The Renault e-Plein Air is the electric car for a stylish summer

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

Fiat 500 Castagna Tender Two

 

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Milan-based coachbuilder Castagna is hardly the household name that rivals such as Bertone and Pininfarina have become. In 1913, when ‘aerodynamics’ was not yet a common talking point, Castagna was the first to come up with the new ‘minivan’ concept and the ‘teardrop bodyshape that offers little air resistance’. Innovation is one of the distinguishing features of their design philosophy, so much so that it often becomes an aesthetics premise.

Their previous works have included one-off vehicles such as the Ferrari 550 Rosselini, Maserati Auge, Ferrari 575 Aria, Bentley GT Shooting Brake as well as a number of coachbuilding projects which saw creations such as a Mini Tender, Mini SUV and Mini Woody Wagon back in 2004. Now the Italian Carozzeria has released details and a full set of high-resolution images of its newest creation, the all-electric Fiat 500 Tender Two that’s inspired from the nautical themed late 1950s / early 1960s Fiat 500 Ghia Jolly.

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Castagna has created a special study based on the new Fiat 500 that is in spirit of the original Ghia-built Fiat 500 Jolly, a relatively expensive beach car conversion of the 500 in the late 50’s – early 60’s that was intended primarily for enjoyment and marketed towards the rich and famous as yacht tenders, golf carts and estate runabouts. The Tender Two follows the original Tender model the coachbuilder created back in 2005 based on the Mini Cooper.

Up to this day it is the first plein air version of the Fiat 500 and the first car with fully electric propulsion in this class to have a technical solution that can push up to 130 km/h (autolimited speed), a range of 120/140 km (depending on the type of use) and times of extremely rapid recharge.

To create the Tender Two, Castagna’s designers removed the doors, rear-seats, tailgate and rooftop of the production car while in order to maintain structural rigidity, they raised and reinforced the 500’s side sills. The most prominent featute of the Tender Two is of course its removable striped canvas roof-top complimented by the nautical themed teak wood that coves the cargo area and the top part of the side sills. Additionally, the Tender Two features new upholstery.

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A special digital instrument placed on the dashboard above the central air vents give all the information (power output, instant consumption, retention of office gear…) and the absence of the classic terminal exhaust are the only clues to reveal the new mechanisation of this example, which in terms of performance on the road does not make us regret those which are equipped with the combustion engine, especially in departure from still. Like the all fuoriserie Castagna, every detail is done from the customer’s description and the car is then regularly approved.

The interior is completely covered in leather-type watercraft (able to resist abrasion of salt water and sand) with contrast stitching in which are inspired by the special blue tone fabric made from waterproof for the awning. The new line is enriched by finishing in solid teak, which is used in glossy and matte contrast, in dark wicker plus the ‘tientibene’ in polished steel and many special nautical derivations giving a typical ‘marine style’ to the whole. At the center of the rear cockpit, in teak striped in black, a room that can accommodate a drawer for towels by the sea was obtained. Complete the on-board equipment awning’s foldable steel structure, side guards in transparent material for rainy days as well as the necessary cover for the winter period and the charging cable with the different types of plugs to access any type of socket.

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However the coolest thing about the Fiat 500 Tender Two is hidden underneath the hood. In cooperation with Swiss company MES-DEA, Carozzeria Castagna has replaced the production 500’s powertrain with a zero-emission electric unit.

The Italian firm claims that the 500 Tender Two has a top speed of about 130 km/h – 81 mph and a range of 140 km or 87 miles after a four hour charge of the batteries which should be more than enough to fool around in the harbours of Cannes, Monaco or Puerto Banus, or any Mediterranean island Paradise. Have fun! Lots of fun!

Come into the wonderful world of Castagna.

 

 

 

 

 

Mini Castagna Tender

 

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Carrozzeria Castagna was founded by Carlo Castagna in 1849 in Milan, Italy, when he took over the Ferrari coachbuilding company, fabricating luxury horse-drawn carriages for the Italian aristocracy and European royalty. Their first motorcar bodywork appeared toward the end of the 1800’s upon commision from Ottolini and Riccordi, importers of Benz quadricyclesfor Italy. By the turn of the century Carlo had specialized in modern motoring bodies and had soon built some striking cars. By 1915 the company was taken over by Castagna’s son, Ercole. He focused even more on top-of-the-range chassis and soon managed to make Castagna Italy’s largest carrozzeria, selling cars to movie stars, royalty and even the pope.

Among Bertone, Pininfarina, Touring, Vignale and Zagato, Carrozzeria Castagna belongs to Italy’s greatest coachbuilders.

Castagna’s golden years during the 1920’s saw the Milanese coachbuilder construct limousines, torpedoes and two-seaters based and Alfa Romeo’s, Lancia’s and Mercedes-Benz chassis. Clients included members of the Italian aristocracy and wealthy entrepreneurs such as the American magnate Willian Randolph Hearst, During this period, Castagna were most famous for their bodyworks based on Issota Fraschini chassis, and they also worked with Duesenberg.

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After World War II, Castagna struggled to survive as demand for special coachbuilding diminished and lost its fame. However the coachbuilder saw a welcome renaissance in 1995 when Umberto Pietra revived the name with the presentation of the Alfa Romeo SZ based Vittoria at the Geneva Motor Show styled by architect Gioacchino Acampora. At the time, Castagna claimed that their Alfa Romeo one-off produced 320 bhp against the ‘standard’ SZ’s 180 bhp.

Castagna quickly rebuilt its international reputation, specialising in contract work, prototype constuction for manufactures, soft tuning and, moreover, their one-off vehicles created upon request like the Maserati Auge (1995), Ferrari Rossellini (2003) and Ferrari Aria (2005) based on 575 Maranello mechanicals.

When Gioacchino Acampora and Umberto Pietra, who both worked for other Italian coachbuilders, decided to start a company of their own, they gave a new lease of life to the old Castagna-name, buying its rights in 1994. They built several unconventional one-offs on Alfa-Romeo-, Ferrari-, Bentley-, Maserati- and Corvette-base, but became best known for their estate Mini, launched years before Mini came up with their own ‘Clubman’.

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Do you remember the Fiat 500 and 600 Ghia Jolly’s and other – mostly Fiats – coachbuild ‘Beachcombing’ cars of the 1950’s and 60’s? Now can Mini well-heeled lovers in warm climes who require space enough to haul burlap sacks of coconuts (or whatever) finally have a car that meets their rather unique need-set. The Milanese coachbuilder is offering the Mini Tender, based on a Cooper cabrio that’s been lengthened by more than 27 inches. It’s the perfect yacht-side companion, with a shower (fed by an eight-gallon water tank), plus 2000-watt audio system, teak appointments and seats of waterproof neoprene.

In the sixties it was called ‘Beachcombing’, now it is called Tender. Take her down to the seaside, everyone will stare at her.

Retaining the original mechanics and means of propulsion, they have added an electric motor to the vehicle, equipped with a system that allows the driver to select the desired means of propulsion at any time. The batteries, managed by an on-board resource optimisation programme, offer an operating range of up to 200km at a maximum speed of 140 km/h. But it does not end here. You can, at any time, choose to run the combustion engine on the open-road or as a generator in order to charge the batteries.

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A silent, hybrid engine that will take you anywhere, past the point where others stop. This is a vehicle that doesn’t hurt the environment, but makes it better for travelling.

This most exclusive and indisputable diva of high-level recreation epitomises originality, measured in terms of elegance and luxury. Perfect for the yacht, it is ready to climb aboard. What else do you need? Castagna make all your dreams come true!

Come into the wonderful world of Castagna.