Jean Le Cam, 4L passion
With more than 8 million units sold in over 100 countries, the Renault 4 is an icon in the automotive landscape. Celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, it remains a source of pleasure for its last users and collectors, such as Jean Le Cam. The famous sailor adores the 4L. When he gave one to his daughter on her 18th birthday, he could never have imagined that, twelve years later, he would own no fewer than eight of them. He tells us the story of this passion.
08 June 2021
You must have heard of Jean Le Cam. A true sailing legend with no fewer than 5 Vendée Globe races to his credit, his heroism shone out in the last race when he saved skipper Kevin Escoffier as he drifted in his life-raft in the middle of the Indian Ocean. For many years, this keen sailor has distinguished himself by matching sailors in boats more modern than his Yes-We-Cam, his “4L of the seas”, as he laughingly calls it. He shares his time between exploring the seas and… driving his 4Ls! Two passions, he tells us, that have more in common than you might think.
“The 4L is a lovable car that has made its mark over many years and down the generations. Everyone has memories of the 4L.”
Jean Le Cam, sailor and 4L driver
Everyone recalls the first "car for living”
The Renault 4, the first “car for living”, soon to be dubbed the “4L”, was the result of a brilliant idea: create a versatile car that could be used for every occasion. Jean Le Cam also sees it as an all-terrain car due to its lightness, as he explained to L’Equipe last March: “I call my boat a 4L to give it an image. The specification of the Renault 4 was drawn up so that it could be used in the desert. It was a vehicle that could take you anywhere, a true 4x4.”
And this is what the 4L has demonstrated in the 4L Trophy, a rally that has been held every year since 1997. The robust 4L can take on whatever the route can throw at it, be it on sandy or rocky ground. It would be hard to name another model still capable of all that 60 years after its introduction!
Unveiled in July 1961, the 4L is a 5-door model with a hatchback that opens onto a versatile space: by folding down the rear bench seat, the saloon converts into a pickup. So a family car, but also an icon of French pop culture, and let’s not forget the impression it has left on our minds as the vehicle of the gendarmerie, the post office and other key professions. The Renault 4 minivan will go on to proudly bear the colours of myriad tradespeople, local authorities and large chain stores. In other words, as Jean Le Cam says a “true historic monument”!
A Renault 4 post office minivan, a true historic monument!
The 4L, a car that can be endlessly tweaked
Although production ended in 1992, you still come across a few 4Ls on the road and on the second-hand and collectors’ markets. The simplicity and reliability of its mechanics attract lots of fans. And this is what Jean Le Cam, the sailor-builder likes best. Whether on the water or on terra firma, “King Jean” loves to tinker. He showed this once again during the last Vendée Globe when he repaired his vessel whilst it was under way. The 4L is totally in line with the spirit of this seadog: “It’s a car that I can tinker with, that I can improve a bit… somewhat like my Hubert, a boat that I am constantly developing.”
Jean Le Cam and his Yes-We-Cam boat, his “4L of the seas”.
Jean Le Cam does not hesitate to get his hands dirty when it comes to his 4L
It was after a Vendée Globe that his became a real collection. The sailor lost his boat in the 2008-2009 race. Without a vessel, he got bored and returned to his passion for the 4L. The first, which he gave to his daughter when she reached 18, was soon joined by another, and he improved the first with some new components. Then came the dilemma, as he told L’Equipe: “I was stripping one to build the other. But you just can’t do that, it’s impossible.” So he bought a third, then a fourth… One weekend, he even went to buy three in one go! And that’s how he ended up with a collection of eight 4Ls.
Jean Le Cam admires one of his eight 4Ls from a collection of which he is proud!
However, he’s not yet ready to take the next step by taking part in a race behind the wheel of a 4L. Jean Le Cam prefers to save speed for when he takes to the water, coddling his 4Ls instead of bashing them around on the sands of the 4L Trophy race.
He lets it be known that he is dreaming of an all-electric version 2.0 of this emblem of its times. Something that would allow the cult car to return to the fore to make its mark on new generations.
So the message is clear… This car – from all our yesterdays – is perfect for today. Surely for all our tomorrows too!