This 1981 Renault LeCar Van up for auction reminds us of Le Best Times

This 1981 Renault LeCar Van up for auction reminds us of Le Best Times

Franco-American partnerships are usually fruitful; Benjamin Franklin’s term as ambassador and Natalie Portman and Jean Reno’s “Leon: The Professional” are proof enough. However, perhaps there is no better collaboration than the 1981 Renault 5 Le Car Van. One of only 450 of these machines is now available on auctionand that annoying import rule doesn’t have to apply.

The Le Car Van was clearly styled after the classic American Shaggin’ Wagons of the 1970s and was never sold in the United States. Even more curious: the name “Le Car” was not used in France either. The Renault 5 name appeared all over those hatchbacks (and a holdover for the applicable tax category for those cars). Bodybuilder Heuliez took the Renault 5 and manufactured the portholes and blind panels in the late 1970s, after which he covered the small machine in luxurious shag carpet. The rear hatch area is practically a lounge, with floor-to-ceiling shag and a nice strap to keep the heavy headlining in place.

The most recent owner, Andre Trigano, has reportedly restored the Le Car Van to its current condition, which is fantastic. Since 2003, the Le Car Van has been repainted, reupholstered and re-stickered. The brakes have been overhauled and the radiator has also been replaced. The rear spare tire was reworked, with a cover proudly telling the world they had just been passed by a French hatch-van.

It’s a little unclear what’s under the hood, but many R5s had a 1.4-liter inline-four that puts out 55 horsepower. Those thrilling horses were moved via a four-speed manual transmission that powers the front wheels, which have been restored to their original glory. Later versions apparently offered a three-speed automatic transmission, but that is not to be found here. The good news: it looks like it has only 70,000 miles on the odometer. The better news: It’s a two-seater, not a four-seater.

The auction house estimates about $23,300 and $29,700 for this time machine, which is perfectly reasonable for a French-built tribute to the dominance of American vans. And that leaves enough money for killer decals of fantasy figures and/or majestic birds.

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