by Dennis Harrison
Introduction: Utilising the running gear of the Dauphine and the same floor pan slightly lengthened, the chic, sculptured Floride with its cleverly disguised rear engine was designed by the Italian Pietro Frua and built for Renault by Chausson with final assembly and trim, virtually by hand, by Brissoneau and Lotz. Although the genius of another Italian, engineer Amédée Gordini, increased the output of the small Dauphine engine somewhat,the first model was dubbed ‘a sheep in wolf’s clothing.’ Larger R8 engines in the later Caravelle versions produced a more brisk,and quite respectable performance. Sports car comparisions are pointless. Economy, practicality and personality are the characteristics of this overlooked Sixties classic.
Oct 1958: Introduced at Paris Motor Show as Floride (pron. Flo – ‘o’ as in ‘pot’ – reed – emphasis on last syllable). Based on running gear and floor pan of the Dauphine. Three models: permanent, though removable, hardtop; convertible with detachable hardtop; and convertible. 845cc, 35 bhp and 40bhp (Gordini), water-cooled, rear engine. Hinged occasional rear seat squab. Five strips across side air intakes. Round front indicators. Horizontal speedometer. Crown insignia on prow. Rear end grille.
Apr 1959: Released in Europe. May 1959: Released in USA as ‘Caravelle’.
Apr 1960: Floride released in Australia.
Nov 1962: Caravelle fixed hardtop model introduced with 956cc running gear from recent new Renault R8, initially 48bhp then 51bhp; squarish turret, full rear seat, improved rear head room. Four wheel disc brakes replace previous drums. New front suspension with ball joint steering pivots. Slotted wheels. Louvres in engine bay lid; no side air intakes. Previous Floride 2 +2 coupe, convertible and coupe continued but also with R8 running gear, disc brakes, etc., as above. All models named Caravelle.
1964-65: 1108cc engine as in R8, 55bhp. ‘1100’ badge on engine lid. ‘Caravelle’ replaces crown insignia on prow.
1966: ‘1100S’, 57.5bhp. Round speedo and tacho. Rectangular front indicators.
July 1968: Production ceased.
• (1) 4 cyl. with removable (‘wet’) liners, ohv, 845cc, 8.00:1 compression, single downdraught carb.
• (2) 956cc, 9.5:1, single downdraughtcarb.
• (3) 1108cc, 8.5:1 compression, single downdraught carb.
Exhaust system: Single outlet.
Transmission: To mid-1960, 3-speed manual (synchromesh 2nd & top). From mid-1960, 4-speed optional (synchromesh 2nd, 3rd, top). Then 4-speed with all-synchromesh 3-speed optional. All synchromesh 4-speed with 1108cc engine. Floor shift. Final drive 4.375:1 (Floride), 4.125:1 (Caravelle).
Steering: Rack and pinion; turning circle 9m-9.6m
Suspension: Front: independent, coils. Rear: independent, coils, air bags (‘Aerostable’) (early model).
Brakes: Hydraulic, 228.5mm drums front and rear. From 1963: 260mm discs front and rear.
Wheels/Tyres: 15in/Michelin 135 x 380
Wheelbase 2267mm/7ft 5.25in
Width 1570/5ft 2in
Height 1310/4ft 4in
Weight 772kg/15.2 cwt . From 1963 823kg 16.2 cwt
Fuel tank 31 litres/6.8UK gals. From 1963 38litres/8.3UK gals
845cc: 35bhp (26kW) @ 5200rpm, 0-50mph (80kmh) 17secs, max 85mph (137kph), 45mpg (6.2litres/100km).
845cc (Gordini): 40bhp (30kW) @ 5000rpm, 0-50mph (80kmh) 15secs, max 85mph (137kph), 40mpg (7litres/100km).
956cc: 51bhp(38kW) @ 5500rpm, 0-50mph (80kmh) 13.5secs, max 85mph (137kph), max 85mph (137kph), 38mpg (7.5litres/100km).
‘1100’: 55bhp (41kW) @ 5400rpm, 0-50mph (80kph) 12secs, max 89mph (143kph), 31mpg (9litres/100km).
‘1100S’: 57.5bhp (43kW) @ 5400rpm, 0-50mph (80kph) 10.3secs, max 96mph (154kph), 33mpg (8.5litres/100km).
What to Look for
Engine: ‘Gordini’ engines distinguished by ‘G’ on rocker cover. 845cc engine faces forward with radiator behind back seat. Check condition of radiator hoses, especially bottom, and the fan belt as relative inaccessibility may have led to neglect. Dirty coolant difficult to check due to extended filler. Look for defective water pump. Check for oil leaks – sump, timing gear cover. Note, not all Florides had external oil filter.
Check mechanical fuel pump for effectiveness and leaking gasket. ‘Wet’ sleeve liners, a feature of all the engines, enable a worn bore to be restored to its original diameter.
The later ‘R8’ series of engines, like that from the Dauphine, were regarded as well-built and reliable. They face backwards with the radiator ahead of the back bumper. Florides and Caravelles are now between 30 and almost 40 years old. Evidence should be sought of regular maintenance and replacement of worn parts. Check for symptons of wear and tear – bearing and camshaft rattle, oil smoke in the exhaust, excessive valve clearances, poor performance, etc.
Exhaust: The muffler box on all models is uniquely shaped, like a submarine. If replacement necessary, an exhaust specialist can provide an orthodox cylindrical box.
Transmission: Don’t be alarmed at the lever’s long travel between gears. That is normal due to the distance to the gearbox at the rear. Check that synchromesh is operative on all gears, that spring behind locating ball for selector rod is not broken and that synchromesh cones are not worn.
Gearbox may be inspected but repairs require removal of both engine and gearbox from the car. Check that clutch cable has been lubricated.
Suspension/steering: Rattles may be due to loose shock absorbers, worn bushes , loose suspension arm mountings or loose ant-roll bar mountings. Where applicable, check for defective air cushions. Check steering box and moving parts for wear.
Brakes: Brake fluid reservoir is in front ‘boot’. Drum brakes are effective though heavier pedal pressure is needed than common today. Disc brakes of Caravelle or Renault 10 can be retro-fitted to Floride; alterations to front suspension will be required. Check either system for spongy pedal or excessive pedal movement.
Electrics: Floride is 6v; starting from cold can be a challenge. Caravelle is 12v. Battery is in front ‘boot’. On some Florides it may have been moved to engine bay – there’s plenty of room – to shorten cabling.
Body: Not especially rust-prone if cared for. Check bottom of doors, lower front wing behind wheelhouse and lower rear bodyside panel. Note there is an outer sill and an inner sill. Remove outer sill and check for rust. Check floorpan especially convertible or if coupe has been driven with roof off. Check spare wheel compartment under prow for rust or damage. (Pull opener inside front ‘boot’). Check if rubber windscreen surround perished and also rubber at base of roof of Floride coupes at the rear. If panel work needed, note front wing in three parts – upper and lower section and headlight casing. After time in the sun, Floride steering wheels cracked and crumbled. Replacable with Caravelle wheel if one can be found. Warped, smoked plastic sunvisors can be remade. Stress cracks on body indicate lead loading has moved slightly. New soft tops, but not bows, available from the USA if the original has deteriorated, as is most likely . Note that there were three slightly different tops from 1960 to 1967.
Parts: Body panels and mouldings, hardware (eg., door handles) only available secondhand. Very scarce are front badge (Floride), side parking lights and, especially, tail light lenses though some have been replicated privately and Fiat 1100 lenses will fit. Mechanical commonality with Dauphine and R8 make running gear parts more readily available.
Florides and Caravelles, 1959-1968: 117,113.