The Renault Colorale is a mid-size car (though by the European standards of that time it will have been seen as a large family car) produced by Renault between 1950 and 1957. Unusually, it had the profile of a small estate car, which adumbrated successful Renault designs of the 1960s. The Colorale itself was not a commercial success, however.
Recently nationalised, and enjoying booming sales with their Renault 4CV, Renault management at the end of the 1940s were keen to move their business upmarket. Company strategy called for a robust functional vehicle, equally at home in the cities or the countryside, and appealing also to overseas markets in remaining parts of the French empire. With colonial and rural customers in its sights, the car acquired the name Colorale, being a contraction of the (French) words ‘COLOniale’ and ‘ruRALE’.
Body panels were stamped out and assembled by the Chausson company at Gennevilliers before final assembly at the Renault Billancourt plant. The front of the car closely resembled that of the smaller Renault 4CV, indicating a conscious intention to give different Renault models a 'family look'.
Prophet without much honour
With its robust spacious body and the option of four wheel drive the Colorale was in some ways an even more radical design than the innovative and commercially more successful Renault hatchbacks that would appear in the 1960s: the Colorale in several important respects adumbrated the SUVs which would proliferate towards the end of the twentieth century. In the 1950s, however, the French marketplace was less welcoming to the Colorale which was slower and less elegant than other cars in this price bracket. In French overseas territories customers appear to have been less resistant to the radical new Renault, but it was nonetheless the more conventional Peugeot designs that gained a more enduring foothold in the French colonies and in the new independent states which succeeded some of them. Approximately 43,000 Colorales had been manufactured by the time production ended in 1957.
Lurking under the Colorale's bonnet/hood was the old four cylinder ’85 series’ side valve engine first seen in 1936 in the Primaquatre. The engine was robust, but with the compression ratios achievable using the low octane fuels available in Europe in the 1940s, the 2,383 cc engine, although it attracted a high (14CV) level of car tax, only managed a claimed power output of 48 hp (36 kW). With a weight of 1,640 kg (3,616 lb), the Colorale consumed petrol at an alarming rate and achieved its claimed top speed of 100 km/h (62 mph) only with difficulty. At the 1953 Paris Motor Show the company quietly introduced to the Colorale the new four cylinder engine recently developed for the Frégate. This 1,996 cc unit offered a more impressive 58 hp (43 kW) and an increased maximum speed which now exceeded 105 km/h (65 mph) could now be claimed. The new engine also conferred tax advantages resulting from its smaller size which placed the car in the 11CV tax band. However, the improved power output came at the price of a reduction in torque, and overall "on-road" performance continued to be viewed as leisurely.