The Peugeot 505, little known or understood in the U.S., has a strong international presence for reasons familiar to American car enthusiasts. Produced in France from 1979 to 1992 and in other countries well into the 1990s, it was contemporary with the popular GM B Bodies of 1977-96 and served a similar role worldwide. Large family sedans and wagons with the soft ride expected of French cars, they were also Peugeot’s last rear wheel drive car and represented the end of an era in its country’s automotive history. Like the GM B Bodies, they have become popular worldwide for their comfort and durability, especially in West Africa and other places where American cars have little or no presence. Therefore, it was not really surprising to find a 505 parked on one of the main routes of the recent demonstrations in Bangkok that led to the dissolving of the government of Thailand.
This 505 was most likely locally assembled in Thailand, since Peugeot had final assembly operations there and in numerous other countries on five continents. Outside of France, 505 assembly occurred in Spain, China, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, Chile, Argentina, Egypt, and Australia. As a result, anywhere outside of North America, it is possible to find a 505 still in regular use. Like a Caprice or Crown Victoria in the U.S., they lack the prestige associated with a Mercedes or BMW, but they get the job of family transportation done quite comfortably. We love our old Detroit iron, but one can quip that one-sixth of the earth is covered by land yachts, while the rest is covered by Peugeot 505s.
A mention of automobiles at the demonstrations should not go without pointing out a sighting that was more meets the eye – involving the Transformers, of course. Bumblebee, Optimus and Megatron were decked out in Thai flags and available for tourists to take selfies, directly across the street from the public square where the main demonstrations have occurred (visible in the background), during the night after the announcement that Thailand’s parliament would dissolve. Their presence, along with that of the 505 and other cars parked on the same street, is an indication of the ability of the Thai people to maintain their equilibrium and sense of humor, even in the midst of political strife. In the middle of demonstrations that have brought down a government – literally in the middle of them – these cars sat untouched by the thousands of demonstrators streaming past. International news coverage made the demonstrations appear dangerous, but in reality the scene was orderly and festive, with musicians, street vendors, and entire families including women and children among the thousands of people living round the clock in the streets. It was a thoroughly civil atmosphere where the political stakes were high but people remained calm and decent, and it should be recognized as one that speaks well of the people of Thailand.