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. The cars were instantly recognized for their “coal scuttle” hoods, which was a design necessitated by the radiator being mounted behind the engine, rather than in front of it. The first three decades at Renault were filled with new models and new innovations. Most of the cars that the company produced were small, low-horsepower automobiles that were ideal for thrifty buyers and narrow European streets. Yet, for the customer who sought something different, and had the vast bank account to back up their wishes, they also had the Model 45, which the factory almost charmingly referred to as, simply, the “Big Six.”
The Model 45 was the largest production automobile built until the introduction of Ettore Bugatti’s fabled Type 41 La Royale. Its nine-liter, six-cylinder engine churned out 140 horsepower, on a chassis that measured nearly 150 inches between axles. With relatively lightweight open bodywork fitted, a Model 45 could achieve nearly 100 mph. With their typical attention to engineering, Renault put extensive attention into making the massive automobile not only swift but also easy to drive. Four-wheel servo-assisted brakes were added to bring the big machine easily to a stop.
This car 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, but the builder’s identity has never been conclusively confirmed. The big Renault was acquired by the renowned Nethercutt Collection in January 1984, and the car immediately became the subject of a comprehensive, cost-no-object restoration by the Nethercutt family’s famed shops. It remained part of the Nethercutt Collection until 2010.
It is believed to be one of fewer than six survivors known.