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Series AI Type 35/45 Vanderbilt Racer by Renaulr Freres
The Renault Corporation was founded in 1899 as Société Renault Frères by Louis Renault and his brothers Marcel and Fernand. Louis was a bright, aspiring young engineer who had already designed and built several prototypes before teaming up with his brothers, who had honed their business skills working for their father's textile firm. While Louis handled design and production, Marcel and Fernand managed the business.
The first Renault car, the Renault Voiturette 1CV, was sold to a friend of Louis' father after giving him a test ride on 24 December 1898.
Early Renault cars used De Dion engines, but in 1902 the Société began to manufacture them in-house. There were twins and fours, in sizes from 1.7 to 4.9-liters. Marcel Renault won the 1902 Paris-Vienna race in a 3.8-liter Type K racing model, besting 70-hp Panhards with engines nearly four times the size.
In 1903, Renault began to manufacture its own engines; until then it had purchased them from De Dion-Bouton. The first major volume sale came in 1905 when Société des Automobiles de Place bought Renault AG1 cars to establish a fleet of taxis. These vehicles were later used by the French military to transport troops during World War I which earned them the nickname "Taxi de la Marne." By 1907, a significant percentage London and Paris taxis had been built by Renault. Renault was also the best-selling foreign brand in New York in 1907 and 1908. In 1908 the company produced 3,575 units, becoming the country's largest car manufacturer.
Introduced for 1906, the four-cylinder 7.4-litre Type AI was the largest Renault production car to date. The range-topping 35CV Type AI featured Louis Renault's recently patented hydraulic dampers, endowing it with a much smoother ride than many of its contemporaries, while retaining the firm's traditional 'coal-scuttle' bonnet and rear-mounted radiator. Renault exported many luxury chassis to the USA in the 20th Century's early years, opening a showroom on New York's Fifth Avenue in 1909. The company's American agency proudly described the Renault in its advertisements as 'the car that will last forever'.
The brothers recognized the value of publicity that participation in motor racing could generate for their vehicles. Renault made itself known through succeeding in the first city-to-city races held in Switzerland, producing rapid sales growth. Both Louis and Marcel raced company vehicles, but Marcel was killed in an accident during the 1903 Paris-Madrid race. Although Louis never raced again, his company remained very involved, including Ferenc Szisz winning the first Grand Prix motor racing event in a Renault AK 90CV in 1906.
In 1906 Willie K Vanderbilt recognized the small but viable market for a cutting-edge racing car. High level racing cars in this period were purpose built, huge displacement, highly temperamental machines raced and supported by the factories, lower level racing was done in fairly unsophisticated races often based on modified passenger cars. Vanderbilt went to Renault to see if they would produce batch of their state of the art 35/45hp racing car for his American friends. This potent and highly developed machine was a smaller version of Renaults delicate GP car and much more suited for private ownership. Vanderbilt secured approximately 10 orders and payed Renault $150,000 for the batch of racing cars. Each of the racers were identical mechanically but would vary slightly in coachwork details, likely adaptations to better fit the physical proportions of its owner. Some were outfitted with road equipment and others kept lean for race use.
The 35/45 proved the perfect racer for customers, extremely refined and sophisticated but durable and not overly brutish. It was super car the owner could still crank himself. Based around the potent Type AI engine but with a dramatically different chassis layout. The engine and transmission were placed nearly two feet farther back in the frame – as far back as one could place it and still have some semblance of a drive shaft. The Type AI engine is mated to a four-speed alloy gearbox – with an ingenious scroll wheel that translates the H pattern fork selection into a progressive all in a row shift pattern. A miniature drive shaft connects the transmission to the Renault trademark drive axle. A final drive ratio of 2:1 allows for its monumental top end speed. The iconic Renault radiator is fed by thermosyphon and mounted nearly on center were its significant heft effects the handling the least. The long elegant hood and radiator combination have an amazing windshield like effect in diverting the air over the occupant's heads while driving at speed.
Louis took full control of the company as the only remaining brother in 1906 when Fernand retired for health reasons. Fernand died in 1909 and Louis became the sole owner, renaming the company Société des Automobiles Renault (Renault Automobile Company).
Renault fostered its reputation for innovation from very early on. At the time, cars were luxury items. The price of the smallest Renaults at the time were 3000 francs; an amount equal to ten years pay for the average worker. In 1905 the company introduced mass-production techniques and Taylorism in 1913.
There were few changes to Renault designs in the years before the war. Pressure lubrication was added in 1911, and six-cylinder engines from 1910. The largest of the sixes, a 7.5-liter model, was designated 40 CV (for its French horsepower rating). With a bore increase resulting in 45 CV, it remained in production through 1929.
The 40CV was the largest production automobile built until the introduction of Ettore Bugatti's fabled Type 41 La Royale. Its 9-liter, 6-cylinder engine churned out 140hp, on a chassis that measured nearly 150" between axles. With relatively lightweight open bodywork fitted, a Model 45 could achieve nearly 100 mph. With its typical attention to engineering, Renault put extensive attention into making the massive automobile not only swift but also easy to drive, and 4-wheel servo-assisted brakes were added to bring the big machine easily to a stop. The 40CV's power is attested to by the accomplishment in 1925 of a Renault 40CV achieving a 24-hour average speed of over 100 mph at Montlhéry, in the process setting a closed course record of 107.9 mph. A saloon-bodied 40CV also won the 1925 Monte Carlo Rally. Always built to the individual customer's specifications and necessarily very expensive, the Renault 40CV was a worthy rival for the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost and sold in similarly limited numbers.
Renault Series B Type V1 is one of the larger Renaults built and is fitted with a 4.4-litre 20/30hp 4-cylinder engine coupled to a 4-speed transmission. Built on a 130 inch wheelbase chassis.
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