CC hunting in Tokyo is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get. Today, even as the city went under a COVID-19 “lockdown” that, as I understand it, is purely voluntary, I caught a few interesting cars. Some foreign, some Japanese – the usual. But I caught two blue Peugeots. And that’s special.
One was a 406 Coupé. It’ll be in the next batch of T87 single outtakes. But the other, which I bagged just as dusk was about to arrive, is this incredible early model 104 saloon. You just don’t see these anywhere anymore – even in France.
I already covered the 104 when I wrote up this late model coupé, so I’ll avoid repeating myself too much. Just to sum up: this car was launched at the 1972 Paris Motor Show as a four-door saloon – the coupé arrived a year later. For the first three model years, the 104 saloon had no trim level to speak of. There was just one model with one engine: an all-alloy 950cc OHC 4-cyl. (providing 46hp) mounted transversally and almost laid on its side, to keep the centre of gravity low and provide enough room to fit the spare tyre under the hood.
The 104 was made until 1988, but I’m pretty sure this one is a 1973-75 model. For one thing, it has the right colour – not few early 104s featured this distinctive shade of blue. For another, the small taillamps were replaced by slightly wraparound ones in 1976, just as trim levels (absent here) were introduced and a year prior to the car gaining a proper rear hatch. Yes, this is another one of those early ‘70s fastbacks that really should have been a hatchback from the get-go, like the Citroën GS or the Alfasud, but did not. To their credit, Peugeot corrected this oversight in relatively little time, compared to some.
What kills me about this Pug is the condition it’s in. It looks like it just came off the showroom floor, straight out of the first half of the ‘70s. The only small modifications it has are the turn signal repeaters on the front wings and the reverse light mounted under the rear bumper. Other than that, it’s as unmolested an example of its kind that I’ve seen in the last couple of decades at least.
With a total length of 358cm (141 in.), the Peugeot 104 was the smallest four-door in Europe at the time, but in Japan there were a few four-door kei cars that were quite a bit smaller (300cm / 118 in.), such as the 1972-75 Subaru Rex K21 (above) and the 1971-75 Honda Life (below). The only downside to those is the 360cc 2-cyl. engine, which drove the Honda’s front wheels and the Subaru’s rear ones, to 90kph max. With its 135kph top speed, the Pug has more of a fighting chance in modern traffic.
And there’s the PininFarina looks, too. Maybe that tipped the scales for the Francophile connoisseur who must have paid more than the car is worth to ship it from Marseille or Rotterdam to Yokohama. The French number plate is still on the car – this 104 came from the department (France’s equivalent of a province) of the Loire, pretty much smack dab in the middle of the country. And now it’s in Japan, looking like a million yen. I feel a strange kinship with this 104. Wish I were in as mint a condition as this.