Renault recently announced the name of its future luxury coupé SUV, the Rafale. To define this model and its universally impressive presence and bold design, a distinctive and exciting name with a sense of audacity was required. But what is the history and symbolism behind the name ‘Rafale’ at Renault?
At Renault, names often convey symbolic meaning, a sense of history or even both at the same time. And this is the case with ‘Rafale’, a name that alludes to a sometimes forgotten past and, in a single word, sums up the position, image and design of the future luxury coupé SUV that will embody Renault’s range of top-of-the-range vehicles in a few weeks’ time.
The term ‘Rafale’ has quite a reputation, as it is the name of a famous French fighter jet, steeped in a history of records and evoking the nation’s most prestigious achievements in aviation. However, few are aware that the name ‘Rafale’ has belonged to Renault since 1936, 89 years ago.
In the early 20th century, Renault was a pioneer in the creation of internal combustion engines not only for automobiles, but also for trains (railway cars) and even aircraft. The company’s founder, Louis Renault, was passionate about aviation and completed the acquisition of French aircraft manufacturer Caudron in 1933. He then created Caudron Renault and changed the names of all Caudron aircraft using wind-related terms: the C460 became Rafale (meaning ‘gust’ in French) in 1934, the C500 became Simoun (meaning ‘simun’, a desert wind), the C640 became Typhon (meaning ‘typhoon’) and the C714 became Cyclone.
The first ever Rafale was the Caudron Renault C460, an aircraft designed to break records. It was a single-seat racing aircraft that was designed to break records and was only produced in small numbers, which could have consigned it to oblivion. However, the stylistic audacity of its avant-garde aerodynamics and extraordinary performance left a mark on aviation history, making the model a legend.
The famous aviator Hélène Boucher set several speed records in the Rafale, including the female record for distances over 1,000 km when she reached 445 km/h on 11 August 1934.
Renault’s pioneering spirit and desire to go further were shared by famous aviators such as Maryse Bastié and Hélène Boucher.
The iconic design of the Caudron Renault Rafale was created by Marcel Riffard, an ingenious aeronautical engineer who also designed cars for Renault, such as the Nervasport and the Viva Grand Sport. The latter was an extremely luxurious luxury model powered by an in-line six-cylinder engine. At the time, Hélène Boucher, who worked for Renault, praised driving the Viva Grand Sport in advertisements.
Aviation and the automotive industry are pioneering disciplines that drive progress and innovation. Following its renowned heritage of the same name, the new Renault Rafale pursues excellence through its design and aerodynamics. Its stunning form was designed to stand out as an iconic and resolutely French SUV coupé in Renault’s range of premium vehicles.
With its rich history and stunning design, Renault Rafale is positioned as a symbol of innovation, performance and French elegance. This luxury coupé SUV promises to take drivers to new heights and embodies the bold, avant-garde spirit that has been part of Renault since its beginnings in aviation.
Caudron Rafale Aircraft records:
The Caudron Rafale has an outstanding record in aerial competition during the 1930s. Here are some of the aircraft’s most outstanding achievements:
In 1934, the Caudron Rafale demonstrated its speed and capability by scoring important victories. In the Coupe Deutsch de la Meurthe, held on 27 May of that year, pilot Maurice Arnoux led the C.450 to first place with an impressive speed of 388.97 km/h (388.97 mph). For his part, Louis Massotte took second place in the C.366, reaching 360 km/h. In addition, one of the three C.460s, driven by Albert Monville, took third place with a speed of 341.04 km/h.
In August 1934, Hélène Boucher, a leading aviator of the time, broke several speed records aboard the Caudron Rafale. On 8 August, she set the 100 km speed record by flying at 412 km/h (412 mph). Not content with that, on 11 August, she reached 455 km/h, breaking the world speed record for aircraft.
The following year, in 1935, the Caudron Rafale continued its success. In the Coupe Deutsch de la Meurthe, Raymond Delmotte was crowned champion, flying at a speed of 443.965 km/h in the C.450. This victory was all the more remarkable because second place was also taken by a Caudron aircraft, specifically the C.460 piloted by Yves Lacombe, who reached a speed of 424 km/h (424 mph). Maurice Arnoux, with another C.450, completed the podium by taking third place with a speed of 348 km/h.
In 1936, the Caudron Rafale proved its superiority in the US National Air Races. Michel Détroyat, in a C.460 with the serial number 690.9, won the Trophée Greve on 4 September of that year, flying an aircraft equipped with a 330 hp engine. Then, on 7 September, he triumphed again by winning the Trophée Thompson, but this time with a 380-horsepower engine. His skill and the aircraft’s aerodynamic efficiency enabled him to outperform more powerful aircraft and establish himself as the only European pilot to win one of these competitions in the history of the National Air Races.
Today, the Caudron Rafale has become a piece of history on display at the Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace, a renowned air and space museum in France.
The Caudron Rafale’s track record reflects its ability to push the limits of speed and its outstanding performance in aerial competitions of the time. These achievements contribute to the history and legacy of this iconic Caudron aircraft.