Last year PetrolBlog brought you news of the rarest French cars in Britain. By showcasing Citroën and Renault, we left the door wide open to take a look through the Peugeot archives. Only we never got there. And that will never do.
A year on, things have changed. We now live in a world where the internet is dominated by clickbait and titivation. Which, of course, means this feature should be entitled ‘YOU WON’T BELIEVE HOW RARE THESE PEUGEOTS ARE’ or possibly ‘YOU’LL NEVER GUESS WHAT THE RAREST PEUGEOT IN BRITAIN IS’. But PetrolBlog doesn’t do clickbait, so we’ll stick with the French Car Critical List.
In fairness to Peugeot, many of its old motors are surviving in pretty good numbers. Take the Peugeot 205, of which there are still 7,828 on the road and a further 10,449 registered with the DVLA as SORN (or off the road). OK, so the 205 sold in huge numbers, but that’s a remarkable figure for a car that was last on sale in the 1990s. Similarly, the Peugeot 405, 607 and 806 are hanging on in there. For now, at least.
But what of the rest? As before, we’ve taken the number on the road and added it to the number of cars listed as SORN at the DVLA. The figures may not be 100% accurate, because trawling through the DVLA spreadsheets does reveal a fair number of anomalies, like the ‘Peugeot Model Missing’, for example. We don’t remember seeing an ad for that one.
Anyway, without further ado, these are the rarest PetrolBloggy Peugeots in Britain, which – for the benefit of someone who is passing through – means cars from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
OK, so there’s little chance of the Peugeot 309 disappearing overnight, but it’s a useful marker point for the other cars on the endangered list. And just look at the gap between the number of 309s and the Peugeot 504. The car that could so easily have been called the Talbot Arizona deserves its place in the automotive hall of fame, not least because it spawned one of the greatest and most underrated performance cars of the late 80s and early 90s.
Good luck finding a tidy and original example of a boggo 309, but they will be out there. Stick a pair of yellow fog lights on the front and job’s a good’un.
The 504 was the Swiss Army Knife of the Peugeot range – the all-purpose, variety pack vehicle. Be it in saloon, coupe, estate, pick-up or convertible form, the 504 was a tough as old boots machine that could be found in far flung corners of the globe. Indeed, it even found unlikely success when racing in Africa and Australia, not that the 504 was designed with racing in mind. Of course, we’re all too quick to dispose of old vehicles in the UK, so survival numbers aren’t great. But you’ll be able to spot many if you take a foreign adventure.
Wait, what on earth is that doing here? The Peugeot iON is indeed a rebadged version of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, both of which were – along with the Citroën C-Zero – hideously overpriced in the UK. But the numbers are small and in the future we may look back on it as part of the birth of electric vehicles in the UK. We’ll see.
The Peugeot 505 was based on the same platform as the 504 and arrived in 1979. It’s notable for being the last rear-drive car Peugeot ever produced and naturally we’d want the GTI version. Be quick, because the 505 saloon has all but disappeared in the UK.
Thankfully there appears to be a healthy number of Peugeot 305s listed as SORN, so we have to hope they’re all in a reasonable state of repair. The 305 was launched to the public in 1979 at a time when Peugeot had just integrated Citroën into the PSA Group. Like so many of the cars featured on this endangered list, the 305 was a seriously underrated car, being both good to drive and properly packaged. Do enough people care?
A healthy proportion of the Peugeot 304s surviving in Britain happen to be the seriously cool and elegant Cabriolet version. Like the 305 that would succeed it, the 304 displayed a clear Italian influence, having been styled by Pininfarina. Despite being launched in 1969, the 304 remained in production until 1980. The Cabriolet variant should ensure that numbers remain relatively healthy.
But what chance does the Peugeot 605 have? It doesn’t look too dissimilar to the Alfa Romeo 164 – a car also designed by Pininfarina – while underneath, the 605 shared its platform with the Citroën XM. Early cars suffered from reliability issues, making it even harder for Peugeot to shift this otherwise elegant saloon car. It’s the sixth rarest car on the list and – if you exclude the red herring that is the iOn – it’s also the newest. Says a lot, doesn’t it?
Goodness, the Peugeot 404 truly was a fine looking machine. The Italian influence on the styling is plain to see, but isn’t there a hint of Britishness about the proportions? Having been launched in 1960, the Peugeot 404 sits outside of PetrolBlog’s main area of interest, but it remained in production until 1978.
Ah, now here’s a proper PetrolBlog car – the Peugeot 604. Big, boxy, a tad unwieldy, yet devastatingly handsome. Of all the cars on the endangered list, this is the one we want the most. They all came with a silky V6 engine and rode with the suppleness you’d expect from a French saloon. Like the BMW 3 Series and Volkswagen Polo, the Peugeot 604 turns 40 this year. But where’s the party and fanfare for the big Peugeot? Fact is, nobody really cares. Indeed, at the time of writing there isn’t a single 604 for sale on eBay or Car & Classic.
The plucky Peugeot 104 is hanging on in there. But only just. Around two million of these delightful superminis were built, but there are fewer than 30 left in the UK. Shame, because you can thank the 104 for providing the platform for the Citroën Visa and the Peugeot 205.
We really are stretching the limits of PetrolBlog acceptability here, because the Peugeot 403 is very much a child of the 1950s and by the time England had won the World Cup, it was making way for the Peugeot 404. In truth, we just love the photograph and the fact that the 404 was the first Peugeot to sell a million.
And so we come to the rarest PetrolBloggy Peugeot of them all – the 204. This was a truly groundbreaking car for Peugeot, offering front-wheel drive and a light alloy engine placed transversally between the wheels. Peugeot also spent a huge amount of money developing servo-assisted brakes – a first for the company. Yes, it was more expensive than its direct rivals, but then it offered so much more than any of them.
Peugeot’s investment paid off, because the 204 remained in production from 1965 until 1976 and was the best-selling car in France in 1969, 1970 and 1971. And yet it’s largely forgotten in the UK, which – given the technical innovations – is a great shame. Just 10 on the road and a further seven stored away. Crazy.
All photos © Peugeot.