It is our policy with the Readers’ Car Survey to ask the Manufacturers to make any comments they wish in the issue following that, in which one of their cars is dealt with. Last month we covered the Ford Anglia, the two Austin-Healey models and the Renault Dauphine. We contacted all these companies but only Renault have seen fit to see us; Ford and BMC promised to arrange an interview with their Engineering staff but at the time of going to press neither organisation had fixed a date, despite being given three weeks’ notice.
At Renault’s modern premises on the Western Avenue at Acton, we spoke to Publicity Manager Alan Dakers, and Assistant Service Manager Mr Bennett. Regarding the service offered by Renault they felt that their present system could hardly be bettered. A network of 750 dealers, over a third of them selling Renault exclusively, is spread over the country and all are equipped with the correct tools and are required to hold a certain stock of spares. In addition nearly all spares can be obtained from Acton within live days and it is claimed that 93% of all parts for all post-war Renault models are in stock at Acton. Other parts-can be obtained from Billancourt quickly, urgent orders being flown over in response to Telex requests. All Dauphine parts, including bodies, are in stock at Acton.
A Service School for mechanics is run at Acton, and for those dealers who cannot spare their mechanics a Mobile school travels the country giving instruction on the spot. All component failures are reported to Billancourt and modification action is taken when considered necessary. All complaints of a general nature on dealer service are watched carefully and some dealers have lost their Renault agency through poor service or unwillingness to stock the correct spares.
Owing to their close ties with the parent company, Renault in Britain are unable to recognise any modifications nor give advice on any type of modification although they have tried many proprietary tuning kits. The guarantee is invalidated by any modification to mechanical components. Mr. Bennett volunteered as a personal opinion that those people who fitted different. exhaust systems and silencers without making other alterations were virtually wasting their money as the gain in horsepower is infinitesimal, although the gain in exhaust noise may be more satisfying to the ear.
On the engine, piston slap was recognised by the factory as being a problem although not causing any mechanical failures, and a new piston with offset gudgeon pin is now fitted on production models. The water-pump gasket, mentioned by 10%, has now had a change of material. The fault did not lay with the gasket itself but if oil leaked from the rocker cover it did affect the water-pump gasket eventually, and the material was changed to a type that would withstand the action of engine oil. The fibre timing pinion, which was replaced by 8.5%, has also had a change of material but the majority of changes have been made because of excessive noise rather than actual failure, and Mr Bennett mentioned that this was mainly because people attempt to obtain a too-slow idling speed which emphasises the timing pinion noise. Some of the valve replacements are due to the fact that people do not adhere to the instructions in the Owner’s Handbook when setting the tappet clearance. The engine should be allowed to stand for six hours before setting the clearance, and no amount of artificial cooling will suffice. He also mentioned that the French seem to prefer wide clearances and a little extra noise and owners would do well to keep to the official clearances.
No clutch problems worry Renault but they have found that a molybdenum disulphide-based grease for the clutch cable gives better results. The gearbox is relatively trouble-free but the synchromesh cone material was changed in May 1960 to give a quieter, smoother change. Mr. Dakers remarked that many of the adverse comments about the Dauphine gear-change stem from people who are too heavy-handed with the lever; a light touch is all that is needed. Renault supply gearboxes to Team Lotus for racing purposes and they find them very satisfactory in 5-speed form.
Renault do not consider that brake grab on the Dauphine is any more of a problem than on other cars and feel that this is mainly a problem with slight rusting of the cast-iron drum which occurs in damp weather when the car is left overnight. This trouble can be alleviated by leaving the handbrake off when the car is left overnight, thus allowing all drums to rust up.
Suspension problems are very few and shock-absorber replacements are not considered excessive. Originally there were two types of damper fitted to Dauphines, one for countries with predominantly rough roads and one for countries with smoother roads. Naturally, British cars had the damper for smooth roads, but all Dauphines are now fitted with the rough-road damper which gives a slightly firmer ride.
Failures of the French-made instruments are not considered excessive when compared with other makes. Mr Bennett pointed out that noise from the speedometer does not necessarily indicate a probable failure but is due to end float of the cable. Speedometers sent over from France are accurate to within 2% and the average is nearer 1%.
Mr. Bennett felt that complaints about the headlamps were aimed at the sharply cut-off dipped beam which many British drivers tend to use for ordinary driving instead of the main beam, which he considers perfectly adequate. Pre-1959 cars had parking lights in the headlamps which many British drivers used as sidelights, thus tending to give the car a bad name in this direction.
The thin gauge of the Dauphine bodywork is part of the design as the rounded contours help to give strength and rigidity to the body and such a practice would not be possible in a thicker gauge steel. Mr. Bennett mentioned that Renault policy was being followed by a number of other manufacturers in this particular sphere.