Thursday 20 December 2012

1974 Peugeot 404

". . . the car Detroit should have been built for the American family."

Car enthusiasts had enough reason to sorrow in 2012: after the death of Ferdinand A. Porsche in April, the automotive world lost another legend when Sergio Pininfarina passed away in June. The name Pininfarina is principally associated with Ferrari, as almost every Ferrari produced since the mid-50s was designed by the piedmontese carozzeria. But while the sports car brand from Modena added luster to Pininfarina's merits, the real money was made with design contracts elsewhere. Across the Atlantic, for example, Nash trusted in Pininfarina's virtue when designing the 1952 - 1954 Nash-Healey sportscar and the 1952 Ambassador (thanks, Caristas). Albeit the latter proposal wasn't chosen for production, Pininfarina's work was influential, and Nash could also capitalize on Pininfarina's famous name for their advertisement.

Peugeot, too, fared well for decades as an abiding client of Pininfarina. This collaboration began with the Peugeot 304, which was designed by company founder Battista "Pinin" Farina in the early 50s. Its successor 404 took shape when its son, the young Sergio Pininfarina, was already at the helm of the company. Compared to other cars of that time, the Peugeot was well-constructed and very reliable, but perhaps most important for its success were the car's beautiful proportions and fine aesthetics that were a Pininfarina trademark. Especially the rear view with its subtle chrome-trimmed tailfins that seamlessly frame the slightly recessed rear window shows the virtue of italian design. However, like every other business, Pininfarina had to keep house financially, and thus, sometimes similar designs, slightly modified, were sold to different clients. The design of the 1960 Peugeot 404, for example, appeared first as the Lancia Flaminia Coupe in 1959. Both cars look stunningly alike, and we can only speculate how Pininfarina justified that circumstance to his two clients.

Yet, the fact that Peugeot not just produced the 404 Sedan for 15 years in Europe, but continued the production through the late 80s in South Africa is proof of Pininfarina's timeless design. Our pictured Peugeot, like almost every 404 on cuban roads, was born in Argentina. Its proud owner explains: "I got my Peugeot in 1975 and mira, it's still like new. In 1975, many Peugeot 404 arrived in Cuba. They all were built in 1974, and almost every 404 you can find here is from that year."

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