The French automaker hasn’t been playing on the front stage of the US market for a long while – for example they last played around the Bonneville flats back in 1956, when they took home four speed records.
Back in 1954 and 1955 the brand wanted to test a car nicknamed the Etoile Filante – French for ‘Shooting Star.’ It was of course an experimental vehicle meant to push the boundaries of human knowledge by reaching new speed and engineering limits – but it was also a marketing stunt to increase popularity for the upcoming introduction of the Renault Dauphine in the U.S. The prototype had a 270-horsepower gas turbine created by French aeronautical turbine manufacturer Turbomeca – the body was made out of polyester, placed on top of a tubular frame, both of them selected due to the lightweight credentials. In 1956 it managed to reach a world record speed of 191 mph (308.9 km/h) at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah – the quickest gas turbine-powered vehicle, with four records under its belt and with two of them still standing to this moment.
Now, six decades later, Renault decided to pay homage to that magic moment, honoring the historic day in 1956 by simply returning to the salt flats with the legendary Etoile Filante and also a race-ready Dauphine for Bonneville Speed Week. And because they came all the way here, they also competed – and broke another speed record. With Frenchman Nicolas Prost at the wheel, the Renault Dauphine was caught by the speed trap at 76.451 mph, a new record in the Classic Gas Coupe (CGC) class for models manufactured between 1928 and 1981 with an engine capacity of between 754 cc and 1,015cc.