HomePick of the Day1962 Renault Dauphine is French ‘princess’

1962 Renault Dauphine is French ‘princess’


Editor’s note: November is Import Month on the ClassicCars.com Journal. Get all the news you could ever need about German, English, French, Italian, Japanese and lots of other cars at our dedicated page.

In the early 1960s, it was not at all unusual to see a small, nicely rounded compact car puttering around American roadways — and, no, we’re not talking here about the Volkswagen Beetle. 

The subject is another European import, but this one is from France. It’s the Renault Dauphine, a car that Time magazine noted in 1958 “has come up fastest in the US market in the past year… already outselling Volkswagen in eleven U.S. states, including Texas.”

The Pick of the Day, being advertised on ClassicCars.com by a specialist dealership in Old Bethpage, New York, is a 1962 Renault Dauphine recently imported from France and driven only 33,500 miles — or 54,000 kilometers as its odometer indicates — since new.

By 1959, Renault was selling more than 100,000 vehicles a year in the U.S. new-car market and had a network of more than 400 dealerships.

Renault Dauphine, 1962 Renault Dauphine is French ‘princess’, ClassicCars.com Journal

Its primary product was the Dauphine (Dauphine is a French word for a female heir to the throne or, if you prefer, princess).

Renault launched its successor to the 4CV during calendar year 1956. It was a compact four-door sedan with a rear-mounted 4-cylinder engine and headlamps attached to the front-hinged hood. It also had undergone 2 million miles of development testing in various climates before its launch.

In the early ‘60s, engine and suspension were upgraded.

According to the dealership offering the 1962 Dauphine for sale, “This little Super Micro Class vehicle starts runs, shifts and drives perfectly. It is actually quite amazing to see her on the road. She drives smooth and straight with NO issues at all. 

“Surprisingly, she has quite a bit of power and can keep up with today’s traffic. The original 845cc Inline 4-cylinder engine with a 3-speed manual synchromesh transmission.”

Renault Dauphine, 1962 Renault Dauphine is French ‘princess’, ClassicCars.com Journal

The dealership notes that the car was repainted in its original factory shade and that the interior, with its blue plaid cloth, appears to be original, and with all features and gauges working as they should.

The car is for sale for $17,500.

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


  1. My Mom had a real yen for this car!! She was into cutesy small cars… an antithesise to the Buick’s my Dad drove.
    As much as she enjoyed the cuteness of the Dauphine not to mention the tow horn and the COUNTRY horn…. after 8 months she bought a green Peugeot 403!!!!

  2. Larry,

    Don’t comment often, but had to on this one. The photo brought a tear,

    Best high school friend, Harry Palmer, received one of these from his parents at graduation. It replaced the Model A they’d given him in 10th. grade ( I loved the A, he hated it ). Although the Renault was the peppier Gordini version, it was clear his parents didn’t want their only child driving as fast and crazy as his Dad ( big block Pontiac ).

    Harry joined the Marines and came home on leave with a hot 55 Chevy cvt. He promptly wrecked it. With it’s replacement, he hit a concrete bridge abutment flipping the 2nd. 55 cvt. into a creek and drowned under it.

    If he’d only kept the Renault.

    Still missed by Walt Hodges

    Chichester High School Class of 64

    Boothwyn, PA

  3. When I was a kid my dad owned one of these, same colour when we lived in Europe, He only had it for a while as he dabbed in buying and selling cars. It was a great car. If he was still with us he would laugh at the price. WOW. These things were not very expensive and there were alot of them around.

    • To Mike Paull, compared to the direct competition, i.e. the Volkswagen Bug, I’d hardly call this car ugly. As for reliability, my recollection was that it was as good as any of the others in class. VW "reliability" has always been overstated. And anyway, the Renault was so much faster than the VW you’d be where you were going before the VW got over the first good hill. And should we talk about the "heater" in a VW as opposed to that in the Princess? Or the all-synchro gearbox as opposed to the VW? Or that you could not only get the Gordini-tuned version but the Tropical version as well?

      • Unlike a VW, the Dauphine’s shifter was like stirring a wooden spoon in a bucket of ice. And the plastic interior door handles snapped off rather quickly. And so on. It’s unfortunate that precision and quality were not a French thing at the time. This is why Renaults disappeared so quickly the first time and again the AMC/Renault time decades later.

        A while back I was driving in San Francisco and a black Dauphine pulled out of the old car mechanic place (on 16th or 18th St?) right in front of me. Wow, cool, a Dauphine I thought. The engine quickly burst into flames, lighting up the black rear grille bars with orange flames. (I know, not Renault’s fault – no doubt a fuel line wasn’t tightened and fell off at the carburetor). But it was an instant metaphor for Renault in the US!

  4. I had two of these in high school in 1961-62. Lucky to be alive. The floor would buckle under breaking. The rear end was always trying to pass me. Learned to rebuild engines if front of dad’s fire place. It was so under powered, you had to plan on passing a day ahead of time. But when the other kids had 57 Chevys, Roger with his Hillman and me with that fancy "French" car, had the neat ones. Now I have two Morgans, a +8 and a +4. Got to start somewhere.

  5. Spencer I bought a red one of these off the showroom floor in 1964. Thanks for bringing back some good memories youCraig

    I bought a red one of these off the showroom floor in 1964. Thanks for bringing back some old memories.I bought a red one of these in 66

  6. This was my first car in 1962. I bought it second hand from someone in Torrance, California.
    A took a few friends with me and drove to Westwood. When I tried to navigate the inclines, they had to get out and push. It didn’t have enough power to drive us up the hills of Westwood.
    I loved the car. It was unique and so cute.


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