The last traditional Peugeot saloon marks its 40th anniversary this year. We look back at the 505.
The final flowering of a fine tradition, the 1979 Peugeot 505 marked the last generation of rear-wheel drive saloons to emerge from Sochaux. A late ’70s update of the popular and durable 504 model, the 505 cleaved so closely to its predecessor’s conceptual template those of a more cynical mien could scarcely recognise it as much of a meaningful update at all.
The 505 combined characteristics of its lineal predecessor with those of the equally admirable (if commercially-speaking), underperforming 604 model which served as the Lion of Belfort’s flagship for a significant portion of the 505’s career. Unlike the latter model however, (also largely the work of carrozzeria Pininfarina), the 505’s body style coincided with a rather underwhelming creative period at Cambiano.
While initial studies closely reflected the styling themes of its junior 305 sibling (itself no design paragon), the larger car, while neat and attractive, did suffer from a certain lack of definition – a tendency towards visual blandness which the 504 certainly lacked. Technically and dynamically however, no such deficiencies arose, the 505 presenting all of its highly rated predecessor’s virtues in a more refined, modernised package.
A durable package too in time-honoured Peugeot fashion, both in commercial terms (a 20-year lifespan and over 1.3 million sold) and in terms of its fitness for the purpose – 505s proving as popular in some of the world’s more inhospitable landscapes as its 504 ancestor.
Marking the car’s 40th, we present a 1979 review from the serried nib of legendary auto-scribe, Archie Vicar, which can be accessed by clicking upon the following link.
[The linked article was first published on Driven to Write on 3 November 2013.]
5 thoughts on “Summer Reissue – Daily Grind”
One of my parents’ neighbours was a long standing Peugeot owner and bought an early 505 STI after a couple of 504s. What surprised him most was that the 505 was the first Peugeot with the indicator stalk on the left hand side of the steering column and without the ingeniously practical (but often criticised) light switch.
It certainly was no worse than a world record corrosive Audi 100 C2 overall but was let down by the details like the cheap switches for secondary functions that were identical to the ones in the 305 and later 205 (but far better than the ones in the 604 which were standard bulk sale items found in nearly every French or Italian car from the Sixties and Seventies).
Compared to a BMW E12 or a Benz W123 the only thing it really lacked were engines with more power. That they had to use the old Simca/Talbot lump as base for the turbo version shows how limited the Douvrin engine’s scope for development was.
I just realised another noteworthy anniversary this year – the cessation of European 505 saloon production, which was brought to a close at Sochaux in 1989. The Break continued for another few years, I believe.
Love the ground clearance. This car could actually tackle clumps of grass and worn-down tracks on a rural driveway. Unlike the new Mercedes GLB “SUV”, which is as much an SUV as a BMW 4 door 8 Series is a coupe.
A few of these 505’s crossed the Ocean. Might as well have stayed home for all the good it did them or their customers – such a half-hearted underfunded effort compared to even Volvo, let alone the Japanese and Germans. Only available at hole-in-the wall hobby dealers like forbidden fruit. Buy one from the fast-talking afficionado and you wondered shortly thereafter about service, spares and warranty. The basic car was tough but it had no real factory support. They stopped making them, introduced the papier mache 405 and three years later, they were done to a turn and left.
Rather like Sterling (Rover 800s) who managed to prove that you can modify and assemble a Honda all by yourself because you’re absolutely brilliant in your own mind and still manage to get it completely wrong, producing unreliable rubbish . They also left the market rapidly, with the pitchfork brigade in close pursuit. Its darn near 30 years ago now, when it finally completely dawned on me that some companies’ products are best left at home, where people are quite content with them. Renault tried harder and lasted the ’80s after buying AMC, but shot their bolt too and sold out to Chrysler after depositing various useless 9 and 11 models and the Douvrin V6 on the market. Management without much of a clue as to what serious effort meant.
I guess we could say the same of GM in Europe in latter years…foisting unwanted Korean built Chevrolets, the pulling out of the mass market. Too hard for GM to compete.
An often overlooked peculiarity concerning the Peugeot 505 is that Peugeot went to quite a lot of trouble to make the 505 compliant with the USA market requirements. There were the usual changes of course such as larger bumpers, side marker lights and changed headlights and taillights (the latter looking quite similar to BMW 6 series units of the period). But the fuel tank was also relocated closer to the center of the vehicle; this also resulted in the filler opening and flap being moved from the driver’s side of the car to the passenger side (unless you live in an RHD country). The exhaust pipe also changed sides.
This change will not have been simple, nor will it have been cheap. Most likely it was the US legislation that required it. Although Peugeot held out longer in the USA than most French car makers, in the end all the trouble and expense would turn out to be in vain.
I will add a few photos- I hope that works, and if not that someone can educate me how to do it right.
The regular 505:
symbol of lead nitrate
The USA version:
symbol of lead nitrate
symbol of lead nitrate