Bloody hot summer days demand suitable transport from the terrace to the beach and from the swimming pool to the ice cream parlor. I remember the time that I was driving ‘grandma’ Yaky and her assistant Claire at the back of the Fiat 500 Ghia Jolly through the states of Le Cannet and across the boulevard of Cannes. Whether it was a creation of Ghia, Fissore, Michelotti, Moretti, Pininfarina, or another coachbuilder, these little Italian open-ended rascals were extremely popular.
The French car manufacturers also tried to catch up with the beach car and buggy madness of the late 1960s / early 1970s. The Renault Plein Air – which means ‘open air’ – was developed for the French army in the 1960s, but never ‘served’. In 1968, Renault decided to market Plein Air as a hip beach car. The Plein Air was a convertible without doors. Instead, the side panels were deeply cut.
From 1971 the car was available for the consumer, but he had to assemble it himself. Renault took care of the parts and only offered the car as a DIY kit. However, it was not the success that was expected, in contrast to the now legendary Citroën Méhari. Many people opted for a fancier Italian. Of the Renault 4 Plein Air, no more than 563 were built.
Think of a typical French car and chances are that you will immediately see a Renault 4 in front of you. The Renault 4 is one of the best-known French cars, partly because the model was extremely long in production due to its popularity. The first model rolled off the tire in 1961, the last was built in 1994.
The 4 came on the market in all kinds of versions and also had different equipment levels. The car had to be suitable for everyone and it was: you came across it in the city but also in the countryside. Little has changed in the design of the model in the thirty years. The brand now responds to the beach car (think of the Fiat Tender Castagna & Mini Tender Castagna) and buggy madness (ao VW Buggy Up & VW I.D. Buggy).
With a hot summer ahead, the French brand is presenting the e-Plein Air, an electric convertible based on the French icon. A cool remake of the French classic and a summery electric car that winks at the 1968 eponymous 4.
And now that car is back. Last weekend 4L International, the international event for the icon, took place on the French west coast for the tenth time. To celebrate that, Renault presented the new e-Plein Air. That car built it in collaboration with Renault Classics and Renault Design. Melun Rétro Passion, a company that specializes in parts and the electrification of French classics, also helped with the production of the car. The result is a retro interpretation of the Plein Air with modern technology under the bodywork. The retro influences, that speak for themselves, modern technology is perhaps more interesting.
With this heat, the e-Plein Air looks interesting, doesn’t it?
And that is different from the original. There is no longer a roaring four-cylinder in the front, but an electric motor. The electric power train of the Renault Twizy, to be precise. The rear seat has been removed and instead you get a stylishly fastened suitcase to put in your picnic stuff. If it rains you are out of luck, because this electric Plein Air no longer has a roof.
The French do not want to give further specifications, but we seem to be able to assume the figures of the Renault Twizy. That quadricycle has an electric motor that delivers 17hp. The top speed for the Twizy is 80km/h, the maximum range is 100km. Whether the e-Plein Air will also achieve that is questionable, considering that the car is probably a bit bigger and heavier than the miniscule Twizy. So the question is: is that enough to stroll? However, be sure that they will have seen you.
Renault has developed the e-Plein Air to show what its classic department can do. It would be nice if the cart was built in a limited edition, but that is probably not possible.
Come into the wonderful world of Renault.