Rare Rides: The 1984 Renault Rodeo, a Plastic Truck for Fun Times

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the 1984 renault rodeo a plastic truck for fun times

Today’s Rare Ride was a unique offering in Europe in its day, though not an original idea. Simple as pie, it’s plastic, low-powered, and meant for adventure!

It’s a Renault Rodeo, and someone’s taken the trouble of importing this one to California.

Renault’s Rodeo was not an all-original idea. In Europe, demand for fun, simple beach vehicles only took off after the introduction of the Citroën Méhari in 1968. The Méhari itself was a take on another classic, the Mini Moke. The Moke was basic and front-wheel drive and lacked any off-road capability with its tiny wheels and very low ground clearance. The Méhari sat up higher, was front-drive, and had the off-road mini SUV market to itself for precisely two years until the Rodeo came along in 1970.

Initially, the car was named after the company which produced it for Renault and was called the ACL Rodeo. ACL’s initial tie-in with Renault was as a parts supplier for existing Renault vehicles. But the agreement was deepened when ACL built the pickup version of the Renault 4 in the Sixties. The ACL name was replaced by a Renault badge on the Rodeo late in 1976.

The ACL Rodeo 4 was based on the standard Renault 4, and in its original guise had an 845-cc inline-four. Renault expanded the range in 1972 with the more powerful Rodeo 6. It was the same car but used a 1.1-liter engine from the Renault 6 hatchback. All examples were front-drive as standard but could be ordered with a four-wheel-drive system developed by Sinpar.

One more engine development occurred in 1979 when the 6 version replaced its 1.1-liter with the 1.3-liter from a Renault 5. Rodeos 4 and 6 were sold alongside one another from 1972 to 1981, at which point a more modern Rodeo was introduced. Lacking any number association, this “gen two” Rodeo wore a new and more modern plastic body. Post-1981, all Rodeos used the 1.3-liter engine. Four-wheel drive was gone from the model’s second generation but was introduced one more time in 1984, on a single-year trim called Hoggar.

The Rodeo exited production after 1987 without replacement, and the brand would not produce an SUV of any sort again until 2000. Through its versions and developments, only around 60,000 were produced during its 18-year run. Today’s pristine front-drive example was imported from Italy to California by a collector and then put on sale for around $13,000. The post was removed rather quickly, so we might assume it found a new home where it will continue to be treated well.

[Images: seller]

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  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Nov 13, 2020

    It may be the post was pulled quickly because the vehicle wasn't imported legally. I can't imagine the California DMV licensing this, even in 1986. My best guess is the "collector" who imported this vehicle is in some kind of legal trouble.

    • See 1 previous
    • Karonetwentyc Karonetwentyc on Nov 16, 2020

      @Corey Lewis Except in California. If it's a post-1975/6 vehicle and it's not on their list of California-approved models, you're either a) going to have to fight them for an exemption, which California so seldom gives it may as well not exist, or b) register it in a state that doesn't care. Option c) would be to re-VIN tag it as, say, a 1983 LeCar, but that would present another set of problems in California, namely that an '83 model year vehicle would require smog testing - and the Rodeo never came with any emissions equipment. Going to a pre-1976 VIN tag from a different model is also a possibility, but that also gets complicated. I will say that having tried to smog test a 1977 and 1980 LeCar in Los Angeles 20-plus years after they were first sold, it was *not* a pleasant experience. California really does not give a damn about the Federal 25-year rule, which they will gleefully ignore in favour of their own standards. They're perfectly willing to have cars land at their ports of entry, however, so that they can get a slice of that financial action - as long as the cars go out-of-state again.

  • Teddyc73 Teddyc73 on Nov 16, 2020

    The Mini Moke always makes me think of The Prisoner TV show. Great little runabout for The Village but not for the real world.

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