Tuesday, August 16, 2011

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1966 Peugeot 404 Cabriolet

Of all the cars that have come out of France, there have been very few that I liked. This is one of my favorites, a 1966 Peugeot 404 convertible. It is also an important milestone, my 150th California Streets feature.

Being a night shoot, and a rainy night no less, and saddled with a backpack, no tripod and a camera that didn't like focusing in the conditions, I had some trouble getting consistent photos, and a lot of them I ended up rejecting because they were blurry and couldn't be saved. Call it a "404 error" if you will. The rest were photographed from the street curb, trash cans, corner mailboxes and whatever else I could find that was solid and relatively horizontal.

Being an obscure French car you can figure I had to research it in order to write this. I'd never seen a 404 convertible before, and had only seen one sedan - dead under snow in a driveway in Canada. So while taking a different route home from class one evening, diverting through Jackson Square, I became pretty excited when I happened upon this well-maintained red '66 convertible. People thinking of snappy little red European roadsters of the '60s will probably think of something like the Alfa Romeo Duetto Spider or Fiat 124 Sport Spider - both of which were introduced the same year this car was built. And all three were penned by famed Italian design house Pininfarina.
The 404 convertible could be had with mechanical fuel injection until 1968, a rare option in those days but one which, interestingly, was found in the majority of 404 convertibles. Most 404s were sedans and wagons with carburetors and manual transmissions (though a ZF automatic was available on a limited number of cars). According to the 404 Owner's Club, a mere 10,389 404 convertibles were built during the 404's original 15-year production run - out of over 1.8 million cars. Of those, only 1,520* coupes and convertibles are known to still exist. I suspect this is because 404 coupes and convertibles were constructed differently than sedans and wagons, making bodywork components such as fenders more difficult to replace. Le Club 404 describes restoring these cars as "really not easy, and a budget to rival a Jaguar restoration". I guess that says it all.
I'd love to find this car again and re-shoot it in better weather. She's a beauty.

* As of September 2011 (thanks to Mike Tippett of Le Club 404)


  1. Congrats on your 150th post Jay what a cracker, I recall seeing any number of 403 'Colombo' convertibles but I have no recollection of ever seeing a 404 Convertible before, despite living on an Island just 20 miles away from the country in which the car was built. Another quality find :-)

  2. Beautiful pictures, man. I love the lighting and backgrounds. Dramatic effects, especially here, work really well. :)

  3. Hey that's my car!! awesome!! nice write-up Jay, and i'm a little embarrassed you found it in the rain, I usually don't drive it when it's raining, but it is my daily driver and sometimes I get caught... just had a new top put on it a few weeks ago, and i'm about to have a few other things fixed. A little history just cause: this 404 was one of six cabriolets imported into the SF Bay Area together in 1966 and first sold in 67 (Mike Tippett may know the whereabouts of the sister cars, but i'm not certain offhand). The first owner drove the car for a few years here in SF, and sold it to the second owner, a Vietnam era Navy Pilot (Navigator) who lives in Alameda. He drove it for 20 years or so, but didn't put a lot of miles on it, and he maintained it very well, then he put it in his garage and covered it with a blanket where it sat for sixteen years until I bought it on ebay in the fall of 2009. It took six months to source replacement brake parts but it ran great and soon it was on the road! I've since restored a few small things, had some body work done, straightened the bumbers, etc., and now it's in great shape and my daily driver... thanks for posting! get in touch to photograph it any time, it will likely be in the Palos Verdes Concourse show this September in SoCal. best, Chris Hawkins, San Francisco.

    1. Hi Chris, Mike told me some time ago I could get ahold of you through him, but I never knew you'd find my blog on your own! Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate the history; usually I don't get to meet owners and learn about their cars beyond a Wiki search for general model history after the fact. Your car is beautiful and I'm glad to hear that you're taking good care of it.