Once the staple of French motoring for the masses, the Peugeot 304 has now come to be seen as a characterful, desirable left-field classic.
First revealed as a four-door saloon at the 1969 Paris Motor Show, Peugeot went on to produce almost 1.18million units in various guises over an 11-year period. The 304 was based on the 204, sharing much of its running gear and mechanical components. Penned by Pininfarina, the major difference was the pair’s front end styling - the 304’s face was inspired by the larger 504.
The highlight of the range for enthusiasts today is the cabriolet. Offering a more laid-back alternative to the likes of the MGB, it remains a handsome and charming alternative to the typical British sports cars of the era.
Thanks to the family car origins, the 304 is uncomplicated, easy to work on and easy to drive. Independent suspension and front disc brakes make the 304 a fairly easy car to get along with today, while it’s low weight means that performance is on a par with entry-level contemporary superminis.
Which one to buy?
The 304 was available in five different body styles: a saloon, a coupe (technically a three-door fastback), an estate (known as the Break), a cabriolet and a van (fourgonette). The coupe and cabriolet joined the range in 1970 with production lasting five years. The Break and fourgonette lasted longest of all, with sales overlapping with it’s replacement, the 305, until 1980.
In 1972, the S version was introduced, gaining both mechanical and cosmetic upgrades. The exterior was treated to a revised front grille, badge and a set of new wheels, while inside the dashboard design was changed. An upgraded version of the 1.3-litre engine now sported twin carburettors, and upped power from 65bhp to 75bhp.
The cabriolet is considered the most desirable of the range, and is therefore the one that commands the highest prices today. Around 840 right-hand drive cabriolets were sold in the UK, and it is estimated that 73 still exist, with approximately half of those in road legal condition.
Performance and spec
Engine 1288cc inline-four
Power 75bhp @ 6000rpm
Torque 80lb ft @ 2750rpm
Top speed 98mph
Fuel consumption approx 34mpg
Gearbox Four-speed manual
Dimensions and weight
● The biggest issue with the 304 is the potential onslaught of rust. It isn’t a surprise to see rot sprouting up anywhere on the body, but in particular check the floor and sills. It’s also wise to inspect the body panels for signs of filler.
● The electrical system is known to have issues, though due to its basic 1970s design, faults are generally easy to find. Make sure that all the switches work inside the cabin, and that the battery holds a charge on a test drive
● Overall, the majority of potential MOT sticking points can be remedied cheaply. Track rod ends cost around £12 a pair, and a set of front brake discs and pads will cost around £60
Sep 1969: Peugeot 304 saloon revealed at Paris Motor Show
Mar 1970: Coupe and cabriolet models introduced to the range. Both are manufactured until July 1975
Sep 1970: Estate ‘Break’ production starts.
1972: S variant released. Features a new interior and dashboard design, revised front grille and badge, new wheels, seats, and a more powerful version of the 1.3-litre engine.
Sep 1976: 304 van (Fourgonette) introduced
Jul 1979: Saloon production run ends, with almost 850,000 units sold
May 1980: Final Break and Fourgonette models produced
Key clubs and websites
• www.peugeotparts.co.uk - parts and spares specialist for a wide range of old Peugeots, including the 304. Based in West Yorkshire
• www.peugeot304.com - a detailed resource about the 304 Cabriolet run by an enthusiastic owner
• www.clubpeugeotuk.org - an owners club for classic Peugeots. Includes a forum, parts finder and classifieds section
Summary and prices
Cabriolet models are the most sought after today, and as a result they are the models that most frequently pop up in the classifieds. Expect to pay between £6000 and £8500 for the best examples, with good runners generally priced between £4000-£6000. More ropey examples - those sporting rust and mechanical issues - can be bought for closer to £2000. Non-runners and those without an MoT should be cheaper still.
Words: Alex Ingram