Racing improves the brand and promotes the product. Renault knew and understood this, and during their early years built their reputation in many open-road races throughout Europe. The cars were built and driven by Louis Renault and his brother Marcel, who unfortunately was killed in the 1903 Paris-Madrid race. After the loss, Louis quit racing and the company retired from competition for a year.
In 1905, Renault built a 12.3-liter race car for Gould Brokaw to race in the Vanderbilt Cup on Long Island. Maurice Bernin was tasked with driving this very powerful and very fast vehicle. Though it failed to finish, it did win the Eagle Rock, New York hillclimb event later in the year.
In 1906, the company introduced the 13-liter Type AK. It had a four-cylinder engine with shaft drive. Renault used the Type AK to contest the grueling Grand Prix de l'Automoible Club de France. It was a two day event which the Renault easily won.
One of the individuals impressed with the Renaults victory was William Kissem 'Willie K' Vanderbilt. He was able to convince the Renault factory to create ten (possibly more) examples of their successful Renault Grand Prix car. The cars were patterned after the Grand Prix de l'Automoible Club de France winner, though built upon the lighter Renault AI chassis.
This example, which has been treated to a sympathetic restoration, is an original example that has an 8.2 liter, L-head, 60 horsepower engine @ 1400 RPM. There is an aluminum crankcase, automatic timing advance on the mags, and compression release (so it can be started - this example has a starter for ease of use). There is a 4 speed gearbox and inside rear-wheel brakes. This car has been driven to a top speed of 84 mph.
The car has completed The Great American Race (2300 miles) and competed at the 2012 Monterey Historics.
The car cost $15,000 in 1907. The chassis was sent from France and wears a body built by Brewster of New York.By Daniel Vaughan | Jan 2013