It’s Friday, and I for one think that it’s come about five days too late this week. So let’s unwind by pumping up the tyres on our bicycle of discovery and take a meandering trip trip along the rust-coloured avenue of automotive history. We’re heading to early ’70s France for this week’s visit to The Carchive. This particular brochure was printed in 1973, by which time the superseding 504 model had already been in production for a good few years. Yet there was still a ready audience for whom only the 404 would do. “In many countries, particularly those where road conditions are at their worst, the 404 has become one of the most popular of imported cars.” This is a fascinating brochure, if only for how specific an angle the marketing message is slanted at. Images of fashionable, upmarket lifestyle pursuits are nowhere to be seen. Instead, the 404 is presented in front of a remarkably colourful industrial backdrop, looking for all the world like a powder-paint quarry. The trunk is shown full of hard hats, loud-hailers and other industrial garb, and any humans in shot are photographed wearing boiler-suits, albeit ones incorporating flares in the legs. It doesn’t say anywhere in the brochure that you can’t use it for family transportation, but the message is strongly towards the 404’s intended use as an industrial tool rather than a pleasure-craft. With those duties being fulfilled by the 504 and the smaller 304, the 404 was becoming a commercial vehicle. “But the 404 has not only retained its high standard of mechanical design, but has adopted over the years the technical improvements which enable it to maintain a leading position in the motoring world.” The 404’s previous success as a robust yet very enjoyable family car led to assured success as a beast of burden. The photographs herein, showing the non-nonsense interior appointments, also remind us that there was effortless stylishness seeping from every pore. Even as a machine increasingly marketed for its utility and usefulness rather than its elegance and refinement, the underlying excellence of the core product was still in evidence everywhere you looked. The 504 had an awful lot to live up to. “The 404 is a fine touring car, sturdy and comfortable, but very powerful. A car to rely on.” By 1973 there were only two engine choices, 73hp 1.6 litre petrol or 57 hp 2.0 litre diesel. The more exotic engines, some of which came with Kugelfischer mechanical fuel injection, had been phased out soon after the arrival of the 504. These remaining power plants were hardy, easy to maintain and not too fussy if you didn’t. In fact, the same was true of the whole car, which remained in production outside France for an awful lot longer, and in the indestructible pick-up form until the late ’80s. Back when it was new, the 404 was the recipient of rave reviews, and few came so gushing as this from Canada’s Track and Traffic magazine “The Peugeot 404 is a car that we find almost impossible to criticize, from any standpoint. It is a car that ideally combines comfort, quality and economy. In short, it is the kind of car one can buy with absolute confidence and drive and drive and drive, for longevity comes with quality in the case of Peugeot” This is the kind of review that a car company would kill for, and one that Peugeot would be over the moon to receive today. (All images are of original manufacturer publicity materials, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of Peugeot. Look at the 404, a mid-size sedan designed by Pininfarina, now look at the Austin Cambridge A55, a mid-size sedan, designed by Pininfarina. Now tell me just how come the French car look so much sexier?)
The Carchive: The '73 Peugeot 404
RoadworkUK is the online persona of Gianni Hirsch, a tall, awkward gentleman with a home office full of gently decomposing paper and a garage full of worthless scrap metal. He lives in the village of Moistly, which is a safe distance from London and is surrounded by enough water and scenery to be interesting. In another life, he has designed, sold, worked on and written about cars in exchange for small quantities of money.