1959 Renault Frégate
|Body and chassis|
|Class||Executive car (E)|
|Body style||4-door saloon (Frégate)
5-door estate (Domaine & Manoir)
|Engine||1996 cc straight-4
2141 cc Etendard straight-4
semi-automatic 3-speed, optional from 1957
|Wheelbase||2,800 mm (110.2 in)|
|Length||4,700 mm (185.0 in)|
|Width||1,720 mm (67.7 in)|
|Height||1,540 mm (60.6 in)|
|Curb weight||1,230 kg (2,712 lb)|
The Renault Frégate is an executive saloon car produced by the French automaker Renault between 1951 and 1960. Estate variants, the Renault Domaine and the Renault Manoir, were introduced in 1956 and 1958 respectively.
The Frégate was conceived in the years immediately following World War II. Renault, which then had recently been brought under control of the French state, needed a new modern, upmarket model both to improve its image and to cater to the needs of middle class consumers in the hoped for economic recovery. Several prototypes were produced before the Frégate design was put into production.
Initially, the car was to have had a rear-engined layout as in the recently launched 4CV, but Renault abandoned the rear-engined "Project 108" and in 1949, although it was late in the design process, decided to go with an engine mounted ahead of the driver. The engineering was rushed because of the switch to a front-engined configuration.
The Frégate was unveiled at the 1950 Paris Motor Show, but the first model was not delivered until November 1951. The assembly plant at Flins where the car was assembled, which had been renamed after Pierre Lefaucheux, was formally opened in October 1952.
Production built up only slowly. Even in 1953 it was reported that the Frégate, with approximately 25,000 units sold on the French market, was comfortably outpaced by the standard wheelbase versions of Citroën's '11 Normale' model, with approximately 35,000 sold that year, despite the Citroën being little changed since its unveiling fifteen years earlier and, since the war, available from the manufacturer's French factory only in black.
From its appearance late in 1950 until 1953 the car was branded simply as the Frégate, but the nomenclature became more complicated at the Paris Motor Show in October 1952, and from early 1953 the Frégate was available in two trim levels, as the "Frégate Affaires" and the "Frégate Amiral", advertised at 799,300 francs and 899,000 francs respectively. The "Frégate Amiral" was little changed from the previous year's Frégate, although the interior was slightly reworked and it did feature twin fog lights at the front whereas the previous year's model came with just a single fog light. Further minor external modifications for the October 1953 Motor Show included updated door handles and a change to the badge on the car's nose. The motif on the little shield was still diamond-shaped, but within the diamond the image of a three-masted frigate ("frégate") had been replaced by a tiny outline map of mainland France containing the inscription "RNUR-France".
The "Frégate Affaires" offered a price saving of approximately 100,000 francs in return for a reduced specification that involved a simplified dashboard, reduced interior trim, the removal of exterior chrome over-riders from the bumpers as well as the loss of the twin fog lights and windscreen washer which remained a standard feature on the "Frégate Amiral" The launch of a cut-price Frégate was presumably part of the same strategy that was behind the launch of the cut-price 4CV Service. Neither of these stripped down versions were well received by customers: in the Frégate's case, this was one of several attempts to make the model more competitive that failed to shake Citroen's dominance of the French market for large family cars.
Renault addressed the complaints about the lack of power from the 2 litre engine by introducing in 1956 the new 2141 cc Etendard engine, which produced 77 hp (57 kW). A new, luxurious Grand Pavois trim package was launched the same year.
In 1957 a three-speed 'Transfluide' semi-automatic transmission, incorporating a fluid coupling, became an option along with a slightly more powerful version of the 2141 cc engine producing 80 bhp (60 kW; 81 PS) due to a compression ratio increase from 7.0:1 to 7,5:1.
The 1958 models saw another modified front grille. The prominent wide chrome oval and horizontal bars were removed to leave only the row of thin bars over which, since 1955, they had been placed.
Domaine and Manoir
An estate variant, the Renault Domaine was launched in 1956 and was powered by the 2141 cc Etendard engine. A luxury estate, the Renault Manoir was introduced in October 1958, featuring "Transfluide" automatic transmission included in the price.
Citroën reinforced their domination of the market for larger saloon cars in 1955 with the introduction of the futuristic DS, followed in 1957 by its more aggressively priced ID variant. Sales of the Frégate peaked in 1955 with 37,717 cars sold before slumping to 24,608 in 1956 and collapsing to 9,772 in 1957: volumes failed to recover as competition from Simca and Citroën intensified in the large car sector through the later 1950s. On 18 April 1960 the final Frégate emerged from the plant, after just 1,158 cars had been built during that year to date. In total, 163,383 Frégates were made in the Flins-sur-Seine factory.
The sales performance of the car was regarded as disappointing. Some were content to blame the excessive number of teething troubles in the early models, the car's lack of power and, especially during the second half of the decade, the superior attractions of the Citroën offerings: but some commentators also draw attention to a very French political dimension. The manufacturer was nationalised directly after the war and the death in 1944 of Louis Renault took place under circumstances which were and have remained controversial. Many members of the (still relatively small) haute-bourgeoisie class able to afford such a car were simply more comfortable buying from a private manufacturer, especially after the Peugeot 403 was added to the Frégate's competitors. At the end of the decade Charles de Gaulle returned to power as president in 1958, and he was an unapologetically partisan fan of the Citroën DS, as newsreels of the period attest. Only a single long wheel base "presidential special" Renault Frégate exists.
Under an agreement concluded with American Motors Corporation (AMC) on 22 November 1961, Renault began selling the Rambler Classic Six (starting with model year 1962) as the Rambler Renault to replace the Frégate. Starting on 11 April 1962, the Rambler Classics were assembled from CKD (Completely Knocked Down) kits at Renault's factory in Haren, Belgium, and these executive cars were marketed by Renault in Algeria, Austria, Benelux and France.
Pierre Lefaucheux, who had succeeded Louis Renault after his arrest and subsequent death, to become director of the now nationalized Regie Renault — died in a car accident near Saint-Dizier when he lost control of his Renault Frégate on an icy road and was struck on the head by his own unsecured briefcase  as the car rolled over. By then he had also overseen most of the development of the Renault Dauphine, which would be presented at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1956.
- Gloor, Roger (2007). Alle Autos der 50er Jahre 1945 - 1960 (in German). Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 978-3-613-02808-1.
- Hagnere, Francios (18 September 2009). "Fascinating French Classic Cars: Renault Fregate and Domaine". athingforcars.com. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
- McLintock, J. Dewar (April 1974). "Thirty Remarkable years of Renault". Autoworld. 45: 11.
- Bellu, René (2000). "Automobilia". Toutes les voitures françaises 1953 (salon Paris oct 1952). Paris. 14: 63.
- Bellu, René (2002). "Automobilia". Toutes les voitures françaises 1954 (salon Paris oct 1953). Paris. 24: 60.
- "RNUR-France" = "Régie Nationale des Usines Renault"
- Bellu, René (1998). "Automobilia". Toutes les voitures françaises 1958 (salon Paris oct 1957). Paris. 8: 15.
- Bellu, René (2002). "Automobilia". Toutes les voitures françaises 1959 (salon Paris Oct 1958). Paris. 21: 57.
- The data cover the "berline" (saloon) versions of the car but do not include the estate versions, nor the very small number of cabriolet conversions from coach builders Letourneur et Marchand.
- Bellu, René (2000). "Automobilia". Toutes les voitures françaises 1959 (salon Paris Oct 1958). Paris. 15: 52.
- "Le Cimetiere Des Autos Oubloees: Renault Rambler (1962-67)" (in French). The graveyard of forgotten cars. 4 April 2007. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
- As part of a programme of municipal boundary changes in 1921 Haren was officially abolished, and although older generations still used the name Haren when the Renault plant was set up in the early 1930s, by 1997 when this plant stopped producing cars, few people used the name Haren and the plant was generally referred to as Renault's Vilvoorde factory.
- Lind, Tommy. "History of Renault 1898-1975: International agreements...". tlind.dk. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
- "Automobilia". Toutes les voitures françaises 1962 (salon Paris Oct 1961). Paris. 19: 62. 2001.
- "the Renault Frégate in which Lefaucheux died". Renaultoloog. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
- "Automobilia". Toutes les voitures françaises 1956 (salon Paris Oct 1955). Paris. 2: 63. 1997.
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