Monday August 20, 2018
It was the Car of the Year for 1969, defeating the BMW E3, the Alfa Romeo 1750 Berlina and the Jaguar XJ6. It was a car that would be seen across the world – from Paris to Sydney and from Nairobi to Lagos. And it was still being constructed as recently as 2006. It is, of course, the Peugeot 504 -
The 504 debuted on 12th September 1968 as both an eventual successor to the 404 and Peugeot’s offering of a car that would appeal to the driver who might have otherwise looked a Citroën ID20, a Mercedes-Benz W115 or, across the Channel, a Rover 2000. There was rack and pinion steering, all-independent suspension, disc brakes fore and aft, and, a detail that makes the late 1960s seem so distant, a steering column gearchange. The styling, from Aldo Brovarone of Pininfarina, was attractively idiosyncratic without drawing attention (that would never do), a sliding roof was standard and there was a fuel injection option for the 1.8 litre engine.
Most importantly, the latest Peugeot was built to the highest standards. The company’s famed philosophy of quality was based on exacting design studies and development programmes that considered every component to the last detail. The 504 was intended to offer a comfortable ride over the worst of road services and to be a car that you could depend upon in the worst of circumstances. For the ‘executive motorist’ there was the Injection and in the words of Autocar in 1968 it was ‘among Europe’s finest touring cars’. N.B. The same report also noted that the ventilation system was enough to dissipate ‘fumes of Garlic and Gauloises’…
The incredibly handsome Coupe and Cabriolet made their debuts in 1969 but it was the standard 504s that were the bedrock of the range. By the following year, Peugeot introduced a 2-Litre engine, a diesel power plant and a line-up of estate cars including the 7-seater Familiale, with its three rows of seats. In the UK this became regarded as a chic form of transport, and in 1972 Car magazine noted ‘To have a Peugeot is to be in, but it is more than just fashion that makes it popular. It is an extremely good vehicle that combines generous load carrying capabilities with refined suspension, excellent road holding and handling’.
Peugeot progressively developed the 504 throughout the 1970s, with a floor gearchange being introduced in 1972 and the entry level 1800L which was so Spartan it even featured a live rear axle and drum rear brakes. When the 505 was introduced in 1979, production of the older model began to be scaled down although the extremely popular 504 pick-up was a new model for that year.
French production ended when the last example left the Sochaux
factory in 1983 but this was not the end of the narrative. This was a true world car, built in Argentina -
, Australia, Chile, China, Egypt, Kenya, New Zealand, Nigeria, Portugal, Spain, Taiwan and Tunisia. These overseas plants were either full manufacturing operations or CKD (Completely Knocked Down) assembly points and it was in the latter form that the last 504 was made 12 years ago.
Today, the 504 are a fairly unusual sight on British roads, but once experienced, this great Peugeot can never be forgotten. There are those details such as the way the front head restraints extended, Triffid-like, from the seat cushions and memories of a taxi ride in Paris, the 504 dodging between various Renault 6s and Citroën CXs, plus that cameo in For Your Eyes Only.
And these are a few of the countless memories of a Peugeot that truly was Built to Last.