ 9.930.


Of course the NE returned, and it recieved a different engine. The SĂ©rie C recieved a new variant with 1049 ccm, and it returned 50 horsepower, strong enough for such a tiny car. Besides the standard radio, the NE finally featured a basic radio straight from the factory. The stronger engine also recieved a four-speed transmission, and the acceleration was quite brisk with only 15,2 seconds. 127 kph top speed allowed for long-time travel speed of 100 kph, and 11,7 liter consumption were not higher than in the 1100 standard car. The reliability was not bad, but not as good as in the non-NE. For $ 11.100, the NE stopped its decline and remained a stable seller.


Why buying the NE if you could have more power for less? In case you were not aiming for comfort but for performance, the “Sport” was your car. The Racing trim with Wagners 118 hp engine was too extreme although it became a rally icon. For a daily usable small sports car, the 1.4 engine with 64 horses known from the Avenue was a good choice. It needed only 11,3 seconds to 100 kph, archieved 138 in total and also needed 11,7 liter. As it sacrificed the radio, it was even cheaper with $ 10.700. One could really say that this was an extremely sweet deal and it was an excellent seller in Frunia as it pleased family sport, fun and pony buyers. Wagner still sold it in their home market Hetvesia despite no longer featuring a Wagner engine.


As Renoir was well aware of the fact that the Fourgon showed its age, a low-end replacement was built based on the Gaston. The Gaston F was a relatively successful light delivery for $ 9540 offering 1400 liter cargo volume with a length of 3,23 meter. Although using the SĂ©rie A from the 1100, its power reserves were enough for some cargo. It needed 17,5 seconds to 100 kph and and went up to 122 with few load. 12,5 liter consumption were not reall low for the small car, but it was cheap and practical.


Although the Gaston wasn’t as succesful as back in it’s date of introduction, it superseded the Fourgon as the brand’s main pillar.

1962

Renoir nevertheless did not want to let the partnership with Wagner die. When they released a sportiness-tuned 129 horsepower variant of their boxer four in 1961 for their new Autobahn, Renoir ordered these engines and quickly developed a sports car.
Instead of space frame like Wagner often did, Renoir went for a monocoque and used MacPherson struts in front and rear. Renoirs engineers were definitely looking somehow at Wagner, as the car had no front engine but a mid-engine, as a low center of gravity the boxer provided was best accomodated in the middle of the car. This led to a rather bizarre shape, but the designers gave their best to let the car look outstanding. The Vitesse was one of the first cars to feature pop-up headlights, activated with a manual lever that required some force. The weight distribution was not really balanced, so the car had rear disc brakes and front duplex drums.



The Renoir Vitesse had a test track time of 2:43,86 minutes, needed only 8,94 seconds to 100 kph and ran 183 top speed at only 11,8 liter consumption. Sounds good, but the new Wagner Gepard with the same engine was cheaper, more comfortable and slightly easier to drive, so the sales were not as good as wanted but not really bad. The Renoir Vitesse was sold for $ 17.300 in Frunia from 1962 to 1970.

1963

The Fourgon phased out, as it was outdated. On the lower end, the Gaston F made a good job as light delivery vehicle. For other tasks, Renoir now offered the Transporteur.

All cars shared the 1.4 L SĂ©rie C engine as 58 horsepower were a reasonnable amout of power and the economy of the SĂ©rie C great. As these cars were designed to take one ton of load, their model code was T1000.
As Renoir considered a passenger variant, the leaf springs on the front axle were swapped against coils, otherwise most resembled the Fourgon. Rear-wheel drive, ladder frame, solid axles. The whole car was larger, as it should be able to carry as much load as possible, but a lot smaller than real heavy duty cars like the CMT Torpedo to stay cheap enough.
The interior was pure poverty-spec, as usual on a early 60s commecial vehicle, but the comfort was overall a little above zero.
Often seen on building sites was the flatbed variant, but it was not designed for offrad use and therefore not too succesful. But it was very cheap for $ 8.630 and only $319 service cost. The car was also able to move fast enough, with 17,6 seconds to 100 kph and respectable 129 kph top speed when not fully loaded. Once again the SĂ©rie C proved its economy with 14,3 l consumption.


The delivery van sold far more units. With 4,1 meter it was shorter than the flatbed (4,45 meter) but still offered enough cargo space (4050L). With $ 8.620 almost a bargain and therefore a good seller in Frunia’s professional car market. With 18,3 seconds to 100 slightly slower, but also able to reach 129 kph. Consumption was bearable with 14,6 liter, and it was quite reliable, so the T1000F (F for Fourgon) became an important part of 60s economy in Frunia.


Responsible for trucks and delivery vehicles was the young manager Jacques Grenaud who entered Renoir in 1960 and became responsible for the product line “Renoir professionel”. He was one of seven children of Thierry Grenaud and saw the need for a cheap family hauler.
The Renoir T1000 seemed like the perfect base for it and he created the T1000P (P for personnel) seven-seater. The car still had no power steering or other comfort features, but its interior was not as frugal as in the commercial cars, and it even had a simple AM radio. Nevertheless comfort wasn’t a really strong point, and the “bearable” trim level caused the price to rise to $ 10.100.
But this was still not expensive considering you got a seven-seater with plenty of interior space. The performance dropped due to the weight gain, but the T1000P still managed to go 100 kph after 20,4 seconds and at maximum 128 with pedal to the metal. 15,1 liter regular were not too much for the pockets of a hard-working family man.

The vans were not really popular, but those that really needed one were thankful as Renoir at least offered such a vehicle and many later Renoir buyers remembered being raised in one of these rolling bathubs. The T1000 series reinforced Renoirs image as family-friendly brand and kept the good “blue-collar” reputation.


#5

1965 - A new core product

The Mignon was definitely a popular family car in Frunia, as it was a real five seater despite its tiny dimensions - but it’s interior had one serious problem - the trunk was a joke. The better and faster the cars became, the more the people wanted to use it. Under the working title “Grenouille” Renoir developed a car that was more or less based on the Gaston, but became larger.
To underline what it should be, it was presented in May 1965 as Renoir Compagnon.

The car grew to 3,18 meter length and became a little wider, especially because the middle seat in the rear was a torture in the Gaston. But the overall space in the interior wasn’t much better, but the cargo volume grew to 257 liter, so it accomodated two adults, two kids and their luggage. The Gaston’s rear axle with leaf springs recieved coil springs, further improving the handling. The front longitudinal engine placement swapped to a traverse mounted engine, as Renoir finally figured out how to do that.
Styling wise, Hugo Cuvrilleux did not go far away from the Gaston. but especially the much larger taillights made the still tiny car better visible in the dark, as the Gaston was often overseen by truck drivers and being rammed in the rear.

Wagner Automobile was Renoir’s sales partner for Hetvesia, as the company urgently needed money for their race activities, selling the T1000 models since 1964, the Gaston sport trims since 1955 and now the full range of the Compagnon CMT, who had a 1/3 interest in Wagner, disliked this not too much in the beginning as there were only minor overlaps. Even the also-new for 1965 CMT Bingo, a car of almost identical size, wasn’t a direct opponent, as the $ 10.300 four-seater was completely tuned for handling and had not even a hint of comfort unlike the Renoirs, it was more inspired by FATI.


The entry-level Compagnon was the 1100, but the OHV SĂ©rie A was banned. Power came now from the 50 horsepower SĂ©rie C engine known from the Gaston NE. The four-speed gearbox was also taken over, while CMT still mounted three-speeds in their cheapest car. Compared to the CMT Bingo, it was the much better car despite worse safety and reliability, but not as radical fun-tuned. For $ 10.600, it made the sprint to 100 kph in very good 14,6 seconds, and 139 top speed were good for what it was - a totally basic car, as you saw pure poverty spec when opening the doors. 10 liter consumption were ok for it as well as $352 service cost. No wonder the car sold decent in Frunia, and Wagner dealers reported the same from Hetvesia.

The NE version shared the engine, but had nicer interior with features already known from the Gaston NE, like crank windows (instead of sliding ones), better seats, better heater and a basic AM radio. The safety features were finally up to date, and this caused a weight gain. The car now needed 15,3 seconds to 100 kph and 10,2 liter. But for $ 11.200 it was the better choice compared to the base trim, and it became even more successful, selling more than Renoir could produce, so they had to make their factory larger as fast as they could to meet the demand. Servicing was still no problem for the average family man with yearly $515.


But this still wasn’t the best offer. Hard to believe, but true. The NE was again available as “Sport”, now keeping its radio as the buyers really wanted one, but for only $100 more you recieved an updated variant of the 1.4 liter engine, returning 65 horsepower. This machine was and still is considered as Renoir’s best engine.
At identical consumption and almost the same service fees as the NE; it propelled the Compaignon in 11,8 seconds to 100 and allowed for 152 kph top speed - this was already enough to keep up with midsize cars on the highway.
The only reason why it “only” sold as good as the NE and not much better was the fact that it was already too fast for a “normal” family car and most thought conservative and did not go for the 15 extra horses unless they liked engaged driving.

For those buyers that loved comfort despite a tight budget Renoir offered the Compagnon luxe.
It had a sedan body, 350 liter trunk space and stretched itself to a length of 3,5 meter. The main target was making it as easy to drive as possible, so it even recieved power steering and three-speed automatic transmission. The premium interior was very qualitative and well-equipped for a small car, and the standard AM radio was entertaining, especially compared to the basic one in NE and Sport.
All that extra weigt AND the automatic tamed the 65 horses of the 1.4 engine, and with 13,9 seconds acceleration and 148 kph top speed it was perfectly balanced between quick and tame. There was really few competition on the market that featured similar balance and drivability, so it was worth its $ 12.800 price. For Frunia this was really quite a few so it was the least popular model, but in Hetvesia it was possible to see the one or other of them in city traffic.


As Hetvesia was occupied by Wagner dealers, Renoir sold the car to Archana by themselves, and it was rewarded with instant success, so the T1000 models followed soon. Very surprising was the fact that the luxe was the best-selling Renoir there, as they were sceptical towards hatchbacks and they welcomened automatic transmissions at the same time.

1965 became the most successful year in company history, and at the christmas party the rough beginnings and the formerly omnipresent financial problems were totally forgotten. As the Archanean market had not been opened up by many foreign manufactors (CMT did, but they had another price segment), Renoir decided to build a second factory there, delivering the first vehicles already in 1967.