(first posted 4/21/2016) The number of cars we’ve never covered here is slowly but steadily diminishing. One of those was the Peugeot 204 Coupe (and Cabriolet), an exceptionally sweet little car in a number of ways. But now that Staxman posted some shots of one taken a few years back, that’s no longer the case, and we can happily cross it off the list.
Peugeot, a very traditional company, had long just built one lineage of vehicles: sedans, wagons and utility vehicles on a robust RWD platform, and one that went through successive generations, from the first postwar 203 right through to the final 505. But in the late 50s and early 60s, the market was expanding most rapidly with smaller, more affordable cars, and Renault and Citroen were gobbling it all to themselves, mostly. peugeot decided to take the very big step into the small-car arena with an all-new FWD car, the 204 (above), but one that would keep as many of the traditional Peugeot qualities intact. That meant a conservative trunked sedan tastefully designed by Pininfarina instead of the oddball designs that Citroen (Ami) and Renault were building (R4). And among other things, it meant that an even more tastefully coupe and cabrio needed to be part of the 204 family, as was the case with the big Peugeots.
The 204 sedan arrived in 1965. One year later, the Coupe and Cabriolet appeared, on a shortened wheelbase.
All of the 204s were powered by the same smooth 1103 cc transverse SOHC four, rated at 53 hp through 1968, and 55 hp for 1969-1970, before it was replaced by the 304 Coupe and Cabriolet, which was just an evolution of the 204. We have covered the 304 here.
As is quite apparent, these coupes and cabrios were not exactly very family-friendly; in fact they were obviously a way to distinguish oneself from that. The Coupe had a small back seat, and with its hatchback, was reasonably practical.
But the Cabrio was strictly a two-seater, as this 1970 version makes quite clear. Like all Peugeots up that time, the shifter for the four-speed manual was on the column. And unlike the typical balky American three-on-the-tree, these Peugeot shifters were light and accurate. I learned to shift the one in my 404 as quickly and effortlessly as if it had been on the floor.
Here’s the rear view of this 1970 204 Cabrio, which was originally purchased in canada, where the Coupe and Cabrio were imported.
The 1960 Corvair’s influence on the 204, especially the Coupe and Cabrio’s back end, is apparent, but then that’s the case with so many European cars in the mid sixties, as documented here.
Strictly speaking, it looks a bit more like the ’59 Lark’s rear end treatment, but then the Lark was just previewing some of the Corvair’s design a year early, thanks to some good intelligence.
The 204’s front end’s origins are less debatable than the rear’s. Pininfarina’s 1961 Cadillac Jacqueline was the firms last (and futile) effort at attracting further coachbuilding business from Cadillac, after the 1959-1960 Fleetwood Brougham was cancelled, until the Allante. It’s a very clean and handsome coupe, although one could argue that PF was never at its best in dealing with such large cars. American designers simply had more experience in this scale. But the Jacqueline’s front end went on to be replicated on some 1.4 million 204s.
Given the fact that the 204 was Peugeot’s first shot at a small FWD, they pulled it off superlatively (unlike a certain company that will remain unnamed). The 204 was lauded for its excellent ride, fine power train, good performance, economy and handling, high all-round quality, and of course the Pininfarina looks. What a sweet baby Peugeot.