Peugeot (qu’est-ce que c’est ?)

La vrai chose

La vraie chose

There was a time when France was a significant exporter of cars to these shores.  Consumers could choose among Renault, Citroën and even Panhard, if only for un petit moment.  Perhaps the most straightforward Gallic contender here was Peugeot which was described as “a French Mercedes.”  This was cipher for ‘vehicle suitable for the haute bourgeoisie’. Renaults were usually small, insubstantial rolling coffins and Citroëns — both the farm implement-cum-chariots des paysans 2CV (deux chevaux = “two horses”) and the futuristic DS — pronounced déesse = “goddess” — too advanced for a nation of shade tree mechanics met with shoulder shrugs at best.

Gallic oil burner

Gallic oil burner

FeralCars Field Scout Andrew Keeler captured this Peugeot 504, the no-nonsense workhorse of Africa, on the funky streets of San Francisco.  This particular Cinq cent quatre, as you’d expect, is diesel powered. Diesel durability, perhaps, accounts for its extraordinary longevity.  We’re fairly certain it’s a ’76; the 504  was in production for 14 years with three million copies produced.

Nice kitty

Nice kitty

Until just last year the company was controlled by the Peugeot family. The operation dates  back to the early-19th century and really got going when coffee mill and bicycle production kicked in sometime thereafter. Manufacture of motorized vehicles started in 1889, only three years after Karl Benz got his mellifluously named Benz Patent-Motorwagen rolling under its own power on whatever they used for autobahns back then. The Peugeot lion symbol, seen in bas-relief and rendered in rugged plastic on the grill of a 604 , was first applied to Peugeot brand saw blades indicating strong teeth, sharp tongue and swift cut claws. Ouch!

Super-sized "force de frappe"

Super-sized “force de frappe”

Bumpered car

Bumpered car

Peugeot was never a threat to the rise of Mercedes Benz in the luxury car field but fielded Pininfarina-designed contender just the same.  Here’s a E-Class size Peugeot 604, a Turbo Diesel according the the badge on the big square sedan’s derriere, the font of which could only have been applied to a car conceived in the land of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.   It’s a quite a mirthful appliqué for an executive class car like this.  We took a look inside and noted the 5-speed manual transmission that could make driving this a truly Francodelic delight.

Font-astique!

Font-astique!

We think the Peugeot 505 is very reasonable proposition, a “just right” size sedan that was popular in college towns and places where fall foliage tours are undertaken.  This one, a gasoline powered (!)  STI,  is probably a 1980 model and appears to be headed to an entertainment locale called “Fully Exposed” although we recognize that the car wash just down the street could well be an alternate objective. Or, perhaps, tous les deux?  Clean and dirty in one handy location!

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We found a stunning 1980 Peugeot 504 online priced at a whopping $195000 but we’re starting to think it could actually be bon marché insofar as it has fewer than 8000 KM — kilometers, not miles!  Peugeot never sold cars in any significant volume in this country but they did roll the dice with this commercial that played on French sexual stereotype for the 505 Turbo that was shot on location — in the bedroom.  Here’s an earlier spot that emphasizes the brand’s heritage and legacy that’s actually quite informative.  Yes, there will be a midterm!

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What do you think?