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The sinking of the Titanic in 1912 is one of the world’s most well-known events, and it also involves a bit of automotive history. Aboard the doomed Titanic, only one car was being transported, a 1912 Renault Type CB Coupe de Ville. This luxury car was at the top of its class in its day, and it belonged to one William Carter of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. 

As everyone knows, the ship never made it to its destination in New York. Neither did Mr. Carter’s prized Coupe, which had just been purchased in France and was being shipped home to the United States. An iceberg had other plans, and as the boat went down, the Renault on the Titanic was first raised high into the air with the ship’s bow before it sunk beneath the waves.

A 1912 Renault CB Coupe de Ville took an ill-fated trip

1912 Renault AG taxi cab with 9 horsepower
1912 Renault taxi cab | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images via Getty Images

According to Hagerty, the 1912 Renault Type CB Coupe de Ville was powered by a 2.6-liter L-head inline 4-cylinder engine, rated at 12 French horsepower, or 25 horsepower. This propelled the luxury town car to speeds up to 35 mph. It had a rich, red exterior, and the elegant interior was compared to a palace with leather seats and gold trimmings. It all rode on giant, white wheels with gold spokes to complete the picture. 

Historians knew about the Titanic car’s existence from the ship’s manifest, but the rest of us learned of it in the 1997 hit movie Titanic. The movie shows the stately vehicle being lifted onto the boat. Later, in a pivotal scene, Director James Cameron requested an exact replica of the car, based on Carter’s documents that included the vehicle’s specs. 

According to Titanic Fandom, it was located in a cargo hold in the front of the ship. It turns out the movie took some liberties in the memorable scene with Jack and Rose inside the car. Although the scene does show them in the cargo hold, in reality, the Renault was packed safely in a gigantic crate. 

The 1912 Renault car has never been found

Even though the wreck of the Titanic was located in the North Atlantic in 1985, the the1912 Renault Coupe de Ville has never been found. After the movie’s release, there was renewed interest in discovering the luxury car. Torque News reports that salvagers are looking for it to this day.

The front part of the ship is still relatively intact, so there is a slight possibility the car could be OK. However, after 107 years in the icy depths, there is likely nothing left of the once-glamorous French automobile. Although expeditions have found thousands of Titanic artifacts around the wreck, the 1912 Renault Coupe de Ville isn’t one of them. 

Did the owner go down with the Titanic?

Thankfully, William Carter, as well as his wife and two children, survived the disaster. Of course, the car went down with the ship along with everything else that was in the cargo hold. Carter sought to recoup his losses and filed a claim against the White Star Line. Lloyd’s of London sought $5,000 in damages, the value of the Renault at the time. That would be about $130,000 today. 

According to RM Sotheby’s, an identical vehicle was sold in 2008. A Phoenix, Arizona buyer bought a 1912 Renault Coupe de Ville for $269,500. This means that if the Titanic car was ever found, hauled up from the ocean, and restored, it would probably go for a considerable price at auction. However, the restoration costs would be quite a burden in terms of cost.


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