Renault Type 45CV Tourer by Manessius

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Type 45CV Tourer by Manessius





French automaker Renault, formed in 1898, was always a few steps ahead of its competitors. It was one of the first marques to begin racing, and its early prestige enabled it to build a fine reputation both in Europe and abroad. The cars were instantly recognized for their “coal scuttle” hoods, which was a design necessitated by the radiator being mounted behind the engine, rather than in front of it, and the first three decades at Renault were filled with new models and new innovations. Most of the cars that the company produced were small, low-horsepower automobiles that were ideal for thrifty buyers and narrow European streets. Yet, for the customer who sought something different, and had the vast bank account to back up their wishes, they also had the Model 45, which the factory almost charmingly referred to as, simply, the “Big Six.”

Big, it was. The Model 45 was the largest production automobile built until the introduction of Ettore Bugatti’s fabled Type 41 La Royale. Its nine-liter, six-cylinder engine churned out 140 horsepower, on a chassis that measured nearly 150 inches between axles. With relatively lightweight open bodywork fitted, a Model 45 could achieve nearly 100 mph. With their typical attention to engineering, Renault put extensive attention into making the massive automobile not only swift but also easy to drive, and four-wheel servo-assisted brakes were added to bring the big machine easily to a stop.

Even though very few were produced, due to the car’s great cost and custom-built nature, it is a testament to the model’s glory that its visage has become synonymous with Francophile culture of the 1920s. In many ways, the Model 45 embodied its country in the same way that the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost embodied England: it was audacious, quirky, brilliant, and French to its very core.

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