In the fifties the Dauphine closed the gap between Renaults 4CV and Frégate models. Soon they also flooded the Paris streets in their black and white police car livery.
At a local classic meeting we run into Willem van Dijk. He’s showing the visitors two of his classic Renaults and somehow we get talking. ‘Does he have any more cars?’ ‘Sure!’ The answer doesn’t keep us waiting. ‘For instance I do own a very amusing Renault Dauphine dressed up as a police car.’ Answers like that scream for a follow up, which makes us visit Willem at his Warmond kitchen table today.
Besides a gifted story teller, Willem is a genuine mechanic. Not that big a surprise, for someone who owned a Renault dealership for over thirty years. Today he enjoys his well earned pension, spending most of his time tinkering at his vintage collection. ‘The Dauphine’, he tells us, ‘I once bought for 500 Dutch guilders. That was really cheap, but as you can guess, there was a catch. The car’s floorpan had completely rusted out. These things happen on French motors. Luckily I had a lift to my disposal and was able to take out the entire floor. Using new sheet metal I reconstructed the floorpan and now it is in ship shape again.’
Curious as we are, we ask about the Gendarme’s uniform of the Dauphine, because that hasn’t always been on the car. ‘You know’, Willem starts of, ‘I do like a personal touch to my cars. It doesn’t all have to be to factory spec. Just because this car is so symmetrical, you can hardly see which side is front and which is back, I painted it in this black and white colour scheme. Topping it of with all the other exterior markings of a police car. It’s just a bit of fun. It turned the car into a real looker. People start asking questions and taking pictures. Isn’t that what it’s all about? During a Concours d’Elégance somewhere in France I earned second place by re-enacting an act where I, dressed up as a copper, arrested one of my mates and locked him up in the back of the car. After which he climbed over the seats and drove of. Me chasing it in a panic. The jurors liked that!’
We leave the kitchen table to go and have a look at the car itself. In the end, that is what we came to do. Watch, feel and smell. On our way we pass Willem’s workshop. A very well equipped place, where he even has his own lathe. One needs to create what doesn’t exist any longer. Willem is a hands on kinda guy. He’d rather have his hands dirty than his shirt crisp and clean. In his garage we find, covered in sheets, some more classic Renaults. Two pre-war NN’s and a Renault 8S that, although it resembles the Gordini model, is not quite what it looks. One thing is crystal clear, this Dutchmen loves his French automobiles, preferably the ones with the diamond logo.
The Dauphine is started up and we take of for a short tour around the village for a brief photoshoot. Even while driving, Willem doesn’t stop for a second telling us anecdotes and teaching life’s lessons. When I’m taking my pictures a passer by compliments on the car. The Dauphine truly generates a lot of attention, which Willem obviously enjoys. This is a man of passion, filled with enthousiasm for his cars. People like him are a joy to be around, the world needs more of those. Maybe it’s just a hunch, but I’m thinking we haven’t seen the last of this man and his Renaults!