Russ Harvey tracks down a rare, 1963 Renault Estafette pick-up with an astonishingly low recorded mileage, that’s now operating in the UK.
This ultra-rare and superb example of a was, until recently, owned by Tom Black, an Estafette aficionado based in Sussex. He purchased it recently in Bourges, France, and, following its stunningly good restoration, he trailered it home to the UK. Very few of these utility vehicles grace the roads in the UK, and I don’t think you’ll find another that betters this fine machine!
Tom’s Estafette is a ‘Plateau’, which means it’s a pick-up version. It’s an early one dating from 1963, and came equipped with the 1,108cc motor that was introduced in 1962, and which superseded the 845cc in the R2131. This one is designated as a R2132 version.
It left the factory with a tubular frame to support the canopy or canvas tilt, and this could easily be pushed forward and stored behind the cab, which was closed off. The tailgate of this model could be dropped down (hinged at the bottom) and used as a convenient loading ramp, or it could be removed altogether, allowing for far greater access to the rear cargo area, as well ease when loading.
Tom’s company, Vintage creation, searched for and imported the utility from France, complete with its French registration plates, 63 TV 18. Tom still has the Carte Gris (French Grey Card), the all-important document that’s required to get it registered in the UK.
Since 1901, four different systems have been used for French automobile registrations. From April 1st, 1950, to October 13th, 2009, the two last digits indicated the location (in France, the country is divided to various departments). So, from the plate it can be deduced that this Estafette originally came from department 18, Cher, in the Centre-Val de Loire region.
While chatting with Tom about the restoration, much of this pick-up’s history has also been gleaned from the previous keeper, and helps explain the low speedo reading of 81,000km covered, that’s just over 50,000 miles in 55 years! The pick-up has been restored to as near original condition as possible; it still carries its original tilt/canvas cover, and the body colour is spot-on, too. To be precise, it’s the correct, Citroën colour code 365 being Jaune (Yellow), and now looks as good as it did when the original, self-employed owner, Monsieur Leblanc, purchased it new for his electric radiator installation business, back in 1963.
After he died, the vehicle was stored in his garage by his daughter. Then, Monsieur Gauthier, a neighbour of Monsieur Leblanc’s son, purchased the pick-up in 2003, and restored it to the condition you see today. That process took three years, and the work started in 2015. It’s amazing to think that the vehicle was in the original owner’s family’s possession for 40 years, and that it probably had a working life that lasted right up to the 1990s.
This restoration has been carried out with originality in mind, and has included a full, bare-metal respray, and Tom has all the photographs of the rebuild. Underneath, the utility is extremely clean and solid; money was no object, with many new parts being lavished on the pick-up during the project. Even the seats were re-upholstered, keeping the passenger’s one as intended. It was very basic compared to the driver’s, with a much thinner padded base.
Mechanically, the engine runs like it’s just come straight off the production line. Attention to detail is important, and before the work started it was noted that ‘R2132’, ‘365’ and ‘SI’ were stencilled on to the engine cover. All have been retained, and the ‘R’ number confirms the model number, while ‘365’ is the colour code. Sadly, I have no idea what ‘S1’ relates to.
As mentioned, the vehicle arrived in the UK on French registration plates, but Tom is now engaged in the process of registering it with the DVLA, and assures me that he will have a V5 very soon.
The Renault Estafette originally was available only in four colours from the factory, these being grey, blue, yellow or orange, with the yellow being quite an unusual shade for 1963. The Estafette pick-up, or Plateau as it was referred to and marketed in France, came in three options; Estafette Plateau nu (pick-up with low sides), plateau â ridelles, (pick-up with drop-sides) and plateau â ridelles bâché (pick-up sheeted, canvas or tilt).
The Renault Estafette van was marketed here in the UK, but not the pick-up version, so the only examples will have been sourced from France, which is the reason they’re so rare here today. Tom operates his own business, Vintage Creation (vintagecreation.co.uk) that’s located at Robertsbridge, East Sussex, which offers an exciting range of vintage, retro and antique furniture, and he has a few Estafettes too! I must record my sincere thanks to Tom Black for allowing me access to this superb pick-up as well assisting with information for completion of this article, not to mention allowing his photographs to be reproduced to accompany this feature.
This unusual pick-up was recently sold and, now on British registration plates, is operating in the New Forest area of Hampshire, collecting bicycles and delivering them to people in need; a real social enterprise.
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