Peugeot 504 Coupé - a report

After weeks of talking about it, posting pictures, even rounding up the competitors, the day finally arrived: today i got into someone else’s 504 Coupé, and drove a few miles in it. How was it? Glorious, of course.

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The car you see here is from 1973. That year had only one engine on offer, the 2.0 OHV four, which has 104 HP with Kugelfischer injection. You could have it with a 3speed ZF auto or a 4speed Peugeot BA7 manual - this one had the latter. The XN engine has many versions, some with carb, some with Bosch electrical injection and there are 5speed ‘boxes fitting it, so there are first-gen 504 Coupés out there with a different propulsion, but from 1970 to ‘75, this was the factory configuration. Only then did the V6 get into the Pinninfarina-sculpted body.

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104 HP doesn’t sound like much, and of course this isn’t a rocket ship, not even by 1973 standards. However, with proper gearing and no emission regulations, there’s nothing straddling the motor and that shines through: in town, and on the highway it’s plenty quick, even with three sizeable gentlemen on board. Overtaking isn’t a problem and the engine doesn’t feel stressed at all. On the other hand, if you want to bomb down the Autobahn, well, this isn’t the car to do it in. At least everyone has time to ponder the meaning of life looking at the carosseria while passing you.

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But this isn’t about dog-fighting the 911s, Alfetta GTs or Jaguars of the era. This is about plush travel for the burgeoning middle-class. After all, Peugeot has always been about doing your daily routine with elegance. Robust engines and well-sorted running gear in classy and practical bodies, cosseting you with a nicely appointed, but in no way excessive interior - this is what a true Peugeot is like. Class, in one word, and the 504 Coupé is probably the last example true to this game - my love for the 505 notwithstanding.

I mean, is there a way to measure, when is chrome neither too little, nor too much, but just right?

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When some turns come up, you can rely on the four-disk brakes and the independent suspension, while steering is via an unassisted rack-and-pinion system. Interestingly, this isn’t all that heavy even when parking, but you still don’t have to turn the wheel too much - my 505 has an inferior system, and i just cannot fathom how. Later Coupés get PAS, and that’s well-weighted too, if memory of my driving an 1983 V6 TI, 5 years ago, serves me right. This particular car felt safe to go fast in, every part of the chassis was up to scrutiny - no pulling to one side, no play in the steering wheel, no rattle or squeek from the doors, nothing. Remember, the same mechanicals did, and still do bush taxi work in Afrika and in the outback of Australia - this is an Italian GT that works, and works, and just doesn’t let you down.

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My only gripe was the seat which felt it’s age, wonder why they didn’t do that as well, when everything else got sorted. And while we’re sitting inside: there is huge legroom under the dash, much bigger than in most cars, so it’s ok to pull the seats forward, when someone has to sit in the back. Even with that in mind, as with all 2+2 coupés: two people are comfortable, +2 is only there for short journeys.

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Man, these Italian wheels. And they would fit my 505, even the rubber’s the right size... but i digress.

So all in all, the original 504 Coupé has a glorious stance and vibe to it. Designed and engineered in the ‘60s, when driving was dangerous but sex was safe, it definitely works well as a time machine. The post-facelift V6 TI, with 144 HP, a 5-speed box and power steering is a much more modern experience, even if most of the running gear remains the same. When the sun is out, and you need to cruise down some back roads, among the fields, in search of equilibrium: there are vehicles just as good, as a 504 Coupé, but not many, that are clearly better. And those cost a lot more too.

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