Navigating the Classics: Peugeot 404 Finds the Way

The Peugeot 404 hit the perfect sweet spot between beauty, robust engineering and value for money. The Pininfarina 404's design, characterised by clean lines and balanced proportions, became a benchmark for motoring elegance, a harmonious blend of form and function that set new standards for car design. This is the story of the classic 404.

Automotive History
8 April 2024

The French do elegance as well as anyone, and the sixties superstars included legendary leading man Alain Delon, the breathtakingly beautiful Brigitte Bardot, and Peugeot’s perfect Pininfarina 404.

Unveiled in 1960, the Peugeot 404 not only exemplified the marque’s commitment to durability and performance, but also cemented a significant chapter in motoring history. Its creation stemmed from a collaboration with the renowned Italian design house Pininfarina, which was pivotal in defining the car’s aesthetic and functional attributes.

Produced between 1960 and 1975 in Europe with just over 1.8 million built, the car’s production ran for another sixteen years in countries including Canada, Chile and Kenya with another million rolling off the production lines. Is the 404 classic car material? It didn’t have the organ-shifting speed of the Lamborghini Miura, but it had a certain je ne sais quoi. Here’s the story of the original French Fancy, the Peugeot 404.

The Fantastically French Four oh Four

1960 Peugeot 404 (Credit: Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

The successor to the 403, the Peugeot 404 was introduced in 1960 as a 72 bhp, four-door saloon with a 1.5-litre straight-four engine. It was designed by the legendary Italian coachbuilder Battista ‘Pinin’ Farina, whose company has been responsible for some of the most beautiful cars in automotive history, including the Maserati A6, the Alfa Romeo 6C and the Ferrari 250 GT.

The Grand Tourisme Super Luxe version was launched in 1961 and, with leather upholstery and thick carpets, it catered for the aspirational middle classes who wanted a blend of luxury mixed with practicality.

In the same year, the classic 404 convertible was launched and since it didn’t share a single panel with the saloon, Pininfarina had carte blanche to create a jaw-droppingly beautiful car, which was exactly what he did. With a nod to the great 1960s Ferraris, it was the epitome of graceful Gallic gorgeousness, and with the optional fuel injection, the convertible was in many ways the perfect 60s car – fast, roomy, stylish and practical.

The Super Coupé

Peugeot 404 coupe in Paris (Credit: REPORTERS ASSOCIES/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

In the 404 coupé, Peugeot had a superstar. Launched in 1963, it was ostensibly the convertible with a solid roof. Like the soft-top, the coupé was available with the option of a Kugelfischer fuel injection which, according to one owner, made the ride ‘sinfully smooth.’

Pininfarina & The Peugeot 404

Peugeot 404 at the Goodwood Festival, 2015 (Credit: Michael Cole / Contributor via Getty Images)

Indeed the Peugeot 404’s collaboration with Pininfarina was not just a business arrangement but a meeting of style and practicality that set a fascinating benchmark for the design of new cars for Europe’s biggest carmakers. The elegance and simplicity of the 404’s lines bore a resemblance to other iconic cars of the era, such as the Fiat 124, also designed by Pininfarina, showcasing the Italian design house’s signature style that favoured grace over ostentation.

This design philosophy helped the Pininfarina 404 carve out a unique place in the pantheon of 1960s and 70s family cars, a period often regarded as the golden age of automotive design.

The 404 Line-Up

Peugeot 404 Coupé (Credit: Sjoerd van der Wal / Contributor via Getty Images)

Throughout its production cycle, the Peugeot 404 was a versatile and widely appreciated car. It was offered in various body styles to cater to a broad audience, and this range allowed it to serve multiple market segments, from family vehicles to more performance-oriented models.


This was the standard four-door model, which was the most common and served as the basis for the 404’s reputation for durability and comfort. A high-spec Super Luxe version was introduced in 1961 and lasted until 1970.

Estate (aka Break)

Known for its spacious interior, this model was ideal for families requiring more space. It came in several variations, including a standard estate and a more luxurious version. In addition, the Peugeot 404 Commerciale, a more functional version of the estate for businesses with a 1.5-litre straight-four (and later with an upgraded 1.6) was added to the line-up in 1962.


Arguably the prettiest of the classic 404 models, it was designed for a more premium segment of the market. It was particularly noted for its elegant design and it’s estimated that just over 10,000 were made between 1961 and 1968.


This two-door model shared its mechanicals with the convertible, but featured a fixed roof. It was known for its sportier appearance and, like the soft-top, was targeted at a more upscale market.


Aimed at commercial users, the pick-up version was popular in markets where rugged and durable vehicles were required. It was especially common in Africa and South America where this classic 404 remains a common sight to this day.

Grand Touring Saloon

A more powerful and sporty version of the sedan, the Grand Touring Saloon was equipped with improved performance features like fuel injection, making it suitable for drivers seeking a blend of practicality and driving pleasure.


A variant of the Estate/Break designed to accommodate more passengers, the Familiale often featured a third row of seats making it an ideal choice for large families or as a small shuttle vehicle.

The Classic 404

A classic Peugeot 404 at L'Arc de Triomphe (Credit: FRANCOIS GUILLOT / Staff via Getty Images)

Today, the 404 classic car stands as a testament to the ground-breaking impact this hugely popular model had over almost two decades. The collaboration with Pininfarina not only cemented the status of the Peugeot 404 in the annals of design history but also highlighted a golden era where aesthetics and practicality coalesced seamlessly.

One last but certainly not insignificant point worth noting. In reference to the equally famous ‘404 Not Found’ error message, a number of international language versions of the Peugeot website today use an image of the Peugeot 404 as an Easter Egg feature, shown if you’re trying to find a page that doesn’t exist!


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