Curbside Classic: 1948 Peugeot 202 – The Baby Chrysler Airflow

Peugeot 202 Latie RV gris 800

(first posted 3/19/2013)       Our Peugeotphile in South Africa, Dawid Botha, whose treks across the wilds of Africa in his 404 wagon have been documented here and here (and coming soon to Peugeot Fest),  sent me these pictures of a friend’s lovely restored 202 when it dropped by his house for a visit. I’m hardly an expert on these older Peugeots, but we’ll try to piece together some of its history, including its obvious Chrysler Airflow-inspired design. If Plymouth had built a baby Airflow, this is what it might well have looked like.

Peugeot 402

The 202 arrived in 1938, as the little brother to the 402 (above), which was first shown in 1935, just a little over a year after the Airflow’s ill-fated premiere. The 402’s very advanced aerodynamic design was obviously heavily influenced by the 1934 Chrysler Airflow, although of course aerodynamics were being actively pursued in Europe too. Unlike in the U.S., the Airflow’s design was heartily embraced in Europe via Peugeot, and it became the adopted design language for the whole range of Peugeots.

Chrysler Airflow coupe

One thing that stands out as being somewhat different from the Airflow (above), is that Peugeot didn’t move the engine forward to a position between the front wheels, which was one of the Airflow’s most significant contributions to modern design, as it brought the whole passenger cabin forward, between the axles, and improved ride quality. The Peugeot 402 and 202 retain the traditional configuration, with the front axle line well forward, and the rear seat tucked in between the rear wheels. On the other hand, Peugeot dropped the running boards, which really didn’t exactly suit the Airflow either.

Peugeot 202 1939 Brochure Berline 800

Peugeot was motivated to embrace a more avant-garde design in part because they knew that the radical FWD Citroen Traction Avant was due in 1934. But Peugeot stuck to traditional RWD, as they would for many decades to come. It came to define the key difference between the two companies; one more adventurous; the other more conservative.

Peugeot 202 1939 Brochure Specifications

In fact, the 202 also still had a traditional separate frame, which did make it easier to offer different body variants. The engine was an 1133cc OHV four with 30 hp @4000 rpm; not bad for the times, and enough to give it a top speed of just over 100km/h (62 mph).  As was common then, the transmission was a three-speed with synchromesh on the two top gears.

And it appears that Peugeot had already adopted its trademark worm drive rear axle, which lowered the driveshaft/torque tube to make the floor lower too. Worm drive has a wee bit more friction than the typical helical rear axle, but it’s also immensely strong.  It was essentially impossible to bust or blow one of these up, no matter what the abuse. Worm drives were more commonly used in some very large trucks and heavy equipment.

Peugeot 202 Latie Sierrooster

Unlike the Airflow, Peugeot placed the headlights inside the grille, a rather unusual but distinctive arrangement.

Peugeot 202 Latie RA wiel

The decorative design on the Peugeot’s rear wheel spats is a pretty blatant copy of the Airflow’s, although they did manage to turn it into a stylized version of the traditional Peugeot-logo lion’s head.

Peugeot 202 cabrio

Like most Peugeots, the 202 came in a full range of body styles. This little two-seater cabriolet is mighty cute and stylish for the times. As are the models.

 Peugeot 202 4dr Cabrio

A small number of four-door cabrio-sedans (découvrable) were also made. I’m speculating that they’re looking down on Peugeot’s Sochoux plant, which is near the Swiss border.

Peugeot 202 UH

There was even a woody wagon.

Peugeot 202 Pickup_1938-1940_frontleft_2008-08-06_U

And of course the pickup, as well as an enclosed van body. As per Peugeot’s long-standing practice, the wagon and truck rode on a longer and strengthened frame.

Peugeot 202 Latie Interieur Agter b 800

This 202 has been restored by Latie (“Jolu”) Lategan, and it took some doing to find information on how exactly the interior was to be properly restored. The outcome is certainly appealing, for a compact lower-end car. It even has a metal sunroof, which was also a popular and common Peugeot feature.

Peugeot 202 Latie Lion Capot

Another version of the Peugeot lion’s head graces the radiator.

Peugeot 202 Latie LA

Here’s the lion’s tail. The 202 did not have an externally accessible trunk, which was the case with many cars from the thirties and earlier. Dawid couldn’t get the information needed to pin down this 202’s exact year of manufacture, but it is from the post war years (1946-1949). Since the newer style wheels and hubcaps with their central locking bolt appeared with the 1948 model, we’ll call it that.

Peugeot 203 RV 15-10-2011

The 202 was a successful model, and some 140k of them were sold during its interrupted run. The all-new 203 arrived in 1948, and soon replaced the 202. The 203 was somewhat larger, and its design inspiration had moved on to more modern American cars, like a 1942 Chevy. It was the basis for all the subsequent Peugeot RWD models. Dawid is privileged to own one of the most unique 203s (above), so we’ll do its story one of these days (link below).

Peugeot 202 Latie R 800

Related: CC 1951 Peugeot 203: World’s Fastest 203?   PN