The Car Aboard Titanic

Titanic’s cargo consisted of a wide variety of items being exported to America—everything from “dragon’s blood” used in cosmetics, cases of ostrich feathers for women’s hats, and even a rare copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Passengers, of course, brought along their trunks, furniture, other household items, and pets. The total value of the cargo would be valued at over $200 million today. Many artifacts have been found during expeditions to the wreck site, but one of the largest, a 1911 Renault Coupe de Ville, remains buried beneath the north Atlantic.


The Renault was produced from 1905-1914 and had a top speed of 35 mph. It was listed on the Titanic cargo manifest, a copy of which was safely aboard the Cunard liner Mauritania. It had been purchased in Europe by William Carter of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Lucile, boarded the Titanic at Southampton, along with their two children, a maid, a manservant, and a chauffeur.


Portion of Titanic’s Cargo Manifest

In addition to the new Renault, the Carters also brought with them two dogs, a Spaniel and an Airedale. The family had previously moved to Europe, but spent summers in Bryn Mawr and Newport, Rhode Island. They planned to return to Bryn Mawr when the Titanic reached New York.

Shortly before Titanic sank, Carter managed to secure a place in the Collapsible Lifeboat C. His wife claimed he reached the Carpathia before she and the children did, and that he had deserted them during the loading of the boats. They were later divorced.


William Carter

The Renault, made famous in the film Titanic, was not conveniently parked in the hold but had actually been shipped in a large case, according to the cargo manifest, perhaps with some assembly required. Following rescue, Carter filed a claim with the White Star Line for $5000 for the car, and $100 and $200 for the dogs.

A fully restored Renault, made to the same specifications as Carter’s, sold in 2003 for $269,900.

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