The Peugeot 504 was released in France in 1968 and was brought to the USA a year later. It always maintained a low sales profile in our market. This wasn't a reflection on the car, as Peugeot built a sensible and technically interesting machine. Instead, it was an indication that Peugeot had never tried to build up much sales volume, though the company had been selling cars in America for a long time. The 504 was typically French, although not as "eccentric" as certain Renaults and Citroens. It was a tall, upright, rather boxy sedan with lots of interior room but compact exterior dimensions. Pininfarina designed its body, which was straightforward and pleasant except for its chamfered rear deck.
The powertrain was traditional: a front-mounted 4-cylinder pushrod engine drove the rear wheels through either a ZF 3-speed automatic or a 4-speed manual transmission. From 1969 through 1971 the manual transmission used a column shift lever, which was replaced in 1972 by a console-mounted lever. The other major change in the powertrain came in 1971 when the 504's engine was bored out from 84 to 88 mm, raising piston displacement from 1796 to 1971cc and power from 74 to 84 bhp. The real bonus of the larger engine was better highway passing performance, but later emission modifications brought power back down to 82 bhp. Otherwise, the 504 remained its same charming self from the time of its introduction, owners appreciating the numerous standard features like 4-wheel disc brakes, independent front and rear suspension, sliding steel sunroof and Michelin XAS radial tires.
In terms of performance, the 504 was relaxed at cruising speed, but getting there was another matter. Neither the 1796-nor the 1971-cc engines provided strong acceleration and the little engine had to be worked hard most of the time. In handling, however, the 504 was excellent – there was a lot of body roll but the Michelin tires provided good cornering power. And in those days the French really knew how to tune a suspension to radial tires to produce an outstanding ride (though the 504 wasn't as refined as the old 404). Most motoring journalists and car testers believed the 504s ride was better than its competitors'—Audi. Saab and Volvo. With its excellent ride, fully adjustable seats and generous front and rear passenger room, the 504 was an uncommonly comfortable car. These qualities made the Peugeot a good buy at US$3295 in 1970; but perhaps not so in 1974, when the price rose to US$4830.
The 504 did not appeal to young people as a rule: most owners were above 30. Maybe it was because they were in the hands of the more mature, or maybe because they were so well built, or a combination of the two. Whatever the case, the 504 had outstanding durability and longevity. 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. In suspension design
and road-shock suppression, the Peugeot had 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.
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 poor roads, and they became very popular in the Middle East. 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. Trunk space was also good, the
spare tire being located in a tray under the rear
of the car which was released by a catch inside the