Despite the derivative name and use of Peugeot mechanicals, the Peugette concept car was not a Peugeot factory effort. It was actually a 1976 Pininfarina design study built on “spec,” with hopes of generating a desire for production from Peugeot (with whom Pininfarina had a good relationship with at the time).
The base platform for the Peugette was the Peugeot 104ZS hatchback: pretty ordinary stuff for a concept car. Even more unusual for Pininfarina, the Peugette was designed with manufacturing efficiency as a top priority. The idea was that the Peugette would be a stylish, satisfying car accessible to European youth whose motoring dreams outstripped their economic resources. It was a “lifestyle vehicle” before that horrible marketing phrase came into being.
The 66 HP Peugeot 104 was an economical subcompact, but certainly not a bad car (by early-’70s European standards). Upon its introduction in 1972, reviewers praised its steering feel, ride, and slick-shifting gearbox. It sold well and remained popular well into the ’80s. For a utilitarian hatchback, the three-door ZS version had reasonably legit sporting pretensions.
The Peugette’s remarkable (perhaps even bizarre) appearance was a result of its dual mission to be both dramatic and cheap. The body panels are all symmetrical, left to right and front to back. Thus, the front and rear hood and fenders are interchangeable, as are the doors. Same was true of the dashboard’s modular instrument “pods.” This was intended to cut down on the parts that needed to be developed and manufactured for initial assembly, as well as stocked at dealers for collision repairs.
Light weight, low power cars don’t tax their underpinnings as much as larger, more aggressive vehicles do, and therefore don’t need extremely sophisticated chassis components to shine. The Peugette did receive some strategic chassis bracing — most notably, a roll bar made from thick flat stock with an accompanying lower crossbeam welded in behind the cockpit. This reportedly only made up for the Peugette’s loss of body rigidity, bringing it back into the acceptable range while adding some rollover protection, rather than noticeably increasing stiffness over a stock-bodied 104ZS. Thanks to the Peugette’s wider rims and tires and less weight than the 104ZS, contemporary road tests said the Peugette was wicked fun to drive in urban situations and tight backroads where its meager power output didn’t spoil the party.
Unfortunately, those road tests didn’t generate much more that passing interest from the motoring public after the Peugette’s 1976 unveiling. So Pininfarina revamped the project a year later, and showed it again with the addition of a Barchetta version that replaced the full windshield with a passenger-side hard tonneau and a small racing windscreen that wrapped around the monoposto driver’s seat.
The Peugette was ultimately a bit of fancy, an oxymoron. It was a deliberately cheap car for people who could afford to indulge themselves. It was a racy car with a 66 HP engine. It was a utilitarian subcompact that had been transformed into a 2-seat convertible with a very rudimentary canvas top and side curtains, somewhat awkward ingress and egress, and much reduced cargo capacity. Despite some interest, Peugeot eventually decided that selling an utterly impractical car to people who had no money was not a great marketing strategy. The couple of Peugettes built found their way into European car museums where they remain today.
Okay, I’ll admit it: there is absolutely no rational reason for me to be so utterly entranced by the Peugette. None. It wasn’t terribly influential, wasn’t a radically superior performer, and certainly wasn’t pretty by any conventional definition of the word. But that doesn’t change the fact that I am entranced, and have been for years. It’s been one of my all-time favorite cars ever since I first read about it in Cars magazine as a kid. That’s why writing this appreciation has been one of my ambitions the whole time I have been at Hooniverse. I’ve kept putting it off due to my fear that I won’t do it justice, that I won’t manage to convey why my infatuation is justified. But allowing many Hooniverse readers — perhaps the majority — to never learn of this fairly obscure footnote in automotive history would be the greater injustice.
[Image sources: traumautoarchiv.de, carstyling.ru, beepworld.de, flickr.com]
I resemble your closing paragraph.
There are certain cars that continue to fascinate me, often without deserving to. The Bertone Asgard, Aztec and Aspid concepts had no real place in reality. With their "service panels" on the three-quarter panels, ultimately a blind alley that wouldn't be explored until the Audi A2 arrived with its fluids all accessed through a little hatch in the nose, they didn't really bring any great technological advances to the world. The Aztec, with its twin cockpits was something of a stylists indulgence, the Asgard at least showed a potential treatment for one-box vehicles.
The thing is, though, I thought they were cool as heck. I didn't need a reason, I was 5 when they came out. They were swoopy. They looked fast. They looked gadgetty. I loved them then and I love them now, despite the fact that they don't really mean anything.
<img src="http://www.shorey.net/auto/Italian/Italdesign/Ital%20Design%201988%20Aztec%20Spyder%20+%20Aspid%20Coupe%20+%20Asgard%20Mini%20Van%20Sv.jpg" width=350>Loading…
Perhaps I'm not at your level of lust, but that is a severely cool little car. It's too bad they couldn't make a case for it, even with what must've been minimal development costs.
Although – this might be blasphemous for saying this – the Peugette seems pretty close in concept to the much derided Del Sol, albeit without the French cool points.Loading…
It reminds me of the original Fiero as well. As much as we hated it because we wanted it to be something it wasn't, it was still a decent little car.Loading…
Peugot should have built it. There are lots of impoverished folks who stretch to buy cars that aren't particularly practical. They would have risked a pretty low investment and probably been able to sell tens of thousands a year. From a few angles, it looks a bit like the Porsche 914.Loading…
I understand perfectly– the thoughts behind your closing paragraph are all too familiar. The Peugette itself is a new one for me, so thank you.
Still, I've got to say that the cubes on the dash look like they should be labeled "Tandy Corporation." I mean that in the nicest possible way, though.Loading…
Right there with you Tanshanomi. That is a stylish little brick.
I still pine for the Ford O21C.Loading…
This looks a little like the Lancia Fulvia F&M special
<img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2436/3904066166_9fff224aca_m.jpg" width="240" height="188" alt="69 nurburgring 1000km aaltonen munari lancia fulvia fm spcl" />Loading…
The word "WHEEEE!" immediately popped into my head.Loading…
Not quite on topic, but I thought the gang would like to see this…
Ooooo! Snowcat burritos, yum! That thing looks like a kick in the ass to drive.Loading…
Yeah, sometimes you get infatuated with a vehicle for no good reason other than it's just cool. here's mine:
<img src="http://fwallpapers.com/files/images/dodge-pickup-deora-1965.jpg" width="500" />Loading…
You're excused because the coolness of the Dodge Deora is completely overwhelming. Amazing that it's 45 years old now, yet still looks futuristic and modern.Loading…
What a great little car with a fun story! OK, maybe "great" was a stretch in the traditional sense of the word, but considering my (and our) appreciation for automotive footnotes, flotsam and bizarre, I think that this is a "great" car in the Hooniversal Hoonitarian sense. In fact, the holy Hooniversal scriptures do state:
And they shall teach his neighbor and his comrade of the forgotten and minor car. For it is in these forgotten and minor cars that greatness can be found. Not in the way of this world, but in the way of the Hoon. For to the Hoon, the least is great and the popular minute.
Praise be to Murilee.Loading…
I had a hard time reading your article because I keep staring mindlessly at the pictures. (slobbers on shirt)Loading…
I would encourage anyone selling cars in the states to produce this vehicle. Maybe the engine could be modernized but try not to add 2,000 pounds of electronics and safety gear. Keep it simple and those that care will appreciate the high MPG.Loading…
(Steps back from screen, puts hand on chin, tilts head)
Fellow Brethren Hoons, we can twist the fabric of Space & Time and make this happen!
Scour the Earth and bring unto me:
1 Miata hull, stripped, powertrain intact
750 of those translucent fiberglass corrugated panels used for shop roofs and greenhouses
25 top-of the-line Cannondale mountain bikes (frame only)
4 electric kilns
6 50 ton railroad bottle jacks
4 American Racing (telephone dial) wheels
12 Tandy combo digital clock radio/cassette units from the 80's
1 fully equipped machine shop (w/ downdraft paint booth)
1 case of Knob Creek
1 cot w/ buckwheat pillow and Swiss army blankets
I feel the power of the Hooniverse rising upon me!!!Loading…