In case you missed the previous post on this…
The objective is to do a winter trip with Alexander (Jan/Feb 2020) to Spain/Portugal/Morocco in a Renault 4.

This is all about the fun/adventure/journey and a big part of that is doing it in a vehicle that is not really suited to the task..

Sometimes it’s a little better to travel than to arrive

Robert M Pirsig – Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance

I have now purchased the project car which is a Renault 4 F4 – the small van variant with an 845cc engine. I cycled the 60Km to Castalsarrasin to pick the car up, stuck the bike in the back and drove it home. It is the second worst car I have ever driven and made me question the whole idea of trying to go any distance in it never mind the 5,000+Km to Morocco and back. I have driven quite a lot of cars including some dodgy Russian prototypes, but I had never driven a Renault 4, not even this one before – the clutch cable had snapped just before I went to view it so couldn’t do a test drive. (The worst car was a Hindustan Ambassador, but that’s another story).

Driving impressions…

  • Clutch slipping
  • No brakes
  • No handbrake
  • Vague steering – no self centering
  • No power – second gear for hills
  • Different roll stiffness/damping front to rear resulting in corkscrewing if changing line during a corner
  • Charging light flickering on
  • Oil light coming on round right hand bends
  • Noisy
  • Crashy suspension at the rear

On the positive side it did get me home, the seats are comfortable and the bizarre trombone gearchange actually works very well.

Despite all the above the car is growing on me – it has loads of character and is very very simple.

Changed the oil and filter having checked the manual to find it holds 2.5 litres (not much by modern standards – the Land Rover holds 6 litres). I was a bit surprised at the small amount that drained out so I measured the quantity and was alarmed to discover the engine only had 0.5 litres of oil in it ! Apparently the French don’t consider oil and filter changes to be a maintenance item – doesn’t bode well for the rest of the car, but does explain why the oil light was coming on – at least that works !

Fixed the slipping clutch – owner had fitted new cable but hadn’t adjusted the free play – doh!

I’ve now realised that the brakes and handbrake do work but with drums all round and no assistance they require a mighty shove, which the driver of a modern car doesn’t readily adapt to.

Interior stripped for cleaning/painting

Steering rack gaiters need replacing – completely shredded. I would have thought this was a Controle Technique (MOT) failure but it had just passed with no advisory on this – maybe the MOT man was the owner’s best mate?

Lots of minor servicing work and detail mods done while gradually building a list of things that need to be sorted before contemplating any long journeys. Compression test on the engine not too bad (7-8 bar) and it has done 188,000Km. Need to get a handle on the oil consumption as this will be a good indicator of ring/valve guide condition (apart from leaks and there are plenty of those).
Did a run to the bins and back using the useful space in the back and it wouldn’t restart – bonnet up and spotted the carb was flooding (have already replaced the fuel filter) – cranking on full throttle managed to clear it, but not a good omen.

Seems reasonably solid

As I drive the car more (and add to the list of things to do) I’m getting more used to its character and it doesn’t seem as bad as when I first drove it so maybe we will be able to make it…