Choose your Peugeot Model
Peugeot is a French car make that formerly sold cars in the US. It is currently owned by Groupe PSA, along with auto manufacturers Citroën and DS Automobiles. PSA is the second-largest automaker in Europe and the eighth largest in the world, according to the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA) 2016 correspondents survey.
The Peugeot brand has been known throughout Europe for over two centuries, and the Peugeot family has contributed to French society since the 1500s. Some of their early ancestors were Mayors of Vandoncourt, but Peugeot's story begins with Jean-Pierre Peugeot, a weaver and dyer who left an oil and grain mill to his two sons Jean-Pierre and Jean-Frederic. Eventually, they created a steel foundry in the early 1800s, and the family went on to manufacture all kinds of products-such as saw blades, utensils, and other tools. By the 1840s, the business expanded to include coffee, salt, and pepper grinders, and steel parts like umbrella frames. By 1850, the business began to stamp the Peugeot Lion onto their saw blades.
Now reincorporated as Peugeot Freres by sons Jules and Emile in 1851, the company continued to expand with new products such as steel rods for aesthetic apparel like crinolines and other stays. Steel rod manufacturing allowed Emile's son Armand to expand to bicycle wheel spokes, which in turn expanded to penny-farthing bicycle production. Armand even developed the Peugeot chain bicycle, and developed a further interest in transportation.
Armand Peugeot and the Early Models
Armand believed, and rightly so, in the future of the motor car, and so he built a steam-powered three-wheeled horseless carriage in 1889 with Leon Serpollet. He exhibited the Serpollet-Peugeot at the 1889 Paris Universal Exposition where he attracted the attention of Emile Levassor and Gottlieb Daimler. Upon seeing the superiority of their internal combustion engine, Peugeot agreed to purchase Panhard-Daimler engines for the company's next horseless carriage, the Type 2.
The Type 2 was built on four wheels and ran on a water-cooled V-twin that produced 2 horsepower. Only four were developed, with one built on three wheels. The Type 3 saw a bit more production with 64 completed. It had the same power as the Type 2, with a much more fashionable design. Armand even ran one alongside cyclists in the Paris-Brest-Paris race, covering nearly 140 hours of travel without any break downs. One Type 4 was produced for Tunisian ruler Ali III ibn al-Husayn that is now on display at the Musée de l'Aventure Peugeot in Sochaux, France, and a Type 5 and Type 6 were also constructed. The Type 5, having much in common with the Type 3, participated in the 1894 Paris-Rouen horseless carriage race hosted by Le Petit Journal. The Type 6 came a bit after in as a larger version of the Type 5 and was the last to use the Daimler V-twin from the Type 2.
The Type 7 also came out around this time (1894-1897) and also participated in the 1894 Paris to Rouen race finishing in first. Paul Koechlin won the Paris-Bordeaux-Paris Trail in 1895 with a Type 7, although he initially came in third. The race, however, was intended for four-seaters, and the two cars ahead of him failed to meet this requirement, so Koechlin walked away victorious. A Type 8 that used the same 3.7 horsepower engine as the Type 7 was also produced, although it was not as popular. A Type 9, Type 10, Type 11, and Type 12 were also built to be family vehicles, but only a few were made.
How Peugeot Automobiles Formed
Armand and his cousins had different ideas about the direction of the family business, and so he separated from Les Fils de Peugeot Freres (Sons of the Peugeot Brothers) and established Peugoet Automobiles in 1896. The company started to build its own engines that year, which bumped the output up to 8 horsepower. The Type 21 and 24 were the first vehicles to feature the new engine and the new design that placed the engine at the rear. The Type 24 was a bit shorter in length compared to the Type 21 that was intended for four passengers. The Type 30 and Type 31 later replaced both in 1900.
In the meantime, Peugeot had been tinkering around with its engines. Appearances at the 1899 Nice-Castellane-Nice and the 1900 Paris-Toulouse-Paris events with a rear-engine 20 horsepower model and a front-engine 30 horsepower model showed off a bit of Peugeot engineering.
The Type 37, released in 1902, now seated the engine ahead of the driver. Instead of being chain-driven like previous models, the 37 also had a rotating driveshaft. The engine kicked 5 horsepower and the car could maintain a top speed of 25 mph. This model was updated with the Type 54 in 1903. The numbers, although they may seem to jump around, are congruent. Many other "Types" were developed in between the apparent naming gaps.
One of the few Peugeot cars that has seemed to adopt a name (although it's technically known as the Type 69) is quite deserving of one. The Bébé was affordable, probably the most stylish Peugeot to date, and somewhat advanced for the price tag with rack and pinion steering and a driveshaft. It was mainly exported to Britain, but the French would get the crème de la crème. In 1912, Ettore Bugatti was contracted to design the BP1. The BP1 replaced the Type 69, but was still known to the public as the Bébé.
Years before the BP1 debuted, Robert Peugeot, son of Emile Peugeot at Les Fils de Peugeot Freres, had developed an interest automobiles and wanted to begin manufacturing them. He went on to sign a contract with Armand, granting the right to establish Lion-Peugeot, a shortly lived brand that would go on to later merge with Peugeot in 1910. With the merger came a new name as the Societe anonyme des automobiles et cycles Peugeot and a new shift in ideology towards racing. Peugeot, which had been absent from the track since the early 1900s, now wanted to participate big name races. The company enlisted the help of Georges Boillot, Jules Goux, Paolo Zuccarelli, and Ernest Henry to develop a racecar for the Grand Prix of the Automobile Club de France. The result was the L76, and it emerged victorious. Racing success continued during this time, and eventually Peugeot began contributing to the war effort.
The 1914 "Peugeot armored car" was one of its biggest contributions to the French armed forces. It looked like a car with a turret, but it was deemed effective enough to keep in production.
Peugeot's 1920s and 1930s Models
For a while, the Type 153 was one of Peugeot's main offerings, and an updated version hit the lines in 1920 in their 14HP class. The Type 163 was also released in the 10HP class to compete with Renault's and Citroën's post-war offerings. Then Peugeot offered the Type 161, nicknamed the Quadrilette, a small and economical offering that was so slim the seats sat in tandem. It was intended to be the affordable car for the average person. The Type 172, released a few years later, corrected the narrowness "issue," and even offered a sport version in the Type 172 BC and BS, also known as the Quadrilette Grand Sport or 5CV. Various other Types were released to fit the small and large family car classes, and the 201-the beginning of a new numbering system that placed a zero in between two digits-was one of the company's more successful full-scale production models. For a limited time Peugeot offered a sporting version in the 201X with a supercharged 4-cylinder developed by Bugatti.
In 1926 the company split in two. Cycles Peugeot separated and became its own entity, while Automobiles Peugeot handled car production. The 301, released in 1932, was the first of the several aerodynamic designs from this period. The cab and rear were molded to a more rounded shape fitted with the all-too popular boxy hood. By the mid-'30s Peugeot offered its streamlined body, first with the large 402 family car. Similar to the Chrysler Airflow, the 402 had a unique aerodynamic design. Notably the 402 has its headlights behind the grille. This became common on most Peugeots from this era, including the compact 202 and the smaller 302 family car. A few Special Sport versions of the 402 were offered, known as the Darl'mat, the creation of Emile Darl'mat, a Peugeot dealer known for offering modified sport versions of a few Peugeot models during the 1930s. Designer Georges Paulin and French coachbuilder Marcel Pourtout of Carrosserie Pourtout also lent a hand during development. A few of these participated in Le Mans, placing in 7th, 8th, and 10th.
Peugeot contributed to the war effort for the Axis side, but it was not by choice. The Sochaux car factory was bombed in 1943 and later surrendered to the Germans who forced the factory into manufacturing tank and airplane parts. This warranted a plan for revenge, and many "mishaps" occurred at the plant under German control. Machinery suddenly malfunctioned and in some cases was destroyed entirely, pushing back production for months. Parts of the factory mysteriously blew up, only to be repaired by forced labor. It is said that Rudolphe Peugeot, son of Robert Peugeot, was contacted by Captain Henry Ree of the Special Operations Executive of the UK, who was responsible for coordinating the attacks with the French Resistance, successfully thwarting the German's intentions.
Peugeot in the '50s and ‘60s
After WWII, 202 production continued while a new model was in the works. In 1947, the best-selling 203 debuted with rack and pinion steering, coil springs, and hydraulic brakes. This model became most known for its reliability and was very popular in France. This time the headlights were outside the grille as opposed to mounting behind it, and the overall style was very conventional. The unibody construction was the first of its kind for Peugeot. The company did offer a van during this time with the D3 and later the D4, but buyers opted for the four or six-seater 203 more often.
In 1950 Peugeot acquired another French automaker, Chenard-Walcker. 1955 brought the 403, a second family car that fit the same design as the 203-bland and conventional. Of course, back then, bland and conventional European cars still had style, and this was the first model that Peugeot used to enter the US market. The 403 and the 203 carried the brand into the ‘60s until the 404 came out in 1960.
The 404 continued the conventional European style, modest in nature, though designed by Pininfarina. Buyers could get the model in nearly any body style: pickup, sedan, station wagon, and in 1962 convertible and, in 1963, a coupe. It was affordable and reliable, and this helped generate sales. It was also the first mass-produced French model to run on an indirect-injection engine. Throughout the ‘60s, Peugeot teamed up with manufacturers like Citroën and Renault for material usage and research purposes. After a small hiatus, the small class option returned with the 204-the first Peugeot using front-wheel drive-and a few years later in 1969, the 304 and 504 debuted.
With the 504, Peugeot entered the ‘70s with a new flagship. The top option won European Car of the Year in 1969 for its styling, reliability, ride, and engine, and it later became a bestseller in Africa. In 1974 a V6 helped improve power.
How PSA Formed
The mid-‘70s brought in plenty of sales with the 504, and by 1976, Peugeot announced its acquisition of Citroën by increasing its share in the company from 38.2% to 89.95%. Shortly afterward, the PSA Group was created. Peugeot still expanded further by entering the executive car market. Also designed by Pininfarina, the 604 received positive reviews for its styling. Unfortunately, the positive reviews did not translate to sales success, although several were used to create limousines. Similar in style and adopting the same modern and aerodynamic structure, the 1978 305 looked more like a German car than a French car, but it sold well and remained in the lineup until 1989.
Financial success floundered in the ‘80s, partially due to PSA acquisition of Chrysler's European division, but the 205 is remembered for turning around the brand's fate. That and some killer wins in the Class B rallies (especially 1985), with the 205 Turbo 16 that won the WRC manufacturers' titles in 1985 and 1986. The 405 also went on to win European Car of the Year for 1988 and a few rallies, including the 1987 and 1988 Paris-Alger-Dakar races. Car Magazine listed the 205 as the number one Car of the Decade and many laud it for being Peugeot's savior. Maybe the fact that it had a sporting GTI version had something to do with it.
Nothing, however, seemed to save the company in the United States. Americans became accustomed to reliability and larger size, and since Peugeot assembled cars overseas it was harder for the business to sell them and easier to simply pull out of the market. The 405 was the last Peugeot car to see the US, with Peugeot pulling out in 1991. Since then, Peugeot has continued to offer models all around the world, and continues to use its classic nomenclature with most recent models, the 108, 208, 301, 308, 408, 508, etc.
Will Peugeot ever return to the US? With the recent rumors of PSA's hopeful entrance into the North American market towards the end of the decade with the DS brand, it seems that anything is possible.
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