Following the R.A.C. Rally in a Peugeot 403

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I do not propose to deal in detail with that car-of-character, the 1 1/2-litre Peugeot 403 saloon which Motor Sport used to cover the main part of the R.A.C. Rally, because a detailed road-test report on this excellent car appeared in the issue of May 1958, and the Peugeot 404 was dealt with in these pages very recently. But a few notes are due on the splendid way in which this durable French car stood up to all that we required of it.

The Peugeot—a name the R.A.C. can’t spell, judging by the Rally programme—was used as a guinea-pig over some of the Rally Forest Special Stages in order to see which were going to prove toughest for the competitors and consequently where we should watch. It was baulked by certain Rally cars over these Stages, it did the Tan Hill sections within Rally schedule at the expense of fading brakes (which soon recovered completely), it acted as taxi at the Inverness Control to Carlsson, Brown, Pat Moss and Ann Wisdom. Altogether it was flogged pretty unmercifully for 1,600 miles, frequently putting up averages not far short of 50 m.p.h. and on one memorable occasion passing in one swoop the leading Saab and all three team Austin Healeys out of the St. Fillans Control….

All this hard work the Peugeot did without developing a single fault. Its large comfortable seats with reclining squabs, its spacious boot, the efficient heater rather like a domestic stove, with flaps to let hot air warm cold feet, the good steering lock, and the 403’s easily lockable doors were features which become much appreciated in the hustle and bustle of following the R.A.C. Rally. It proved quite unperturbed cruising for mile upon mile at an indicated 75 m.p.h. and when, as aforesaid, it took some of the Rally Special Stages at a good lick, the suspension never complained, although apart from a laminated screen, yellow lamp bulbs, and fog-lamps, the car was in standard trim. Incidentally, the laminated screen was fortunate, for one flung stone at least would have finished toughened glass….

A check after 1,100 miles proved that in spite of all this full-throttle work petrol consumption was 27.3 m.p.g., and only two pints of oil had been required. The slightly harsh brakes proved very powerful and showed no more pedal movement at the end of a truly strenuous five days than at the start; they faded only when averaging better than 30 m.p.h. over Tan Hill and exhibited no after-effects.

It was nice to have door pockets in which to stow maps and oddments, but the cubby-hole is too shallow. The Peugeot’s rack-and-pinion steering is accurate and not heavy and the 403 cornered exceedingly fast without roll or loss of stability, its Michelin “X” tyres providing added security on doubtful surfaces. This spacious saloon served us nobly, ignoring hard treatment, and proved itself to be as rugged and durable as they come. Moreover, the unfortunate clash between road-spring and front-seat periodicity which I criticised on the road-test car was absent on this 1961 Peugeot 403, one of the World’s outstanding family cars.—W. B.