Our Search for the Elusive North American Peugeot 404 Owner: A Report from the Front!
Through the help of le Club 404 Global Registry and Mike’s years of work in tracking down Peugeot 404’s and owners worldwide, a historic database existed for us to try and document and connect North American owners. Recently, we created an english language support website for le Club 404 (www.peugeot404na.com) and formed a network for existing 404 North American owners and enthusiasts to help find one another. As part of this effort, we reached out to and contacted a large portion of the relatively few existing 404 owners in North America. From these efforts, a great deal has been learned about the remaining cars, the interesting owner stories (filled with details of delight and hardship) and trends in North American.
Next Generation of Peugeot 404 North American Owners? - Lets hope so!
The Original USA and Canadian Peugeot 404 Importation:
Importation of 404s started here in 1961 and continued through 1969 with approximately 26,135 being sold in the USA and 8,320 in Canada.
The Sedan or Berline models were the first to arrive in 1961 followed by the station wagon and convertibles later around 1964. The Coupes were never imported into the US for mass distribution and very few models were sold in Canada, but were available there. The USA Cabriolet or Convertible production consisted exclusively of the Carbureted version vs in Canada where they imported the KF injection model with the sporty Nardi floor shifter added as standard for Canadian 404C models.
How many 404’s Exist in North America Today?
Our numbers are surely underestimates and hopefully widely off with more of us hiding out there! Hey, we found a “new” 30 year cabriolet owner last week! But alas, through le Club 404 Registry, State Department of Motor Vehicle searches, and extensive networking - we have documented only 115 likely existing Peugeot 404s in North America.
There are 99 in the USA and 16 in Canada. Also, we have found fourteen European models that have been imported from Europe since the original period and fifteen USA models that have been exported back to Europe. So, of the approximate 34,500 Peugeot 404s imported, just 0.3% of that total still exists here today.
We have contacted or verified existing ownership of approximately 70 of these owners recently. The current North American model count consists of the following:
55 Sedans or ‘Berlines’
38 Convertibles or ‘Cabriolets’
17 Station Wagons or ‘Breaks’
There are a total of 42 known Peugeot 404 C models currently in North America (36 in the USA and 6 in Canada). There continues to be a small amount of flux. A few cars have been scrapped (Ugghh, one recent Coupe was scrapped last year. Just before we got to them!). As mentioned above, some 404Cs have been sold and shipped back to Europe and others purchased in Europe and imported here.
In the USA, we have identified 36 known Peugeot 404 C models (34 Cabriolets and 2 Coupes) with thirty of these owners being known to us and six owners whose contact information we still seek. Of these models located in America, 22 are carbureted models and 14 are injected models imported from Canada or Europe where they originated. In Canada, we know of six 404C models (4 Cabriolets and 2 Coupes) of which half are carbureted and half injection.
404Cs were found in 13 States and 3 Canadian Provinces (BC, Ontario, Quebec). Half of the NA 404C’s are found in just two states: CA (15) and FL (4)! The remaining in MA (3), OR (3), IN (2), NJ (2) and 1 in AZ, CT, GA, ME, MO, NH, TN.
We need your help! If you know of a Peugeot 404 owner, let us know so we can add them to our support network list.
Types of Peugeot 404 Owners:
In speaking or corresponding with a large number of Peugeot 404 NA owners, one is struck by a strong fraternal bond and pioneering spirit! With so few cars left here and Peugeot’s departure from North America so long ago, it has made owning and maintaining our 404s that much more exotic, a true labor of love, and real badge of courage! One has had to be entrepreneurial, innovative and adaptable to find parts or make modifications to keep our cars running. You can still discover the remnants of the original Peugeot NA dealerships whose mechanics, dealers, and parts distributors still speak nostalgically about the “Peugeot era” here. They still deal with the rare Peugeot now, but have long ago retired or morphed into servicing the more plentiful and profitable german, Italian, and British vintage cars for their bread and butter.
Peugeot 404 owners are extremely passionate about their cars! They love to talk to you about how they found them and their wily tricks to maintain them. And, we all share our stories of being flagged down and asked, “What the hell are you driving?” or, if you are lucky, “Hey, is that a Ferrari?”
Amongst our ranks, you find a large number of the following professions (or their descendants) represented: doctors, college professors, international military or diplomatic corps members, judges or lawyers, restaurant chefs or owners, and european auto (1 motorcycle) salespeople or mechanics.
There also seem to be certain common themes or types of 404 owners that we have identified or labeled: Those who are a “European Expatriate”, “Legacy Owners”, “French Connection”, “Aficionados”, and even a “Latin 404 Connection”.
“European Expatriates:” There are a large number of North American owners (probably 1/3 of 404C NA owners we contacted for example) who are French, Belgian or of other European descent and always loved the Peugeot 404! They found one here (sometimes two) that wasn’t appreciated as it should be. So, they bought it! They are comforted by their vintage reminder of home! Or they were transferred here for their work and could not resist bringing their keep sake french classic car with them in several cases.
“Legacy Owners:” This is one of the most interesting, nostalgic and persistent group of NA owners one talks to about their 404s. They have owned their cars for a long period of time. The car or memory of the car was handed down from their parents or grandparents who were original owners. They remember driving or working on their cars with their Dad or Grandfather and love the cars because of those treasured or frustrating memories trying to keep their Lions running! Or in several cases, they knew someone close to them who had the car and hence they bought it or had to have one also.
“The French Connection:” A large number of us own our cars because of a nostalgic connection to France or Europe. This owner is a francophile usually. Perhaps a parent was french or they (or a member of their family) may have lived in France at one time and fell in love with the Peugeot look. They relive those great memories of France every time they park their car in front of the french bakery or wine store to turn heads or for laughs for those in the know.
“Aficionados:” This group of owners fell in love with the Pininfarina lines of the 404 and had to have one. One owner was/is a collector of vintage Mercedes another of Alfa Romeos or Fiats. They were looking for their brands, but came across a 404 Cabriolet on the lot. They couldn’t believe it was a Peugeot and had to buy it! Another group of owners in this category are the highly experienced Peugeot or European auto dealer or mechanic who always appreciated the 404 and collect them now for their natural appeal and rarity here.
“Latin Connection:” There are a number of NA owners who discovered Peugeots in Latin America where they were/are much more plentiful and appreciated. They caught the nostalgia there and either brought their cars here with them or discovered one (or again two) here that they had to restore!
In addition, we jokingly have identified certain common 404 psychological profiles (not disorders!) of certain owner types (all too common and perhaps autobiographical to many of us): The “dreamer”, “eccentric”, and “hoarder”.
"The Dreamer" - Usually having only one 404, the dreamer is monogamous and completely nostalgic when it comes to their 404 dream car (and partners too!). They spend long stretches of time preparing for the next potential break down (if their car is running) or an eventual restoration if in storage. At times, it seems as though that time will never come! During long periods of little action, the dreamer must find other 404-related duties to perform: collecting parts & memorabilia, working with a Club, writing, attending car shows, etc. The dreamer may eventually see the dream come true, but it will cost twice as much as expected! But the result is so worth it!
The "Eccentric" - These owners are what the English call "individualists", people who are skeptical of trends and are more or less anti-lemmings. In the Peugeot world, Lt. Columbo was the apogee of this type of owner. The eccentric loves the 404 because of its rarity. Even if it's a bit of a wreck, the car's beauty shines through in the mind of the owner. Screw the uneducated Peugeot disdain or the fact that they abandoned us here - we drive on! Where some would say the eccentric is deluded, others would say the eccentric is an optimist and can see the positive in everything. Nothing makes the eccentric's day more than someone commenting about the car, whether positive or negative. It is a point of pride to "zag" while everyone else "zigs."
"The Hoarder" - This owner is on a mission to save as many 404s as can be found and will stop at no effort to buy them or collect parts. They often need to commandeer a garage bay, the basement, or worse - lay cars outside in the yard. This leads to spousal or neighborhood confrontation at times and can put the hoarder into an unfortunate defensive position. There are different varieties and degrees of 404 hoarders and some can part with whole or parts of cars, while others think their wrecks are so valuable that nothing should be sold, ever. In certain cases, The hoarder will rarely have even one 404 on the road, but the idea that he/she could eventually is enough to keep the flame burning.
We hope that at least some of our data, observations and humor is helpful. The point is there are not many of us out there. We need to find more of us and stick together to help each other make the 404 experience even more enjoyable! If all else fails, we actually do have a psychiatrist owner amongst our ranks! So, if these new insights resonate too much and fail to amuse, contact us immediately!