Of the almost three million Peugeot 404s built worldwide, over a third were made outside of the manufacturer’s home nation in France, such was its global appeal.
The car had a superb combination of impressive build quality and sharp styling (courtesy of Pininfarina, no less), coupled to simple, rugged running gear that made it ideal for export. It was, for a time, also the world’s most popular taxi cab until surpassed by the Mercedes W123.
It made its debut at the 1960 Paris Motor Show and went on to enjoy a 15-year production run, with manufacturing facilities as far afield as Argentina, Canada, Chile and several sub-Saharan African countries, including South Africa, where it was a very popular car for wealthy families.
It was offered in various body styles, a saloon, a convertible, an estate car and even a pick-up truck, which remained in production in some markets until 1988.
This example is one of the last passenger cars built and also a hugely useful Station Wagon, which is seen by many as the best and most desirable iteration of the classic 404. It dates from 1974 and was constructed at Peugeot’s CKD factory in Transvaal, South Africa.
The Peugeot was bought new in 1974 by the very same family that owned it until mid-2020, when it was acquired by the current owner and imported from South Africa.
Before it was sold, the car was extensively recommissioned with a full mechanical overhaul, including the engine and all the running gear. It also received some paint repairs where the original sun-bleached cream finish had worn thin, though the vendor has been careful to retain the car’s originality and overall patina, keeping the paintwork as localised as possible.
The car comes with all of the relevant import paperwork in order for it to be registered in the UK and will be supplied with a new MoT.
It also comes with a bill documenting over £1,000 worth of work (in SA rand) in 2020, with the engine being fully serviced, gearbox oil renewed, new brakes, tyres, wheel bearings, gaskets and wheel cylinders.
When the 404 was conceived, Peugeot was considered a very high quality and premium brand. So it's no surprise to find the cabin of this car is really quite opulent with red leather-style vinyl bench seats front and rear and matching red carpets.
The dashboard is simple but sturdy, trimmed in black vinyl and featuring a three-dial instrument display with a narrow rim steering wheel and chrome horn ring.
The luggage bay is immense and also very clean and well presented, making this a truly practical and versatile vehicle to own as well as an intriguing classic.
In addition, the headlining and door cards are smart and well-presented.
Overall, the Peugeot presents really well and is in remarkable order for an unrestored car. It has spent its life in a dry climate and that means that there is barely any corrosion, though there are some very small bits of surface rust near the front bumper and alongside one mirror.
The cream paintwork is largely the original 45-year old factory finish and apart from a few very small areas where the paint is cracked it still cleans up really well. It has had some recent paint to the roof and both sides, though, where the original finish was sun-tarnished.
There are some very shallow dents on the rear tailgate and a couple of small dings in the bonnet, but more than anything they add to its patina and originality.
You could, of course, treat this car to a full respray which is all that would be required to bring it up to full show standard but in doing so you'd risk losing a large part of its overall charm.
The underside appears solid too, with no signs of rot in the car’s chassis or floor pans.
Under the bonnet, the 404 features a 1.8-litre petrol engine that was specifically offered in South African-built cars. It is coupled to a four-speed column change manual gearbox, which is a delight to use.
It's not a quick car by any stretch of the imagination, with 78bhp, but it is smooth, eager and ready for anything. It starts on the button and runs well, with no excess smoke.
The brakes have recently been rebuilt, while the suspension components have been cleaned and overhauled.
This is a wonderfully preserved and largely unrestored example of what is now a very rare classic that - in its day - was one of the most well-respected cars in the world.
There are one or two cosmetic areas that could be improved if the next owner desired . However, much of the appeal of this car lies in its completely original and undisturbed patina, which gives it an unquestionable charm that will hopefully persuade you to preserve and enjoy it ‘as is’.
The real beauty of this car is that it is unrestored and even wears much of its original cream paintwork that it left the factory with in South Africa.
The core to this car’s appeal, then, is its startling originality. You will not find another one like it.
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