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V.I.S.I.T. – Peugeot 405 DL

pug 1

The 405 was so amazingly popular when it came out in the US in 1989 that, uhh, no 405 sedans were imported in 1990 just to create buzz on the interwebs Usenet newsgroups and to generate an artificial shortage! Yeah, that’s right! That’s how popular it was! Actually, 405 sedan sales were so poor when the model first appeared that dealers still had unsold 1989 models on their lots, and only the 405 wagons were imported the following year in a failed effort to transition the 505 crowd on to a newer model.

The example above seems to have suffered from all the usual cosmetic pitfalls of the 405, but not to an extreme degree, suggesting that this car spent at least some of its life garaged. Actually, as far as driver 405s go, this one was in pretty good condition as it had minimal paint fading and flaking on the hood and trunk, and the side moldings weren’t especially faded either. This one likely spent its entire life in suburban/rural Connecticut, so aside from the road salt it was not really subjected to extreme traffic conditions that meant a short life for many 405s in the northeast.

In the numerous, numerous magazine articles that examined Peugeot’s sales decline and departure from America, the styling and packaging of the 405 is invariably compared to the Infiniti G20, a upscalish little econobox that nevertheless managed to give Infiniti a volume foothold in the US, a foothold cemented by the flagrant abuse of Jonathan Pryce’s British accent in TV commercials. What’s easy to forget is that at the time it was Infiniti that was just starting out, and attempting to distinguish itself both from corporate parent/vehicle donor Nissan, while imitating upstarts Lexus and Acura. The G20 may have been similar a lot of respects to the 405, but it was really the G20 that faced an uphill battle, and it was the 405 that had a reputation to live up to.

pug 2

Reasonable people will disagree just what kind of reputation the 405 had to live up to in the states, but it should nevertheless be noted that it didn’t have any obvious competitors among the European brands. Volvo didn’t market anything this “tiny” and the W201 C-class was priced quite a bit higher than the 405, as was the 3-series. In retrospect this may have been viewed as an advantage, as the the 405 was arguably the only European car in that size and price category, but Peugeot’s dealer network and sales numbers had shrunk by 1989 to a level where that didn’t really matter. The 405 pretty much sold on the two coasts, in European car-saturated regions.

Even though period reviews praised the car in virtually all areas, that didn’t change the fact that Peugeot in the America was essentially a one car brand throughout much of the 1980s, and that one car was showing its age. Infiniti dealerhips were having a similar problem, as they didn’t exactly have a huge range of cars to offer at the time, a total of three for the first three years. And it wasn’t immediately clear just where Infiniti fit in the hierarchy of newly-created Japanese luxury brands. Well, we all know which car ended up a better fit for the North American market, and needless to say it’s far easier to find a G20 from those years on the street today than a Peugeot 405.

But if there’s one Peugeot model of the past 30 years that’s harder to spot than the 405 sedan, it’s arguably the 405 wagon. I’ve seen a grand total of one 405 wagon, and it sure wasn’t a street find. Rather, I saw the 405 Mi16 wagon out of the DC area that appeared on BaT in 2011, in an eBay listing that didn’t make it abundantly clear one way or the other whether the wagon actually gained Mi16 power, or merely Mi16 badging. For the three of your reading this who are not familiar with what engines the 405 sedan and wagon were offered with in the US, I’ll just tell you that the Mi16 was not available as a wagon.

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Even among the Peugeot faithful (that’s right, all twenty three of them), a 405 wagon is as close as it gets to a unicorn car, notwithstanding the occasional private import like a 205 or a 309. In fact, I have not seen nor heard any evidence of any remaining 405 wagons being used as daily drivers by non-enthusiasts in the US. Absence of proof is not proof of absence, so let me know if you’ve seen/heard otherwise.

When was the last time you saw any Peugeot 405?

Currently there are "18 comments" on this Article:

  1. Vavon says:

    I have seen several American 405s and 505s in Europe, but I have never seen an American 405 Wagon either!

    <img src="http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3094/3161128255_f8b61efd7b_b.jpg&quot; width="650/">

    • Jay_Ramey says:

      Peugeot club members estimate less than fifty 405 wagons being on the road in the US today, which actually sounds like an awful lot. I don't think every state would even have one, to be honest.

      I remember someone telling me that the import numbers 405 wagons in the states were merely in the mid four digits, which sounds about right.

  2. Stu_Rock says:

    It's been a few months since I've seen a 405 out on the road. Peugeot sightings are rare enough that when one owner sees another one on the road, they email the mailing list and ask which one of them it was.

  3. mallthus says:

    I remember the wagons selling pretty well in Southern California. That said, I actually lived only 3 miles from a Pug dealer (pictured).

    <img src="http://images.hemmings.com/wp-content/uploads//2012/04/LongBeachImportAuto_1000-700×430.jpg&quot; width=600>

    • Vairship says:

      Ah, they imported ALL the winners!
      "Where service comes first"… because you'll be seeing our service department on a regular basis!

  4. david42 says:

    I always thought the 605s wore this look better. Wish they brought them to the US. For some reason, I'd rather own / go into poverty for a 605 than an Alfa 164–probably means I need to up my meds.

  5. jeepjeff says:

    Whenever I think of Peugot and Nissan comparisons, this particular 405 always springs to mind:

    <img src="http://www.seppes.com/Autos/24-Hours-of-Lemons/i-WXFGRqV/1/L/IMG_2291-L.jpg&quot; width=505>

  6. wisc47 says:

    I'll admit to never having seen Peugeot in Wisconsin, then again I wouldn't expect to with the ridiculous amounts of snow and even more ridiculous amounts of salt.

    • Jay_Ramey says:

      Yeah, I think there were only one or two import dealers in that state that had Pugs. Wisconsin had the Rennows though, their very own in fact : ) Coming very soon to a hooniverse article near you : )

      And speaking of Peugeots in Wisconsin: http://hooniverse.com/2013/01/09/v-i-s-i-t-vetera

      • wisc47 says:

        I definitely have seen some Renaults, and do look forward to that article.

        • Jay_Ramey says:

          By the way, I did meet an enthusiast from Minnesota who has a 405 wagon, I was talking to him while we were admiring the 405 Mi16 wagon from Washington DC at Carlisle Import Nationals.

          I'd have never thunk there'd be a roadworthy 405 wagon in MN, but hey, you never know.

    • Stu_Rock says:

      I went to college in Appleton with a girl who had a 505, and in 2002-03 I saw a 505 frequently parallel parked on Winnebago Street in Madison. There are several that have been known to be in the Milwaukee area.

      That said, I grew up in Wisconsin while Peugeots were still being sold, and I can't remember seeing very many of them. Renaults were very common, though.

      • wisc47 says:

        A 505 in Madison doesn't surprise me, I live here and thats the kind of car that Madisonites would lust after (me included), but I still have yet to spot one. Have seen some Renaults in Milwaukee before.

        EDIT: After replying to your comment I just found this, it's not very far from me, it's cheap, it's manual, it's turbo and it's glorious. Wish there were more pictures and details, though. http://madison.craigslist.org/cto/3539829275.html

        • Stu_Rock says:

          Love it. The clutch hydraulics are easy to fix, and not very expensive. Check the rust on/in the rear control arms–I've heard that's a common failure spot. I bought my 505 after moving to California, and mine has very little rust (it's still a beater, though).

          How long have you been in Madison and what do you do there? I grew up in Cottage Grove and came back for an MS at UW.

          • wisc47 says:

            I'm currently in my second year at UW, working on a BS in psychology. I also work in catering at Memorial Union and I'm in the Triathlon club. Overall it is just a fantastic place to be, although I grew up in Plymouth WI which is about 15 minutes east of Sheboygan.

            Funny you say the control arms are a point of failure, one of the control arms on Fiat was just replaced. It's a tempting buy for sure, I'm just not sure if I want to get involved in another project, I just don't have the time and resources for it.

            • Stu_Rock says:

              Cool. I think there's a guy in Plymouth that owns some sort of motorsports shop and used to race Peugeots. I can't remember his name right now, though. I know the area fairly well–ten years ago I dated a girl from New Holstein.

  7. Vavon says:

    I must say I like the way they converted the sedan in to a wagon, it looks so straight forward.
    Only when you see them next to each other you notice how many differences there are.

    <img src="http://www.autoviva.com/img/photos/374/peugeot_405_large_106374.jpg&quot; width="670/">

  8. Maymar says:

    Back in October, I found the husk of a 405 at a repair shop around Niagara-On-The-Lake. Sad it made it this long just to succumb to something to turn it into a parts car.

    But several years ago, there was a 405 (DL, I think) with a 5-speed on Craigslist for $500. It was apparently in reasonable shape for a ~20 year old French car. But I had just paid for a trip to Vegas. Even if I went to SEMA and The Gun Store, Vegas sucks. I should've bought the Pug.

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