Renault: 1st model ever

Renault logo 1900
Renault logo 1900
Name: "Renault Type A"

Nickname: "Voiturette"

Category: Cars

Subcategory: Supermini

Designer: Louis Renault

Producer: Société Renault Frères (founded by Louis, Marcel and Fernand Renault on February 25, 1899 with retroactive effect from October 1, 1898)

Production start: December 1898 - Boulogne-Billancourt, Île-de-France, France

Discontinued: 1903

First price: 3,500 French francs

Features: Two-passenger car. Engine single cylinder De Dion 273 cc, 1,75 hp, air cooled with automatic admission valve. Propulsion by rear axle with 3-speed gearbox + reverse, Brakes on rear wheels and on propeller shaft. Top speed: 32 km/h. Dimensions: length 186 cm, width 110 cm. Unladen weight: 200 kg.

Interesting facts: Though it became the foundation stone for a huge industrial empire, the first "Voiturette", designed and built by Louis Renault in person, was not originally intended for sale. In 1897, nineteen-year-old Louis Renault was working as a draughtsman with Delaunay-Belleville. This keen amateur mechanic, fascinated by the emergence of motor transport, set up a little workshop in a garden shed at the family home in Boulogne-Billancourt, and set about building a simple little car, of his own design, for his own personal use. By Christmas 1898 the voiturette was finished, and Louis invited a few friends round to see how it would tackle the steep Rue Lepic in the Montmartre district of Paris. Impressed by how easy it was to drive the car, several of his friends were keen to get one for themselves, and some even made a down payment on the spot. On February 25, 1899, the automobile manufacturing company Renault Frères was founded. The lightweight, well-designed voiturette already showed many of the features of modern automobile engineering, with a front-mounted engine, transmission by shaft with universal joint, and a direct-drive gearbox patented by Louis Renault. It was unveiled to the public in June 1899. Then on 27 August, Louis and his brother Marcel took part in the Amateur Drivers' Cup event from Paris to Trouville, finishing first and second.

Property: Groupe Renault

Producer website:

Renault Type A - left
Renault Type A - right
Renault Type A, Renault's first ever produced car (1898)

Renault Type A - museum - left
Renault Type A - museum - right
Renault Type A, Musée de la Voiture et du Tourisme, Compiègne, France

Renault Type A - replica - left
Renault Type A - replica - right
Renault Type A, replica

Renault Type A engine
Renault Type A gearbox
Renault Type A, De Dion-Bouton 1 cylinder engine and 3-speed direct-drive gearbox patented by Louis Renault

Renault Type A voiturettes advertisement 1901
Renault Type A Voiturettes, advertising after the first sporting successes (1901)

Louis Renault 1898
Louis Renault 1903
Louis Renault (Paris, Feb. 12, 1877 - Fresnes, Oct. 24, 1944), French industrialist, co-founder of the automobile manufacturing company Renault with his brothers Marcel and Fernand, inventor of the Renault Type A and pioneer of the automobile industry. Top: photo taken on his return from military service in the small improvised studio in the garden at the family home in Boulogne-Billancourt (1898); bottom: Louis Renault drives his "Voiturette" (1903).

Renault RB6 2010
Renault advanced models: the Formula One racing car model RB6 (2010), and Renault Clio, one of Europe's top-selling supermini cars since its launch in 1990 (official video 2012)