One day, preferably after I have won the Lottery, I will sweep up to the gates of Chateau de Bois Giraud in an ivory-coloured Renault Caravelle. Ever since I first saw one of these splendid machines (it was in the comedy film That Riviera Touch) they have represented a world of fine wines, golden evenings, early Serge Gainsbourg records and cuisine of a standard above and beyond the Wimpy Bar in Fareham.
The irony is that the Caravelle was based on the 1956 Dauphine saloon, a Renault that was only on nodding terms with any concept of “glamour”. The original versions of 1958 had an 845cc engine that was barely capable of 90 mph but what did that matter when faced with a 2+2 bodied by Carrozzeria Ghia? The early versions were known as the Floride in Europe, and regardless of badging, they were a truly chic touring car for those young chaps who modelled themselves on Jean-Paul Belmondo and young ladies whose template was Brigitte Bardot. For some reason, I also envisage the father of the latter played by the ever-irate Louis de Funès.
Any Caravelle was a rare sight in the UK, as import duties resulted in the price becoming inflated to several hundred pounds more than a comparable MG or Triumph. That aforementioned 1966 vehicle for Morecambe & Wise vehicle was the closest many Britons came to experience ‘one of the world’s most beautiful cars’. The English-language brochures were not especially modest about the Caravelle, boasting that its looks were a joy ‘every time you (and everyone else) look at the car’.
Production of the Caravelle ended in the summer of 1968 and today they are highly collectable. And one day, I shall finally take the wheel of a red 1965 drophead version and cruise up the drive in true style…