CC Capsule: Peugeot 404 Wagon – On Matters Of Aging And Shifting Delights

That our likes and preferences evolve and shift as we age is an undisputed fact of life. From our love of sweets in our early days, to eventually enjoying bitter flavors and the qualities of coffee. It all happens; slowly, and surely.

So as the years pass, a better appreciation of “those things” grown-ups cherished and you seriously questioned as a kid occurs. What was once dull and dopey can acquire new meaning as the years pile on. And that’s pretty much how I now feel about old Peugeots. The one-time funny-looking cars with a hard to pronounce name, now oddly captivating to my 50+ year-old self.

This is a subject I briefly tackled some time ago when I talked about another of these old Peugeots. That previous find was also a 404 wagon, and it was a vehicle I remembered well from my childhood days in San Salvador. A model fairly common back in the day, but now rare and that I hadn’t seen up close in a long time. And its fifties cues looked as dopey on that encounter as they did back in my youth.

Now, the car hadn’t changed, but something in me certainly had. And on that close encounter, my older self found much to explore on the 404’s lines. Was it the most exciting of designs? Not at all. But it did have charm and was its very own eclectic self. Qualities I couldn’t appreciate as a child (how could I?), but that now spoke to me. Yes, the old gallic wonder had found an admirer in me after all.

I guess it’s all normal. One doesn’t remain a child or a teen forever. For one, the body couldn’t take it. Then, the human need for instant stimuli and excitement finds a way to open up to other –more gradual– pleasures. Do I need my cars to be the envy of those around me? No, no more. And isn’t it nice to learn to enjoy the different and unhip? In my case, I discovered that yes, I had such a fondness.

That, plus the respect one garners for those functional qualities we as youth cared little for. Cargo space and a comfortable ride? A sturdy and tough frame to carry the family in comfort? No kid I know would worry about such things. But it was in those areas that these old Peugeots excelled and found much favor.

And while French vehicles have a spotty record in North America, these old Peugeots had a very faithful and loyal following just about everywhere else. And the cars delivered. How else to explain this 50+ year wagon still alive in San Salvador, when parts and supplies dried up ages ago?

Not that I’m sure this old 404 is still running, though it certainly was until recent times. It belongs to a car wash not far from my home and I often saw it parked at the wash’s entrance. Now, for reasons unknown, it has been moved to a side street with little traffic, away from the car wash’s employee’s eyes. Probably not a good sign for its future.

From up close, the passing of time is both undeniable and oddly alluring. Here’s the rather intact lion badge, showing some patina along the grille’s old chrome.

As you can see, this hefty emblem is still roaring despite its many years.

This old 404 may be bruised and worn, but looking closer, there’s still potential and life in it. Starting with the interior. Most of all the soft bits and instruments are still in place; so there’s much to like in that regard.  Of course, it has the obligatory “CC find” missing door panel. But regardless, I’m almost inclined to ask about the purchasing price when looking at these pics.

And what’s that on the rearview mirror? Some kind of toy-like voodoo doll? Is that what’s playing with my mind and awakening my liking for these old 404s?

Let’s move away from such witchcraft before it starts to affect us. Now, these rims just say French to me.

I can’t quite tell what made me change my mind about how I feel for these old Peugeots, other than my growing older. Then again, I may be projecting some of my old self into it. Old 404s were always a bit quaint and peculiar, and seen as somewhat of a “square”. Pretty much the opinion my classmates had about me all throughout my school years. I may have resisted it back then, but why deny it? As time passed, I learned to embrace my old quirky self.

So, it may be an age thing. Or I may be just projecting some of myself on this old 404. In either case, I find much to like in this solitary and lonely aging one.


Related CC reading:

“The French Mercedes”

The World’s Greatest Wagons