Cohort Capsule: Peugeot 403 – Updated: Will It End Up In The GM Heritage Museum?

Peugeot 403 fq

Update: We don’t normally cover industry news, but a report on Reuters this morning makes the likelihood of Peugeot being merged with Opel seem almost inevitable. Peugeot and Opel are both bleeding cash, and the Peugeot family has no other real options. The European market’s contraction is not likely to end anytime soon, and non-premium brands like Opel and Peugeot (and Fiat) are getting reamed, as the premium brands move downmarket. The political opposition to job losses will be fierce, but unless France wants to nationalize Peugeot (not a realistic option), the writing is on the wall.

We’ve yet to do a proper full-on CC on the 403, although our Pug-master in South Africa, Dawid Botha, will undoubtedly share his one of these days. So let’s consider this one posted at the Cohort by Roger Carr as an apéritif. Apart from its significance in French and global automotive history, the 403 played the key role in establishing the brand in the US during the fifties. At that time, it was highly regarded among the import set as a very well built, tough, comfortable but yet somewhat sporty sedan. Of course, this was well before the time that sporty import sedans like BMW made their mark here.

peugeot 403_01

The 403’s styling was of course by Pininfarina, and is regarded as a particularly successful example of the “pontoon” style that took the the auto world by storm on the heels of Pininfarina’s trend-setting 1946 Cisitalia 202. The 403 went into production in 1955, and was superseded by the new 404 in 1961, but continued to be built for several more years.

Its 1468 cc hemi-head four made 65 hp, but was very amenable to tuning, and there was a after-market for parts to do just that. I remember David E. Davis writing about his tuned 403 that he drove in the late fifties.

I actually owned a 403, but it was a non-runner that graced my Santa Monica apartment parking spot for way too long. Like almost all SoCal cars, its body was utterly rust-free. That was seductive, but it takes more to bring back a tired beater than just a rust-free body, and I never got around to it. The apartment manager seemed quite relieved when I passed it along to the next sucker. Lesson learned: buy the best condition of car you can, and stop day dreaming about restoring that old 403. But I still miss it.

peugeot 403 Falk