26 July 2014
1925 Renault Model 45 Tourer
- Chassis no. 139416
- Engine no. C914NF254
Sold for $264,000
- One of the rarest CCCA Full Classics
- Formerly owned by Pacific Auto Rentals and the Nethercutt Collection
- A genuine example with original open bodywork
- Abundant power and four-wheel brakes; the ultimate Nickel Era tour car
French automaker Renault, formed in 1898, was always a few steps ahead of its competitors. It was one of the first marques to begin racing, and its early prestige enabled it to build a fine reputation both in Europe and abroad. The cars were instantly recognized for their “coal scuttle” hoods, which was a design necessitated by the radiator being mounted behind the engine, rather than in front of it, and the first three decades at Renault were filled with new models and new innovations. Most of the cars that the company produced were small, low-horsepower automobiles that were ideal for thrifty buyers and narrow European streets. Yet, for the customer who sought something different, and had the vast bank account to back up their wishes, they also had the Model 45, which the factory almost charmingly referred to as, simply, the “Big Six.”
Big, it was. The Model 45 was the largest production automobile built until the introduction of Ettore Bugatti’s fabled Type 41 La Royale. Its nine-liter, six-cylinder engine churned out 140 horsepower, on a chassis that measured nearly 150 inches between axles. With relatively lightweight open bodywork fitted, a Model 45 could achieve nearly 100 mph. With their typical attention to engineering, Renault put extensive attention into making the massive automobile not only swift but also easy to drive, and four-wheel servo-assisted brakes were added to bring the big machine easily to a stop.
Even though very few were produced, due to the car’s great cost and custom-built nature, it is a testament to the model’s glory that its visage has become synonymous with Francophile culture of the 1920s. In many ways, the Model 45 embodied its country in the same way that the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost embodied England: it was audacious, quirky, brilliant, and French to its very core.
The car offered here carries its original, open, four-passenger tourer coachwork. Its design bears a strong similarity to other bodies produced for Model 45 chassis by Parisian coachbuilder Manessius, but the builder’s identity has never been conclusively confirmed. What is known is that the car appeared in New Jersey post-war, where it was owned by Robert Morgan, of Wyckoff, and then it made its way to England.
The big Renault was acquired by the renowned Nethercutt Collection in January 1984, and the car immediately became the subject of a comprehensive, cost-no-object restoration by the Nethercutt family’s famed shops. Afterwards, it was driven by J.B. Nethercutt on several tours, where its power and speed were much appreciated. It remained part of the Nethercutt Collection until 2010, when the consignor was fortunate enough to become its next owner and caretaker.
Typical of Renaults of this era, the Model 45’s well-preserved Nethercutt restoration is filled with spectacular fine detail, including wooden artillery wheels with robust center-locking hubs that have been shod in purposeful blackwall tires; correct Phare Besnard headlamps and Marchal tail lamps; and spectacular, warm interior woodwork, including commodious jump seats hidden behind roll-top doors! The pure ivory livery, set against complementing shades of biscuit tan, is light, subtle, and exaggerates the Renault’s immense appearance of power.
With fewer than six survivors known, and the majority of which housed in museums, the opportunity to acquire a Model 45 does not come about often. In fact, it is one of the scarcest and hardest to acquire of all Classic Car Club of America Full Classics. This example, blessed by the ownership of knowledgeable connoisseur J.B. Nethercutt, is truly exceptional. For the man who never likes to see himself coming while on a CARavan, there is simply no better choice than this muscular Gallic fantasy.
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