Jeanette Grant’s 1st encounter

My husband John has been a Peugeot enthusiast since he bought a secondhand 203 in 1957 to tow his racing car around the country. He subsequently rallied that car satisfactorily for several years and over 20 years ago was delighted to have the chance to buy a 1955 model – and find its handling was just as good as he remembered.
We met on the ARCADIA in 1967. He was going back to England to visit his parents and was planning to pick up a new fuel injected Peugeot 404 on arrival. I am sure the only reason he noticed me was because I knew what it was!
The first Peugeot I had ever encountered was a wine coloured 1965 404 belonging to my brother in law, Con Attwood. He is a farmer at Kumeu and the 404 replaced his Studebaker as a farm vehicle for himself and his stepfather/partner Arawa Worrall. Barbie and Con had young children and appreciated the childproof locks on the rear doors. Arawa did not! A couple of times he happened to be a back seat passenger and did not remember that he would have to wait for the door to be opened from the outside. I wonder if Peugeot ever realised it was possible for an impatient elderly man to actually break off a door handle?
I remember this car fondly as it gave me one of my most satisfying early driving experiences. I had only had my driver’s licence for a couple of months and my sister did not drive at all at that time. We — my parents and I — had been staying at the beach with Barbie and family when she decided that she HAD to go back to the farm for a few hours to pick and freeze beans or she would lose the entire crop.
My parents agreed to look after the three children and we set off — with me driving! Con had hurt his hand and used that as the excuse to put me behind the wheel with him as the quintessential backseat driver. If they gave degrees for heckling, he would hold a PhD!
At this stage, the only car I had driven before was my Mini. This 404 was MUCH bigger and had an unusual gearbox pattern. First and reverse were opposite each other. 2nd and 3rd were opposite – which was a very practical pattern for town driving. Top gear was like an overdrive – out on its own, the way reverse often is today. In those days when seatbelts were optional novelties, the handbrake was set under the dash. Fine if you were unconfined but impossible to reach with a properly adjusted fixed belt.
Anyway we reached the farm without incident and got onto the loose metal farm tracks. Then I had to stop on a steep hill while Barbie opened a gate and Con heckled from the back seat. As an inexperienced driver, hill starts were not yet something to take for granted — particularly in a 404 with the handbrake positioned so awkwardly underneath the dash.
I still remember the glee with which I successfully made a PERFECT hill start – and the silence from the back seat was an accolade in itself.
Many years later, Arawa died and passed the 404 on to his oldest grandson. We bought it after he let it run out of oil and I used it for several years before passing it on to Reay. as I was NOT going to share a car with him. He was delighted. The odometer only went up to 99000 and then started over again and we weren’t sure how many times it had been round the clock. There was no rust in the body and he spent many hours stripping and sanding the body and had it repainted in pale grey – a nonstandard colour which suited the bodyshape very well. Unfortunately he had an offroad excursion a year or so later and bent the chassis rails. and as the car was older than he was it was uneconomic to repair.
I have owned and driven half a dozen other 404s since, but I still look back with affection at this very first one. From 1985-2006 my personal vehicles were 404 stationwagons., a vehicle I consider had only one main defect – no slowspeed window wipers. Apart from that it suited me down to the ground. The first one was a white Family Estate with three rows of seats. It had a diesel engine and it was no slug. I regularly beat more modern cars away from the lights. Unfortunately it had come over from Rhodesia as deck cargo and rust in the chassis rails eventually proved its doom. It was replaced by a gold coloured 404SW which I parted with regretfully when I retired as we felt four cars were really not needed for the two of us.
I am currently deriving a 306xrdt which is an ideal town car, but I still look back very fondly on the 404SWs. They could make a U-turn in Mountain Rd where Jap cars had to make a 3 point turn!.

Previous Post

Peugeot 5008 Review by Brent Druskovich

Next Post

John Cooney’s 1st encounter