By Vern Parker
"This car was delivered to the French Army to
be used as a staff car during World War I,” Doug Tomb, the current owner
He says his 1914 Renault EK Voiturette has been
restored to its original colors, French Army Grey and French Army Blue.
Typical of cars of that era, an abundance of
brass is evident.
Tomb reports that the whereabouts of his car in
the years between World War I and World War II is a mystery.
He has heard reports that his Renault spent the
duration of World War II hidden under a haystack in central France.
When peace broke out the Renault was displayed
in a French museum before being acquired by an innkeeper on the Loire River.
By 1970 the Renault had fallen on hard times.
Fortunately, it was rescued by an American who was representing the John Deere
Tractor Company in Western Europe. In 1977 he took the car home to Squim,
With technical assistance from the Renault
Museum in Paris the rare car was restored during the next few years.
Since then the reliable French automobile has
been driven on antique car tours every year since the restoration.
All good things seem to come to an end so the
car was offered for sale in the spring of 2010.
Tomb investigated, liked what he saw and
purchased the outstanding car. He lives 3,000 miles away in Falls Church, Va.,
so his new old car was not delivered until five long weeks later in early July
It has a pair of brass acetylene headlights, two
kerosene carriage cowl lights and one kerosene taillight. There is no brake
There are four mud guards (better known today as
fenders). There are no bumpers and the spare tire is on the right side.
Only the left side has a door. Both the hand
brake and gear shift lever are operated with the driver's right hand. The
driver must be prepared to double clutch while shifting the straight cut gears.
There is no modern day "H” gear shift pattern.
Everything in the progressive shift linkage is
linear, front to back. With the shifter all the way to the rear, the car is in
Reverse. Moving forward one notch puts the transmission in Neutral. Another
notch forward is First – then another Neutral followed by Second then another
Neutral and all the way forward is Third.
Like most cars in 1914, this Renault has no
battery nor a starter. Firing up the magneto ignition is accomplished by
turning a hand crank.
The tires are mounted on wheels, each one with a
dozen wooden spokes.
On the floor boards inside the Renault are
three-foot pedals, accelerator, brake and clutch, which are familiar to present
While seated behind the five-spoke steering
wheel the driver can leave the flat, one-piece windshield positioned
vertically, folded open or folded flat.
Opening the engine hood exposes the
nine-horsepower, two-cylinder engine as well as an unusual configuration. The
vulnerable radiator is positioned behind the engine to protect it from road
hazards of a century ago.
With the 10-gallon gasoline tank in the cowl
full there is no limit to the adventuresome possibilities. "When new,” Tomb
says, "you could burn up the road. Believe it or not this car can go 40 mph.”
Tomb continues the previous owners practice of
actually driving the car instead of turning it into a static museum piece.
"It's fun to drive,” he admits. As the Renault
nears the 100th anniversary, Tomb acknowledges that he is merely one
more custodian in a long line of custodians that have kept the 1914 Renault
going all these years.