They don’t come much bigger

  • They don’t come much bigger
  • They don’t come much bigger
  • They don’t come much bigger
  • They don’t come much bigger
  • They don’t come much bigger

Louis Renault never seemed to be concerned about producing too many models, because he obviously believed in market saturation. Thus by 1911 Renault offered 9 automobiles – from the 8HP twin to the 40HP six cylinder, and the 45HP four cylinder; 6 lorries – from a carrying capacity of 500 kg to 5 tonnes; plus a bus chassis; 10 motors – from 8 to 40HP for general application; 5 motors for aviation purposes – from 25 to 90HP; 6 complete stationary motors for industrial purposes – from 7 to 70HP, and 8 marine motors from 8 to 70HP.

In 1910, one very popular model in this growing range of products, was the 12 HP Renault Model BZ, which had a very useful 4 cylinder motor of 2.5 litre capacity. Also the 3.0 metre (9 foot 10 inch) wheelbase , was perfectly suited for the fitting of a very well proportioned Roi des Belges body, which produced a singularly appealing and attractive vehicle, with a most satisfying performance. All up the car was well worth the drive away price of 675 pounds sterling from Vivian Lewis’ Motor House, the Renault agent, situated in Victoria Square, Adelaide.

In November 1957, David Lipsham was fortunate enough to purchase such a Renault in remarkably original and going condition, and immediately commenced to drive the car in every veteran event possible. It is shown here driven by Stuart MacDonald.

In 1966 David completely restored the car to its absolute original condition. The body was painted a special royal blue, the mudguards black, and then both were appropriately lined with gold. This transformed what had been a very handsome car into a truly spectacular vehicle.

His restoring skills had been acquired whilst assisting in the restoration of a V8 De Dion, and then the full restoration of a 1906 Humber. After the BZ Renault, he continued on with the total restoration of a 1924 23-60 Vauxhall, a 1926 Austin 7, and the 1909 Sizaire Naudin. After these, David restored a 1948 TA14 Drophead Alvis, and the very large 1937 4.3 Alvis 2-door Sport Saloon, which required not only a mechanical rebuild but also a complete new timber framed body as the original had been destroyed. All of this gave David the skills and confidence to brilliantly complete the next and by far his biggest restoration project, the 45HP Renault.

In 1960 a very large chassis with only half of the differential but fortunately most of the engine and gearbox was found and recovered from a station property near Broken Hill by Doug Bennets and Terry Parker. It was finally identified as the remains of a 1907 4-cylinder 45HP Renault.

A number of enthusiasts viewed the remains, but they generally considered that the task of restoration was too difficult, especially as the huge Renault style brass radiator, the sloping bonnet, and every other non-ferrous component had been removed, presumably during a WW2 scrap metal drive.

Fortunately Ron Bloyd, a general engineer of incredible talent and patience, accepted the challenge, acquired the Renault, and so began its restoration. Previously Ron had rebuilt a 1924 12/50 Ducksback Alvis 2 seater sports. This was then replaced by the remains of a 1937 Speed 25 Alvis Sports Tourer, which he brilliantly transformed into what is today an absolutely stunning vehicle. Also in his stable was a 1910 2-cylinder Darracq, which Ron had given a complete ground-up restoration. Thus the Renault could not have been in better hands.

Using David’s overseas Renault and Veteran Car Club contacts, Ron and David wrote to Clubs and Museums around the world, but unfortunately no spare parts were available. However the search did yield numerous work shop drawings, which enabled Ron to identify what was missing, and then to manufacture replacement parts to the exact dimensions of the original specifications. Replacements for the original wire wheels could not be found, so optional artillery wheels were fitted.

Unfortunately for Ron, years of exacting hard work had taken their toll, and he found that he could no longer maintain the physical demands of running his engineering business, and thus he was virtually forced to retire, and sell the business.

Obviously Ron was now unable to continue with the restoration of the 45, so David who had been involved with the restoration from the beginning, took over the project. With Ron’s assistance, he built the huge 1200 tube radiator from scratch, the bonnet, and then the body frame for a Rois de Belges body.

Finally the 45 was completed and the first thing David did, was to drive the Renault to the retirement home where Ron was then living, and of course the two then took off for a drive together. One can only imagine the feeling of intense satisfaction that these two must have felt, for them to actually be driving in a vehicle that they had not only saved, but also a vehicle that had taken 20 years to piece together and finally restore to be a unique and singularly imposing vehicle.

Shortly after this tragedy struck. David’s wife Pam died. Ron passed away, and then in 1991, David died.

In 1994 the Annual National Rally for Veteran Motor Vehicles was held in the town of Burra, in South Australia. Obviously most interstate enthusiasts had only heard of the 45, as only a very few had actually seen the Renault, because of its limited exposure. Thus David’s son Graeme and his daughter Erica decided to enter the blue Renault, and they asked me if I would enter the 45, because the Sizaire Naudin that David had restored had also been entered.

Thus for what would undoubtedly be the very last time, three of the veteran vehicles that David had restored would be on display together, as a tribute to David’s undoubted talents, and dedication to the veteran vehicle movement.

And indeed it was the last time that the vehicles would be together, because the 1910 blue Renault now resides in England, and the 45 HP Renault resides in Canada. Fortunately the Sizaire Naudin remains in S.A.

It was a privilege to have been asked to enter the 45, as it really would showcase the craftsmanship of my friends David and Ron. As it was by far the biggest car in the Rally, it really did stand out for all to see and admire, which they did. So the adventure began.

First start your vehicle. Without any doubt starting or attempting to start the 45 was the single most physically demanding veteran motoring task that I have ever experienced. Get it wrong and you just had to have a break. Obviously the half compression lever and the forward facing choke control knob had been placed to assist in the starting procedure. But nothing could ease the sheer gut busting strain of swinging the starting handle to start it. The motor was of 8.5 litres capacity, and thus each cylinder was 2.1 litres, which explains why it was so physically demanding to start.

Whilst the engine was warming-up, the driver then had to plan his escape, especially from driveways. The hood was so tall as to snag on house verandahs, and on trees or shrubs, so they all had to be avoided. As the turning circle was close to the width of a house block, it was a matter of drive in and back out, despite the extremely restricted rear view, caused by that enormous hood. However once running and pointing in the right direction, the Renault drove majestically, because on the open road, the 45 horsepower propelled that two and a half tonnes of vehicle with surprising ease.The 100 mile (160 km) journey to Burra was effortless, and provided me with a perfect opportunity to learn how best to drive the car.

After a week’s trouble free motoring the Rally ended, and in somewhat wet conditions, we all departed for our respective homes. Instead of driving home through Adelaide and the suburbs to Coromandel Valley, I elected to drive from Burra to Tarlee and thence through Kapunda, Angaston, Birdwood, Woodside, and Stirling, to home via Upper Sturt. In doing so I had inadvertently set the circumstances which have provided me with the most dramatic and lasting memory of the performance of the Renault 45.

Arriving at Verdun it is necessary to cross over onto the Hahndorf Road, negotiate a roundabout at about 10 kph, and then immediately start climbing the quite steep entry lane up onto the Adelaide Hills Freeway. By coincidence it joins at the beginning of 5 kms of the longest and steepest gradient of the entire Freeway.

Suddenly I realized the severity of the gradient and of course the fact that there was absolutely no going back. This was it. The Renault was in second gear and to preserve those precious revs, so important for such a long climb, I prepared for the inevitable change down to bottom as the severity of the gradient increased. However, as the car tended to slow, the speed was easily maintained by a touch more throttle, and in fact a little more throttle, and the Renault actually commenced to accelerate.

Never before had I experienced such apparent limitless power in a veteran. Never before had I ever had to make the decision to change up into top gear whilst traveling up any hill, especially on this, the steepest part of the freeway. That wait for the revs to drop before engaging top gear was one of total anguish, but what followed soon gave me the once in a lifetime experience.

Once in top gear, which is direct drive, not only did the Renault hold its speed but it was obvious that there was throttle to spare. I was soon to find out just how much power was in reserve. The inevitable happened. Somehow I had to pass a slow moving truck, and to do so meant joining the fast moving traffic in the outer lane. Fortunately I could see a small gap in the line of traffic coming up, so I applied full throttle.

The result was absolutely amazing.

Not only did the Renault accelerate, but it allowed me to move into the outer lane of traffic without causing them to back-off, effortlessly sweep past the truck and return back to the inside lane, accelerating all the time, near as rapidly as would be possible with a modern V-6. Returning to a normal cruising speed, I was able to appreciate the unbelievable performance and sheer power of this 90 year old motor car, and to reflect that if I was utterly amazed by the Renault’s performance, which I most certainly was, then surely the original owner in 1907, would have been totally dumbfounded.

The rest of the story is all downhill, because the Upper Sturt Road is very downhill. So having traveled at a very comfortable speed, I now had to find out just how slowly one could drive the Renault, to maintain total control and not overheat the brakes. Arriving safely at home proved the overall and effective balance of performance and braking of the Renault 45, which had so convincingly provided me with a permanent and very special veteran motoring memory.

Whilst others may now own the 45HP Renault, I treasure the memories of the Renault’s rebirth, its unbelievable performance on the road, and the brilliant restoration by my friends, Ron Bloyd and David Lipsham.

Stuart MacDonald

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