Even I have come to accept that sports car marques can barely survive, and certainly not thrive, without having an SUV or crossover in their portfolio. Indeed, it seems that even developing a saloon car is not worth the R&D these days, given the news that Mazda will not be replacing the Mazda6, although its new FR platform, RWD, straight-sixes and all, looks tailor made for that job.
Amid the less frequently visited outposts within automotive history’s archives, intriguing and fascinating things can sometimes be found.
Until fairly recently the family business of Automobiles Marsonetto was still active as a concessionaire of Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Lancia in Villeurbanne on the outskirts of Lyon. Founder of the company, Mario Marsonetto was the son of an Italian mason but was more interested in automobiles than following in his father’s footsteps. By his early twenties he had successfully trained to become a coachbuilder, having gained valuable work experience by rebodying passenger cars – mainly Renaults and Citroëns – as well as trucks. Continue reading “Chacun Voit Midi à Sa Porte*”
After decades of resolutely conventional if well executed D-segment offerings, Peugeot has tried something different with the latest 508. It deserves credit for doing so, but has the market recognised and rewarded its innovation?
For over a century, Peugeot has been the very essence of French conservative respectability. Its automobiles have, by and large, been well engineered, durable and reliable, with quietly elegant and unflashy styling. At the heart of its range has always been a medium / large saloon car, a natural and uncontroversial choice for middle-class professionals in France and beyond.
The post-WW2 series of such cars began with the Pininfarina styled 403 in 1955, a neat and contemporary looking RWD car with smooth ponton(1) styling. It was manufactured for over a decade in saloon, estate, coupé, van and pick-up versions and sold in excess of one million units. Continue reading “A Smart Cut, or the Final Cut?”
Following my return to the UK, I briefly toyed with the idea of a permanent repatriation to the old country, but London exerts a powerful gravitational pull and before long I was back into a new career in a new side of town. Now domiciled in suburban East London, I was closer to my tame Peugeot specialist, and with the 304 now back on the road (it had survived storage without mishap), we resumed our largely comfortable association.
The 304 had always been predominantly weekend fare, my daily commute into Central London being the task of either public transport or my own two-wheeled efforts. This, I convinced myself was justification for running an older car; not required for daily drudgery, I could Continue reading “History in Cars – An Echo, a Stain”
Domestic bliss with my newly acquired, more comely automotive companion from Sochaux was initially tempered by the fact that there were other, less savoury matters to attend to, like disposing of the now good as landfill Fiat. A number of phone calls ensued before a man turned up with a flatbed, lifted the hapless 127 aboard, and twenty quid better off, Mirafiori’s errant son departed for the eternal. Of all the cars I’ve owned, I have never smoked one as morbidly close to the filter.
Since its foundation in 1810 as a maker of bicycles and kitchen equipment, there have been many incarnations of automobiles Peugeot, but perhaps the first truly modern car to bear the famous Lion of Belfort emblem was introduced in 1965, bearing the 204 name.
Initiated during the late 1950s, the 204 came about owing to a perceived gap in the market below the existing 403 model (soon to be supplanted by the larger-engined 404). By consequence, Sochaux management deemed it necessary for the company’s future viability to Continue reading “Sochaux Goes Avant.”
Although eclipsed by the hugely successful 205, the 104 was a highly competent design that served Peugeot and its sister companies well for sixteen-years.
Mention Peugeot Supermini in the company of car enthusiasts of a certain maturity and their minds will immediately turn to the 1983 205, the delightfully attractive, practical and sweet-handling car that, for many, was the definitive 1980’s B-segment hatchback. In 1.6 and 1.9 GTi form, it was also the definitive hot hatch. What is not as readily recalled, however, is the success of its largely forgotten predecessor, the 1972 Peugeot 104 and its PSA siblings.
Prior to the launch of the 104, Peugeot design was the very epitome of sober conservatism, with understated but well-engineered saloons and estates, and attractive but unflashy coupés and convertibles. The company had ventured into transverse engines and front-wheel-drive with the 204 and 304 siblings, but their conservative exterior appearance belied the engineering innovation within. The 104 would be the company’s smallest model and the first two-box design that was not an estate, but what was becoming known as a Supermini.
Except that, like the Fiat 127 that preceded it by a year, it was not a true Supermini in that it had a conventional boot-lid instead of a hatchback(1). Peugeot was, allegedly, concerned about the impact a hatchback 104 might have on sales of the existing 204 estate, hence the decision to Continue reading “Family Breadwinner (Part One)”
Regardless of whether one is discussing art, cuisine, kitchen appliances, or indeed motor cars, definitives are tricky things to quantify. In the field of automobiles, applying such measures to specific marques comes fraught with even more difficulty, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that one ought not Continue reading “French Polish”
Peugeot versus Porsche: It wasn’t simply business, it was personal.
It will not be news to the majority amongst the DTW readership: the time when Porsche was forced to rename its 356 successor, the 901. French carmaker, Peugeot legally secured the rights to model names with a zero in the middle in 1929, when the 201 was introduced. Porsche yielded to threats of legal action from the lion of Belfort, chose 911 as the new model designation and the rest, as they say, is history. Or is it?
Because there is more to this than it would seem at first sight; the fact that other manufacturers such as BMW, Bristol and Ferrari marketed models with a zero in the middle for years without so much as a peep from Sochaux raises the question, why did Peugeot Continue reading “Axis Denied”
In 1966 Peugeot and Renault formulated an ambitious plan to take on the incumbents in the luxury car market. Sadly, both companies got cold feet and their dream went unrealised. DTW recounts the story of Projet H.
With the successful launch of the 16 in 1965, Renault had a large five-door FWD hatchback to complement its (not so) small 4 model. The range would be augmented with the medium-sized 6 in 1968 and completed with the 5 supermini in 1972 . These hatchbacks sat alongside its rear-engined 8 and 10 saloons for more conservative customers.
However, the company lacked a large and prestigious car as a flagship for its range. Likewise Peugeot, where the largest model was the well-regarded 404 saloon, launched in 1960. Both manufacturers eyed Citröen with a degree of envy. The Double Chevron’s large DS model, although already a decade old, had been so advanced and futuristic at launch that it still looked handsome and prestigious.
It was a fitting ‘halo’ model for the marque, notwithstanding the idiosyncratic appearance of Citröen’s smaller cars. The DS was also the choice for official transport at the Elysée Palace, giving Citröen kudos that was jealously coveted by both Billancourt and Sochaux.
Both manufacturers were allegedly nervous about the market potential for a large and luxurious car bearing their marque names, so they agreed in April 1966 to Continue reading “A Failure of Nerve”
It has just stopped raining. The light is delicious. The street glows in the reflected gloaming, as a vehicle’s taillights cast their radiant wake in the damplight. It’s an album cover shot – shades of Ziggy Stardust or perhaps an Edward Hopper painting.
The combination of the banal and the everyday; the ubiquitous and socially upright Peugeot 504 berline, silhouetted against the decadent pull of the strip bars and empty promises of the wider Amsterdam nightscape is, to 21st century eyes at least, a striking visual metaphor. Continue reading “A Photo For Sunday: Atmosphere”
Hydropneumatic. Whenever this word is mentioned among those with even a fleeting interest in cars, the word Citroën usually follows. And with good reason; this much praised suspension system was an indispensable factor in cementing the double chevron’s reputation for ride comfort and Avant Garde engineering.
It is a little known fact however that competitor Peugeot (in those days known, in contrast to Citroën, for conventional and proven engineering) would nearly Continue reading “Suspended Animation”
Although hardly breaking news, the latest Opel Corsa has arrived in the showrooms and examples are arriving on my street. I saw one. Is it really a Corsa at all, I asked myself.
If we get in our time-machine and spin and spiral back to 1982 we would be confronted by the first Corsa which Opel sold until 1993 (hard to believe). Looking at the bold, boxy 1982 shape with its flared wheel-arches and the 2019 version , one could argue that the new PSA Corsa represents a mere return to form. You could also argue that PSA merely wanted to get Opel’s designers to Continue reading “Did You Ever Wonder About The Stefaneschi Triptych?”
A random glance at a Mazda Demio made me think again about grilles and the way designers deal with that hole in the front of the car.
The subject unfolds as a matter of design semantics. That means more or less we are concerned with the meaning of the air intake and its expression. This Demio (above) is a bit fancier than the one I saw in my district but it is geometrically the same. The approach was to use an “egg-box” in-fill and to use a U-shaped plastic trim piece to enable them to Continue reading “All the Ways We Sang, All the Songs We Went”
Novels such as ‘Vice Versa’ and ‘Freaky Friday’ have inspired a long list of films about body swapping, but in the rare cases the automobile industry has resorted to the practice, it hasn’t exactly resulted in any award-winning performances.
Since the Ayatollahs assumed power, Iran’s relationship with Western nations has been complicated. This has not stopped the country from developing a thriving automobile industry however – after oil and gas it is the third in economic importance – and to achieve licensing deals with a number of major car manufacturers such as Peugeot, Citroën, Renault, Nissan, KIA, Chevrolet and Cadillac. In some cases, this has lead to results that can only be described as bizarre. Continue reading “The Persian Bodyswappers”
Weeks after an enjoyable encounter with its underdog estate sibling, the opportunity to sample one of Peugeot’s bestsellers presented itself.
The SUV simply isn’t for me. While I’d never describe myself as an unrealised racing driver, I don’t like the cumbersome way most of these vehicles handle. Aesthetically, the tall, blocky looks typically fail to trigger any desires the way sleeker automotive forms do. I could go on about this, but will spare you the boredom and myself the typing.
On the basis of its scarcity, Peugeot’s large estate ought to be an also-ran. After a week behind its wheel, it’s a minor revelation.
Estate cars don’t sell the way they used to. Non-German estate cars even less so, which meant that prior to my pre-Christmas trip to the rental car company, where I was supposed to pick up a VW Passat estate (or similar) that was to take two to three people, one to three dogs and quite a bit of luggage all across Germany and back, I’d seen a grand total of two new Peugeot 508 SWs on the roads.
‘Or similar’ turned out to be a Seat Alhambra, which didn’t set my heart aflutter – to say the least. A bit of haggling eventually resulted in a premature Christmas present of sorts, in the form of the metallic olive green Peugeot 508 SW I’d seen on the forecourt and had hoped to be leaving with. So it was to be.
It’s time to round off this short examination of a much-respected, iconic car.
The 604’s particular failing, being composed of elements from a cheaper, older design, was not unique. There were other cars which attempted to make something rich out of what might be considered lesser ingredients. The main difference, which dignifies the 604, is that Peugeot made a very good job of this expediency.
People rather liked the car and it sold decently (153,266 units in total) until the 505 arrived, which itself was partly made of 604 components. The 604 is therefore unique in the pantheon of sow’s ear cars. The Lincoln Versailles of 1977 was based on the US-market Ford Granada and is a legend in the lore of marketing cynicism. Ford wanted a smaller Lincoln to Continue reading “An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 Story, Pt. 9”
And so we turn to the matter of the 604’s image and fate.
The 604’s history reveals how the buyers of the 1970s were less constrained by expectations of brands. What one notices in the reviews from the time of the 604’s launch is that there isn’t a single mention of image. Today motoring writers have internalised perceptions of what constitutes a desirable car: it is what others might also desire.
Even if a particular model is objectively deemed to meet measurable expectations one can find remarks to the effect that the car lacks image, or the brand has insufficient appeal. Quite simply journalists now would never put a large, powerful and luxuriously equipped Peugeot into a test with similar vehicles from established prestige marques simply because it isn’t deemed to be a prestige brand.
A great deal of attention is paid to the exterior of cars though the interior is where we spend our time as drivers and passengers. For the 604 Peugeot had, for at least some of the time, the services of Paul Bracq. In the 60s he oversaw some of Mercedes-Benz’s finest vehicle exteriors, the ones that people think of when they think of a Mercedes (our image of these cars is four decades out of date). They are chromed, formal, upright, solid and faultless.
Deep breath. I don’t think the 604’s styling has been given this level of consideration before.
Peugeot had a long standing relationship with carrozzeria Pininfarina, who prepared the basic design of the the 604. As was typical for Pininfarina, the design owed as much to other work they had done as it did to the character of their actual clients’ cars.
The exterior design was by what we might call the school of Paulo Martin, designer of the Fiat 130 coupé and Rolls-Royce Camargue. The record is not clear on the matter of authorship but a clear affinity among these cars can be seen in the angularity of the surface transitions and the flatness of the panels. Continue reading “An afternoon like dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 6”
Let’s review the reviews of the 604 and maybe go a little further.
Having looked (in the last instalment) at the engine from the strategic and the cost-accountant’s point of view, I turn now to how it compared in road tests. The matter of performance is far from clear. Conventional wisdom now has it that the 604 couldn’t move fast enough. A look at reviews spanning from 1975 to 1983 shows a more complex story than this.
In 1975 Motor claimed the carburetted SL was the quickest of a group of likely competitors which included the BMW 520, Ford’s Granada 3000, the Jaguar XJ 3.4, the Renault 30 and the Volvo 264. In 1977 Motor Trend felt the car was only just about able to keep up with American traffic, adequate but not brilliant.
This remark was qualified by noting the 604’s handling was far above average which, as mentioned above, made up the speed deficit quite pleasingly. In 1977 Car found the carburetted 604 SL to be slower than the Mercedes 280E and BMW 728 but only by a matter of half a second. It won the test overall so the slight tardiness did not hold the vehicle back.
Turning to the engine, one can see how an attempt to save money here also proved forlorn. The one clear advantage of using the 504 architecture was never exploited: the 604 never had the same range of engines as the earlier car. What it had was a 60° V6 engine designed in co-operation with Renault and Volvo.
As Motor pointed out in 1975, engine development requires a very large investment. Peugeot did not see the sales volumes of the 604 being large enough to justify designing a wholly new V6 on their own. This strategy certainly saved investment costs but did not lead to Peugeot having a competitive motor.
A brake (or should that be a break?) from the norm for the Lion of Belfort.
The idea of the three-door shooting brake estate probably originated in the US (the 1955 Chevrolet Nomad being a prime example), but it was popularised – if such a term can be considered appropriate for such a rarefied product – by Ason Martin’s 1965 DB5; itself initially a one-off, built for AML’s chairman, David Brown, and later produced in miniscule numbers at owners’ behest by the Harold Radford coachworks.
In 1968, the Reliant Scimitar GTE also employed a shooting brake silhouette to positive effect, which not only proved transformative for the carmaker’s profile and reputation, but also gained them patronage from the British Royal family. Continue reading “The Riviera Set”
In part 3 of the Peugeot 604 story we consider the market of the mid-1970s.
The market in the mid 70s was open to a wide variety of contenders in the upper price ranges. Opel in particular was just on the cusp of reaching what we now call the rank of “prestige” with its Senator saloon and Monza coupé. Lancia outsold BMW in the UK.
The mid 70s were also still a time of strong national markets and of far less global competition than today. However, the world of 1975 was not what Peugeot’s planners envisioned when the 604 programme began in 1970. Oil prices had increased markedly, making the 604’s thirsty V6 seem unattractive, the more so over time. Continue reading “An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 story, Pt. 3”
We compare a couture twinset from the tail-end of the GT era.
It’s an incontrovertible fact that the end of the 1960’s marked the apogee of the Gran Tourismo concept, both in design terms and in appeal to the broader swathe of the car market. Certainly by then, the choices available to the upwardly mobile individual who wanted to express their more indulgent side were of the more fecund variety. However, those who couldn’t Continue reading “Il Sarto Piemontese”
In the last instalment we had a short introduction to this neglected car. Today we will take a deeper glance at the car’s inception.
Of all the material reviewed for this essay, the text quoted at the start of the previous instalment was the most thought-provoking. Clearly the 604 was viewed as a credible car with a bright future ahead of it.
Today the 604 is remembered, if it is remembered, not for its refined solidity, the remarkable ride quality or, as Motor Trend wrote, its reordering of priorities around comfort, quality, roadholding and safety. It’s remembered for rust and listed as one of the world’s worst cars in Craig Cheetham’s 2006 book and its triumphs forgotten.
The 1975 Peugeot 604 – smooth, refined and viewed as something of a failure. Today we begin a series taking an unusually close look at the 604’s life and times.
Motor Sport (April 1976 said that “one member of the test team summed up the 604 as a professional car. This takes some explaining because all cars these days are professional or are supposed to be. But one gets the impression that Peugeot engineers never say ‘assez bien‘ but keep on working until each feature is, in their eyes, absolutely right. One may disagree with some of the car’s features but if so it will be because someone at Peugeot actively disagrees with one’s point of view not because they could not Continue reading “An Afternoon Like Dusk – The 604 story (Pt. 1)”
Outside of the Driven To Write bubble, a number of new cars were launched over the past few weeks. Time to do a bit of catching up.
The Audi Q3 Sportback is Ingolstadt’s take on the BMW X4. It features all the overwrought details that can be expected from a Marc Lichte-era Audi, including the token overly accentuated ‘shoulders’ above the wheels. Continue reading “The Beat Goes On”
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 Continue reading “Summer Reissue – Daily Grind”
There roam quite a lot of Peugeot 3008 and 308s in my area and generally in Denmark. They have made me think about brightwork and Mercedes.
I read recently that Peugeot is climbing up the estimation rankings of consumers in Europe. And I notice that in recent years Peugeot has not been afraid to sprinkle a little and sometimes a lot of brightwork magic on their cars. It seems to be optional but with a lot of uptake. If we think back to maybe ten years ago and further, this kind of thing did not feature much on their cars. It probably had to to with some kind of reticence regarding ostentation. Worthy as that might be, it led to some decent cars looking a lot less attractive than they could have been.
Tracing the Peugeot 504’s kinked tail motif through the Pininfarina back catalogue.
In order to capitalise on the popularity of UK TV series, The Avengers, stars, Honor Blackman and Patrick Macnee were persuaded to record a novelty single celebrating not only the fashions adorning the somewhat distracting Ms. Blackman, but the broadening societal permissiveness of mid-Sixties Britain. And while it was a rather throwaway ditty which didn’t chart particularly well at the time, it did take on a second life several decades later.
These things take time – as with fashion, so with design. One of the more interesting aspects of recent discussions surrounding the styling of the 1968 Peugeot 504 was the notion that its rear aspect was regarded with a degree of ambivalence. Uncomfortable and strange were among the soubriquets employed on these pages, but further afield, and particularly in the US, the 504’s kinked tail was considered peculiar. In light of this, it might be germane to Continue reading “Kinky Boots”
The ‘Sixty-Eighters’ rocked France, yet one of its more illustrious offspring would become a bastion of more conformist values.
In a curiously prescient article for Le Monde in March 1968, journalist, Pierre Viansson-Ponté made the assertion that France was suffering from the dangerous affliction of ‘boredom’. During a period which French economist, Jean Fourastié coined as Les Trentes Glorieuses, the country settled into a period of political stability and economic prosperity, transitioning from a predominantly agricultural economy to a largely industrial one.
Rural France had decanted into the cities and its universities were brimming with the young and sexually frustrated, expected to behave in a similar fashion to that of their socially conformist parents. But students from Paris’ Université Nanterre, emboldened perhaps from a diet rich in Satre, Brel, and Dylan would no longer Continue reading “Children of the Revolution”
The other day I gently placed a tiny gauntlet at the feet of the readers, a challenge concerning the set of boring parked cars. What had they in common, I inquired softly.
I received some jolly interesting replies ranging from observations about their grilles to their general banality. There was also a good guess about engine displacements. Alas, despite their ingenuity and their not being 100% wrong, none of the replies were precisely, exactly and perfectly what I was looking for. So, in order to lower people’s tension levels I will Continue reading “If Only Hope and Despair Did Not Live Side By Side”
…which is the kind of image that is worth a science fiction story, I feel.
If anyone wants to spin a science-fiction story off that idea, they are welcome to use it as long as they are kind enough to credit the idea to me.
The notion suggested in the phrase is that there are spaces between the universes which are all packed together like multidimensional foam on a huge scale. Think of the gaps between tennis balls in a bag of tennis balls. That’s the rough shape of the spaces between the universes.
Slowly but surely, Driventowrite is advancing up to the top of the list of Great European cars like a mountaineer inching up the Eiger. Today, the French get their turn as another piton is hammered home.
Today. Today we have the car embodying the essential key elements of French car design and it was a strong seller too rather than being merely some much admired, often repaired, seldom driven garage queen. You won’t be surprised to Continue reading “Great European Cars Number 4”
We’ve been here before I know, but somewhat akin to the crossover CUV itself, this one simply refuses to go away.
Everything has a shelf-life, none more so than fashion items. Given their popularity with the buying public and the margins to be made upon their sale, compact crossovers have proliferated to an unsettling degree. So much so, it feels as though we are drowning in a CUV sea, whereas in fact they represent just a quarter of European new car sales.
Today I present a meta-review. I haven’t got around to having a chance to try to drive a 508 so instead I’ll report on two articles, one from Autocropley and the other from the Telegraph.
It goes without saying that I haven’t got an axe to grind for or against the 508. Like any car it deserves a fair judgement and something about these reviews suggests that whatever Peugeot does, the UK is a lost cause. If you read these reviews nothing would lead you to Continue reading “I Really Thought You Said Sunday”
Recently the opportunity arose to take a closer squint at a 2.2. litre Peugeot 406. What did I find?
The base model of the 406 is already a pretty splendid car. I drive a 1.8 engined-version regularly and there is very little to criticise and a lot that is so eminently right: the delightful steering, the smooth ride and agile handling. On top of that it has superb seating front and back and a huge and useful boot. How does the 2.2 edition differ? Continue reading “Behind The Mirror Lurk The Blajini”
PSA’s close links with Iran may have placed Carlos Tavares in an invidious position regarding his North American plans. We investigate.
One has to have some sympathy for PSA’s Carlos Tavares. Having taken the French carmaker from sick man to industry darling, of late, headwinds have been intensifying. A significant strand of Tavares’ Push to Pass strategy has been an expansion into Eastern developing markets, such as India and the CIS region – one which has been paying dividends, PSA posting a strong global sales performance in 2017, with over 3.7m vehicles made, a jump of 15.4% over the previous year.
But additionally, he’s promised a return of some form to the United States, from which PSA have been absent for almost three decades. It has remained unclear exactly how Continue reading “Tea With the Ayatollah”
We ought to rename this site Le DTW. After yesterday’s Peugeot review we now have a whole slew of early 90s French cars under the spotlight.
In 1991 L’Automobile ran an article assessing the comparative strengths of the main three French brands, Renault, Citroën and Peugeot. It was a huge group test: 24 cars. The magazine passed judgement on the main classes and in this article I will pass judgement on the 1991 verdict. Were L’Automobile’s assessments in line with mine? Or indeed yours? Continue reading “Anticipation Creeps Headstrong Towards Us”
A spring break, (or to put it another way, a break in spring) leaves our correspondent in a mildly disturbed state of mind.
One of the many joys of going to the middle of France every spring is that we hire a car for the duration and it never ceases to provide a chance to sample something new from the automotive smorgasbord. This year, for once, we actually got what we expected; Hertz had promised either a 308 SW or a C-Max and we got the Pug.
This is a small gloss on a news item from ANE about the future of Opel’s Ruesselsheim engineering facility.
Does it have much of a future? ANE reported this recently: “One decision that Tavares has put off for now is what to do with thousands of engineers at Opel’s technical center in Ruesselsheim, Germany. They will be part of a “center for engineering excellence” for self-driving cars and electrification, he said, as well as for a planned re-entry to the North American market.” I have mused about this before.
Two significant saloon cars debuted at Palexpo this week, but according to our man pounding the show floor, only one makes the grade.
As any traveller will tell you, getting upgraded from economy is much easier said than done. Indeed, the more habituated one is to travel economy, the key to that threshold appears even more arbitrary and capricious. PSA knows all about this. Having squandered brand-Peugeot’s upmarket credentials during the 1980s and having got their creepy ‘drive-sexy’ phase out of the way latterly, the Lion of Belfort has been painfully clawing its way back to some semblance of stylistic and reputational credibility.
Whether it was Liz’s Jubilee, BL’s annus horriblis, the death of Elvis, the first space shuttle flight or the beginning of the Star Wars juggernaut, 1977 was a year of transitions. Even the music business reflected this, with Fleetwood Mac’s cocaine and divorce epic, Rumours topping the album charts while David Bowie (now off the white powder) offered the icy sheen of Low, a record which suggested a future (if not necessarily the future).