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While in exile, Franco bought the Renault 20HP, which is now part of the collection on show in Museu do Caramulo. Its elegant Limousine-style bodywork was the work of Parisian firm Laclaverie & Gaches. With the advent of the First World War in 1914, João Franco returned to Portugal from exile.
The car was well preserved in a mansion on Rua Presidente de Arriaga, Lisbon, by the heirs of João Franco. In 1956, Franco’s grandson, João Manuel Franco offered the car to João de Lacerda to be displayed in the museum.
The luxurious interior has remained in its original condition, with the Renault having only seen 44,000 km of the open road in its lifetime. The bodywork has been given a new lease of life, with careful repairs and a new coat of paint. The 20HP is fitted with a four-cylinder engine, split into two blocks, and has a total capacity of five litres. Developing around 20hp, transmitted through a four-speed gearbox, the Renault is capable of reaching a top speed of 90 km/h even though it weighs the best part of two tons.
The 20HP model forms part of a long and successful line of cars produced by the brothers Louis, Marcel and Fernand Renault who, in 1900, had already sold more than 200 cars, and in 1903, an impressive 780.
1903 was also the year in which Marcel was sadly killed behind the wheel of one of his creations while taking part in a race from Paris to Madrid.
The first car to be produced by the Renault brothers in Billancourt was the 3HP model in 1901. Using a water-cooled De Dion engine, the Renault 3HP was ground-breaking. It successfully demonstrated the front-engine rear-wheel-drive architecture which is very popular with today’s German giants, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
The Renault 20HP appeared on the scene in 1905 as a powerful option positioned above the 8HP and 12HP models. All pre-1914 Renault cars were characterized by their robustness and reliability.