Styled by Pininfarina and known for its exceptional durability and value, the 404 saloon was an astounding success story for Peugeot in the early Sixties. Encouraged by this and seeking to become a little more upmarket, the French carmaker started developing a slightly larger saloon.
Launched at the Paris motor show in 1968, the Peugeot 504 was more than just an evolution of the company’s post-war cars like the 203, 403 and the 404.
While retaining the robust build quality of these previous models, the 504 was significantly larger, with a wide body, four-wheel independent suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, as well as a more powerful 1.8-litre, 97bhp four-cylinder engine mated to a three-speed ZF automatic.
This meant the 504 could now compete with other mid-sized European cars like the Mercedes W114 while undercutting it in price. And it did. In fact, the 504 beat some stiff competition from the likes of BMW’s six-cylinder 2500 and the Alfa Romeo 1750 to become European Car of the Year in 1969.
The 504 saloon was designed by Pininfarina with input from Peugeot’s stylistic director Paul Bouvot and then design head Gérard Welter. In fact, the 504 was the first car to feature the elegantly slanted headlights that became a characteristic design element of all later cars from the French manufacturer. It also featured a strikingly unusual sloping tail.
The engine line-up included 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre petrols, both available with an optional fuel-injection system, and three diesels — a 2.0-litre, a 2.1-litre and a powerful 2.3-litre, which was added in 1977.
The 504 was an instant success and was soon universally acclaimed for being comfortable, good to drive, sturdy and reliable. The long suspension travel and rugged contruction made the 504 well-suited to even coarse road conditions, making it popular in Africa, Asia and Australia as well.
Although the saloon was immensely successful, other body variants — a coupé, an estate, a convertible and even a pick-up — were also well-received, making it one of the best-selling cars in Peugeot’s history.
Another factor that endeared the 504 to enthusiasts was its sheer mechanical simplicity, making it an ideal choice if you like tinkering with your classic. And you can get hold of one in decent condition for anything between Dh40,000 and Dh75,000. Small change to pay for one of the most popular cars ever to have come out of France.