The Classic Cars of the Titanic
(With the Great Gatsby in theaters now, we decided to look a previous Leo DiCaprio period piece, though the events of Titanic actually happened.) There may be some people left on this planet who have never heard of the Titanic. But I doubt it. Everyone knows the tragic tale that inspired James Cameron’s epic 1997 film. While in no way equaling the loss of life that occurred that fateful night in April 1912, one small part of the disaster is worthy of note to those concerned with automotive history. One of the things that was lost when the great ship sank was a beautiful example of early 20th century auto making. Fans of the film will recall that Jack and Rose consummated their love in a car held in storage for the voyage. While the scene was fictitious, the auto wasn’t. It was a 1912 Renault Town Car Type CB, purchased by William Carter of Bryn Mawr, PA in France. Happily, Mr. Carter and his family survived the collision with the iceberg. Their new automobile did not. The Town Car was made by Renault Motors, founded by Louis Renault in 1899. One of three brothers born into a wealthy family, he was considered the family dunce and deemed to be unworthy of a university education. He instead devoted his spare time to tinkering with a newfound contraption called the automobile, building his first model in 1898 in his parent’s backyard.
Louis’ IQ may not have been held in high esteem by his peers, but he had a keen grasp of mechanics. His studies of existing motorcars showed him that their dependence on chain drives exposed their inner workings to dust and dirt. Louis solved this problem by building cars with enclosed, shaft-driven engines. Soon after, he no longer needed to depend on his parents or their money. As mentioned before, the Renault’s owner survived. He later filed a $5,000.00 insurance claim for his lost car. As for the vehicle itself, it belongs to the first team that can find a way around the collapsed beams that block the Titanic’s stores from recovery efforts. Maybe I’ll give it a shot after my next payday.