Nostalgia. Renault Floride will make France dream, Caravelle will conquer America

May 23, 1957 saw the grand opening of the Renault Incorporated subsidiary in the United States.

On this occasion, American dealers are urging a coupe-convertible with a young and sporty look to seduce customers who shun Dauphine, many of whom are invading the parking lot.

Pierre Dreyfus, who was appointed president of the Régie in 1955, saw this as an opportunity to conquer the market while the beetle was a hit in America. He will ask for research on the Dauphine GT.


In 1959, two cars were allocated for advertising the model: Grace Kelly and Brigitte Bardot. Photo by DR

economical development

Régie’s management will be based on Dauphine and its 845 cm3 Ventoux engine to create a coupe-convertible. Fernand Picard, director of research, will ask for research from bodybuilder Gia. The problem is that the Ghia only works with Volkswagen on the Karmann-Ghia coupe.

Therefore, the company will subcontract to Pietro Frua through Ghia Aigle, which has just closed its body business. Problems began as Ghia Aigle, a Swiss company independent of Italy, exhibited the Dauphine GT at the 1958 Geneva Motor Show without permission. Pierre Dreyfus, annoyed, will close the prototype.

Dauphin’s bottom

In the autumn of 1958 the car was presented at the Paris Motor Show. Florida differs from the Geneva concept in that it has passed through a Renault-style office.

Floride is available in three versions: a convertible with a soft top, a version with a hard top and a real coupe. Technically, we took over the Dauphine platform. Under the thresholds and along the longitudinal elements set stiffness.

The result: 146 kg more than the Dauphine, which weighed only 630 kg. Weight distribution is not in favor of exemplary traction: 296 kg at the front and 450 kg at the rear. The engine is a Dauphine Gordini engine that develops 40 hp.

Florida / Caravelle model after 1961;  it can be recognized by the disappearance of the side vents on the rear fenders and the openwork hood, which is on the R8 Photo DR

Florida / Caravelle model after 1961; it can be recognized by the disappearance of the side vents on the rear fenders and the openwork hood, which is on the R8 Photo DR

Florida crosses the Atlantic Ocean

Florida is well received in France, and dealerships accumulate 8,000 pre-orders.

It is cheaper than its competitors, Simca Océane and Plein-ciel. For production, Ile Seguin and Flins are busy with 4CV and Dauphine, so we outsource: Chausson makes the bodies and Brissonneau & Lotz assembles the car. Introduced in January 1959 in New York, the so-called Caravelle is well-placed with a sale price of $ 4,000; is considered a sports car (125 km / h).

The name Caravelle was chosen in connection with the new commercial aircraft Sud-Aviation, as well as not to highlight one state over another.

With real French chic

The lines of Florida are nice, the colors are bright, the interior is beautifully presented with a very beautiful, very thin steering wheel and white tires that suit him.

We have rarely seen such a chic Renault and Florida will start its career as a chic car. In 1960, the Florida / Caravelle duo sold more than 36,000 copies; this is good news, but Renault, aware of the shortcomings, will develop the car.

It’s too late for the United States, where sales are falling. In 1961, they received a 956-cc Cléon, which developed 51 hp, a 4-speed gearbox, a 12 V electric circuit and disc brakes on all 4 wheels. Sir, this is a revolution …

The sporty design is inspired by American and Italian roadsters with smooth, elegant lines and neat finishes.  Only the very weak strength of the cavalry remained.  Photo by DR

The sporty design is inspired by American and Italian roadsters with smooth, elegant lines and neat finishes. Only the very weak strength of the cavalry remained. Photo by DR

Florida, Florida and Caravella, then Caravella

In 1961, Caravelle was available on the European market. In fact, Renault wants to simplify the range; convertible – Florida, and coupe – Caravelle. Lateral ventilation disappears, it is replaced by a perforated back cover.

In 1963, Florida disappeared; only the Caravelle 1100 remains, which gets 1108 cm3 of R8 and its 55 hp. In 1964, the coupe disappeared, but the car was still offered with a hard top.

The last evolution was in 1965 with the engine increased to 58 hp and the first diamond attached to the hood. His career ended in 1968 after 117,039 copies. Success in such a narrow market, but Renault will no longer have convertibles to the R19.

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