Renault: 120 years

Throughout the entire summer, Autoworld is celebrating the 120th birthday of one of the biggest extant French car manufacturers – Renault. Based on fifty cars, you can retrace the history of Renault, and with it, French social and industrial history of the time.

The most iconic models will be exhibiting – including the first-ever type A from 1899 (the first closed car in history), and the Type B dating from 1900. There are original and unrestored cars illustrating the annals of Renault’s history: A ‘Marne-taxi’ which acted as transport for soldiers at the ferocious WWI battle of the Marne, various models to showcase Renault’s rich competition history, like the Clio’s sporting versions and a few present-day RS models like the Dauphine. It is these numerous models that contributed towards Renault’s fame and made it the iconic worldwide company that it is today.

Renault’s history dates back to 1898, when Louis Renault built his first car in a workshop behind his parent’s house. The small one-cylinder car with De Dion-Bouton engine boasted a few noticeable characteristics for that time, among which a tubular chassis, a steering wheel, universal joint transmission and a three-speed gearbox.

1902, Renault started building its own engines and began seeing achieve some victories in racing events. In 1904, Renault introduced its typical bonnet with oblique and rounded nose but had a major difference being that Renault fitted its radiator between the engine and the bulkhead. This bonnet shape was later to be adopted by various car manufacturers. One year earlier Marcel had lost his life in the Paris-Madrid race. The competition was in fact interrupted in Bordeaux as the result of a fair number of deaths and Louis Renault at that moment decided never ever to enter a car in any competition whatsoever.


In 1976 the competition departments of Alpine and the Gordini works of Viry-Châtillon were merged to become a Renault Sport department, and in 1978 Renault revolutionised the F1 world by launching the first 1,5-liter turbo engine. Renault claimed its first victory in 1979, then all the major teams decided to develop their own turbo engine – Renault has been a main driving forces behind Formula 1 ever since, both as a supplier of engines and with its own racing cars, and Today Renault is one of the biggest makes of car in the world.