Driving Ermintrude - A Year After Restoration.

A year and about 10,000 miles after restoration and Ermintrude is still looking good. So what's it like to live with a Renault 4?

Three things stand out about the Renault 4 compared with a modern small car. The Renault 4 is slow and noisy, but handles surprisingly well.

Acceleration isn't really a problem on A roads - you'll always be held up by modern cars doing 45mph anyway. It can become a little frustrating on motorways especially if there are any hills or if the wind is in the wrong direction.

Ermintrude from the front

On the plus side the ride and handling is excellent. Ermintrude is the perfect car for a commute to work over bumpy B roads. The long travel soft suspension absorbs bumps well, and the car can be placed very accurately in corners. That and the narrow width make the Renault 4 one of the fastest ways of traveling on these roads.

Good condition Renault manufactured dampers are essential to the ride and handling. Otherwise the car will bounce along and roll round corners.

Ermintrude the Renault 4

The noise can be a little annoying. Most of it comes from the engine - there is no soundproofing or interior trim between the cabin and engine, so the high frequencies get through. Wind noise can be a problem above 60mph. That's mostly down to 20 year old door seals in my case.

The versatility of the car is amazing - particularly the lip free boot which makes it very easy to load large heavy items. I've carried a safe and a chest freezer so far with no problems.

Ermintrude rear view  

The engines are really smooth and reliable, but they do need a lead additive for high speed motorway driving otherwise they can burn valves.

These engines do need to be serviced every 6000 miles (10,000km). Otherwise they'll slowly go out of tune and become less drivable. Mostly that's down to the points. The major reliability issue is the starter motor. It can turn slowly or not at all due to dirt in the solenoid.

I've written about some of the other common issues in the technical tips section.

Ermintrude's engine

The seats are pretty comfortable but do tend to sag with time. The driver's seat in Ermintrude needs to be replaced.

The controls are nicely positioned, and having driven a car with a dash mounted gear lever you'll wonder why anyone would ever put the gear lever on the floor. The ventilation and heater are reasonable, and allow hot air on the body and cold air on the face - a feature lost in modern cars.

The boot and headlining can squeak a lot, and the interior light is a manual affair. Much better to have it come on when the doors open.

Ermintrude's interior

You never need to wash the Renault 4. The wheels are inboard of the body sides so don't spray mud onto the body in the way that modern cars do.

Running costs are very low. The major costs for most owners will be welding. For me that's just time, and Ermintrude's chassis restoration should mean I won't need to do any welding for the foreseeable future. The car is light, and the engine is not powerful, so there is just no strain on the mechanicals which last for ever. Fuel economy is good - between 40 and 45mpg.

Best of all there is no depreciation. Ermintrude's value has probably gone up by £1000 over the last year with the increased interest in Renault 4s.

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Living with a Renault 4