1925 Renault Model 45 Tourer

£175,000 - £225,000

RM | Sotheby's - LONDON 2015

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Documents: US TitleDocuments: US Title

  • One of the rarest grand French luxury automobiles
  • Formerly owned by the Nethercutt Collection
  • A genuine example with original open bodywork
  • Abundant power and four-wheel brakes: the ultimate Nickel Era tour car

140 bhp, 9,122 cc L-head inline six-cylinder engine, four-speed manual transmission, solid axle suspension with semi-elliptical and cantilever leaf springs, and four-wheel servo-assisted mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 3,740 mm

French automaker Renault, formed in 1898, was always a few steps ahead of its competitors. It was one of the first marques to begin racing, and its early prestige enabled it to build a fine reputation both in Europe and abroad. Its vehicles were instantly recognisable for their “coal scuttle” bonnets—a design necessitated by the radiator being mounted behind the engine rather than in front of it—and the first three decades of production were filled with new models and new innovations. Most of the cars that the company produced were small, low-horsepower automobiles, ideal for thrifty buyers on narrow European streets. Yet, for the customer who sought something different, and had the resources to fund their wishes, there was the Model 45, which the factory almost charmingly referred to as, simply, the Big Six.

And big it was: the Model 45 was the largest production automobile built until the introduction of Ettore Bugatti’s fabled Type 41 La Royale. Its nine-litre, six-cylinder engine churned out 140 horsepower, on a chassis that measured nearly 150 inches between the axles. With relatively lightweight open bodywork fitted, a Model 45 could achieve nearly 100 mph. With their typical attention to engineering, Renault put extensive effort into making the massive automobile not only swift but also easy to drive. Servo-assisted brakes brought the big machine easily to a stop.

Whilst very few were necessarily produced, so great was the cost and the car’s custom-built nature, it is a testament to the model’s glory that its visage has become synonymous with Francophile culture of the 1920s. In many ways, the Model 45 embodied its country in the same way that the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost embodied England: it was audacious, quirky, brilliant, and French to its very core.

The car offered here carries its original open, four-passenger tourer coachwork. Its design bears a strong similarity to other bodies produced for Model 45 chassis by Parisian coachbuilder Manessius, although the builder’s identity has never been conclusively confirmed. What is known is that the car was acquired by the renowned Nethercutt Collection of California, in the United States, from UK dealer Leonard Potter, a famous source of great automobiles during this era.

It was immediately the subject of a comprehensive, cost-no-object restoration by the Nethercutt family’s famed shops and, afterwards, was driven by J.B. Nethercutt on several tours, where its power and speed were much appreciated. It remained part of the Nethercutt Collection until 2010, when an overseas collector was fortunate enough to become its next owner and caretaker.

Typical of Renaults of this era, the Model 45’s well-preserved Nethercutt restoration is filled with spectacular fine detail, including wooden artillery wheels with robust centre-locking hubs and being shod in purposeful blackwall tyres; correct Phare Besnard headlamps and Marchal tail lamps; and spectacular, warm interior woodwork, including commodious jump seats hidden behind roll-top doors! The pure ivory livery, set against complementing shades of biscuit tan, is light, subtle, and exaggerates the Renault’s immense appearance of power.

With fewer than six survivors known, the majority of which are housed in museums, the opportunity to acquire a Model 45 does not come about often. In fact, it is one of the scarcest and hardest to acquire of all Classic Car Club of America Full Classics, and it is equally treasured by European enthusiasts. This example, blessed by the ownership of knowledgeable connoisseur J.B. Nethercutt, is truly exceptional. For the man who never likes to see himself coming whilst on tour or rally, there is simply no better choice than this muscular Gallic fantasy.

Lot Number

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24 - 25 August 2018


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30 August - 2 September 2018

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