Bangernomics And Recognition For The Peugeot 406

Autocar and James Ruppert are celebrating 25 years of the bangernomics concept. And the 406 gets some publicity.

1999 Peugeot 406: www.the-blueprints.com
1999 Peugeot 406: http://www.the-blueprints.com

For those who don’t know, bangernomics is Ruppert’s term for a car buying philosophy where the aim is to find a really cheap car with a long MOT. I first came across the concept in the early ’90s when reading Car magazine. At that time Ruppert had a column on used cars. He also ran a series called the Crap Car Cup that required the contestants to get the best, cheapest car possible and run it and race it.

I used this bangernomics philosophy when time came for me to get a car when I lived in the UK. Out of a field of contestants that included a Renault 25, Ford Granada, Vauxhall Omega and Peugeot 605 I landed on a 9-year-old Citroen XM for seven hundred pounds that ran reliably for four years. A truck wrecked it.

More interesting is that among the contenders for Bangernomics listed in the article, the Peugeot 406 gets some recognition for the excellent and inexpensive car that it is. I have bemoaned the 406’s lack of renown in my recent 20th anniversary essay on the model. Ruppert nominates the 406 as a good candidate for consideration among his list of low-priced used-car stars. Among them are the 1990 MX-5, the 1991 Saab 9000 (I think he means the 9000 but the article says 900 in the header) and the 1995 Honda Prelude, all under 800 GBP.

This is what Ruppert says about the 406: “Here’s the last time that a French car was any good, in Bangernomic terms anyway, because it’s relatively straightforward. The 406 had it all: smooth ride, bags of space and great diesel engines. The 2.0-litre petrol engine is refined and powerful too, while the frugal HDi 110 LX is the pick of the bunch for a workhorse estate.”

The rest of the article is well worth a look. The price he lists for one of these is four hundred pounds which is a complete underestimation of the car’s quality, value and utility. It says more about the deluge of used cars on the market at any one time than it does about what the car is and can do.

Perhaps this article won’t move the 406 closer to the position on the podium of great saloons now occupied by 70s and 80s Benzes, but maybe it will alert some more people what a fine and underestimated car the 406 is.

Happy 25th, bangernomics!

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

15 thoughts on “Bangernomics And Recognition For The Peugeot 406”

  1. The 406 was a real nice car in each version (i would prefer the facelift Sedan version in white).

    It was a pretty good evoulution step after the brilliant Peugeot 405 – and a typical large french car.
    I still wonder why Peugeot was convinced the 407 (especially the 407 Break with its ridiculously small boot and the ungainly Coupe) would attract the 406 owners to buy the next Peugeot…

    1. Peugeot understood that the C/D class was declining and that cars perceived as “premium” stood a better chance of success. So far so good. Peugeot imagined the 407 looked more “expressive” and better made than the reticent, reserved 406. They did not understand that the problem lay not in the form as designed but the last 0.01 mm of fit and finish. If you look at the 406 coupe it’s finished the way the saloon ought to have been.

  2. There are a number of cars I don’t get. As Markus notes the 407 failed to improve anything important and made other important things worse. The Citroen C5 Mk1 is another. The Mercedes R-class should have been an S-class estate. The Alfa Mito. The current Focus too. These cars are all surrounded by a swarm of question marks as dense as bluebottles above a deceased sheep in July.

    1. I think the Series II Twingo is another example that it is not a really good idea to give up main characteristics in the hope to find some additional buyers elsewhere.
      Peugeot did not understand that (nearly) nobody wants a Peugeot Estate Car without space or a Coupe that looks like a senior-drivers-car. A conservative Peugeot-customer wants a car with the classic virtues (space, comfort, quality) and not a Estate Car with a senselessly emotional styling or a Coupe without any emotions.

  3. The one problem I have with Ruppertarian motoring ideology is that you have to be able to ignore sentiment- pure bangernomics would be buying a cheap car with a long MOT & running it until something expensive happens or it fails a MOT then binning it and buying another. I get too attached to cars to do that. If you’re a wheeler-dealer in the Ruppert mould though then it would be good fun.

    1. True. My “banger” turned immediately into a much-loved car despite three non-operational windows and a nose cone spray painted the wrong shade of gold. When it got wrecked I bought another car in the same mould and after three years I had swerved from banger to heirloom. I could have bought ten XMs for what I paid to keep the one running.

    1. Markus- the Clio 2 is another good example and this brings us to the Ka mk2, doesn’t it?
      Chris- did you know the 850 has a rotten reputation in the US? I quite like some versions, dependent on colour.

    2. Strange. Volvos are the one make I regularly see examples of having survived to a good age (10+) whilst retaining any semblance of good fettle. In my book, an 850 in strangely immaculate condition with a good MOT is surely worth an £800 punt.

  4. Chris- It seems strange to me as well. The TTAC crowd consider the 850 to be poison with wrecked trim and electrical problems high on the list. You’d imagine Swedes could build a car to cope with the N East and N West at least. I think the 850 is a solid car but too often sold in dreary colours. It badly needed brightwork just like the 406 did. That’s why the colour inside and out matters. In metallic grey they have a crude look. In metallic green with a tan leather interior they look as good as they really are.

    1. The differences in *perceived* reliability on either side of the pond are really interesting. I too have noticed the way that TTAC commenters consider Volvos, VWs and Jags (even the modern ones) as delicate fragile little Euro-trinkets that can’t cope with big mileages and cold winters.

  5. I have discussed this before, bangernomics is fine but you should find the balance of paying for maintenance and avoiding the purchase of another banger. I have a 9000 that’s worth about £500 – £1000 and I’ve ironed out a couple of minor issues, bought some tyres, I could have scrapped and bought another but I may have had to do those things again.
    True bangernomics means £500 for almost anything and you don’t care what you drive and throw it in the bin as it fails… but you may not drive what you like and you may not enjoy the drive or the cars characteristics.
    My Dad has had 3 9000’s since his new one bit the dust in 2002 … that’s approx one every 3 years at £3000, £1000 and another £1000. Despite living in the far north of Scotland they regularly do MOT’s easily … if he parked them in the bloody shed that he built – no doubt they would have lasted longer…. one of those cars is outside my house 2 years later.

  6. Andy: BMW´s and Mercedes and are also perceived as poison once the warranty ends. At the same time you get people reporting that their 1995 Ford Taurus has been flawless and their 1992 Cadillac Sedan has been the best car they ever had. If I roughly approximate my impressions, the TTAC people like mid-90s GM cars and most Japanese offerings. Chrysler seldom gets mentioned either way. JD Power can´t help as the information is owner-supplied and in a way as biased as the posters at TTAC.

    1. I can’t comment with any objectivity on how reliable any of these cars are, but I do detect a chasm of mutual understanding across the Atlantic. I did once feel mildly patronised by a US correspondent regarding car durability. I got the idea that they felt they still lived in Pioneer country, where a breakdown would strand them in Death Valley with little chance of seeing another motorist for weeks, by which time they would have had to eat their passengers. I, on the other hand, just used my car to drive round a village green, which had a friendly mechanic on every corner.

    2. I read TTAC a lot, although I live in the UK. Agree the love for 90s GM, 90s Toyota/Honda, and Ford Panther cars is strong on there, most likely because of the conservative older audience that site gets.
      I still can’t understand how the perception of cars can be so different. Obviously they have harsher climates and a different approach to maintenance, and parts availability is possibly trickier, but it still staggers me that cars like the BMW E39 and Merc W124 which are seen as viable 15-20 year old cars here are viewed as ticking timebombs over there. They’re the same cars made in the same factory – do we Brits really have such low standards?

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