This French car with Italian design has remained in history not only as a successful model for the youth but also as one of the symbols of the melting of the Cold War ice.
Caravels, of course, do not always come with three masts, sometimes there are none at all. The caravel, along with the brigantine, is a symbol of romance, distant wanderings, and the sailing vessel on which Columbus discovered America. The Renault Caravelle got its name with a hint of geographical discovery and in honor of the romantic old sailboat, meant to conquer the US market. For the European market, Caravelle was called quite differently: Floride.
In the mid-fifties, the idea of a “front” modification on a standard serial chassis was popular among many automakers of the Old World. The Germans set the tone: Volkswagen, with the support of the Italian coachbuilder Ghia, was the first to bring its “front horse” – the stylish Karmann-Ghia coupe to the market. As you know, the styling of the car was developed by Luigi Segre, based on the 1953 Chrysler d’Elegance model of master Virgil Exner. Segre’s masterpiece was actively supplied to the States, where high style was appreciated. The second place in exports to the United States among European automobile companies behind Volkswagen was firmly occupied by the French Renault. Two leaders of this company, Pierre Dreyfus and Fernand Picard, visited the United States in 1957 to assess the prospects of their enterprise in the local market on the spot. The interest shown by local buyers in the Volkswagen novelty did not escape their attention, and they decided to build such a model too. According to the legend, this decision was finally made at a dinner party with the governor of the US state of Florida, and in honor of this event, the original model got its name. However, later, it was decided to pick the name Caravelle for the US market to avoid the mutual jealousy between the states that could seriously undermine the sale of a car named after one of the states in other parts of the US. In the European markets, the model was sold as Floride.
In 1964, instead of the previous 48-horsepower four-cylinder engine, Renault began to use a modified version of the power unit from the Renault Estafette delivery van (1108 cm³), which developed 55 hp. The increase in power only slightly improved the maximum speed, but the maximum torque improved substantially (9 Mkg versus 7 Mkg), which was also obtained at lower speeds (2500 rpm instead of 3500). In practice, these modifications had resulted in increased operational flexibility. The gearbox, which was one of the car’s most talked-about parts, got reduced displacement handling, making the Renault Caravelle more sporty and masculine. In this version, the car was called Caravelle 1100 – the Floride designation was no longer used even for models that went to the domestic market. Remarkably, even British MG designers admitted that the 1964 Caravelle had the most successful and interesting front design for a sports 2-seater. No wonder, the British MGB model was very similar to this French coupe. This model was tested by the British magazine “Car” in November 1965. The car had a top speed of 143 km/h and accelerated from 0 km/h (97 km/h) in 17.8 seconds. Chrome-plated exterior trim parts disappeared from the body, however, the car looked good without them. No wonder, this model was particularly popular among women.
Brigitte Bardot in the Renault Caravelle Convertible
Source: Spirits of speed
Tested in 1964 by Europe Auto magazine, the Renault Caravelle 1100 was a derivative of the Dauphine from which it inherited its architecture and rear engine. Designed by Italian Pietro Frua, it was available as a convertible (with or without a hard top) or a coupe. It was especially popularized by Brigitte Bardot, who promoted it at the time.
For buying this specific model or other classic cars, please visit our inventory.