By on November 13, 2020

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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24 Comments on “Rare Rides: The 1984 Renault Rodeo, a Plastic Truck for Fun Times...”


  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    Is there a Lego version?

    • 0 avatar
      tomLU86

      THAT is rare! Never seen one.

      I’ve seen the Citroen and Fiat equivalents in the 1980s–and not very many of them. Didn’t know Renault had one too…low end wheels from three LOW-end Euro mass carmakers (the other three high-volume companies being VW, Opel/GM, and Ford, who apparently did not play in this space)

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    The dash comes with its own Consumer Reports rating circle (center of the fuel gauge).

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    This is one I’ve never heard of, and it’s kinda cool.

    When I was a kid, I remember that a guy in the neighborhood where I threw a paper route owned a Citroën Méhari, in a kind of pea green color. This was around 1970. Another guy in the same neighborhood owned a Lotus Europa Twin Cam JPS edition, which was way cooler than the Méhari, but maybe not as unique. The Europa had a fiberglass body, and the Méhari was some kind of funky plastic.

    This thing might have been imported from Italy, but the plates sure look French.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    This uses the same 3-lug wheels as the Renault LeCar, a turd which briefly made it to the US market.

    Even then I wondered how desperate the company was to save a couple francs on wheel studs.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      The Renault 5 (LeCar in the US) spawned the R5 Turbo which was one of the more bat$#!+ crazy hot hatches of the era so I wouldn’t be too hard on it.

      Other than that, I always remember them as one of the cars you could win on “Classic Concentration” with Alex Trebek.

    • 0 avatar
      Garak

      Building cheap cars is always terrible penny-pinching, saving those 2 dollars on lug nuts was a logical thing on such light and low-powered rustbuckets. I never heard of anyone’s wheels falling off due to having only 3 lugs.

    • 0 avatar
      karonetwentyc

      Yes, the R5 / LeCar was so awful that over 5 million of them were built across its lifetime and I need a shrug icon that doesn’t exist here.

      Three-lug wheels weren’t a cost-saving measure, nor were they unique to Renault – Peugeot, Citroen, Alpine, and Smart (in addition to others) also used them at various times. The idea was that a triangle pattern provided the greatest equal distribution of torque from the lugs to the studs in the simplest pattern possible. Granted, the fewer studs & lugs being needed the lower the overall build costs of the vehicle, but that wasn’t a primary factor in their use.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    I had forgotten about the Mini Moke. Rented one for a week in Barbados in the mid 1970’s. Remember the saying that ‘it is more fun to drive a slow car fast’? Well with a Mini Moke on Island roads, it is better to drive a slow car, slowly.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I had one of these once, oh wait, that was a crate of oranges some one sent me from Florida

    If Fred Flintstone ever time travels have we got the “DeLorean” for him

  • avatar
    Cicero

    Looks like it has the same build quality as a cardboard submarine that you could buy from the back of a magazine.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Is it any wonder what happened to Nissan after Renault owned a piece of them. No wonder why Nissan wants to be independent from Renault.

  • avatar
    peeryog

    Now I am sure someone pointed this out already, but the mini moke was not four wheel drive.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    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.

    • 0 avatar

      It was imported recently, and given it’s much older than 25 years wouldn’t be a problem.

      • 0 avatar
        karonetwentyc

        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.

  • avatar
    teddyc73

    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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