The need to create a small inexpensive family car was recognized and thus an idea was conceived by Louis Renault in 1938.
Code named 106 E.I. the 4cv prototype was secretly built in Renault's Billancourt factory during the Nazi occupation in 1941. the design was coordinated and engineered jointly by Edmond Serre and Fernand Picard.
The body styling was the sole responsibility of Berthaud Roland. the decision to go ahead and make the prototype was given by Pierre Lefaucheaux ,a big gamble when the Germans had bombed the major part of the works and already ordered Renault to concentrate on turning out vehicles for themselves.
The first little prototype was rolled out on the 23rd of December 1942 . Road testing started on the 5th of January 1943 at Cote Des Gardes. Meudon behind the Billancourt Troche workshops. So successful were the car's characteristics and capabilities that a production line was started immediately after the war producing the first pre production prototypes during the summer of 1947.
The first 4CV designated R1060 with a 760cc engine came off the line on the 12th of August 1947.The initial public debut was made at the Paris motor show in October that year.
the factory was under great pressure to get the cars out to the dealers in preparation for the public response to the first showing of the car and 300 were delivered nationwide.
Such was the demand that delivery at one stage was two years! A commercial van type R2070 was introduced in 1948 this was the same shape but with steel paneled windows in the rear door and of course no rear seat..
the 760 engine was common to both vehicles until 1950 when 750cc units were substituted to avoid the saloon being continually outclassed in motor sport.
The 4CV became the r1062 saloon and R2071 van.
Production had already started in the UK at the end of November 1949 at Renault limited's Acton works the car was launched as the 760 and later the 750 on fitting the 748cc engine .Renault sourced many parts in the UK to help trading relations and to put as much British product into an otherwise all French car. The 750s were assembled from knock down kits imported from France right up until 1961 when production ceased.
Other countries also produced the 4cv under license at
: Haren Belgium Sydney Australia East London South Africa Dublin Eire and from 1952 F.A.S.A built the 4CV in Valladolid Spain .The Hino diesel company made the car from 1953 in Japan until 1963 although it is believed the continued after this date in small numbers.
The 100,000 4cv was built by 1950 the 500,000 by April 1954 and the last came off the line in July 1961 .
A total of 1,105,547 vehicles ! not such a bad gamble. It was thanks to this little car that Renault survived the war years to continue the company's strong reputation of today.