(first posted 2/28/2011) While some of us wile our idle hours searching for old flames and friends on Facebook, I stalk the streets. After writing about the cars in my life (Auto-Biography), I moved on to searching for examples of all the significant cars in my life through Curbside Classic. Now lest you get the idea from the headline that the treasure hunt is over; far from it. Like all good trips, it’s not the destination, but the journey. And it’s not just cars I owned that I’m after; any vehicle that ever caught my eyes or crossed my mind is CC fodder. Now that’s a big tent indeed. But this car is the old flame I most wanted to find. Here’s why:
“This” was my car for about three years, from 1979 through 1981. Doesn’t seem like a long time now, but years back then were a lot longer; something to do with global warming. A lot of memories were made in our 404. And it wasn’t just a white 404 sedan like this one, which was my daily driver. Stephanie drove a 404 wagon, which is so different from the sedan that it will get its own CC, when I find one. I also owned a little fleet of 404s, about half a dozen, which I would bring back from the dead having found them in junkyards or folks practically giving them away. These I resold or “leased” them to co-workers needing a cheap ride; Paul, the 404 man of Santa Monica.
Why a Peugeot 404? Like so many things in my life, it just happened. I was driving a very tired ’68 Dodge A100 van, which I had remodeled (plywood paneling and a bed) and had served me well during the last phase of my rambling days. I had it when I met Stephanie, and we had some memorable trips, including a rain-soaked honeymoon in the desert. (our whole wedding cost maybe $500).
But I now had a real job, at the little tv station in West LA, and I wanted something a bit more comfortable for my bride and myself. One day, a friend of Stephanie’s sister was over, and said he needed to sell his 404. Bingo! Deal done, instantly. I’ve tended to very fast car buying decisions, but there’s (sort of ) a rationale behind that: I hate shopping, and I can dip into my data base of cars to make a quick yet informed decision. The Peugeot was hardly some obscure Frenchie oddball that I knew little about. But it had never exactly crossed my mind to buy one either.
Peugeots were in my awareness even in my Austrian days: I rarely saw one, but they were spoken of in very high regard: Der Französische Mercedes was the common Germanic expression. And that was about as good a compliment to earn from Germans as it got, back in the day when Mercedes was the paragon of quality.
In the early sixties in the US , I remember reading about the 404s repeated victories in the grueling East African Safari, which Peugeot won in ’63, ’66, ’67 and ’68. And the African connection didn’t end there: Peugeots were the preferred car in many parts of Africa for decades, and they are still much in use today, including the 404 pickup versions that seem to be able to struggle on no matter what the load:
Now the whole Peugeot 404 story is a mighty big one; its history, design (by Pininfarina), production in Africa, the remarkable wagons (Familiale, etc.) (see full story on them here) and trucks, its rally successes, its early adoption of diesel motors, the very graceful coupe and convertible versions; well, I’m going to have to break it up into bits and pieces, and will scatter them around here over the next week or so.
I sincerely hope the subject is not too esoteric or obscure; too many Americans harbor a seemingly endless grudge against all those oddball Frenchie cars. Part of that rep was earned by the fragile Renaults sent this way. And many 404s were practically abandoned (to my benefit at the time) because owners and mechanics just weren’t familiar with their little eccentricities. But the 404 has earned a significant place in history, and not just because I bought one on seeming impulse. Bear with me…
I’m going to focus primarily on the 404 sedan in this CC, which is a plenty meaty subject alone. The 404 arrived in 1960, superseding but not replacing the beloved 403, which continued to be built simultaneously until 1966, at a lower price point.
The 403 had replaced the 203 in 1955. I’ll do a more comprehensive history separately, but let’s just say the evolution of a distinct lineage and concept really was similar to Mercedes of the time, just a bit smaller, a tad less ambitious, and correspondingly cheaper (in 1969, the 404 cost $2700; the cheapest MB 220 was $4360). The 403 was a fairly popular import in the fifties, and one with a reputation quickly established for high build quality and comfortable ride. David E. Davis and Phil Hill were 403 drivers back in the day, as were many others “in the know”. For those that could afford a second car, it made a great way to pamper your backside during the week after racing your MG or Austin Healey on the weekends. I had a 403 too, but that’s a different story, and not as compelling: it was a basket-case, and I never got it put back together. Boo hoo.
The 404 was the next evolutionary step, and although similar in size to the 403, there were some major changes. The front suspension was all new, a long-travel strut which featured the legendary Peugeot-built shock absorbers that not only managed to control the soft springs very well over the worst (African) conditions, but would do it for 100k miles or more in grueling conditions before wearing out. That may not seem so impressive today, but I seem to remember typical American car shocks getting soft every 30k miles or so, like so many other components back in the day.
The 404’s rear axle and suspension though was pretty much a carry-over from the 403, quite unique and equally legendary. Also a coil-suspended long-travel affair, it featured a solid live axle that used a worm-drive rear differential. Yes; and it’s the only manufacturer I know of that used that worm gear. It was a distinct Peugeot feature going back to the first post-war 203, through the 404. Its successor, the 504 moved on to IRS, although not the wagons.
I know that worm drives are somewhat less efficient, but are almost impossible to break, no matter how much torque is churned through them. I guess Peugeot had their reasons, and I’ve never heard of one going bad. The drive shaft is also a torque tube, meaning that there is only one universal joint, where the front of the drive shaft meets the back of the transmission. Essentially, the drive shaft is the primary element that locates the rear axle, with two additional support elements angling out from the shaft to the sides of the axle where the coil springs reside. There are no rear control arms otherwise. It allows for an exceptionally high amount of axle articulation, normally a concern for serious off-roaders. That reminds me, I have to do a piece on the 4×4 Peugeots.
The torque tube was once quite popular in older American cars, and reminds me more than a bit of Henry Ford’s beloved Model T rear axle arrangement that he held onto through 1948. The little coil spring off the axle (in the upper picture) is another typical Peugeot quality engineering device, it connects to a load-sensing rear brake proportioning valve, reducing rear brake pressure to the extent that the body is leaning forward, to avoid premature rear wheel lock-up. It was the lack of that device that made GM’s X Body cars such notorious rear-wheel lockers due to their FWD front weight bias.
The 404 got a new version of the Peugeot engine (this picture has soft focus, and that’s not the stock oil bath air cleaner), although it built very much on the experience of the 203 and 403 engines, which all head cast iron blocks and hemi-head aluminum heads (why did this technology elude Detroit for so many decades?). In the 404, the block was canted to the passenger side, just like Chrysler’s slant six. It’s capacity was 1618cc, which seems laughable today for what was a fairly prestigious sedan in Europe. In fact, except for Peugeot’s different approach to key technical solutions, one could really think of this as the C-Class of its time, or a Mercedes 160, if you will.
The Peugeot engineers made smooth running a major priority for the 404 engine, paying attention to internal balancing and other details like the intake manifold, which is integrated right into the head. The result is a remarkably smooth four, and it was very happy to scoot Stephanie and I up and down I-5 on our many trips between SF and LA at 80-85 mph (the wagon, with lower gearing, preferred seventy or less). The early engines had 72 hp, but the later ones like this, which also had a more rugged and smoother five bearing crank, were rated at 80 hp @ 5500 rpm.
One little engine detail I want to share with you. See that little angled aluminum affair pointing at the back of the fan pulley? The 404 was one of the earliest (first?) production engines to incorporate a thermostatic fan clutch. Inside the pulley is an electro-magnetic clutch, which is activated by a carbon brush that normally would sit inside the hole of that unit (this one is removed). The spring-loaded brush is in constantly contact with the pulley, and energized it like a brush in an electric motor. But I’ve never seen one working, except my own. One can easily screw down the fan mounting bolts to engage the fan permanently, and that’s what all of them seem to have had done with them.
I bought a replacement brush unit for mine, sanded the area where it contacts the pulley, hooked up the wiring to the thermostat, and it worked like a charm. When you only have 80 hp, one hates to see one or two of them them wasted. Except on very hot days or really hard running, the fan rarely came on (you could hear it, and feel it too). For what it’s worth, that little doo-hicky is representative of why Peugeots sometimes got a bad rep: folks just weren’t willing to deal with the unfamiliar, no matter how well engineered it was.
And the legendary crank hole. Yes, every 404 was still shipped with a folding crank in the trunk, and there’s the hole it goes in. I used to love to show it off; one quick little pull, and it always sprang to life. Great thing to do at the curb on Rodeo Drive in front of a fancy restaurant. Dead battery? No problem, regardless of whether you were in the Kalahari or Beverly Hills. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the 404 was the fastest starting car I ever had. The quickest little blip of the key or pull of the crank, and away it went.
The Peugeot rep for comfort was never in question. Yes, it was a French obsession, rooted in the terrible roads of yore as well as…some intrinsic cultural quality? The Peugeot was not in the same league as the Citroen DS; well no one ever quite challenged it. But the Peugeot was conceptionally the fundamental polar opposite of the hyrdo-pneumatically suspended, braked and steered Goddess, and with the resultant reliability issues. Let’s just say a co-worker had a lovely DS 21 at the time, so alluring; but he was always challenged to keep up it running reliably, and eventually gave up. I know they can be kept going in the right hands, but I was smart enough to know those weren’t mine.
Anyway, it was a combination of the very long-travel suspension and Peugeot’s superb seats that added up to the most extreme jump possible from the horrible harsh riding A100 van and its lawn-chair seats. Motoring in the French style! And with a sunroof, of course, which was standard on all the 404s, except perhaps the stripper taxi version. Oh, I forgot that like the Mercedes in Germany, Peugeot sedans were also the default taxis in Paris. And not just there too; I remember riding in them in Vienna too, with their noisy throbbing Indénor diesel engine which shared absolutely nothing with the gas engine, including its rough manners.
There was also the legendary 404 Injection model, which had the Kugelfischer mechanical injection unit, a true marvel in its own right (details here), as also used on the BMW 2002tii. I’m not aware of it being imported to the US, but it made the 404 a pretty hot car for the times, with a solid 100+ mph (160+ kmh) top speed.
Back to the comfort, and not speed: the seats in these cars are absolutely superb, and its obvious that they aren’t “buckets” in the usual sense. What those front seat also make clear is what a narrow car the 404 is from today’s perspective.
Well, not just narrow, but downright tiny. What was once a very substantial European “saloon” looks positively pathetic, like in this shot with a Saab 9-3. It looks like a Trabant! Yikes. Well, the Trabi did crib its styling from the 404 and other cars styled by Pininfarina at the time. I’m going to also do a separate piece on the stylistic origins of the 404, which traces back to Pinifarina’s revolutionary 1955 Lancia Florida concept, one of the most influential designs of the whole era.
I still have to quickly say something about the the Peugeot’s transmission; more specifically how its shifted. All Peugeots through the 404 had a column mounted shifter for the very sturdy and easy shifting four-speed transmission. After the Dodge van’s cave-man column shifter, the 404 was a marvel, so delicate, light and easy shifting. I always used just a couple of fingers, as the stick seemed to just need to be guided a bit in its natural progression through the gears. Ultimately perhaps not quite as fast as a floor stick, it was quick enough, especially since the 404 is not a car that invites a harsh style of driving.
It could be hustled fast enough, but it just didn’t encourage it. It liked to be respected and handled with a bit of delicacy; a real French Dame. And it would reward with an ability to swallow the miles effortlessly in a way that no other car in its size and price class could equal. That is the essential quality of the 404, and I loved it for that.
I have no doubt that if that guy was trying to sell a BMW 1600/1800 or an old Volvo on the quick, I would probably have jumped just as readily. But a 404 is what it happened to be, and I never regretted it. Oddly enough, my need for serious speed kicked in a bit later in life; anyway compared to all the Beetles I had owned before the Dodge, the 404 was a speed demon.
Another detail or two to put Peugeot’s fastidiousness with sturdy solutions that I have to share: The hub caps are securely held on with a bolt. Even the ruggedest road in Africa won’t shake this off.
And this little gem: its one of four standard mounting bases for the factory roof carrier, net to the sunroof. The center screw is removed, and then re-inserted through the carrier’s legs and screwed back into that securely attached base. The much longer wagon had six bases, and I managed to find a NOS wagon roof rack, a huge sturdy galvanized affair that covered the whole roof. You could walk on it, and load all your life’s belongings on it. How I wish I had never let go of that wagon.
I say that because my sedan was a bit tired when I got it; it had led a pretty full life, and was eleven years old, and had well over 100k on it. Those expensive Peugeot shocks were getting soft, and the upholstery was splitting. After I was given a company car in 1981 (a Buick X-Body Skylark, no less), I sold it for more what I paid. It was time to move on.
But Stephanie’s dark-green 1970 wagon was still very youthful, with some 50k on the clock. I got it for $35, because the head gasket on the new-for-1970 1800 cc engine leaked and the cylinders were inundated. I knew of a good 1600 cc motor in a junk yard for $50, and quick as a wink, it was back in action. With the three-speed ZF automatic and the 1600 motor, it was truly a bit leisurely, but always got us to our destination, including way up in the Sierras on rough roads, practically 4×4 type stuff. The wagon had a substantially longer wheelbase and completely different rear end and suspension: camel-ready, so to speak. I also found an original factory roof rack, which could haul a huge amount of gear, bikes, etc.
It’s time to end this 404 love fest; but I will be back with some related articles from time to time, unless something more compelling gets the best of my ADD. Sorry, that’s the way I roll. There’s no set agenda here at CC; it’s all about serendipity.
One last thing: This 404 has 56k original miles on it. It was a widower’s car and sat in a garage for 26 years. Alex, a student at the UO and his Dad, who once was a Peugeot mechanic found it and got it back on the road four years ago. And they just might be willing to sell. Stay tuned. (Update: willing yes; reasonable price no. Pass)
Update in 2016: I still have pangs of regret on passing on this one, but what’s life without them?
Illustrated History of all the classic RWD Peugeot wagons (203, 403, 404, 504, 505) is here
Now where has Inspector Clouseau gotten too? (Of course I mean the late great Peter Sellers, not any of the other gentlemen to play the part. When a man can play the roll and get my 26 year old fiance to agree that his performance was superior to Steve Martin’s performance, he should still get our respect for it.)
Peter Sellers was brilliant, and had an amazing string of interesting cars. I thought I did a piece on him at TTAC, but I can’t find it. I’ll put it on my ever-longer CC ideas to-do list! Steve Martin? Sometimes better than other times, but can’t touch Sellers, IMHO.
|Eugene is like some kind of time-capsule. I haven’t seen a 404 in 20 years or more. I can still remember reading the description in Autocar around 1960 when the car was introduced.They used to have wonderful cut-away drawings in those days. I thought ( and still think) it was a very sharp piece of styling.
“Peugeots were in my awareness even in my Austrian days: I rarely saw one, but they were spoken of in very high regard: Der Deutsche Mercedes was the common Germanic expression. And that’s was about as good a compliment to earn from Germans as it got, back in the day when Mercedes was the paragon of quality.”
1. As someone of Austrian parentage, we are not Germans!
2. Why would anyone call a Peugeot a German Mercedes? Wouldn’t Der Deutsche Mercedes be a Mercedes?
I’ll take on #2 first: typo. I was really rushed this morning, and I blew that one. Of course, it was Der Französische Mercedes.
#1 is a bit more complicated. I was using the quote as I often read it in Auto Motor und Sport in the seventies. I don’t know that I actually heard it as a little kid in Austria. But, and this is a bit touchy, Austrians are of course Germans, in the ethnic sense. Austria was originally purely an arbitrary political creation wayyy back (as you undoubtedly know), and the issue of its existence as an independent state has been a recurring question in more modern times. But ethnically and linguistically were are the same Volk, no?
I know some will disagree. Certainly Austrians and German Bavarians are profoundly closer in every cultural trait than German Bavarians and those from Schleswig Holstein or some other Northern German state.
Another typo that begs to be corrected – 404’s successor was the 504, not the 90’s 405.
Great post. I was in Vienna (as we like to call it) for a week a few months ago, staying in the awesome long time family owned Pension Kraml. Not exactly in- depth research, but the guy in charge struck me as being more German than any German I ever knew, and I mean that as a compliment, mostly. Also: Hitler.
Paul, congratulations on finding ‘your’ car. Maybe you should have a Peugeot 404 Week, covering the Familiale, coupe, cabriolet, etc. There were never many Peugeots in Rock Island, but I remember a gray circa-1985 505 sedan in town for years, always parked in front of the same house. I never saw it driving, but it looked decent. It finally disappeared around 1998. I also had a Corgi model of the 505 as a kid, I still have it somewhere. The Cadillac-Olds dealer in nearby Moline sold Peugeots from 1985 to 1991, quite a combination for a dealership!
There will be 404-related articles sprinkled throughout the week, but not too overly concentrated. I don’t want to scare some folks away!
You’re not scaring anyone Paul, we’ve been waiting for you to find your 404 for what seems like years. As a 504 owner I’d love to hear anything you have to say about any Peugeot, more please. And that picture of the 403 is making me cry, one for sale in my neck of the woods, needs work, fair price and I’ve got no room to turn it into my next project
This is great — it might be the first car I remember.
My parents bought a 404 or 504 in about 1972. All I remember about it, really, was the funny velor seats and the argument I had with with my mom if it was easier to park frontways or rear. I was only 4 of course.
Could it have been the 504? The wiki pictures are perhaps a bit more similar, but I’d assume there are some more differences between a 72-73 and a 69. My parents really don’t remember the year.
Between that and the Merc my parents started off well. Then the 80s came: a Tornado Diesel. A van. A VW Jetta diesel. Mitsuibishi Galant. Eagle Talon. Subaru. And some more I can’t think about….
Then, for me — Audi from 90 to 94, then SAAB since then….actually I feel the same about SAAB as PN wrote. They need a little TLC, then they are fine.
I’m going to guess it was a 504. The last year for 404 sales in the US was 1970. Also, the velour seats are a major giveaway; all 404’s had vinyl, at least all the ones I ever saw. 504s definitely came with velour inserts in the seating area, as a good friend had one. And to be totally sure, ask if it had a floor shifter or if it was on the column; that was one of the more obvious changes a driver would surely remember.
The 504 was terrific car too; we’ll do a CC when I find one, which I have not!
Paul — again — why in GODS’S NAME DO YOU KNOW THIS STUFF?
Great point, and I’ll keep digging.
I want to say they had heated seats as well…at least that is mostly what my mother remembers about that car. She hated it. Of course she hated the Studebaker her father bought in the 1950s as well — would have much preferred a Buick.
That would be a good indication, but early 504s also came with column-mounted gearchange.
Is this still an active email ?
Have some 404 observations and information.
It’s a post that still gets new readers (and comments) regularly. Would you like to add them as a comment, or?
Paul, some other tips to tell a ’72 404 from a 504 (assuming it was French; Argentinian Peugeots were different in many details): 404s might still have internal door latches below armrests, while all 504s had newer latches up front below the window edge. Ignition switch: both cars began life having their ignition switches way down on the left side of the columng. Around 1971, the switch was moved up the column, just below the light stalk. 504s, if I remember correctly, got this change earlier. Also, for a few years 404 gear chanche pattern was a modified “H”. It was just like a traditional American 3-speed, and 4th was added pushing up and towards the dashboard. It was later changed to have 1st and 3rd up, and 2nd and 4th down. Don’t remember where R got, though.
My father in law had his ’65 404 Familiale up to ’86. It would take as much abuse as you could get, and he finally sold it when rust began to eat the front pillars from the inside. My guess is the car had done about 250.000 km, (150k miles) and had one ring job at about 13 years of age.
I live in Uruguay, and most ’70s Peugeots here were Argentinian. Same looks, different details, mixed drivetrains, etc.
As you can see, I enjoyed reading.
Older Pugs were simple and sturdy motors, so comparison with Mercedes is well-founded. So sad they went all over cost cutting, electronic trickery and loads of hash-inspired engineering solutions.
An ’81 Buick Skylark? Yuck. My dad had one as a company car, too. It was the car that finally put him off GM and Detroit forever. It was his second one, no less; his ’80 Skylark came standard with a collapsing suspension. Oh, and there was that whole rear brake lockup issue, thanks to a halfassed parking brake design that was so typically GM.
When Dad stopped getting company cars in ’83, he bought a $300 ’71 Super Beetle and called it an improvement. You did it backwards, Paul. You should have kept the Peugeot.
Tell me about it. But the Buick was free and new, I had one baby and another on the way, and and I was too busy to work on Pg anymore. The usual story. I will do a CC on the Skylark.
For those looking for cosmic balance, my father replaced his Chevy Citation with a 505, which was one of the best cars he ever had, according to him.
I sold used imports for over 25 years in the NY area from the early 70s to the mid 90s. I loved Peugeots, selling many 504 diesels (bulletproof engine and trans), a few 604 diesels and one V6, and finally at the end of the line with the 505. I also had a 405 which was junk. I remember buying in the 80s a 404, but I had to dump it because it had such extensive frame rust (lower firewall area) it was deemed unsafe. Surprisingly the exterior rust was not all that bad. It had great seats with a super comfortable ride as all the Peugeots did.
Of all the aspects of automotive design, it has always been suspension design that fascinates me most, and it seems that the most fascinating suspensions are always french. Renault 5 with parallel torsion bars in back. Citroen 2cv with one horizontal spring per side. The DS, of course.
Years ago I thought that Peugeots were relatively conservative with their suspension designs. Then I saw a neighbour transport, literally, a ton of bricks in the back of his 504 wagon. Did the 404 wagon have the same 4-springs-per-axel set up? Later I was looking under a 305 wagon I saw parked on the street. The springs were mounted longitudinally under the floor, leaving almost no wheel well intrusion into the load space and providing huge wheel travel.
Thanks for giving attention to an aspect of automotive design that is usually neglected by the automotive press.
I narrowly passed on buying one once some years ago. I had recently owned a 504 wagon and was driving along somewhere out in the boonies when I saw a 404 sitting in a field for sale. I had to stop and inquire. it had no title, it sort of ran, it was a rust bucket. the man told me he was going to turn it into a tractor if someone did not buy it. I passed on it, but narrowly.
I think the most famous Peugeot owner was astronaut John Glenn. This, when the other astronauts were all driving Corvettes. There is a vignette on this somewhere in the book, The Right Stuff.
The first car I drove legally was the 404 wagon my family got the year we lived in France (the avatar should be that car across the street from our Paris apartment). I am incredibly nostalgic for that car, and I eagerly await a 404 wagon in CC. Did you find the sedan in Eugene? I haven’t seen a Peugeot 404 on the street (except for one a local auto shop was trying to sell, which I drove) since the early ’00s, and saying “on the street” is a stretch as I saw it at the Larz Andersen auto museum in Brookline MA, but the owner was not showing it that day, had simply driven it over to see a car show. Before that, I really don’t remember.
A friend in France just sent me “Les 200 ans de Peugeot.” (The 200 years of Peugeot.)
Yes, on the street near the campus. A student (and his Dad) own it. I hadn’t seen it before because he just brought it down from Portland a week ago. It’s too nice to be sitting out there, though. I’ve offered to buy it, and they’re considering it.
Is the book as good as I imagine it would be?
John Glenn was my favorite astronaut, and am delighted to hear he owned a Peugeot 404 – a wonderfully comfortable, durable and tough car. My 69 Peugeot started immediately at -25 degrees in Aspen one winter. Click and Clack mechanics always panned Peugeots, but must never have experienced the ’60s era Peugeots. I also owned a 122S Volvo, a Peugeot competitor, which paled in comparison to the 404.
Drove it up jeep trails and had 1,000 mile cross country trips at steady 80 mph from Wisconsin back to Denver to visit family and the mountains. Its engine was quieter and as smooth as Nissan’s in-line 6. Remarkable engineering and design. The car had stainless steel bumpers and hubcaps – just remarkable, along with the standard sunroof, smooth as butter clutch and outstanding seats.
What a car. The engine finally quit at 235,000 miles
I’m envious if you get the thing, although as I said, I really want a wagon.
Haven’t had a chance to do more than skim the photos. But it looks very comprehensive. Did you know Peugeot made coffee grinders before they made cars? I won’t be surprised if I find Peugeot sewing machines.
I may well not. Between the price being a bit high, and not really having a lot of time for more projects…but it was fun running into it.
I just noticed you said the car was the fastest starting you ever had. In the days before I got my permit, it was a big thrill to get to start the car and warm it up on cold days. The ’63 Chevy II always started right up. The Peugeot–on a cold day, like in the 00s, teens or lower 20s, it could take 5 minutes, maybe even 10 to get the thing going. Although it usually DID get going, which was more than some cars of that era managed. Our ’65 was definitely not a fast starting car.
We lived in Santa Monica, it rarely got below 45. But we took the wagon into the mountains in the winter, and I don’t remember exactly, but it seemed to start ok.
Very nice article!
My late father bought a new 404 Injection sedan in Montréal in 1966; it was assembled at the SOMA plant at Saint-Bruno in Québec. Brilliant car! He sold it in the Netherlands in 1972…having just bought a 504, which ended up back in Canada.
When I was old enough, I bought my first 404, a 1967 Coupé Injection, in Vancouver, at the beginning of 1981. What a great car, and fabulously stylish too. The shape was more slippery than the sedan and so the top speed was over 105 MPH, according to The MOTOR. Seeing 120 MPH on the slightly optimistic speedometer was not uncommon… I still have a 404 Coupé Injection, a 1966 model, which will be fully restored in the next few years. They drive like nothing else and the Kugelfischer injected engine is sinfully smooth.
I have been a member of the French 404 club since 1983 and now, as their Canadian representative, I am undertaking a worldwide Registry for all remaining 404s. We have a really good start with the Coupé and Cabriolet models: 1486 of them have been identified by serial number, close to 9% of the original production, and the 404 CC registry is growing by a few cars every month. The sedan, wagon and pickup registry is nowhere near as advanced at just under 1100, but it is growing faster than that of the CC models. If you own a 404 or know anyone who does, please help us by entering your car’s data at this URL: http://smrtash.ca/proj/c404/addinfo-en.html
Minor critique: the diesel version had an Indénor engine, the spelling was a tad off. But thanks for the brilliant article!
Nice to hear from you and about your 404 registry. I am very jealous of your Injection Coupe, the true 404 Holy Grail. I will be doing a piece on the CCs later this week, but will have to rely on web pictures, unless you send me some…?
I hope others will find this article and check in with you. All the best. And i fixed the spelling of Indénor. I knew that didn’t look quite right. Thanks.
Fascinating writeup of what must be a rare car in the US. How many were sold there ? I have a soft spot for Peugeots as I’ve owned my 406 for over 10 years. Great ride, handling, engine refinement and seat comfort, just like your 404.
Not scary at all. Keep it up. My dad had us in Antwerp in 1975. All the taxis were these 404 diesels. Tanks, with style.
Nice article. During the “GAS SHORTAGE” at the end of 1973 and early 1974 , I modified my 1969 404 sedan by building 1 1/2 inch header into a 2 1/2 inch exhaust with 2 Corvair turbo zero back pressure mufflers in line, an intake manifold with 2 – 2 barrel Holly-Webers, a ram air scoop,opening was 3 inch x 36 inch mounted under the front bumper , sealed into the air cleaner assembly, Air shocks holding up a spare 20 gallon gas tank in the trunk, and tires that were 3 inches larger radius than stock. At 40 MPH this baby would come alive with the ram air. At 70 it seemed to run without the throttle. At 65 MPH it averaged 46 MPG , but at 130 MPH I only got 35 MPG. Since the statute of limitations has expired I can tell that in July of 1974 I drove from Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco to the Willamette River bridge in Corvallis, OR , in 6 hours flat.
Thank you Paul because you really made me take a fresh look at the 404. I grew up in a Citroen family but I remember seeing 404 sedans pretty much everywhere in France during the 1970s and well into the mid-1980s, after which they just seemed to vanish altogether.
Actually there were different sorts of 404 for different people. It was pretty much a universal car.
If it was a white sedan with a leather interior, it was certainly driven by a doctor, a school headmaster, or a no-nonsense, politically conservative Dad who wouldn’t be caught dead near Citroen-esque hydropneumatics. Peugeots made serious cars for serious people.
The same Dad, if blessed with a large offspring, would settle for a 404 wagon in its familiale version, ie. the one with 3 rows of seats (an option later brought over to the 504 and 505, after which people started to think minivan and things never were the same again).
The familiale might then have be sold to an immigrant worker from North Africa. He would use it for many more years, both as a reliable, easy-to-maintain daily driver and as a roomy holiday car, perfect for driving down to the Algesiras ferry with the wife, the kids and heaps of luggage in the back and on top.
If it was a Diesel, it was most certainly a taxi. Because not all taxis were DSs (yes, DS taxis, ah, think of it… but I’m getting carried away).
If it was a coupé or a cabriolet, it made your day, because these cars had a different, more exclusive status from the start, and were rare even then. Good ones are hard to find today.
But as said, after the mid-1980s, fini. Rust and fashion had taken their toll, and many had already been driven down to West Africa, where the demand never ended. There is a wealth of stories of guys who bought up battered 404s (and 504s and later 505s), drove them down to Dakar and sold them there, hardly making enough money to cover their travel expenses, but what a trip!
But the funny thing is, now I think the 404 is making a serious comeback as cool car. That makes sense, given its many qualities. You make a strong enough argument! And it looks good from any angle. Not many family sedans stay in production for 15 years (and regarding the 404 I only mean production in the motherland) with hardly any cosmetic changes. That car was right from the start.
Interesting insights from our French friend. My late father bought a new bronze metallic 404 Injection sedan with tan leather seats in 1966 in Montréal QC. The car was great with the 96 HP engine. Faster than all but the muscle cars (which could not corner)….
But despite being an officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force, my Dad was no political conservative! He had wanted to get a 404 since seeing them while living in France from 1960-63, but all he brought back to Canada in ’63 was a French domestic market Dauphine. The 404 was fantastic! It even had flower power decals on it, with a big peace sign on the back! He sold it in 1972 in the Netherlands, when a 504 had replaced it. Good old car, it made me buy my first 404 Coupé Injection in 1981 and I have owned at least one since.
By the way, the 404 Coupé/Cabriolet registry I am doing as the CDN representative of Le Club 404 is up to 1503 cars now. We figure there are at least 2500 of them left, which is over 13% of the total production. The registry has close to 8.8% so far. You can see the basic statistics of the Registry for all 404s here (two 404 CC cars have been added since the site was updated): http://www.smrtash.ca/proj/c404/index.php
The sociology of cars is an exciting thing and the idea of a 404 with flower power decals tends to bring a smile on my face! Back home in France cars with such decals almost had to be Citroen 2CVs or Renault 4s (it may have something to do with gas prices of course). But I have to remember that a 404 certainly was – and is – an unconventional car in North America in the first place. So, well, that makes sense…
Anyway, congratulations Mike on your Coupé Injection. That’s a rare sight in Europe as well. How much does a Coupé or Cabriolet fetch in Canada? I’m just wondering. Over here I don’t think a nice 404 Cabriolet will go for less than 25 000 – 30 000 euros. 403s are even more expensive: cult car status + extreme rarity, so there you go.
504s are more affordable for the time being. I’d say around 18-20 000 euros for a good one. But prices are increasing: the survival rate is higher than the 404s and there are more of them on the market, but they are high in demand. Early ones will sell particulary fast (they look best don’t they?).
I never understood why they never made a 505 convertible. But that was the 1980s and so many dumb things happened.
I wish I had some decent photos of my Dad’s old 404 handy, but the album they were in is misplaced at the moment….I do remember that the flower power decal on the trunk lid – applied in 1967 – was beginning to peel in 1970 so it was removed, revealing a beautiful dark flower-shaped area of unfaded 404 paint…..the same was the case on the hood at the front.
There is not really such a thing as “market value” of 404 C cars in Canada because there are so few of them. There are 9 in the Registry but we know that two of the nine are scrapped so perhaps there are a few others. It takes a true fanatic to assign any value to a Peugeot in this country, since they have been totally absent since 1991. People give them away for free (not 404Cs, but some of the later Peugeots). I would say the European values apply to the 404 C, minus the cost of shipping a car across the ocean (about $2000), because if I was selling mine, it would certainly be heavily advertised over there.
A friend of mine just bought a 404 Cabriolet last year in California and he didn’t pay too much; in fact Europeans would be well advised to look here for classic European cars and take them home with them, because the values are lower and in some cases, the cars are better preserved. The Dutch in particular have re-imported a number of 404 C cars that were originally sold – when new – in either Canada or the USA (about 7 that I know of).
The similarity in the respective domestic markets between Peugeot and Buick is striking – in France the 404 would have been the car for the Bourgeois conservative, just like a Buick would be here – not too flashy, dignified cars with pleasant styling….but take the “fish out of water” and the Peugeot becomes the car of radical university professors, liberals, and others who just appreciated good engineering. Maybe Buicks in France were used by gangsters? Who else could afford the huge Vignette for a 200 CV car?
The fuel injected 404 sedan would have been something for the adventurous conservative in France, maybe wanting to enjoy the last days of no speed limits on the short bits of Autoroute….whereas here, that car was seen as a precursor to the BMW 2002 tii by those in the know. The Coupé was probably quite a fancy car in France, for example I know that at least one famous French male singer had one (his son still owns it)….then the Cabriolet, well that would have been for the flashier types. They were damned expensive cars over there, and in Canada too. In 1967 they cost about 70% more than the already expensive sedan. You could get a fully optioned Camaro SS 454 convertible for that kind of money, or a nice Mercedes sedan.
“And they just might be willing to sell. Stay tuned” So any updates?
My childhood years were spent riding around the SF bay area in a 68 404.
Have own many Peugeot’s models over the years and continue to drive my 505 TD daily.
Would love to bring this one home.
Decided to pass. Asking price too high, and I just don’t have the time and space right now.
Paul, I spotted a 505 today in Eugene… might that be of interest as a CC? As a young’un, I wouldn’t exactly know, haha.
Which one? I’ve shot about close to a half dozen. I just haven’t gotten around to them, but I may this week.
My ratio of finding cars and being able to write them up is about 5 to 1. I have lots stashed for a long rainy day!
A red one, down on D street. I’m not a Eugene native (my sis just graduated from the U of O) but I found myself astounded by the cars of Eugene. There is no place I’ve ever been with such diversity of cars. Dad used to own a Fiero (white with a horrible Iron Duke) and it warmed my heart to see so many still roaming the streets of Eugene! (a future CC, I hope!) I biked around the city and I was really excited to see some of your CCs! I spotted the black Ford Falcon Futura, and I ran across the red Rambler wagon (now without a back axle!). Thanks for your work, Paul. Younger generations (like me) are taking note of your excellent work here.
I’ve shot it. We’ll get to them before long. I finally saw a 504 sedan, a white one, but it was at night and I had no camera with. I’ll find it again.
Yes, Eugene is amazing: I wish I had a video camera in the car; the other day, it was just one CC after another, most I had never seen before.
And yes, he’s finally getting around to fixing the Rambler axle, thankfully. I’ll do an update; again. And yes; the Fiero will appear here.
I’m glad you enjoyed your visit; it really is CC heaven.
I visited Eugene in July of 2005. I saw some interesting old vehicles, but not more than in metro Phoenix or Tucson, AZ. However, the most outrageous vehicle I saw there was an East German Barkas minivan, front wheel drive and powered by a three cylinder, two-stroke Wartburg engine! I had seen them in Poland, but was utterly amazed to see one on U.S. soil.
If your hankering for a 505 to look at while you wait you can view mine here:
Last one alive in my area 🙁
I have a 1970 404 Sedan in New Zealand which I am getting ready for a large Vintage Rally next year – Nick Mason drummer from pink Floyd is also attending [no relation] unfortunately
Many 404 were assembled locally in NZ I also have a spare car plus a full set of unused trim
Peugeot fleet also includes 1979 504Ti manual with factory power steering, electric front windows & sunroof & 1988 405 Mi-16
I live just 800 metres from the original Campbell Motors 404 assembly plant here in Thames NZ! The 404’s were assembled here for years and years..
This same plant also used to assemble American Motors Rambler Classics and Rebels ..finishing after 1970 with the last of them coming out with the 304 bent eight in them . . quite an elegant vehicle in the day with nice power..
Nowadays the plant has been converted over to ex JDM used Toyota ‘refurbishment’ to what is called here ‘signature class’ for retail second-hand selling through Toyota franchises only
It is by chance that I ran across your 404 story I just published my Peugeot story on my blog. It is certainly all true, I am trying to find one now. Call it nostalgic or just looking forward to owning a car that does not have a BCM (Body Control Module). There are certain things that I would improve, bot for the most part a properly built 1800 with a turbo would be lots of fun. Here is the link to my blog, hope you enjoy mine as much as did yours. http://southeastwheelsevents.com/profiles/blogs/columbo-to-peugeot-then-onto
PS in the Above story there is a hyperlink to the story of my first car, The Peugeot 403.
I now know how the magnetic fan work..
so easy, but could not find info on it…
Paul, thanks for the very interesting post. I’ve been a Peugeot fan since living in the Amherst MA area in the 60’s. They were very popular in the 5-College environment. I had two 403 rustbuckets and two 404’s which were not much better. I must say that I MUCH preferred the 403’s as they seemed to handle much better than the 404’s. I have a theory that this was due to the great front end mechanics and the fact that the engine sat directly on the front end and just dragged the body along for the ride. If you’re interested in the mechanicals, here is a great video:
The 404’s front suspension design was radically different than the 403’s, which really was just an update on the 203’s. The 404 had very long travel struts in front, with relatively soft springs. That gave a softer ride than the 403. It also meant it was pretty critical that the shocks still be in good condition, otherwise those soft springs would be out of control.
Having had several 404s with varying degree of front shock condition, the degree of variation in how the car rode and handled was very substantial. With good shocks, the 404 had both a superb ride and decent-good handling. The 403’s ride couldn’t compare with the 404, but its stiffer transverse leaf springs were less critically dependent o shock quality. My 2 cents, anyway.
Paul you are so right. Peugeot was one of the pioneers of using the McPherson strut design. Africa and South America was a huge markets for Peugeot and therefore needed some spacial attention. With unimproved roads and the need to forge water passages, the 404 was designed with very high ground clearance and very long suspension travel with soft springs. The internal shock absorber of the 404 was designed to take an incredible amount of punishment and was very durable, in normal US street use the original struts were able to last 100,000 miles. In the punishment that we subjected the cars to in racing and in off road use they would last considerably less before needing service. What other automobile besides the Ford Model a was routinely use off road? The 404 was a comfortable off road vehicle with 90% of the abilities of a jeep and high speed abilities on unimproved roads that few could equal. I loved my 403 for its tank like qualities, I loved the 504 for its comfort and room but My favorite tool for driving fast on dirt and snow covered roads was the 404. The photo My wife and daughter in the mid 70’s our 68 404 ex rally car in the background during a mid winter photo safari in New York .
I remember as a small boy one of my uncles showing me the upturned alloy cylinder head of his bright green 403 saloon ..he was giving it one of it’s semi-regular ‘de-coking’ given the shocking fuel quality used in those days .. even as a little kid I could see how ‘beautiful’ as he put it that it truly was.. the design and engineering of those four sculptured hemispherical combustion chambers..was indeed a beautiful sight ! …how could it not be, so symmetrical was it in comparison to the ugly cramped shrouded ‘sharp-edged’ evil-looking iron head of the early OHV Morris Minor sitting next to it . .lol
..actually the 403 must have been quite a short stroke motor given the largeness of the hemi combustion chambers.. they were visually very large open chambers for a smallish 4 cylinder engine .. wonderful simple efficient design 🙂
The “high flexibility” suspension with soft springing and anti-roll bars was a relatively late development – it came a couple of years into the car’s production run. The cars originally sold in Africa all had the siffer springing….many of the 404s now in Africa were imported used from Europe and those ones of course would have the softer springs.
Incidentally, the Register for 404s is going well: 1579 404 C models and 1350 other 404s.
Just a reminder! Peugeots were built in South Africa. The last 404 was the 1800 GL roundabout 1977. South Africa being the only country who built them of which I had one. A great car indeed!!
Great article for the 404; it b rough back fond memories of my 404. I have had a 1968 404 since 1970. I quit driving it as my primary vehicle in about 2000 and I was about to junk it because there were several parts that I could no longer acquire (vacuum brake booster, head gasket, clutch parts, disc brake parts). Luckily, ebay appeared on the scene and has provided me with the parts to keep it running. I have also acquired some parts from Argentina (new door gaskets), which still has some running 404’s. I have had a couple more 404’s along the way, from which I have gleaned extra parts from, including two factory roof racks. It has been in storage for a while, but next month, I will get it back operating again.. What memories!
Awesome article! Glad you have found parts. I have been looking for brake master cylinder with the resevoirs for some time now. Still have not found parts to get mine on the road again. Any suggestions?
I have an extra master cylinder, but no extra reservoirs, mine cracked back in the 80s and I was able to buy new ones then, but not now. I assume yours is one with dual reservoirs? What year is yours? Is your brake vacuum booster OK? That went out on me, but I found an extra at a junkyard once. Any other parts you need… I have a bunch…. I am torn whether to fix mine up or try to sell it… it would take a while to get running again. It has sat in my garage for years.
There are lots of parts sources in Europe like http://www.franzose.de, http://www.neoretro.com, West Auto Collection and more. Parts aren’t cheap but because the cars are appreciating in value these days, that should not be expected anyway.
If any 404 owners could add to the 404 Registry here (a project of Le Club 404), that would be appreciated: http://smrtash.ca/proj/c404/addinfo-en.html
There are 1658 404 Coupé and Cabriolet cars registered now, and 1637 other 404 models (Sedans, Wagons and Pickups),
I can understand why you like the 404’s. I have a blue wagon with the 2 litre 504 motor and 504 front disc brakes. Tons of room in the back of the wagon. I also have a 504 that I’ve owned for 40 years. This 504 has the 2 litre Kugelfisher fuel injected motor. In the late 1970’s I fitted exhaust extractors to the motor so the motor revs to 6,000rpm easily. Although I don’t like to rev out the motor these days. I have other model Peugeots as well. Really bitten by the Peugeot bug for 40 years now.
Steve from Australia (NSW)
Hi Steve, very nice Peugeot wagon. I have one under my house in Brisbane. I was commuting in it daily up until April 2000. I have been in New Zealand ever since. I would like to get it going again. I restored it completely prior to leaving. It just needs to be recommisioned so I can use it again on my frequent trips back to Brisbane. Do you know of an enthusiast who could take this on for me. It really does not need much doing to it. The biggest issue is I’ve lost the ignition key, so the ignition is in and while I have a new ignition I don’t know how to get the old one out because you need a key to do this. Any comments or thoughts would be appreciated. I really need someone who could do this work for me for a reasonable rate. I would do it myself but my visits back to Australia are always to short.
There is a guy in Australia who specialises in ignition barrels,
That’s all he does,
He was in a feature in the back of a Wheels Magazine a couple of years ago
I have a 1968 404 sedan in Gainesville Georgia Would like to know where to buy parts for it? 770-540=3015 Thank you
I have a 404 wagon, complete car, but it’s badly rusted. However, the glass is in tact and it has the ‘OLD’ roof rack. I have LOTS of spare parts: carbs, head, misc. All needs a good home. Also I have a binder of ‘Lions of Befort’ newlsetters from the Peugeot Owners’ Club, issues dating from 1971 to 1980. I am located in North San Diego Co. If you are interested or know of someone who would be interested in this, please contact me via my e-mail or by phone, 760-434-0974.
Appreciate your time,
Hello…great write up about the 404s. I owned two in socal back in the 1970s. I noticed the Oregon plates. Are you still in Oregon? I’m in Portland. Would love to chat with you as I’m thinking about getting a 404 again. Shoot me an email or a call: 503-516-1468.
Look forward to hearing from you. Gary
It just went up for sale a week or so ago, and sold very quickly. Sorry.
I had a white 1963 404 that I got from my father in 1968 when he got a 1965 404.
It had 80k on it and ran like a top.The original Michelin X radials had to be replaced at 100k. I put 90k more miles on the car from 1968-197. I drove it in the city, in the desert, off road in the Sierras and in the sand at Pismo and never even thought that I was over doing it. It had a huge trunk for all of my camping gear and if the weather got bad I could climb inside and recline the seats and sleep in comfort.
What a simple car. The timing was adjusted by sliding a rod through a hole in the bell housing and rotating the engine with the crank until the rod dropped into a notch on the flywheel. Turn the distributor until the points open for the #1 plug. Tighten the distributor clamp, remove the rod and you were ready to go.
I finally killed it when I finally cracked a head at 170k. I tried to rebuild it but parts were too scarce and expensive so I gave it to my Peugeot mechanic in trade for some work on dad’s car.
I grew up in Africa and so I have quite lots of stories to tell you of Peugeot. I have driven the Peugeot 404, the 504, the 505, the 405 (all belonging to my father and I currently own a Peugeot Partner. It started with my father who had a 1970-something Peugeot 504, with 2.0 engine which he bought in 1980. It was an excellent car very comfortable with all independent suspension capable of 190km/h despite having a 4 speed gearbox. This car was faster that the 123-series mercedes 200 which was burdened with its own cumbersome weight. He then sold it to someone (who is still using it up to now) and bought a 1600 locally assembled with solid rear axle and limited slip differential to save on fuel costs. It was equally good in spite of a timing chain assembly defect which caused it to make unusual mechanical noises and returned a poor mileage (probably blocked oil channel or something). Not all local assemblies had this defect though. He then bought a 504 pick up -1796cc in 1993 still with 4 speed (later models would come with 5 speed). He sold the 504 1600 in 1995 and bought a 405, and later gave away the pickup to settle a bugging debt. The 405 was fuel efficient and was very excellent to drive around curved roads at high speed. Having relocated to a rural town, and the 405 not being the kind of car to take to just any mechanic, it would suffer numerous breakdowns- all attributable to mediocre maintenance. He bought a 2 litre 505 station wagon- very reliable but punishing at the pump and later sold it. He also replaced the pick up with and old 404 pick up to keep farm work going before settling for a hilux pickup whereupon I had the opportunity to interact with it.
During this summer (2012) I hiked about half of the Appalachian Trail. On Thursday July 5th I was astonished to see a Peugoet 404 semi derelict at the side of VA 608 (paved) road , near the rural community of Crandon close by where the AT crosses over VA 608…..
At a guess this 404 would be borderline restorable or at least a great source of parts.
It stood opposite a house whose yard area was full of metal junk ….I hope it is salvaged
I,d be interested to one day hear….Quentin Henderson firstname.lastname@example.org
nice story, I own a 1976 404 sedan, I live in Santiago, Chile. I bought the car early in 2010 and took me one and a half years to restore, great car. The 404 was built in Chile during the 70´s, the production stoped in 1979 but you can see some in the country. We have a club with more than 20 members, we enjoy our cars, share experinces, spare parts and good moments, here you have a picture of my baby, my 404, you can also watch a video in youtube under
Hi-any idea how I can get my dream car in Canada-I am Northeastern US New Jersey and Vermont-I was moved by your story! I, too have a great memory of My Peugeot 403 sedan I had from 1971 to 1974-my Dad taught me to drive on it and he had a matching wagon-This his a gift to me!-We lived in Spain 3 years/Air Force and had first peugeot there and again back in US we continued loving them! I am struggling in the US to find one -Are there any in Canada/near northeast US border?-Can you help me? Terry
This one is for sale in Trois-Rivières Québec for $8500 CAD, it’s from California originally.
Or if you prefer the 403, well you just missed this one that was sold to someone in Ottawa, out of Québec City. I knew the previous owner, it was a nice car.
Hey Paul, I am in the process of restoring a 1969 Peugeot 404, pretty much the exact same car as in this post. I am rebuilding some of the parts and am looking for the specialty tools that are required, and also for anyone in Portland (or anywhere) that has knowledge of rebuilding parts such as carburetor and brake master cylinder. I have a lot of spare parts (2 other trashed 404s to take from).
Please let me know if you can help in any way. Thank you so much and anything would be greatly appreciated.
503 729 2762
Wade, if you are still working on the 69 404, send the master cylinder to someone like White Post (see Hemmings Motor News) and have them resleeve it with stainless steel. I had a 68 that I drove for 21 years, and sold because I had to have a master cylinder sent from Africa after mine failed. I certainly wish I had held on to the car! It was a wonderfully dependable car, comfortable and fun to drive. I’d love to have another one.
Awwww …. I loved my 404, the white sedan with the sunroof. Bought it very much used in Seattle in, oh, probably 1971, drove it everywhere. Up Mt. Rainier, out to the coast beach trails, many back roads Sadly, I eventually went back East for months, and one of my housemates who had the use of it parked it on the street instead of the driveway — I -always- parked it off the street. And some drunk totaled it and several other cars, and disappeared. My loss.
Nothing I’ve driven since has felt so much like it was just me, flying low. I still miss it every time I drive a curvy road.
This is a wonderful article, and I’m now the owner of the wonderful car pictured in it. Would love to hear more 404 stories: email@example.com
I read this page before and when the opportunity to buy a 404 presented itself I didn’t hesitate. Going to collect on Tuesday.
Cool, if you don’t mind, when you get the car, could you add it to the Club’s Registry that is linked to my name here? Thanks!
Mmmmh, very wonderful history about Peugeot 404’s, right now I own one as a gift from my Dad, if am not wrong it should be a 1966 & below model. Its a white p/up & I do enjoy driving It. Restored for a year & a half because it was stored under extremely harsh condition for 16 good years i.e. It was under direct sunlight & rains for all that period but now its in fair condition it has already done over 6500 km’s since I started using it. my next comment shall include the pics & I’ll be joining the peugeot 404 club tomorrow.
Your great article on the Peugeot 404 stirred memories of my ’68 404 which died of rust after 230,000 miles, including cross country trips at 80 mph (yet quieter than my 84 Nissan Maxima 6 cyl), using as a jeep on Colorado mountain dirt roads, and every day usage. Its history in the East African Safari impressed me, as did its cold weather starting at -25 degrees in Aspen, Co. The car was durable, comfortable, reliable, and elegant.
Thank you. Paul, for your article.
I just recently came into possession of an amazing 404 + parts/rust bucket 404. It is exciting hearing about these things and I really want to get it running (last time it was ran was ’91). I was given these cars from a 95 year old ex-insurance salesman in Seattle who bought the good one brand new and put 600,000+miles on it. He has the original workshop manual that talks about creating tools in order to service it (makes me nervous) and he has notes written in it all over. I am very excited hearing about all you old farts stories in them. Thanks!
Sounds good, I’d sure like to get your car’s VIN for the Registry. I know of good parts sources too. These cars are easy to service.
Thanks mike! I have searched parts stores around me and they have zilch. Currently I am trying to figure out if I have a worm drive differential and trying to source the correct (vegetable?) type of differential oil. Even online I thought there might be better information than what I am finding. And I am out of luck on most of the forums as they are in French 🙁
Castrol R 40 is perfect for the rear axle, you should be able to get it at a classic British car shop. All 404 sedans have the worm and wheel rear axle, and they all use veggie oil. But, beware; if the car had mineral oil in there before refilling, you should flush the casing with solvents (mixture of alcohol and paint thinner) because those two lubes don’t mix and will destroy the rear end in short order. Most 404s in North America had mineral oil in the axles and the bronze will have suffered as a result.
My first automobile was a 1960 403, loved the whine of the overdrive gearing, the smooth ride, and the 44 MPG. Got it when it was 10 years old, still had the factory installed Michelin X tires on it at 110,000 miles. Only Peugeot I ever sold…., I have always regreted that. Starting In the 1960’s Peugeot “PAID” their American dealers to “covert” these cars to mineral oil, before delivery to the customer, which required replacing all the seals and gaskets made of natural rubber ,(which required vegetable based oil,) over to neoprene / synthetic, gaskets. Mineral oil disolves natural rubber and you loose your lube. In the 1970’s Peugeot did the work and the car had a “U S Model” decal under the hood. I personaly learned the hard way that there was a crooked dealer in LA California that was pocketing the money to convert ,and sending these beautiful cars out to have major breakdowns starting in a few years when owners started adding mineral oil to the resevoirs. My 1969 404 started a rearend “humming” in 1973. I had purchased it used in 1972 and did not know it’s history. I was “educated” as to he problem by Olaf’s Peugeot in Portand, OR., after I had taked the rearend apart and found one side bearing had failed (disolved gasket, lost lube) and one side of my 51 tooth helical cut, bronze differential gear has badly worn. I went to Portland from Corvallis, for parts. Olaf was the best Peugeot mechanic in the US. I was trained as an Engineman / Machinery Technician by the U S Coast Guard and thought I knew it all, Well…..I didn’t know 5% of what Olaf knew. He was a WW2 German trained Mechanical Engineer. We spent many, many hours talking in the next 6 years. He sold me a Diff. bearing and neoprene gaskets, and told be to reverse the 51 tooth bronze gear. I would then have a little slack in the drive train , but only when driving in reverse. Pretty tricky, I thought. I put another 365,000 miles on that rearend. I still have it in my parts “bone yard’. Mineral oil has no effect on bronze, it is the chemical mix of mineral and vegetable oil that reacts on bronze, to discolor it, but mostly it’s the loss of lube because of disolved seals, that does the damage. I have 2 complete 404’s , 2 parted out 404’s (parts in ‘bone yard’) , a complete 504, a complete 505, a complete 304, and some 403 parts. All gasoline models. There was a data base in the 1970’s that showed the history of every Peugeot in the world, serviced by dealers. In 1973, I looked up where my 404 was delivered new, on what date, and to whom. The scary part of this history, was the brake systems that were not converted.
EP mineral oils have sulphur in the extreme pressure additives that chemically attack the bronze wheel, leading to pitting on the drive surface that later becomes cavitation holes, giving a Swiss cheese look. Reversing the 21 tooth (sedan and CC) or 19 tooth (wagon) bronze crown wheel gear will definitely add some years to the gear – I did this in 1981 to my first 404.
In Europe where vegetable oils were used in these gears, cavitation damage is unheard of.
Gear oils are not recommended for Hillman gearboxes as the sulphur content erodes the syncros engine oil should be used instead.
Hello there. Regards from Southeast Europe, Macedonia. I am owner of a Peugeot 404 familiale diesel with only 16302 Km on the odometer. The car is in original condition.
It is very exciting to drive it since it has amazing handling on the road. I keep this car and drive it about 1 Km per month. You can see the photos in my album:
I have learned a lot of things regarding Peugeot 404 and this is really useful web sites.
My father has had two family versions, the rust was their fatal, not the mechanics
1969 404. I bought it in 1975 and had it for 23 years. In that time I clocked up 860,000 km. Drove it through every dozer track in the Victoria mountains and then up to Darwin and back. Dragged a boat down every bush track in the Territory for 10 years. It final failed. It first major break down. Gearbox input shaft bearing disintegrated. Great car…. I want another….. please
You are so fortunate about your love of 404s. At least you could keep them running.
Mom & Dad got married in 1959. He was fresh out of Navy officer candidate school and going on to get his wings. Mom brought into the marriage a convertible (probably an Olds, since that’s all her parents drove), and Dad promptly traded it in for a Peugeot 403. Why, I still don’t know. But I know mom hated that car because as soon as Pop put out to sea on a carrier, it would promptly break down. This may be a condemnation not of the cars but the lack of any dealer network. The last straw was when pop went on a 6 month cruise in the North Atlantic, and there was only one place in all of Norfolk, VA that could fix it and that was across town. And mom had enough to deal with 2 terrorists in training (my brother and me). After two years of this, she put her foot down and demanded he get a car that can be fixed at any gas station. So, that led to the new 1963 Ford Ranch wagon. Which was pretty reliable, but two years in Rhode Island and 2 in Pensacola led to a grisly death by rust by 1969 (I remember those gaping holes in the rear quarter panels). The 403 is the only car I don’t remember in growing up, but that was the end of us being a one car family, too. Later, pop did have a 1948 Plymouth (his base beater) and a 1959 MGA that spent more time on the battery charger in the garage than on the road. Maybe pop was ahead of the curve–he was into the exotica of cars before the USA got swept by the Japanese brands during the 1980s. Today he drives either a Honda or a Lexus.
Just a hint of my first Peugeot 404 ute,bought for $900 in the late 1980s.That ute carted many tons of ironbark,a hardwood,when I was building.It had done approximately 500,000 miles and apart from a new clutch and a new headgasket,was immensely reliable.I sold it for much more several years later when I found another 1970 404 ute,same colour,Sage Grey,a light green,which funnily enough was purchased new in Australia by a Canadian anthropologist who made a heavy and tall insulated canopy fitted out as a camper.When he returned to Canada the man I purchased it from,an industrial chemist for James Hardie,only used it for his annual holiday.So the mileage was 36,000 and the condition was like new.Many years later it had done approx 89,000 miles and still drove and ran like a dream.I removed the camper because I used it for work as a gardener/landscaper but took great care with it.Haven’t any pics but do have video.It was a great ute.It was the best condition 404 ute I had ever seen and still looked and drove like new at 89,000 miles which is nothing for a 404.Back in 1989 or so I paid Aust $2800 for it and still it is better than my very low,115,000 kilometre Holden[Isuzu] Rodeo turbo diesel ute.I wish I still had the Peugeot.
Sorry I got the years mixed up,bought the 36,000 mile ute in approx 1993 and sold it in approx 2000.
Formerly owned two 404s and still have the owners manual for the 1962. Will take any reasonable offer.
Also have the factory supplied roof rack that fits the mounts. Also will part with that for any reasonable offer but purchaser needs to pick up in Canada or arrange own shipping. Someone somewhere must know the bolt size, thread count etc.
The old spare keys are going too.
Mike.. whereabouts in Canada are you? I’d love to buy the roof rack off you.. I’m down in california with a 1966 404, but I have some friends up north who are usually good for a scavenger hunt so maybe I could work it out!
If you get this shoot me an email at : Planetlinda@hotmail.com
Just read Paul N’s very lengthy but interesting post on his acquaintance with 404s and feel compelled to add that not all had vinyl seats. I had a 62 with a tweedy kind of material…car was light blue. My 68 model was dark blue with a red wool kind of seating material. Both wore exceptionally well and the 68 was vastly more comfortable than most cars and I used it for a friends wedding ride.
The first was bought in Germany the newer one in Canada. It didn’t survive a near head on crash but I did. Cheers to all 404 owners.
PS I thought the picture in Paul’s post showed him using a bumper jack. The 404 had jacking points for the factory supplied jack.
Yes, non-US cars probably had cloth, as that was more common in Europe. In the US, vinyl was generally seen as a more premium seat covering, and came standard on nicer American cars. It’s the same with Mercedes; in Europe cloth and velour were typical; in the US only MB-Tex (vinyl) or leather.
My car didn’t have the original jack, so I used what I had. 🙂
You are indeed a Peugeot expert. I enjoyed the info about the electromagnetic clutch on the fan. My father was an aircraft servicing tech and was impressed with that and many other aspects of the car. My 62 was formerly his and we both ended up owning two.
You will undoubtedly recall the extra length spark plug wrench. You have helped bring back both car memories and those of the 60s . Thanks.
Sweet looking car. I’ve heard of the Peugeot 404, and I’ve seen pics of the 404, but I’ve never seen one in person. I find it more attractive than later Peugeots: the 504 and 505. The only other Peugeot I’ve seen that look better (IMHO) than the 404 was the 604. If you live between Tacoma, Washington and Bremerton, and you own one, and don’t mind showing the car off, please let me know. I’d be very much interested in having a look. 🙂
This is exactly the kind of car that I like, and I never knew it until now. Simple, durable and comfortable. One of these would be great to experience, except that now they are extremely scarce – especially in the midwest.
The engineering was quite elegant on these. I sometimes wonder if it was VW’s early success here in the US that greased the wheels for Mercedes to take off some years later. And you wonder how things might have been different if the Renault Dauphine had been built as well as these, paving the way for a solid fan base for French cars. But . . . no.
Paul, the 404 I had in Alaska carried its “starting handle” clipped to the left front wheel well. I remember how very handy that was, since the battery (which I was constantly trying to save enough $$$ to replace) wouldn’t hold a charge much below 0º, but the engine would start – usually – on the third or fourth pull. Of course the one time it didn’t was when we were all dressed up for the party we were trying to leave, and were surrounded by curious friends …
Another car very popular in Israel at the time and now firmly established as a classic collectors vehicle over there. When I served in the Israeli navy between 79-82 we had a picks up to serve our missile strike craft and I spent a few good hours in it. Tons of taxicabs like the below, too.
The same time Paul was wrenching on his 404’s, I was rebuilding the engine in a ’66 VW Fastback, like the white once next door to Paul in the background of the 3rd picture. Knowing how scarce parking was in Santa Monica, I have to assume those 6 404’s were not parked all at the same time on the apartment grounds. I was working at the Santa Monica VW dealership during this time (’78-’80) and we had to park in a 2 hour time zone alley. Whenever the meter maid marked tires a mad rush to play musical cars ensued.
I drove my ’70 C10 daily from purchase in ’76 until ’79, the second gas crunch and dollar a gallon prices sent me to the Recycler newspaper in search of a VW. I found a ’66 Fastback with the engine in a box in Pasadena for $300.00. The seller steered the engineless VW to my house behind my Chevy towed with a rope. The engine in a box was tossed in the back of the C10 and I rebuilt the engine in spare time after work at the dealership, with the help of the mechanics and their tools. When finished, the completed engine rode in the back of the truck and was installed the the Fastback over the weekend.
It was a lot better (and cheaper) driving in the bumper to bumper traffic from La Crescenta to Santa Monica in the VW than in the stripper power nothing truck. And really nice to be able to squeeze into a much smaller parking space
In 1981 the VW was sold to my parents after buying a ’75 Rabbit, my first water cooled VW and my first car with AC as well. By this time I was driving from La Crescenta to Thousand Oaks (92 miles a day round trip), and the upgrade was appreciated.
We were within a few miles of each other at times back in those days, Paul. If I remember correctly I used to watch the 3 Stooges on Channel 52 UHF a few years earlier. Was that eventually the station you worked for?
Nice to read this reprint, I well remember this story the first time, great read!
Parking was a major issue. My only assigned parking spot under the apt. building was occupied by my non-running 403. I kept my 404 sedan on the street, or during the week, used the large church lot that is in the picture.
At most I kept one or two other 404s on the street. I remember a non-running one that I used to push across the street on street sweeping days.
The rest I would stash on the streets at the tv station, or in the back lot. I didn’t really have all six at the same time; I would re-sell them, or “lease” them to someone needing cheap wheels at the station. And keep them running, which was mostly easy.
The 404 Pug that longtime friend owned in Geelong lasted for what seemed an eternity for his daily commute from Geelong to Melbourne or the occasional commute to Ballarat. It was always a pleasure to be in his Pug when I’d return to Oz and home again in Victoria. Thanks for the fond memories. Was this a later French equivalent of the Borgward?
Peugeot managed to wring over100mph out of a 404 diesel sometime in the mid 60s, they led the world in passenger car diesel development despite the Benz propaganda.
Thanks for this re-run. Very impressive, all this thorough classic Peugeot knowledge.
An uncle had a 404 in the early seventies, and after that a 504. As a matter of fact, the man has driven Peugeots as long as I can remember. With only one exception, a Volkswagen Vento. After that “mistake” it was back to Peugeot again. He currently owns a 307 hatchback.
Last Saturday I saw this 1968 404. That dark purple was a popular Peugeot color back then and in later years.
Hi! Seen or know of one for sale?
I have never owned a Peugeot and never plan too.
But I sure do like the looks of the 403 model seen on this site.
Would be my choice over the 404 for styling.
Awwww …. I sure miss my 404.
Bought it well used in Seattle in the early 1970s.
Girlfriend — just once — left it parked on the street instead of in the driveway and a drunk driver sideswiped and destroyed every parked car on the block that night.
If I knew of a Peugeot mechanic in the SF East Bay, to keep it running, I’d look to buy another 404 now that I’m old, retired, and getting shaky, for the few times I actually want to drive somewhere for fun.
What about the “sleeps two” configuration? The front seats would slide underneath the dash allowing two adults to sleep (or whatever). I had several people sleeeping in the car during a Watkins Glen downpour, in addition to what every American male would use the cr for in High School. What a car! It once cost me $35 in gs to get to Miami from Trenton. Split four ways, it was less than the beer cost.
Oh, this brings back memories! Dad bought me a 404 in 1973 and taught me to drive stick: I remember 4 forward speeds on the steering column; the seats that would slide forward and go ALL the way back to make an actual car bed; the Moon Roof, and the 95 horsepower — but she towed our motorboat up the mountain and down! What a sweet little machine, and a real hoot to own in Chattanooga, Tennessee!
Dad had been in the Army for a year (draftee in 1946) and remembered a drill sergeant who couldn’t be arsed to pronounce anyone’s name correctly: he’d just yell it out any old way he had a mind to. So there was a fellow named Jacques in the platoon, and the Sgt. would holler “Jack-KEWS!!” when calling the roll in the morning. So of course that became our little car’s name. That, or The Frog.
Thanks for all the pix!
i Need some help. i saw the Picture with the Motor. i bought a fork lift truck . The Company is called Matral. i think there is the same Motor wich is jused in the 404.
But i can`t find any Information about this Motor. Which Type or number.
Do you have some Information for me?
I am interested if you have one for sale 404 Peugeot.
Have read that initial plans for what became the Peugeot 404 were for a large V8 with hydropnumatic suspension akin to the Citroen DS that was quickly abandoned for a smaller project, thanks to a combination of problems with the Citroen DS, Suez Crisis and Peugeot’s traditional clientele generally preferring more conventional suspension / cars.
On top of that though Peugeot was once considered the equal of Mercedes-Benz (which is hard for us younger generations to believe), they decided to abandon the high-end segment because its market research showed that the tax burden was greater on French motorists than in other European countries and thus could only afford small cars.
Nonetheless am interested to find out more about the abandoned V8 project, specifically whether the V8 engine is essentially a doubled up 403/404 4-cylinder, an unrelated design or part of a little-known pre-PRV collaboration with Renault?
Great article and following. I’m very interested in Finding a 404 Sedan for a similar project…any clues or info on finding one?
My father had many a Peugeot (403, 404s and 504s) – primarily because mother was French (never mind the Simca) – but he too admired the engineering, sheer simplicity and durability of these autos. Hell, we even got one up to 96mph one fine day.
Any who, still have his OEM (O.L.D) 404 aluminum roof rack with attaching bolts: what to do? It’s definitely for sale; what do you think it is worth?
Tell me, tell me; can also throw in two 504(?) hubcaps – all original.
Hi! Will keep those items in mind if needed, when I find one to purchase…Thanks!
i love the history so impressive . im fixing one bringing it back from the grave ,please can i have a video on how to bleed the clutch master cylinder. thanks
So great! in 1988, I bought a 404 from a lady in Jacksonville, Oregon. My dad towed it to our home in Medford. It was white with an oxblood interior, sunroof, etc. It was an amazing car! Until the engine blew a chunk of the block out onto the street one winter. Back then, there were no Peugeot dealers in the area, and being pre-internet, I had no choice but to get rid of it. I was really bummed. It was a great car to have as a high school kid!
Thanks a lot Paul. I knew almost nothing about these and you forced me to learn something through your clear, coherent writing to share your eclectic and informed experience. I have gone from being indifferent to actually wanting to know more about this fascinating car.
I would like to get one 404 cause I miss mine in the Philippines. Hope I can rebuild one here in the US.
In my shady used cars days, I found a lovely 505 for my girlfriend, whose 1980 Jetta was biting the dust. At the same time, I got to drive Mercedes-Benz W123s quite regularly.
The similar: both cars are built like tanks, with very strong unit bodies. They are about the same size. Both cars ride well, but the French car more comfortably. They both feel to be made of high quality components and neither is expensive to run, even in the gasoline versions.
The different: One is German and all businesslike. All the controls have heft, even the power steering. The seats are hard but comfortable. The ride is firm but not harsh. The other is French. The controls are all buttery smooth and easy. The motor is easy. The ride is posh and controlled. The seats are soft and superbly comfortable.
Even at the time these cars were common, I would always take a Peugeot home over a Mercedes-Benz W123.
Just in case youre still trying to scratch that 404 wagon itch somebody had one for sale on NZ’s Trademe auction site diesel engine but not the original its wasnt hugely expensive when I noticed it $10k or so NZ pesos which isnt a lot in US money postage could be expensive.
I had a couple of friends with 404s back in the 70’s. While they liked them, they both seemed to like talking about them as “Africa Cars” more than anything. I do recall front strut issues though, something about the front end very loose and knocking IIRC.
One thing I hadn’t heard of was the roller gear diff. That means you couldn’t push start it, right? Especially as Africa was apparently one of their major markets, that seems odd.
That will likely have been the upper shock mounts, perished rubber. A cheap-ish DIY fix if you have a spring compressor.
Maybe I missed it long ago but with such love for these two cars, the sedan and wagon, why then were they given up? With excellent care, and a decent mechanical background, one can pretty much make a car last one’s lifetime. It just seems to me that if another 404 fell into your lap it wouldn’t be turned away or have we moved on? Puzzled…
For those who like the 404, YouTube channel, Photogriffon, has just released a two-part history of the model. It’s in French, but it’s not too hard to understand, I think. Here’s part 1.