We stay in France for this important summer exhibition which celebrates the 120th anniversary of one of the great French brands that is still very much alive. More than 40 vehicles will trace the history of Renault, a history which is an intrinsic part of the history of France in the 20th century, the second age of industrialisation and mass production.
It was in 1898 that Louis Renault built his first car, in a workshop set up behind his parents’ house. The little single-cylinder car with a De Dion-Bouton engine had several characteristics that were remarkable for the time, such as a tubular chassis, a steering wheel, universal joint transmission and a three-speed gearbox.The orders flooded in and a short time later the company Renault Frères, founded by brothers Louis, Marcel and Fernand, was established in Billancourt, near Paris. As early as 1899, the first Renault advertisement appeared in a newspaper. From 1902, Renault built its own engines designed by Mr Viet, formerly of De Dion-Bouton. Right from the start, the Renault brothers took part in races and posted some fine victories, such as the top four places in the Paris-Bordeaux race, in the Voiturette, or small car, category. In 1904, Renault introduced its typical bonnet, with a sloping, rounded nose and copper trim, as had been seen for the first time a year earlier at De Dion-Bouton. But the big difference was that, at Renault, the radiator was mounted between the engine and the cowl. This shape of bonnet was subsequently adopted by many manufacturers. A year later, Marcel died during the Paris-Madrid race. The competition was also interrupted in Bordeaux due to the high number of fatal accidents, and Louis Renault then decided that he would no longer enter any of his cars in any competitions.
The company enjoyed strong growth between 1902 and 1905: production rose from 600 to 2,100 cars. In 1913, Renault was the largest car manufacturer in France, with an annual production of around 10,000 cars and utility vehicles.