Mention Peugeot's 504 and images of battered estate cars on African dirt tracks will probably be conjured up. Millions of these extremely rugged workhorses were built, and few cars have proven quite as durable, however there is a more elegant side to the 504, in the form of the highly desirable Pininfarina-built Coupe and Convertible models.
Smooth, relaxed performance with space for four people with their luggage make Peugeot's sharp-suited 504 a genuine grand tourer. Using the mechanicals of the saloon, Pininfarina chopped the coupe and cabriolet wheelbase by 7.5 inches to maintain proportions.
Initially the cars were powered by four-cylinder engines, but this didn’t provide the urge the car deserved. Luckily for Peugeot it had been collaborating with Renault and Volvo on a new V6 engine, which was just the ticket for pepping things up a bit. So the first car to receive the new 'PRV' powerplant was the 504 in coupe and cabrio forms.
In this form the car delivered the goods – albeit with a slightly higher fuel consumption. With a fuel crisis just round the corner as this move was made, there was a rethink chez Peugeot. The result was the re-introduction of the four-cylinder engine...
Which 504 should you buy?
The best derivative of the 504 was never made – the fuel-injected V6 cabrio. It’s possible to create one using a four-cylinder car and fitting a powerplant from the 505 or 604 V6, but it’s hardly a DIY proposition. As a result you’ll just have to settle for whatever you can buy, but a trip to France may be worthwhile so you can source a V6 car; such machines are very rare in the UK.
As far as official UK imports are concerned it's a bit of a grey area. Only left-hand drive cars were brought in by Peugeot, but the company officially sanctioned an outfit named Hodec to convert cars to right-hand drive. Thanks to the V6 taking up so much of the engine bay only pre-1975 cars were tackled. The interior was already very downmarket for such an expensive car, and with Hodec just chopping and trimming the dashboard it's unsurprising that at a cost of £400 for the conversion there were few takers.
Buying one of these cars needs commitment and investment. You have to be prepared to buy a stock of spares and even a second car to cannibalise if you want to keep it on the road. Finding parts will involve endless searching – in short you need to be an enthusiast.
Performance and specs
Peugeot 504 V6 coupe
||136bhp @ 5750rpm
||153lb ft @ 5500rpm
|Price when new
Dimensions and weight
• Expect rot; holes can appear anywhere for no apparent reason. The earliest cars are the most rot-prone, but none are immune – and panel availability is nil.
• Check for rust behind the front wheel where the scuttle meets the sill and inner wheelarch. This will be just the tip of the iceberg though; expect rotten sills, floors and A-posts. The leading edge of the bonnet also dissolves and on coupes the rear parcel shelf rots too.
• A really wobbly cabrio points to rotten sills; check the condition of the floorpans from the inside, including under the rear seat, which is easily removed.
• Pre-1978 cars had a dip-down scoop on the bonnet, which collects water as well as air. It routes this through the ventilation panel at the base of the windscreen and into the front inner wings, which can then rot away.
• A small impact can kink the front chassis legs, knocking the tracking out. Fixing this isn't easy.
• Cars should be lifted by the outside of the rear crossmember. They're frequently not, leading to the rear subframe breaking away from from the floorpan.
• Engines are durable, but the fuel injection is difficult to set up. Check the diaphragm in the metering unit (the alloy housing on the front nearside of the engine). A holed diaphragm in this leads to poor running through over-fuelling.
• If the engine won't fire at all listen for the buzzing of the electric fuel pump, at the back of the car. Check the fusebox in the left-hand footwell; the contacts corrode. The in-line fuel filter might also need to be replaced; the fuel pump starves the engine if the correct pressure isn't maintained.
• Make sure the cooling fan isn't running permanently; if it is the head gasket(s) have probably failed.
• Expect some play in the transmission, especially on five-speed gearboxes. When new the cars were fine, but over time the pre-loading on the system loses its grip and slack develops.
• Power assisted steering was fitted from 1975. The racks leak fluid badly, so check the neck on the rack.
• The front springs are located by a saddle which rots away then collapses. The solution is to buy a strut from a 505, into which the damper can be inserted.
• Brake discs wear out quickly, so some owners fit the discs and callipers from the 604, which last longer. Three types of calliper were used, so opt for cast iron calipers – avoid alloy ones.
• Expect a lot of travel in the handbrake lever – if it’s been adjusted to eliminate this the self-adjusting brakes won’t self-adjust. If the handbrake won’t work at all it’s probably because the pistons in the rear calipers are damaged.
1969: The 504 coupe and cabrio are revealed in four-cylinder form with four headlamps and three separate light units per side at the rear.
1972: An automatic transmission becomes available but it’s discontinued on the cabrio a year later.
1975: The MkII 504 is launched with wider, single headlamps and simpler tail lights. A carburetted 136bhp 2664cc V6 is mated to a four-speed manual 'box, and four-cylinder cars are canned.
1978: The 1971cc four-cylinder engine is reintroduced and the V6 coupe gets Bosch K-jetronic fuel injection, upping power to 144bhp. The cabrio is available only with a four-cylinder engine from here.
1980: A facelift brings colour-coded bumpers on cars with metallic paint and a five-speed gearbox, but there’s still an auto option on four-cylinder cars.
1983: The last of 26,476 coupes and 8186 cabriolets are built – all with left-hand drive.
Owners clubs, forums and websites
• www.peugeot504ccc.de – German club catering for the Coupe and Cabriolet 504 models
• www.amicale504.fr – French forum dedicated all Peugeot 504 models
• www.clubpeugeotuk.org – Club Peugeot UK
Summary and prices
In terms of value for money, you can look at these classics from two different angles. In the grand scheme of the stylish Pininfarina-styled coupes and cabriolets, the 504 still offers excellent value. For a classic Peugeot, however, it is pricy.
Four-cylinder coupe versions are the most affordable ranging from £3000-£5500 for rough to good examples, with the best commanding upwards of £7000. For a car with the V6 engine, expect to shell out between £6500-£10,000 for average to good examples. The finest fuel injected V6 coupes are £15,000 and beyond. The cabriolet models are significantly more desirable, and are around 25 per cent more.