Louis Renault, French automobile inventor, c 1925-1935.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Louis Renault (1877-1944) was the founder of the Renault automobile company. Renault built his first car in 1898 with the world's first 3-speed gearbox with direct drive. Using this car Renault won a bet in 1898 that he could drive up the 13 per cent incline of the Rue Lepic in Montmatre. Renault's victory led to 12 orders being placed for the car and the birth of his automobile empire. In 1905 Renault went into mas production internationally, however ceasing when WW1 broke out in order to make vehicles for the allied forces. Renault's military inventions included the FT 17 tank, the first light armoured tank in existence. Following WW1 Renault's busines suffered from competition and the Wall Street crash. Following WW2 he was imprisoned for trading with Hitler's government.