Sunny Floride: ’59 Renault Caravelle Cabriolet
Some cars get designed, prototyped and built without much fanfare. There are exceptions of course. Probably many but we don’t think many Mint readers know the history of the birth of Renault’s Karmann Ghia competitor, the Renault Floride/Caravelle. Since we have been honored to have an exclusive on perhaps one of the nicest early cars, we thought we might have to go into the weeds and find out more about it. The executives from Renault decided to make a fact-finding trip to the USA back in the ’50s. They met with dealers in key markets and everywhere they went, dealers asked for a competitor to the Karmann Ghia. When Pierre Dryfus and Fernand Picard returned home, they placed a call to Luigi Segre at Ghia. With a fat contract from VW already in hand, Segre had to work the system to stay involved in the project. Dryfus handed over an in-house sketch of the direction they wanted the “GT” to go. Now this is where we get a little fuzzy. Ghia hires none other than Virgil Exner to design the car. It isn’t that Virgil Exner but his son Virgil Exner, Jr. If you want more historic information (because it gets a little crazy with the addition of Frua to the project) follow this link Renault Caravelle/Floride History. The first Renault Ghia fighter is introduced to the US market in 1959 and is known as the Renault Floride in honor of the Florida location Dryfus first visited on his US trip. In 1962 the Floride was updated and the name changed to Caravelle. What we have here as an exclusive is a rare first year Floride that for some reason has Caravelle badging on the side. Perhaps in the restoration someone thought it a good idea to update the name? No worries though because the car is spectacular what ever you want to call it. It is a fully restored show winning car in a beautiful Bronze color with 2-tone interior. It has maintained many original parts that are probably very difficult to obtain and sports the original radio. The tires are skinny bias-ply wide whites in excellent condition. The top too is near perfect and is easy to erect. Mechanically the car is well sorted for summer time rides to the yacht club. You just don’t see many survivors that have been treated to a restoration of this caliber. And you certainly won’t see yourself coming and going at the next Cars & Coffee. The asking price is $29,900 and that is much less than a VW Karmann Ghia Convertible or a cutesy Fiat Jolly would be in similar condition. But this one is rare and has that French flair we have all come to love. Call (914) 217-4817
You can see a few more photos at Mint’s Flickr site.