It’s still Friday here! This, friends, is perhaps the greatest French car ever made by France.
*Cue dramatic French, uh, accordion music
I present to you, in all its Gallic glory, the Peugeot 504. See how cool it looks? You can just feel that it’s casually leaning against a wall, Gauloises dangling from its pouty, indifferent lips, stealing your girlfriend.
Beauty. Style. Grace. These are the words that come to mind when you think of such a machine as the 504 Coupe, which is related to this but looks completely different.
Elegance. Luxury. Presence. Words which one conjures upon witnessing the passage of a Citroen SM, which comes from the same country as this and probably has broken suspension.
Yes, this is the 504, and a highly coveted “GL” model at that, which we can safely assume stands for Gaul Levassor, after France and Emile Levassor, an very smart French person whose name you might recognize from Panhard et Levassor automobiles, and whom played an outsize role in the development of the automobile in the late 1800's. Indeed, this landmark machine is trimmed for greatness. You may be wondering, then, where the “504" part comes in... Well, back in 1968, not at all coincidentally the year this debuted, Ford came out with a 302 cubic inch version of their “Windsor” V8, which despite in fact being 4.9 liters sounds way better when called a “5.0". Well, due to the vagaries of the metric system, 4.9 came out to about 5.0, and that sounds super cool in French (“Le Fahv pau Oui”, as they say) so then Peugeot’s naming department (“L’departmoix d’nomenclature”) just needed another number so they could have a zero in the middle and rob Porsche of some more model names. As this new world-beating project would have a 4-door, 4-cylinder version which had four wheels, the choice was obvious: this could only be the 504. Also the car it replaced was the 404, and this was one hundred better.
Ah, that design... so typically French, alluring, indescribably sexy. It has a certain... I don’t know what. Avoirdupois? Perhaps. From the vaguely Austin Princess-like nose to the innovative bent down trunk, it’s a design that shouts “medium French car!” like few others. As to that trunk, rumor has it the clay styling model was backed into a wall during transport to the final approval meeting, and the board, lacking the ingrained French sense of aesthetics and taking momentary leave of their senses, approved it as it was. It doesn’t look half bad, from some angles. Rumored to have been secretly designed by Charles de Gaulle on an airport bar napkin with inspiration from the famous cave drawings of Lascaux, the 504 remains a masterclass in small sedan design, bettered only by everything BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz have ever done in that class. Certainly it could never have been designed by Pininfarina.
Where the 504 really shines, however, is in durability. Known colloquially as “Africa’s workhorse”, the 504 was built in no less than 14 countries from 1968 to 2006, including in territories of France’s mortal enemy, Great Britain. Available with either 1.8 or 2.0L gas fours, three different inline four diesels, or the lusty and impeccably engineered 2.7L “PRV” V6 which never has any problems ever, the 504 was also available as a pickup, wagon (including a 4x4 wagon called the “Dangel” which makes Outbacks look silly), coupe, and convertible. It featured a torque tube driveline (though some versions got live rear axles), strong and simple construction, and long suspension travel, enabling it to suffer the worst roads on the planet such as those here in California without ill effect. Indeed, the only way to kill a 504 in such 3rd world conditions is to stop selling cars there in 1991 after replacing a beloved pair of nice rear wheel drive platforms with a front wheel drive sh**box that does nothing better than a K-car (except look “Euro”) and then wondering why nobody buys your crap.
So that, in a nutshell, is the greatest car ever made. By France. In all seriousness, the 504 really is a remarkable car, I’m just having a bit of fun because A) Amurica!! B) there aren’t any left here for me to buy or I’d have owned one by now, and C) Play some Skynyrd! Oh and 4) this week sucked so I needed some laughter. Hope you could share in it. This is a $4 pull-back 1/39ish Welly which I inexplicably found at Rite-Aid, and I obviously had to have it. Added stripes and yellow lights are my doing, plain white does it no justice. When i find a 504 rally coupe in 1/43 i’ll do a proper story. Have a great weekend, LALD.