"Quatre-Cent-Quatre" - A FAMILY-CAR FOR ENTHUSIASTS

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An account of the fuel injection Peugeot 404 KF2

ALL the Peugeots I have driven have been good cars but it was not until Peugeot Distributors Ltd. asked me to try the petrol-injection version of the extremely well-established Peugeot 404 that I realised the progress that has been made with this latest model.

Known as the XC-KF2, or Kugelfischer fuel-injection, 2nd type, the 84 x 73-mm inclined wet-liner engine of 1,618 c.c., with the special push-rod actuation of inclined o.h. valves, develops 88, 92 or 96 b.h.p., according to whether it is rated by D.I.N., CUNA or S.A.E., at 5,700 r.p.m., gives peak torque at 2,800 r.p.m., and weighs 137 kg. complete. It inherits a 5-hearing crankshaft from the XC-KF1 engine, and develops an extra 11 (S.A.E.) b.h.p., the inlet valves having been enlarged by 2 mm. and the exhaust valves by 2 mm. The valves have also been lightened, by using Teves cotters, are of improved austentitic steel, and have concave heads and a stem diameter reduced by half-a-millimetre. To retain the 8.8-to-1 cr. with the new valves the piston heads have been raised by 0.7 mm. The thin-shell main bearings are lined with a special white-metal alloy.

In sympathy with the larger valves the air-throttle valve of the Kugeflischer fuel-injection system has been enlarged, while the 4-branch inlet manifold now has an electric petrol sprayer superseding the former hand-operated enrichener, a new thermoplug which enriches the mixture up to 50°C and operates an additional air valve at 850-1,200 r.p.m., and a union for the brake servo. It is 3 mm. larger than before. The exhaust system incorporates a manifold with two independent outlets, and the single section of the exhaust piping has been enlarged. The ignition system now uses a Ducillier distributor, curve M42.

To cope with the greater power of the latest engine a Ferodo PKSC15 clutch replaces the PKSC14 and the famous Peugeot high-efficiency underslung-worm back axle has a ribbed casing, the bronze worm-wheel is 4 mm. wider than the FK t’s 39-mm. wheel, and the drive shafts have been enlarged at their splined ends. The differential remains as on the 404 Family Saloon (that commodious car!) and station wagon. The braking system now makes use of ” Thermostable ” brakes, with ribbed c.i. front drums using Ferodo 761B linings, and ” Hydrovac ” vacuum servo assistance. Finally, Michelin 4½J15 ALBM 3.30V ventilated wheels are shod with 165 x 330 tyres, either Michelin XA2 or Dunlop SP Sport. Esso lubricants are specified throughout.

* * *

On the road the fuel-injection Peugeot 404 is a most pleasant car, obviously planned with French logic. The manifold-injection of the mixture provides smooth-running, clean acceleration and instant starting. The gear ratios are well chosen, so that this becomes a fast family car if free use is made of the gearbox and its handling adds to the pleasure to be derived from Peugeot motoring.

In the past I have found Peugeot seats unsuited to the periodicity of the coil-spring road-wheel suspension, the gear-change needlessly complicated, and the 404 a trifle ” dated.” All these criticisms are swept away after prolonged experience of the 404 KF2.

The seats, separate at the front, are rather shapeless, but the hard leather upholstery causes them to remain comfortable when occupied for long periods, while the squabs are fully-reclining, converting the car into a bedroom in the best French tradition. The steering-column gear-lever works in three planes, French logic putting 1st below reverse on the lowest level, 2nd and 3rd, to which this l.h. lever is spring-loaded, on the middle-level, top gear up towards the driver and forward. Quite rapid changes can be effected, and one soon becomes accustomed to the non-standard movements, while the drop from top to 3rd gear is quick and pleasant. In France, away from the towns, top gear would be employed for longer periods than on English roads, but the more powerful engine is sufficiently flexible not to call for too-frequent drops into 3rd; as reverse is where bottom gear is usually located in 4-speed changes, some form of stop would be an advantage, although none is provided with 3-speed changes.

The styling of the latest 404 is elegant from simplicity of line, the doors close quietly, and the spacious interior is certainly not in any way flamboyant, although the tan upholstery of the test-car, if it matched the dog, was somewhat distasteful to some eyes.

The steering wheel is notably low set and driving visibility is excellent. A detachable padded arm-rest incorporating a big oddments’ locker, a la Cortina, is provided for wedging between the generous-sized front seats, but it tended to get in the way and was usually left in the house.

Before the driver is a hooded 120-m.p.h. Jaeger speedometer incorporating fuel-pressure and brake fluid/servo warning lights. In the same duster, below the long speedometer face, are the square faces of the thermometer, fuel gauge, ammeter and clock, with the total and trip odometer windows bisecting them—the clock re-setting and trip zero knobs protrude prominently but, as they are unlabelled and that for the clock is farther from the clock than the other, trip readings are apt to be inadvertently changed when one intends to alter the time. Turn-indicator lights flank each end of the speedometer (but only the r.h. one is used, for both indicators, on r.h.d. cars) and an oil-pressure light is incorporated with the thermometer.

A fair measure of the aforesaid French logic is found in the layout of the Peugeot’s controls, and other details. For instance, coolant temperature is maintained at a normal 158°F. by a fan magnetically disengaged until the water temperature reaches 80-90°C. Instrument lighting is rheostatically-controlled by a tiny under-facia knob, but when fully dimmed the needle of the speedometer is still clearly picked out, although this was not so on another car I tried. A l.h. knob on the facia controls rather fast single-speed wipers and, depressed, the powerful washers. A tiny under-facia control selects the parking lamp required but, when this is centralised, these lamps act as additional turn indicators. The doors have sill locks, the knobs of which pull up to lock them, and there is a childproof setting. Four electrical fuses are accessibly if untidily located on the passenger’s side of the scuttle, which has long been a commendable Peugeot feature. The roof lamp has front-door courtesy action. Another good feature—there is a portable lamp-socket under the bonnet which will take a bulb direct, to illuminate the engine, while the luggage-boot lid carries a lamp, with its own switch. Bonnet and lockable boot-lid are self-supporting in the open position.

Peugeot continues the sensible provision of a plastic master-switch on the battery’s negative terminal, which constitutes a cut-out. Ventilation and heating is equally well contrived, in this car clearly designed by practical engineers. There are no quarter lights to the windows to create wind noise and draughts. Instead, big vents at either extremity of the facia, which possesses underfacia controls and rotate through 360° to deflect air in any required direction, give all the fresh-air ventilation required, especially as the controls provide at first for progressive intake of air through the vents, then, pushed further, for a full stream through the vents and a progressive stream from under-facia ventilation holes. The heater box has openable doors and an under-facia knob enables the air flow to be cut off without altering the heater settings. Two horizontal quadrant levers on the facia centre look after volume and direction of the heat flow, abetted when necessary by a quiet single-speed fan.

Reverting to the controls, a thin lightly-loaded l.h. stalk controls the turn-indicators, and the lamps are put on and changed from sidelamps to dipped or full-beam headlamps by a short, precise r.h. lever, which also provides for headlamps flashing. Other aspects of the Peugeot 404 are conventional but practical. The floor is covered with rubber matting, the doors have armrests with pull-up interior door handles beneath them, there is a facia glove box of sensible dimensions covered by an unlockable flap, half-pockets in the front doors, a well-placed typical Peugeot metal hand-brake lever under the facia for the driver’s right hand, well-positioned pedals, the treadle accelerator slightly lower than the brake pedal, a full horn-ring sounding a two-note typically French horn, central lidded ash-tray on the facia, a matt-finish of the facia sill and surrounds, while the fuel filler is concealed, Ford-fashion, behind the back number-plate. The rear seat has a central arm-rest, there are plated grab-handles on the rear doors, and provision for securing a roof-rack to the roof. Ironically, in view of all this convenience, coat-hooks are not fitted.

A sliding roof over the front seats, easily opened, and lockable in any position by a plated handle, is however yet another reason for choosing a Peugeot.

The exterior of the car is clean and neat although the ” 404 ” emblem and Peugeot lion, respectively on bonnet and radiator grille, and the ” 404 ” on the centre of the facia, are of rather “traction-engine” aggressiveness, Peugeot having secured the sole European rights to this “ o ” theme for model designations. The luggage boot is of ample size, but of well-type, so that luggage has to be lifted into it. The spare wheel stands vertically in a protective cover on the o/s., with space for small items beside it. It is held by a simple clip. The bumpers are rubber-faced, the headlamps sensibly not hooded, and on the tail appears the magic word “Injection.” Tow-tubes are welded to the rear of the body structure.

* * *

On the road, this Peugeot 404 is a highly individualistic and satisfying family car. The new engine starts instantly from cold, gives clean pick-up all along the speed range and very useful acceleration between 60 and 75 m.p.h.

It is a notably quiet car, although the hard-used test car emitted a faint whine from its back axle. An indicated cruising speed of 80 m.p.h. on the optimistic speedometer was normal and a genuine 75 m.p.h. is available in the quiet 3rd gear.

The suspension is quite supple, yet roll is well controlled for fast cornering, under which conditions there is initial understeer The low-set steering wheel with ample finger grips on its rim assists in the good view forward, and the driving position is excellent, the seats comparatively high above the low floor. One steps down over a sill into the Peugeot, incidentally. There is no lost movement in the rack-and-pinion steering mechanism, which is geared just over 3½-turns, lock-to-lock, but some mild high-frequency, reaction when the brakes are applied hard. This is firm, accurate rather than light steering, and parking calls for some effort. The Peugeot 404 corners impeccably for a car of this type.

The brakes are the least pleasant aspect of the car. Very powerful, they are insensitive, due to servo lag, calling for far too much concentration to achieve progressive retardation, and being an embarrassment on wet roads. It is possible that they required adjusting on the test car. The extra cost of fuel injection is Justified by the very smooth acceleration, excellent performance, which embraces a top speed of 101 m.p.h. from this 1.6-litre spacious family saloon, and notable economy of premium petrol. The tank gives a range of at least 316 miles and on a fast main road run interspersed with some low-gear traffic work, I recorded a highly-commendable 31.1 m.p.g. In 733 miles the Peugeot gave absolutely no trouble, although I did twist the ignition key when locking the driver’s door. At the conclusion of the test the oil level did not require replenishment, an excellent achievement attributed to the revised piston rings of the latest engine.

Re-acquaintance with the Peugeot 404 enabled me to appreciate why most owners of these cars are so enthusiastic. It is not so much whether the 404 does things better or not so well as other makes, but a case of no other car doing things quite as a Peugeot does them. An honest, unpretentious but thoroughly sound car, full of character and outstandingly dependable and economical, sums up the Peugeot 404 KF2. It is naturally rather expensive, costing £1,495 in this country.

The normal carburetter 404, however, sells for £1,343. After returning the KF2 I tried one, which behaved as well as its more sophisticated companion. At first I was troubled because the water thermometer read 194°F., but this was only because the needle was not zeroing properly, the fuel range came out at a very useful 278 miles although the tank was by no means brimful at the start, and the petrol consumption of mixture grades was 27.6 m.p.g., driving fast and very heavily laden. The steering felt lighter on this car (more mileage ?) and the brakes were more acceptable. The pockets in the front doors were also of a more practical shape.

If they are expensive, Peugeot 404s repay their owners with reliable, economical motoring for the family while being extremely acceptable to keen drivers. And 101 m.p.h. from a 1.6-litre 5/6-seater saloon is no mean achievement.—W. B.

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