More than 60 years ago Peugeot, the brand with the lion, wrote a success story with the convertible by Italian example. It was the Peugeot 404 Pininfarina convertible signalling the “topless” era.
It was as if a French emperor presented himself in attire from Milan. From early 1961 the 404 convertible managed to charm the public – not only the French, but the car-spoiled Italian and the rest of Europe as well.
Luxury design with an engine, combined with the technology of the big series – a dream on four wheels.
– too expensive for the ‘common folk’
The Peugeot Pininfarina 404 convertible‘s exterior promised nothing but success. It looked perfect, even for the demanding public of the 60ies. The applied technology was based on the successful series models already in production. All teething problems had been removed and the technology was robust. It was something like clothes meeting haute couture standards, but made for demanding use like jeans, basically the perfect car. Basically, if there hadn’t been the price, at the time constituting a challenge.The Peugeot Pininfarina was ‘too expensive for the common folk’, and the really rich people preferred the Maserati, Ferrari or Lamborghini. For them the Pininfarina was rather the second car for the lady of the house and short drives in Monte Carlo.
– buying 60ies and 70ies lifestyle today
Cars of the 60ies and 70ies era have class, a face, their own style. This particularly applies to the brand with the lion from France. This is the reason for their continuing popularity in a world where everything standardises. And according to the expert’s opinion it is still worthwhile investing in the old treasures of the Wirtschaftswunder. Even though the automotive market has changed extremely and technical toys become increasingly more dominant, the fan base with its tendency for individuality also increases, and rightly so. And because the spare part situation is likely to be excellent for decennia to come – as a result of the large series of that era – ‘injuries’ and ‘aging signs’ can be ‘remedied’ without trouble.
– flying high though short in the USA
Where Peugeot was unsuccessful with the Pininfarina 404 convertible in Europa, the commercial success did happen in the USA, where the lion danced even if it was only for one summer. This decisive factor caused the lion brand from France to consider reorientation. Did this mean the end of the really beautiful cars? Of course not, as the French were totally convinced of the format. The dream on four wheels was simply adapted. The 204 and consecutive 304 convertibles – in 70ies Germany disrespectfully called “Kommissbrot” (army loaf) on wheels – were suitable for compact fans with a Spartan wallet and the pimped version of the 404 with the Peugeot 504 Pininfarina convertible was for the better-earning buyers. And this proved to be the right way of improving sales. A lion experience for every sun lover, irrespective of wallet size.
– optical mix of Rolls Royce and Fiat
What really caused the charm of these cars? The prototype, i.e. the 404 lion as a two seater with two additional small seats was an exterior mix. Its rear shape reminded of the British charm of the Rolls Royce, where simultaneously the designs of Fiat of that era could be recognised. The classical elegant element of the British Isles was simply combined with the lust for life of the young savages from Bella Italia. And Italy, at that time, was fashionable – not only as a favoured holiday destination.
The only problem was the price, which needed to be brought to a level which was economically feasible in order not to stand at eye level of the rate for a Mercedes SL.
Foto: Frank Deanrdo, JOHN LLOYD, Spanish Coches, Clay, Andrew Bone, Michael Coghlan/ flickr.com