|Introduced to Canadians as “a new grand tourer in the European manner,” the 1969 Peugeot 504 sold for $3,695.|
Folks at Paris Auto Show caught their first glimpse of the Peugeot 504 on September 12, 1968. The prestige sedan--with the elegant monocoque coachwork by Pininfarina--wowed the press who promptly named the steel beauty to be European Car of the Year.
When the first 504 arrived in North America, the boys at Canada Track & Traffic flew from Toronto to New York City for the chance to test drive one. They found the 504 to be refined throughout and of the highest quality The editors had only good things to say about the Peugeot, including, “If we’d been blindfolded we would have sworn we were in a Mercedes 230.”
|The 1969 Mercedes 230 four-door sedan was Peugeot's competition.|
The ride was indeed like that of a Mercedes--and on purpose, too. Advertising was quick to play it up, too. “Peugeot, pioneers in independent suspension since 1929 have exceeded themselves in the 504, providing a grand prix-type independent suspension at all four wheels with four large coil springs and front and rear anti-roll bars. Rear drive is by modern flexible shafts. Result: the wheels stick to the road like glue on the snakiest superhighway curves, or the roughest side roads. No doubt that ride was helped along significantly since the car was shod with Michelin radial four-season tires.
The stylish four-door sedan used Peugeot’s 1796-cc over-square, four-cylinder engine, canted at a 45-degree angle. It could be had with carburetor or fuel injection setup. They former generated 82 horsepower, the latter 97. The mill was married to a four-speed, column-mounted manual transmission but for $200 more owners could upgrade to the automatic transmission built for Peugeot by ZF of West Germany.
The unitized body was constructed of ribbed steel and deep-dipped into rustproofing that was electro-magnetized. This allowed the paint to stick to every crevice. Advertising pointed out that Lincoln Continental used this method of resisting rust.
Trim in size, the Peugeot was only 4 490 mm (177 inches) in overall length boasted a 10.6-metre (35-foot) turning circle. The 504 weighed in at a tidy 1 200 kilos (2,640 pounds).
|The instrument panel of the 1969 Peugeot 504 was tastefully arranged for the driver’s needs.|
Seating five in special luxurious “living room comfort,” interiors for the Canadian market were finished in a ruggedly tasteful leatherette upholstery. Deeply padded posturpaedic seats had ingeniously designed telescoping headrests built into the seat backs. The front seats laid perfectly flat, a la Rambler, for naps. These seats also did a nifty thing. As they slide back and forth to adjust to the driver’s height and weight, they--at the same time--moved up or down in an elliptical plane to automatically compensate the driver for distance from the windshield. Clever indeed. Among the standard items built into every Peugeot 504 was a sunroof.
The windshield offered excellent visibility—the entire glass area was 331 degrees or 92 percent of the greenhouse was glass. The instrument panel consisted of a trio of round dials housed under a padded hood, placed directly in front of the driver. The heater controls and ashtray were placed in the centre of the layout. The steering wheel boasted a padded hub.
The trunk boasted an “oversized” capacity of .56 cubic metres (20 cubic feet). The extra space came from engineers' clever idea of moving the spare tire outside of the trunk. It was stowed under the floor of the trunk and accessible from the outside of the vehicle.
The boys at Canada Track & Traffic waxed more than enthusiastic. “The 504 comes with a range of improvements as long as your arm. To mention a few; four wheel power assisted disc brakes, full shoulder harness, collapsible steering column, fully padded dash and a sunroof as standard equipment.”
|The 1969 Peugeot 504 found homes with 2,022 Canadians during the calendar year.|
The only complaint that the editors had about the new 504 was that the European halogen headlamp setup would have to be replaced with the traditional “four-eyed” North American sealed beam system of lighting. They felt it wasn’t fair to substitute an inferior system and mar the good looks of such a fine automobile.
Peugeot advertised aggressively in national magazines like Maclean’s and Canada Track & Traffic. It was billed as “the special car for special people.” “Peugeot owners are as special as anyone can get. For years they put up with our ultra-conservative styling because they appreciated first class automotive engineering, great performance and fantastic reliability. ‘The toughest car in the world’ they called it. And to prove their point they rallied Peugeots all over the world—and won.”
“Probably no other car has such a distinguished and loyal following. In Canada they are mostly the well educated (over 60 percent have been to university) and very loyal (over 75 percent of sales are to previous owners or their friends). These are connoisseurs who recognize quality and don’t look for a high price tag as insurance of their choice.”
|This schematic drawing showcases the drivetrain of the 1969 Peugeot 504.|
The French automaker had Canadian offices in Scarborough, Ontario and in Pointe Claire, Quebec. It also shared an assembly plant with Renault in St. Bruno, Quebec that had opened in 1965. The joint operation was known as SOMA. The St. Bruno facility turned out Peugeot 404s for the domestic market.
For the 1969 calendar year, Peugeot sold 2,022 units across Canada. That was up slightly from 1,947 units delivered in 1968. No doubt the 504 helped to increase sales; the tally would rise to 2,270 in 1970.
Copyright James C. Mays 2005
All rights reserved.