French bestseller with front-wheel drive
You know them. And somehow not. We are not talking about our own neighbors, but about cars that were so inconspicuous that they are only known to die-hard fans today.
Such models need not have been flops during their lifetime. But they ran under the radar of the ordinary car buyer. In an irregular order, we now want to use the title “Do you still know him?“Get classic and youngtimers out of the fog of oblivion.
Progress in automotive engineering is usually unremarkable. Sure, legends like that will of course stick NSU Ro 80, Mercedes 300 SL or a Audi Quattro. But it is often the quiet stars of everyday life that have changed our everyday lives as drivers. Just like the Peugeot 204: The 204 developed internally as “Projet D 12” was presented on April 23, 1965 in Paris and was the best-selling car in France between 1969 and 1971.
A good ten years before first VW Golf the Peugeot 204 already offered front-wheel drive, compact dimensions and a small diesel. In the style of the time, the 204 started as a 3.98-meter saloon with a notchback and always four doors. A whopping 2.60 meter wheelbase ensured good space. In 1967, the “Break” estate followed, as well as a coupé and a convertible. The latter two only remained in the program for three years.
The chassis was fairly modern: We were already talking about front-wheel drive, in addition there was independent suspension at the front and rear and disc brakes at the front. And at a time when the VW Beetle still sold like sliced bread!
The light metal engine, on the other hand, was installed transversely: a petrol engine with a displacement of 1.1 liters, overhead camshaft and timing chain. Depending on the year of construction, it produced between 53 and 58 hp. In 1968 the Peugeot 204 even became the world’s smallest diesel car. The compression-ignition engine produced 40 hp from 1,255 cubic centimeters, later 45 hp from 1,357 cc. A real niche in the market, after all there was a diesel at that time only in the large sedans from Peugeot and Mercedes.
The Peugeot 204 sedan cost 6,290 DM in 1968, the coupe was almost exactly 2,000 marks more expensive. Curiously, the Cabriolet was even a little cheaper, namely DM 7,930. In 1967 Peugeot had founded a subsidiary in Saarbrücken, which took over the official import to Germany.
For them, the 204 came at just the right time: it was almost as fast as a large 404, but consumed far less. (The “Spiegel” determined 8.8 liters.) The magazine “Hobby” cheered the 204 in 1965 that it was “one of the best that Peugeot has ever released. This car is modern, it fits into our world with its shortage of traffic: small outside, big inside, fast, lively, safe and comfortable. “
The prose of the 204 brochures sounded very similar: Here, the top of 138 km / h (122 km / h for diesel) was emphasized, but of course, above all, the entire concept. Astonishing from today’s perspective: “The sloping bonnet offers excellent visibility to the front: ground view up to 2.5 meters in front of the bumper.” The term “air conditioning” for ventilation and heating, however, was rather optimistic.