One spring day in 2018, Beth Poole looked out the window of her East Side kitchen and stopped in her tracks. Parked on the street outside was a 1964 Renault Dauphine, sitting beneath a halo of sunlight.
“I stared and stared and stared,” Beth says. “Then, I started looking inside the car—did a man own it, or a woman? A man might sell it. A woman would never sell this.”
After three hours, the owner appeared; he was a fellow Evansville resident. The vehicle had run out of gas. Beth learned he had finished restoring it only a few weeks before. When she asked if he’d consider selling the Renault, he gave her the keys and told her to keep it awhile. The Renault became hers soon after.
The Poole family has a love for classic cars. Beth’s husband, Barry, owns a 1973 Volkswagen van. He restored a ’67 VW Beetle for their elder daughter and a ’67 Ford Mustang for their son. The Renault, though, is all Beth’s.
The three-box, French-made Dauphine is compact at 155 inches long and about 57 inches tall. The rear engine, put in gear by a four-speed manual transmission, gets up to 60 miles per hour in 24.6 seconds, with a top speed of about 78.
“It’s just so cute,” she says. “This reminds me of a small thing in a great big world. It slows me down, and it makes me happy when I’m driving because everyone else smiles at it.”
The Dauphine — so named for the former province in southeastern France that came under the rule of the French heir apparent in the 14th century — is resplendent in an icy butterfly green and features mid-century chrome hardware. Passengers perch on mint-and-emerald polyester seats and seek ventilation through the triangular quarter glass windows, which Beth jokingly calls her car’s air conditioning unit. The skinny dual-spoke steering wheel, manual gauges, circular side mirrors, and open glove compartment recall a time when driving often meant cruising.
“It suits my personality,” Beth says. “I don’t mind being a little bit different. I wear bright colors because I like them.”
The Renault comes out for “short trips on beautiful days,” Beth says, and makes appearances at fundraisers, including June’s ShrinersFest.
“I love the joy she gets when she drives it and the smiles she brings to other people,” Barry says.
“I like it myself, but I do like it when someone else gets enjoyment from it,” Beth adds.