Economy for the single Gent: The Monthléry Peugeot 404.

Taking time out from investigating the strange goings on with my wife’s venerable Peugeot 306, I found myself thinking back to other celebrated cars from the life of the Lion that goes from strength to strength.
I encountered one such machine up close and personal at the Goodwood Festival of Speed back in 2015, so I dug deep in my hard drive for another look.


This was a vehicle produced with good, honest intentions of worldwide diesel dominance. It was t0 be a rolling showcase to demonstrate just how completely  Peugeot had mastered Dr Rudolf’s compression ignition wizardry.
And it wouldn’t be some cost-no object rolling testbed. This would be based on technology that you could march into a showroom and buy, right then in 1965.

It was based on the regular Peugeot 404, a sedan of crisp design (penned by Pininfarina) but thoroughly unpretentious mechanical content. There were a few modifications, though – some of which are startlingly obvious.
Truth is, shorn of the entirety of it upper superstructure and with only a de facto bubble canopy for its single pilot, it’s tricky to draw meaningful parallels between this and the sedan it was born from. There’s no way an unmodified car could match the remarkable feats that the modified car achieved. However, it did prove one thing with some clarity – the endurance of its engine.

Its initial 2,163cc engine survived 5,000kms worth of laps at the Monthléry Autodrome at an average of 99mph, but that wasn’t enough for the men from Sochaux. In that engine bay went a smaller 1,948 cc engine of pretty much the same type as that listed in the 404 catalogue of the day. This time they doubled the distance. 10,000km were covered at an average speed of 100mph – far quicker than the 81mph max of the standard car.
These days, the car is kept safe and sound at The Peugeot Museum of Adventure, across the road from the Sochaux plant, but on very special occasions, such as the Goodwood FOS, Peugeot lets the Lion roar again.
(All images, including blurry ones, copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2015)

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8 responses to “Economy for the single Gent: The Monthléry Peugeot 404.”

  1. Alff Avatar

    Error 404: Passenger seat not found.

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      Still easier to resolve than a packet collision.

      1. Alff Avatar

        That problem can’t be solved by reloading drivers.

  2. Batshitbox Avatar

    The fuel cap on the trunk lid is delightfully nonsensical. I guess it’s a fuel door, and there’s an actual cap under there?

  3. Van_Sarockin Avatar

    What else was to to it to make it such a record setter? The monoposto helps a bit with the greenhouse drag, but the rest is a brick, and the undercarriage, hopeless. Downsizing the engine also suggests a bit of a story. Makes me think of a dissimilar Ford prototype of about that tine.

    1. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      So much of the silhouette is the greenhouse.The monoposto alteration does make for a lot of luggage place for one person. But the bonnet shut-lines and smaller grille reveal that it’s based on the Pininfarina Coupe version with more details removed rather than added.

    2. outback_ute Avatar

      It seems the initial engine was not standard, and I wonder if the speed was not very impressive (I don’t think a non-turbo diesel engine has much high-speed potential!) so they went for a standard engine instead perhaps to say “see the diesel isn’t so slow after all”…
      I have only driven a diesel 504 wagon (including towning approx 1500 lb), and while not fast it moved along ok – you just drive it near flat-out through the gears and once up to speed it is fine.