Wednesday, February 25, 2015

More bits: R4L

While on a business trip to The Big City (a.k.a. Toronto, they think they are The Centre Of The Universe down there), I had some spare time to drop by Wheels & Wings Hobbies, a well-known Canadian hobby shop. It was my first visit; for the Canadians out there, the website is not too friendly, but if you e-mail them with specific requests (Model Car Garage, Parts by Parks, Jimmy Flintstone bodies, Tamiya upgrade packs, etc.), you can avoid the extortionate shipping prices demanded by US suppliers, not to mention the current excruciating exchange rate with the US dollar.

So I loaded up on as many aftermarket bits as would fit in my carry-on bag, as well as a 1/24 kit of a Renault 4L from a previously unknown outfit (to me anyway) called Ebbro. The kit, clearly of Japanese origin judging by the instruction sheet ("Please paint the main part of an body a free colour"), has lots of detail of this less well-known competitor to the (in)famous Citroen 2CV. Some of you will remember its successor, the Renault 5, which had some success Over Here, especially among the Gauloise-smoking, beret-wearing, Chardonnay-swilling, Jean-Paul Sartre-quoting intelligentsia in French Canada.

Back in the day when I worked in the import repair shop, I once had to tune a Renault 5. So I did all the usual stuff: replace plugs, points & condensor, cap & rotor, wires, air & fuel filters; adjust valve clearances, ignition timing, idle speed & mixture. Then I went for a test drive up our favourite hill where I was passed by a packed city bus. Back at the shop, I figured I had screwed up big time, because everything else I'd ever worked on could easily out-drag an empty city bus (never mind a full one) up that hill, so I studied the under-hood tag for the tune-up specs, which pronounced the engine to displace exactly 45.4 cubic inches. Now this did not compute -- I understood 454 cubic inches but not 45.4 cubic inches. After much mental arithmetic, I finally converted this to 747 cc which explained two things:
  • Why I couldn't pass an overloaded city bus up a hill, and
  • Why Renault failed miserably in North America. Twice.
Really, 747 cc? Come on, guys, at least the base Mini was a full 850 cc; the base R4 was 600 cc, and the biggest was 1108 cc to the Mini's 1275.

So why do I want a kit of this tiddly little tin box? Well, it's sufficiently obscure, and, at over 8 million copies made, is apparently the 3rd largest selling car, ever, after the VW Beetle and Ford Model T.  There, my friends, is your factoid of the week. But be safe, check it on the InterWeb before trotting it out at the pub on the weekend.

Plus my manhood is not at risk, given I also have a 1000+ hp, 28-litre Allison V12 on the shelf. Boo-yah.

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