1960 Renault 4CV Restoration
by Clancy Menzel
I had been looking for a 4CV for
approximately 15 years. I owned a 1950 4CV when I was 15 years old and had
many fond memories; fishing, hunting trips, dates and four-wheeling in the
snow in Michigan.
In May 1995 I got serious about my quest for the elusive 4CV, and joined
the Renault Owners Club. In July I got a call from Jacques Lynn who told me
of a 1960 that Harper Smith had in L.A. for sale. I bought it and started
restoration hoping to have it completed in time to surprise my old high
school friends in Michigan at my 40th class reunion in August of the next year.
While in the process of restoration Jacques phoned and informed me on
another 1958 at the PicK-A-Part salvage yard. They would not sell it as a
complete car, so we started to cannibalize it for needed parts.
Jacques said to feel free to call him for technical advice or any parts
which he could supply.
I decided to outsource sheet metal repair (rust), paint, glass, chrome, and
upholstery. Most of the rest I would try myself, with the help of Jacques on
the engine. I started with the brakes, resleeving wheel cylinders and
installing rebuild kits, changing copper brake lines to steel, turning
drums, and relining shoes; finished up the system with silicone brake fluid
to avoid future rust from moisture. The shock absorbers needed replacing.
After research, I found 1977-7979 Chrysler Cordoba shocks would work by
fabricating retaining brackets. For the front shocks we found 1981-1991
Isuzu pick-up front shocks would work with a slight modification. The
throttle, clutch and emergency brake cables were custom made in Santa Fe
I stripped most of the paint and repainted the floor pan and undercoating
with a rust inhibitor epoxy paint. The engine block was sent to the machine
shop for boiling and magnafluxed for cracks. The head was also rebuilt with
new valves added. The camshaft was reground. 135X15 tires were found
locally. I had the dash, engine pans, window trim and wheels powder coated.
The bumpers and various pieces were chromed and their brackets cadmium plated.
After painting, Jacques and I installed the bumpers and dashboard. Then
the car was transported to the glass shop for a new tinted windshield. They
reinstalled the balance of the glass with new rubber and supplied new window
channel. The upholstery shop was our next stop for a complete interior. 5
days later the car was home and assembly began; chrome parts and pans, door
handles, cables, and the instrument cluster. Jacques was busy assembling the
engine on the bench. I had opted for a needle through-out bearing over the stock
carbon one, and I did not forget to replace the pilot bushing. Here it was
July of '96 and time was getting short. Jacques and I installed the engine
and I borrowed a temporary exhaust pipe and muffler from Renault Owner's Club member Sid
Christy, so we could tune her up and shake her down on the road.
We got the 4CV running. It started hard, but it was a new liner and piston
set (tight, you know). Also the gauges didn't work. I guess it helps to have a
good electrical ground (powder coated dash). The temperature gauge still wouldn't work so
we changed both it and the sending unit. Still no results. Guess what? we needed
a ground strap on the radiator.
Finally running, I got it up to a local muffler shop so I could return
Sid Christy's borrowed muffler. We had time to put about 50 miles on the car
so Jacques and I were able re-torque the head and readjust the valves. Time was
running out. My high school reunion was coming up fast. It was finally time to load the
4CV on the trailer for the 2300 mile trip to Michigan. On the trip people
would gather around at gas stations or evening stops asking, "What kind of
car is that?", or, "My dad had one of those." and many other comments.
When I got to Michigan, I stored the car in my mother's garage not
letting my friends know it was with me. I rode my bicycle around town
visiting my old friends. Some asked me about my 4CV and whatever happened to
it, not knowing of my surprise for our 40th reunion.
The eve of the reunion, my wife and I went to pick our friends Bryce and
Kay. Kay came to the door not believing her eyes, calling to Bryce, "Come
and see this, you're not going to believe this!" Having high
memories return. Before we got on our way, more of our friends arrived
admiring the auto of our youth.
Driving to the reunion we got many smiling looks from passers-by. We
parked right in front of the school entrance. As everyone came in they
smiling remembering the many pranks they had played on me, like carrying the
car off and placing it up on blocks in the high school entrance. After the
reunion my friends said this had been one of their best. We all took many
rides acquainting my new '60 4VC with the area that my old '50 4CV had
traveled during our youth.
Oh, the hard starting problem was solved. Just a bad ground to the engine
block. One piece of advice to anybody who is restoring one of these cars is:
Ground! - Ground! - Ground!