The 4CV was originally conceived and designed covertly by Renault engineers during the German occupation of France during World War II, when the manufacturer was under strict orders to design and produce only commercial and military vehicles.
The first prototype was completed in 1942 and two more prototypes were produced in the following three years, with the 4CV ultimately presented to the public and media at the 1946 Paris Motor Show.
On the 4CV's launch, it was nicknamed 'La motte de beurre' (the lump of butter) due to the combination of its shape and the fact that many early models were painted with sand-yellow-coloured surplus paint originally used for German Army vehicles (aka European Sand). The 4CV was powered by a 748 cc engine producing 17 hp (13 kW), which was coupled to a three-speed manual transmission and featured suicide doors. Despite an initial period of uncertainty and poor sales due to the ravaged state of the French economy, the 4CV had sold 37,000 units by mid-1949 and was the most popular car in France. The car remained in production for more than a decade afterwards. The 4CV's intended replacement was the Dauphine, launched in 1956, but the 4CV in fact remained in production until 1961. The 4CV was replaced by the Renault 4 which used the same engine as the 4CV and sold for a similar price.