Peugeot 504 GL
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2
During its tenure, the Peugeot 504 would become one of the oldest cars on the Australian market – but even as it neared the end of its production life it was still considered to be among the world's best ten sedans.
Originally released in Europe in 1968
and in Australia in 1969
, it was, world wide, the largest selling model of Peugeot. The 504 was assembled by Renault
Australia from knock-down kits at Renault's Victorian plant.
The 504 was powered by a conventional 2.0 litre, four-cylinder pushrod engine. Available for some time in both fuel-injected and carburetted forms, unfortunately too few opted to pay the extra cost for the fuel injected model, and it was subsequently abandoned for the Australian market.
The engine offered only modest power output, but it has an excellent reputation for reliability and strength as well as having the ability to return good economy figures. Power was transmitted through either a four-speed manual transmission
or three-speed automatic
gearbox to the rear driving wheels. These details may sound dated but technically the Peugeot was an extremely advanced car for the time, as borne out by its survival in the market place for such a long time.
design and road-shock suppression, the Peugeot has few peers in the automotive world. The four-wheel fully independent suspension
was well isolated from the body, transmitting an unusually low level of harshness and noise to the cabin and its occupants. On paper the 504 was never going to be a strong performer, combining high body-weight with modest engine output.
However, the gearbox ratios were well suited to the torque characteristics of the engine and performance on the highway was actually rather good, the car being particularly tireless over long distances. Good point-to-point times could be achieved due to the 504's superior road-holding and ride-comfort levels. Poor and indifferent road surfaces did not worry the 504 - in fact, it really came into its own on Australia's outback roads. The brakes, being four-wheel power-assisted discs, offered excellent stopping power and complete stability, even when stopping from high speeds.
The elegant Pininfarina
body design disguised what was a deceptively large interior. Few cars at the price were able to carry four adults in as much comfort as the 504, the rear leg room and head room being better than many large sedans of the day. Boot space was also good, the spare tyre
being located in a tray under the rear of the car which was released by a catch inside the boot. At over $11000 the 504 was not given away, but it was a car that proved it could last for the better part of ten years while always retaining good resale value.
Peugeot 504 Break and Familiale
Around the same time Leyland P76
owners were telling you of the legendary ability of their boot to swallow a 44 gallon drum, you could nearly fit two into the back of a Peugeot 504 “Break”. This Gallic station wagon (that's what they meant by "Break") was one of the roomiest five people-plus vehicles around Europe during the early 1970s yet the French firm trimmed it up front like the fine 504 sedan. Like the sedan it sported vinyl upholstery, but for utility's sake the Break had no cloth option.
Like its sedan counterparts, the 504 Break was superbly comfortable. The two front seats in particular were mildly but properly dished with good low-back support and slide-out head rests just like a quality sedan. They could be a touch longer under the thighs but rake adjustment was vast - right down to sleepers. The rear bench was rated for three but a lot of sitting on the centre tunnel would make the middle occupant very restless over distances of any real magnitude. Peugeot made a seven-seater version of this wagon as well, calling it Familiale. The extra seat was located in the normal manner in the load area at the rear. This did point up one feature which could reduce your comfort quotient considerably.
Under The Hood
Peugeot powered this big carrier with the same 2.0 litre carburettor engine found in the lighter 504 sedan. Pulling another 200 lbs (ton and a half empty) it had to work too hard to remain quiet. Unlike most Peugeot's from this era, the 504 Break was plain noisy - accentuated by resonance in the vast body. But it remained a capable lugger - it would pull from 30 mph in top when lightly loaded and even get very close to the magic 100 with a wind out of the south, but you couldn't enjoy the radio at the same time.
Through the gears the wagon managed 25, 45 and a loud 70 mph - handy for passing slow trucks - but an "overdrive" top such as many French makers favoured back then would have make cruising more pleasurable. And with that long-throw column shift you appreciate the engine's good torque characteristics. The 87 DIN bhp (98SAE) mill started instantly and provided you used the choke for a few warm-up miles it was entirely viceless. Pushing it fairly hard at European speeds consumption would near 20 mpg. With just over 13 gallons in the tank this would cut your safe range to something not too far over 200 miles.
Behind the Wheel
Apart from comfortable seats, the driver enjoyed a big (too big?) steering wheel and suffered from an umbrella handbrake. Back on the plus side you had round dials though the middle one was given to incidental information like fuel and temperature. Speedometer and clock - obviously of equal import around Peugeot - took up the two end circles though they were still well in view. Like many French builders, Peugeot preferred to fit a light switch pattern all its own. In this instance you moved the left under-wheel wand in a box pattern through parking lamps, low beams and highs with a flick position to flash the headlamps with lights turned off. It was more logical than sticking the wiper switch so far left and low only a creeping vine could reach it with seat belt on.
The lights themselves were fine for the speeds this rather deliberate wagon would reach unless you believed in the anti-roll bars and really swung that tail about. Items like reversing lamp and a light for the interior when the tail gate was lifted were understood from a firm like Peugeot. Disc-drum brakes (the sedan had four-wheel discs) were more than competent to handle the kind of driving asked of a biggish wagon. There were no special features and absolutely no fuss. Handling on Michelin ZX tyres depended largely on the load: how much and where carried.
The main purpose of a wagon has to be the amount of space out back. This 504 not only felt large by European standards it was large. In fact, 6.3 in. longer in wheelbase than the sedan and more than a foot longer overall at 189in. though width matched the sedan (66.5 in.). The Break was also 6.1 in. high - 4 in. less when laden. Parking or turning in tight places you had to admire Peugeot's foresight and wisdom in fitting those well padded bumpers. A great security blanket there. With the rear bench seat in place for people you still had over 4 ft 7 in. of load length available and a volume of better than 40 cubic feet (two outside mirrors came with the kit). This back seat folded against the fronts - once they were moved too far forward of course - in the ususal wagon pattern except that Peugeot fitted a positive seat-back catch and levers at either end of the bench which served to unhook the back easily. It was one of the best fold-away systems then offered by any car manufacturer.
With the seat down you had a load area of 23.5 square feet - only slightly impinged upon by wheel arches. The volume became something better than 66 cubic feet and you could slide 6 ft 4 in. items over the vinyl deck covering. This area could be reached from three sides, thanks to the four-door-sedan configuration. The large rear hatch, complete with heated back window for icy days, was counter-balanced but still too heavy for a delicate lady to manage without strain.
Space, even with the rear bench in use, was vast. But it was not limited to the rear, with additional storage space consisting of a locking glove box and non-locking but lidded bin between the front seats. All told you were permitted a load of some 1410 lbs in the Break, including people of course. Capacity ran to nearly half of the car's own weight. Externally the big 504 Break retained the sedans front quarters, but had a longer tail for vast capacity.
Even with the rear seat in position there was 4 ft 7 in. of load space available. The large rear door was counterbalanced and massive rubber bumpers protected the body. Front compartment is trimmed to standard of sedan. Seats are superbly comfortable except for middle passenger in rear. The Familiale model takes seven passengers with third seat in back. There's sleeping space for an over six-footer with rear seat folded. Hinges for rear door fold into neat plastic containers behind wheel arches.