Categories: News

Renault Master TGV: a Van Inspired by the French TGV

Explore the history of the Renault Master TGV, specially designed to resemble the iconic TGV cabin. Originally ordered by SNCF in 1981, these Renault vans were transformed to promote the high-speed TGV trains, revolutionizing travel in France.

Unveiling a remarkable fusion of automotive and train design, the Renault Master TGV remains a unique marvel. The Drive reported that the SNCF commissioned these vans to bolster the TGV’s public reception, coinciding with the groundbreaking debut of the first TGV train in 1981 by President François Mitterrand. The public’s initial apprehension toward the high-speed transport called for an innovative marketing approach.

Provoking a blend of fascination and skepticism, the TGV initially unsettled some individuals. To captivate potential passengers, SNCF devised an audacious marketing campaign: retrofitting Renault vans to emulate TGV cabins. These uniquely designed vehicles made their debut during the 1981 Tour de France, ensuring their prominent visibility to the masses.

Unveiling the Renault Van with TGV Inspiration, Commissioned by SNCF

The unconventional design of this distinctive van was not conceived by Renault. Instead, SNCF collaborated with Durisotti, a leading French commercial vehicle equipment manufacturer, to modify the Renault Master vans. The request was unprecedented: SNCF sought vans with a front design reminiscent of the TGV’s distinctive nose.

Transforming the Renault Master into the TGV-inspired model involved retrofitting a standard 1980s model. Equipped with typical features including front-wheel drive, a five-speed manual gearbox, and a four-cylinder diesel engine, the primary challenge lay in adapting the vehicle’s design to evoke the essence of a train.

Further Reading:

Renault and Polestar’s Collaboration for Future Vehicles

The Enduring Appeal of the Renault Zoé

Unveiling the 400-Horsepower Renault Twingo

Expanding the Concept in 1986

In addition to the TGV-inspired front, these vans featured rear observation platforms, akin to traditional passenger trains. They were even adorned in the authentic TGV Sud-Est livery, commemorating the first TGV introduced by SNCF in 1981. The success of the promotional campaign during the 1981 Tour de France led to the deployment of these Renault vans in other global cycling events.

However, driving these vans posed challenges. The braking system was unsuitable for the demands of mountainous terrains, and their reliance on a generator created an inhospitable environment for passengers and the driver. In 1988, SNCF initiated a second series of these Renault vans, this time to promote the launch of the TGV Atlantique. However, the subsequent fate of these vehicles remains a mystery.

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