Only Something, Nothing Less

A rather damning biannual vehicle roadworthiness test has spelled doom for Penelope the Peugeot, the much-loved family steed.

2002 Peugeot 406 1.8 petrol manual.

Although the only apparent problem involved a bit of noise from the exhaust, the vehicle inspector found so many faults he could not fit them onto the inspection report. That means that even if one does get all the reported faults fixed there might be more to be discovered the next time you turn up for the the inspection.

2002 Peugeot 406 1.8 petrol manual

I had had naively imagined that if such a dismal day came to pass as Penelope would have to be disposed of I could look into the small ads and find another similarly overlooked 406 and snap one up. There are lots on the roads, after all. But in fact, the small ads reveal a population of used cars consisting almost entirely of 406 coupés and 406 estates. Where did all the saloons go to?

Almost impossible to photograph

The answer lies in a welter of ads in a Danish private sales on-line medium called Guloggratis, something akin to the UK’s Autotrader. The posting is a mass of identical ads saying “Peugeot 406s bought” with a telephone number to call if you want to sell one (saloons, only). A little investigation reveals a thriving trade in exporting older cars to Africa. It seems the 406, like the 405 before it, is much-sought after in North Africa. And this indicates the remarkable robustness and ingrained quiet seriousness of the 406. If it can take some more years being battered, pounded and hammered with 110% payloads over Algeria’s road network (and indeed any hard, flattish surface) then it’s by any standards a very good car.

The paint scheme hid a decent-looking car.

That’s the paradox of this example: after 260,000 km nothing rattled or fell off. The main signs of tear and usage inside the car are the cloth detaching itself from around the door handles, a groove worn by the seat belt on the B-pillar trim and the gear-lever gaiter material fraying a bit. On the outside however, it’s a different story.

The face-lift added those silly bars on the tail lights.

Like many cars of this age in Denmark, this one has been killed from the pavement up. Like my XM, in fact. Rust has bitten through the left and right sills. The other failures consisted mostly of adjustable and correctable details in the brakes and axles, a discoloured bulb and a blown bulb for the rear registration plate recess.

Fabulous seating, lots of leg-room. 2002 Peugeot 406 1.8 petrol manual.

Were I the kind of person who could remove sills and replace them on my own time, I reckon this car could be saved. Or if I knew a talented home-mechanic with welding equipment it would also be eminently salvageable: sills off, 100 euro replacements jammed back in and painted with a load of tarry black goop, job done.

Driver´s seat, 2002 Peugeot 406. 1.8 litre petrol manual saloon.

At the moment the repair list is with the mechanic who has serviced the car since 2005. And I’ve sent images to the exporter to see what they say. And I’m looking into a train journey to southern Denmark to see the last available 4-door saloon on sale worth buying…. I will keep you posted.

(You can read some other opinions here and here)

Author: richard herriott

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

26 thoughts on “Only Something, Nothing Less”

  1. I regret you have to let go of your trusted car, Richard. The second one in relative close succession, but that is part of the risk of owning an older car. Is that rust I see on the photos? If so, you surely must have had an idea of what was coming. Still it’s a loss and even though cars are material objects, some of us get attached to them. Since you’ve given it/her a name I am sure you are in that catagory.

    I haven’t been in Denmark since 2012, so I can’t comment if there are still plenty of 406 on the road there. In The Netherlands 59,387 406’s were sold of which 3,507 remain at the time I write this. 36 are for sale. A decent 1.8 SR with AC and nearly 123.000 kilometers could be yours for € 2,250.

  2. Let us hope the Algerian ‘s give the car a good send off in another score of years

    I’m guessing you were never a fan of the external colour, Richard? And how ironic is the number plate? I know you were sad at losing the ole Citroën barge but this must’ve kept reminding you.

    But let us hope your new to you saloon search is fruitful. We await updates with relish.

    Fare ye well, Penelope.

  3. Good morning, Richard. What a shame to have to wave goodbye to the 406 in such circumstances. Replacing it with something equally useful and characterful will be a challenge. Are you wedded to Peugeot, or would you consider another make? The 407 is, apparently, a decent car, but I don’t think I could get past the challenging looks. As explained offline, trying to advise acquaintances on which car to buy is a fool’s errand in my experience, so I merely wish you good luck in your search and await news of your choice with interest.

    1. Good morning Daniel. Yes, I agree on the 407. A Peugeot-driving friend who’d be in his seventies had a 407 wagon (even freakier-looking than the sedan) briefly (well, only a few years) before replacing it with a 508, which ‘looks much more him’ I think. I kind of got the impression Peugeot was really stretching his affection for the marque with the 407, though he never said anything against it.
      But for Richard, I feel sad. It’s hard when a car you think is okay for another year turns out not to be. I have had the experience of a list of faults having to be continued over the page; that was on my first car. Maybe, as Freerk alludes, Richard might find a decent 406 outside Denmark. Europe isn’t that big, is it? 😉

  4. Good luck finding a replacement Richard. I still miss my 406 after all these years, it was just a superb all round car and so comfortable. Perhaps my spectacles are rose-tinted but even my two recent Volvos aren’t quite as cosseting (and I will always prefer a car to an SUV).

  5. In Germany it is the same situation. There were rarely nice 406 saloons for sale.
    The last one i saw was one with the HPI engine. No african dealer is searching for this engine…..

  6. In Spain there are still a lot of 406s running, and the saloon is the preferred body. It´s difficult to find a petrol one, though, as the TDI/HDI boom was in its highest point when the 406 was sold.
    A very quick search in “Wallapop” has showed an apparently very good condition one owner restyling 1.8 with a/c and only 99.000 km on the clock for 2350€.

    For car enthusiasts like us is easy to forget that we are playing a losing game. To keep an old car in good condition takes commitment and effort (and lots of money), but a moderately serious breakdown, or worse, a mild shunt can turn the car virtually worthless. Still, it´s more rewarding than gambling or other vices.

  7. Richard, your dire inspection report suggests that your 406 has been neglected. Any time one of the family cars is jacked up in the drive, I have a look to see if I should be spraying rust inhibitor anywhere. My son in Dublin is currently have an NCT-failing rust hole welded up in his Honda FR-V. He could easily afford to buy a newer one, if such a thing existed. Unless the rust has compromised the integrity of the vehicle it could be well worth getting your Pug mended. Better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t.

    1. It does seem a little like that. But in defense, the car slept in a garage for its entire time with us (since 2004). I have a suspicion the garage is damp though.

  8. I’m sorry to hear that your trusty Pug failed its test.
    My immediate thought was ‘brake trouble’ as this is the crap brakes notorious achilles heel of the 406.

    When you look into replacement panel catalogues you see the typical rust traps of any car. For the 406 partical replacement panels cover the rear end of the sills, the wheelarch and the area between the fuel filler flap and the wheelarch. At least that means you’re not alone. The parts cost next to nothing, so it’s down to finding a workshop doing the work for reasonable money.
    A new exhaust in reasonable quality from Imasaf or Walker costs around 230 EUR, a new catalyst about 130 (I was astonished to see how cheap these parts have become).

    When I thought my A4 B6 had come to the end of its life I gave it away. I regret it every day. I should have invested the money to keep it on the road which would have been about twice the worth of the car but would would have saved me from the annoyances of modern cars which drive me furious every day since then.

    You could keep your Pug on the road with a seemingly unreasonable investment but opposed to your XM which would have been a bottomless pit your Pug will soldier on once sorted out properly and you know what you’ve got.
    Do you know what it would cost you to repair it to a standard enabling it to pass the test?
    Not that I’m a big fan of the 406 but any attempt to keep an old nail on the road is worth the effort.

    1. Dave AR , you have opened my eyes to a whole new world ! I didn’t realise ‘replacement panel catalogues’ existed – last time I had a car welded was my Herald chassis in the 60s. ( I did replace a floor in a 127 once, but I cut it out of another 127 and pop-riveted it in place…)
      Since you’re an Audi expert you can advise me of the veracity of what I was told by the breakdown driver who trailered my wifes’ HR-V to the Honda dealer this morning. He said his business used to fit tyres to Aidis on behalf of ‘Audi Assist’ but now only Audi main dealers are allowed to fit tyres to Audis !

    2. Dave is right. From a commercial point of view, investments of 4000, 5000 or more are a lot of money in relative terms, but on the other hand you can hardly get a new (used) vehicle for these sums. And even if you do, you get a vehicle that you don’t know and you don’t know what the costs will be tomorrow.
      In any case, I would recommend preserving stock (better the devil you know), even if the sum seems painfully large at first.

    3. I´m just thinking about that. My E39 is running great, the bodywork is in very good condition (good looking and no rust at all) and interior is good too; but heavy oil consumption is worrying me. Still, if I try to solve that (it could be from piston rings – a typical M54 fail), then a new set of dampers and a bit later new tyres, and perhaps re-trimming the steering wheel as a “sweetener” for me, I could have a great car for a good amount of kilometres more. It’s not going to be cheap, but the alternative is more expensive.

    4. I don’t tink I’m an Audi expert, I just happen to own one.
      The story about Audi Assist and tyres most probably is more complicated than the guy told you.
      Audi Assist seems the UK & Ireland form of Audi Mobility Guarantee on the Continent where the owner of a car covered by the scheme can call for roadside assistance and transport by a recovery truck in case the car is immobile. And of course the car has to be transported to an Audi dealer and not somewhere else.
      Which makes sense in most cases because with an immobile car you are entitled to a free courtesy car for the time of the repair which of course is provided by the dealer. It’s all to keep the revenue in the system.
      I once drove over a nail with my B8 and the resulting puncture was in the sidwall, making the repair set useless. As the car nad no spare tyre it was immobile and got trucked to the next dealer who fitted new tyres.

      If you just need new tyres for your Audi you can get them wherever you want.

  9. ‘What Car?’ Ran a 406 a few years ago (2018) and liked it.

    It’s funny, but people can get attached to a certain type or model of car. Why not? If one finds something one likes, then have that and enjoy it. I recall Sir Winston Churchill liked Humber Super Snipes and I believe that Rootes re-manufactured a second-hand one for him, when they had gone out of production.

    1. Was the 406 the last decent car Peugeot manufactured I wonder ?

  10. Richard H, if your garage had no draft or heating then it could have led to dew forming on your car overnight, trickling down and slowly setting the rust to work. Years ago I read a report in a classic car mag that posited that older cars were best parked outside unless the garage was heated. The headline was something like; “RUST IS YOUR GARAGE KILLING YOUR CLASSIC!!”. Until then I’d never even considered it. If nothing else it helps explain the ads in the back of Octane and Motorsport for (Hugely expensive) free standing oak garages that are open on two sides. No security but no rust(?) either.

    1. And what about those giant indoor “bubbles” to put the car in? they maintain airflow to keep the car dry.

    2. It has to lack air circulation and must be damp at the same time – but with regular building materials (wood, brick) that’s a bad garage design by default, so while I can’t speak for the Danish garage stock, I think it’s very unlikely to encounter such unlucky circumstances. It is well known that even simple buildings such as barns preserve classic cars very well (natural ventillation + hay controls humidity) without heating.

      It’s usually winter driving that destroys even galvanized steel under a decade or two as the roads are salted. The snow mixed with the salty road gunk piles up in the wheel arches and seeps into the sills and cavities where oxidation slowly, season-by-season eats away the unprotected parts.
      In contrast, the Mediterranean winters are mild and even old Fiats and Alfa Romeos can outlast a car with decent rustproofing running on Nordic roads.

    3. Somebody running a car museum once told me that they have to keep a relatively high humidity in the rooms to prevent leather and rubber from drying out and cracking. Therefore they have to keep the temperature low to prevent rust from setting in.
      Looking at the condition of the cars on display it worked.

    1. I saw that advert. The big boat put me off the car. Doesn´t tugging 2 tonnes of boat mess with the clutch and engine generally? And it´s a 605. They aren´t all that well made, based on my inspection of few I have seen in the metal in recent years.

  11. Commiserations, Richard, I hope some solution presents itself. Be it finding a welder, or a replacement. With my inclinations, I’d be tempted to go for something Japanese (Subaru Legacy or something), but they’d be a lot more vulnerable to rust than contemporary European cars, so that wouldn’t seem a good plan.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: