There is no need to attempt to cover the full history of the Peugeot 504 here – Paul Niedermeyer did that thoroughly only recently, and the history of the Coupe he related recently parallels the Cabriolet.
And anyway, we’ve got these pictures to look at.
I’ve written before about my Fantasy Garage – it contains just five cars, chosen against a set of criteria that are defined on the day. One constant, though, is that there’ll be least two French cars in there. One will be a Citroen SM or a DS, and the other always the often unsung, sometimes overlooked Peugeot 504 Cabriolet. Has Pininfarina ever bettered this?
The 504 Cabriolet was built on the same platform as the saloon, but with a wheelbase reduced from 108 inches to just over 100 inches, and the length was cut from 177 inches to 172 inches. It was also 4 inches lower.
The car initially came onto the market in 1969, with a 1971cc 4 cylinder engine and around 105 bhp and a four speed gearbox. I’m not clear on the exact year of this car, but the four headlamp arrangement and the rear lights identify it as first series car. The second series had the twin headlights conjoined into one larger unit and revised tail lamps; the third series less elegant bumpers.
The Cabriolet was twinned with the Coupe, which outsold it considerably over the 14 year life. As launched in 1969 with the four cylinder engine, performance was around 10 seconds to 60 mph and 110 mph. This was increased to 116 mph in 1975 when the car was fitted with the Peugeot-Renault-Volvo Douvrin 2.7 litre V6 and a five speed gearbox, reinforcing the link to the newer and larger Peugeot 604 saloon. Conceptually, the idea of the smoother and more powerful V6 in this car is very attractive, but the timing was unfortunate and given the customary French reluctance to go for a large engine option for taxation reasons, sales of the V6 were slow, to say the least.
Only 1000 V6 Cabriolets were built, and the four cylinder car came back in 1977. Production of the Cabriolet and Coupe bodies was always by Pininfarina in Italy, rather than by Peugeot in France, although the car was completed at Sochaux. The Cabriolet (and Coupe) were never sold in North America, though perhaps a dozen Cabriolets are there now, including at least one V6, and about the same number in the UK. France is not exactly full of them either.
Pininfarina styled this car, and you can see links to some of his other pieces, as so often. To some, it looks a little like a larger Fiat 124 Spider with a more modern front clip, with maybe a twist of Fiat Dino Coupe in the front end.
Or is it me, or is there a hint of Peugeot 604 in this front clip? Even the yellow lights seem completely in keeping.
Some accounts suggest the tail lamps are styled to ape the Mustang. I’d suggest that they fit the contemporary Peugeot style seen on the smaller 304, albeit with three lights rather than two on each side. Later cars opted for a more 70s style block rear lights, to go with combined rather than twin headlamps, both features which I find less attractive.
Personally, I find it a hard car to tightly pigeonhole against a specific competitor. Both Coupe and Cabriolet were clearly upmarket of the Ford Capri, Karmann Ghia, or MGB, had a very different nature to a Triumph TR6 or BMW 2002, were less powerful than a Fiat Dino and less overtly sporting than an Alfa Romeo Spider or GTV. Perhaps the closest nominal competitor were the Opel Rekord and Commodore Coupes, and the Fiat 130 Coupe, another car with huge (Pininfarina) visual appeal.
The Peugeot’s four seats move it away from the Mercedes-Benz 230SL, as did the relative pricing and in some markets the associated brand status. Perhaps the car closest to it in many ways was the Triumph Stag, with its 3 litre V8.
But it scores over the Stag in many ways. Michelotti did a decent job on the Stag, but not to match this, and the distinctive rollover-cum-strengthening frame on the Stag detracts. The Stag’s appetite for head gaskets wasn’t shared either, although the V6 version of the Peugeot was not an faultless success. Outright performance was stronger in the Stag, of course.
However, to me, this car is not about outright performance. It’s about elegance, comfort, style, timelessness. France has a strong history of showing that 2 litres is often enough for many of us, and this car is another that does just that.
And what’s the problem in getting there more slowly, if you can look at this for longer?