(first posted 8/19/2014) It’s amazing what a fresh coat of wax can do, isn’t it? This Peugeot 304 ragtop, captured by r0b0tr10t, really looks like a million bucks with the rain beading on its burgundy bodywork. Of course, the Pininfarina styling has a lot to do with that, but it’s not everyday you see a classic Peugeot looking this good; it puts the cars behind it to shame.
Many of our Western readers have never heard of the Pug 304, which was a facelift/revision/extension of the 1965 204, and given the models’ obscurity next to such luminaries as the 504 and 404, this makes sense. We can cover the 204/304 in detail one day soon (it deserves a full-on CC) but for now, think of them as we’d think of cars like the Jetta or Civic today. Introduced in 1969, it bridged the gap between cars like the Renault 4 and Citroen 2CV, and bigger sedans like the aforementioned 404 and Citroen ID/DS. Peugeot couldn’t let Simca have all the fun, now could they?
With an aluminum transverse engine and independent suspension all around, it was a modern affair (though the transmission was mounted in the sump) which offered one of the first small diesels available outside a big sedan. More importantly, it was available in a variety of bodystyles, including the very svelte cabriolet seen here.
Both the 204 and 304 wear some of the most elegant and simple shapes put to production on a smaller sedan, making it easier to understand why the 305 which came afterward was derided by so many as dull. It’s all relative, obviously; maybe contemporary car buyers also felt indifferent to the -04 series of small Peugeots, which ended production in 1979/1980. It might’ve been hard not to feel that way with such little power to work with; like all French cars in its size class, engine displacement never exceeded the 1,300-ish range. But as this car’s styling (and that of Robert Opron’s Citroen GS) shows, there are other ways of making the middle class car buyer feel wealthy.