Disaster has struck next door . . . Roger’s Renault 4 is giving up the ghost! The axle is hanging on by a thread, and a wheel is in danger of flying off if the car exceeds the speed of a running chicken. “Elle est cuite” is Roger’s final verdict. The garagiste of Arlebosc, a vague cousin with an ubiquitous surname and generally identified as Morfin-au-fond-de-la-place, can’t find him another reliable model – not surprisingly, as the last Renault 4 left the production line 21 years ago.
As you probably know from reading this blog, Roger is not somebody who likes change. If something is perfect for his needs, why look for progress? For over a quarter of a century he has been using the car for thousands of different tasks, since its seats and doors could easily be removed. It transported the daily evening snack of freshly cut maize for his nine cows, in the spring his cherry harvest, in the summer the potato sacks, in the autumn crates filled with grapes and, once in a while, his aged mother, whose absent seat had been replaced by a spare tyre.
France has produced several memorable cars. The two most famous ones are both ugly, but popular because cheap to buy and run, and both perfect for town and country. Both are universally known by their nicknames: the Citroen 2CV is La Deux Chevaux, Deudeuche or Deuche, and the Renault 4 La 4L or La Quatrelle – the L standing for Luxe, not that there is any discernable Luxe about Roger’s car.
The 4L was produced from 1961 to 1992 as a direct response from Renault to the success of Citroen’s Deux Chevaux. Its revolutionary element was the back door that could be opened completely to stash away bulky items easily, but which gave the car the appearance of a box on wheels. For the first publicity shots of the 4L some models refused the job, as the association with the ugliness of the vehicle they were promoting would be damaging to their careers. Roger isn’t that fussy – his career is not in danger!