c.1922 RENAULT TYPE NN TOWN CAR
Chassis No. NN 18347
Engine No. 17009
Burgundy over black, with cane weave, interiors black leather and fawn cloth.
Engine: four cylinder, side valve, 950cc (58cu.ins.); Gearbox: three speed manual;
Suspension: front, semi-elliptic leaf spring, rear, transverse semi-elliptic leaf spring;
Brakes: four wheel drum. Left hand drive
In 1898, Louis Renault used a 1¾ hp De Dion Bouton engine to power a tiny voiturette that he had designed. The vehicle was shaft driven with direct drive in top gear and so one of the definitive early designs was created. Production of similar cars by the Renault Frères began in 1899 and sales soon exceeded expectations, production continuing to rise and within four years approaching 1000 units per year. From the earliest days Renault cars were racers, with Marcel Renault's emphatic win in the 1902 Paris-Vienna race bringing huge publicity to the young firm. Such successes and the integrity of its products saw Renault as the largest and most successful French motor car maker by 1907.
On the basis of this first decade of manufacture the company grew prolifically, through the Edwardian period, with hugely popular models such as the AX a light twin cylinder two seater car and semi-commercial AG which would provide the mainstay for taxis throughout Paris. Post first world war, Renault introduced the NN as one of a series of replacements for the pre-war AX models, and which gained popularity in commercial and private forms and was renowned as incredibly reliable. Not least its reliability was proven in January 1927, when George Estienne drove an NN 10,000 miles across the Sahara desert without even needing to change a spark plug!
Perhaps the most regal derivative on these chassis took the form of the town car as evidenced by the car we offer today. According to former owner Bob Sullivan of Olympia, Washington, this example was bodied new by famed coachbuilder Henri Labourdette of Paris, with the well-proportioned compact open drive limousine coachwork - better known in the U.S. as town car - it wears today. The perhaps unusual merging of modest chassis and formal bodywork is understood to be explained by the fact that it was originally intended for use by a Hollywood Studio to showcase/carry their child movie stars to events. While this has yet to be proven categorically at the time of cataloguing, it certainly seems entirely plausible.
Sullivan acquired the car in the mid-1990s, after it had been the subject of a comprehensive restoration under the auspices of employees of the Hillcrest Motor Company in Los Angeles, though the car was thought to have covered only a modest mileage from new before this. This restoration has now mellowed sympathetically.
The Renault benefits from a plethora of detail features akin to the coachbuilders of the period, from cane weave panelling of the enclosed rear compartment, carriage windows, opera lamps, luggage rack on the roof, right through to wire wheels (most NNs had disc wheels) and its angular hood.
All of this combines to make a jolly and very nicely presented balance of American/French style, which (as it has in recent years) would grace any collection.