Skip to main content

The sorcerer's apprentice


Dating from mid-1970s, Peugeot 404 is being prepared for more years of service.
    After leaving the shop where Alonso's Chevrolet is being worked on, we stop by another garage a little farther along the country road. Here, a young man is busy renewing the floor of a Peugeot 404 that would have come to Cuba from Argentina, as the badge on its decklid attests.
   This fellow, Alonso tells me, is a student of the man restoring his `56 Bel Air. From the high-quality work we see on the Peugeot, it`s clear that the master`s magic is brushing off.
   When I was a teenager, a friend`s family owned a pair of Peugeots like this. The 404 was the French automaker's largest model upon its 1960 introduction, but by North American standards it was a compact, and those two little round-fendered 404s were an odd contrast to the blocky Detroit products occupying most driveways at the time.
   I've since, however, come to quite admire the 404's balanced proportions and pure lines.
   Wikipedia, we know, can be hit or miss, but its entry on the 404 is exemplary. Here we learn that the stylist was Pininfarina (explains the appeal), that assembly in Argentina began two years after its launch in France and continued through to 1980 (this one's likely from the mid-1970s), that other global assembly points included Quebec (probable source of my friend's family cars) and that along with coupe, sedan and station wagon versions, Peugeot offered a 404 pickup model (I want one!).

Rusty floor panels have been cut out.

Sweet lines, courtesy of Pininfarina.

Purple primer? Why not?

Argentine plant contributed to a global production run of nearly 2.9 million Peugeot 404 models over 31 years.




See also:

CubanClassics: 1974 Peugeot 404




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Discovered in Cuba, a rare Mercedes bird

(December 2012 note: See update link, below.)

 GUESS I'LL have to set aside my search for the younger Batista’s 1956 Corvette. An even tastier trophy has emerged – a Mercedes-Benz 300SL, better known as the Gullwing.
   Even on the Island of Surprises, I’d be astounded to come across one of these rare beauties. But in a brief section on Cuba in Automobiles Lost & Found(Haynes Publishing, 2008), I see a photo of a battered 300SL observed by author Michael E. Ware outside a private garage near Havana.
   The Gullwing, unmistakable lift-up doors in place, is dented and rusting and missing its engine, yet still would be prized by collectors the world over . . . if only they could extract it from Cuba. Restored, the Silver Metallic example with Lipstick Red interior might be worth more than $700,000 U.S.
   Reached in England, Mr. Ware tells me he was holidaying in Cuba when an acquaintance brought him to an unnamed community to see the car.
   “I never asked where it was – I was just …

Crosmobile wagon: A little car lasts a long time

A LONG while back, I put up photos of this tiny wagon in Havana. Most students of automotive history would have identified it as a Crosley, from the short-lived Crosley Motors Inc. of the United States.
   As the additional photo above reveals, however, it's actually a rarer yet Crosmobile, which was Crosley's export nameplate. The change was reportedly necessary to avoid conflicts with England's Crossley Motors.


   Crosley made cars from 1939 through 1952, less a four-year interruption for military production in the Second World War. The station wagon was its most popular model, but it also offered  convertibles and sedans, a sports car and even a tiny pickup truck. This wagon is from Crosley's final CD series (1949-1952), and we can further tell from its roll-down windows that it's a 1950 or newer; the '49 had sliding side windows.    The company was a long-held dream for Powel Crosley Jr., the Cincinnati, Ohio, businessman whose Crosley Radio Corp. had become t…

Havana and Detroit: Sisters under a well-worn skin

   VOLUPTUOUS, PRE-1960 American cars are the obvious link between Detroit and Havana. One city built them, the other relies on them.    But the Michigan and Cuban capitals share more than pontoon fenders and Dagmar bumpers.
   There's the architecture –classic, often crumbling, with flashes of contemporary. 
   The permeating music – different in genres, yet descending from the same African roots.
   The vivid art – best represented, in the Motor City, by the product of two Mexico-born painters: Diego Rivera, whose working-man murals would be as at home in a Havana barrio as they are on the walls of the Detroit Institute of Arts, and Frida Kahlo, whose surreal folk-art images could command prime space in any Cuban gallery.
   And beneath it all, murmuring like a Hemi-powered '55 Chrysler, the energy of a place alive and assured within its own well-worn skin.
   It follows, then, that as Cuba becomes more open to Americans, Detroiters might be better equipped than many of their fell…

The Remarkable Story of Fortune Magazine's Confusion Over Cuba

WE KNOW THAT some American news outlets get Cuba, and for that matter, get cars. Fortune appears lacking on both counts.    Sad evidence of this is supplied in "The Amazing Tale of How Cuba Saw Its First New U.S. Car in 58 Years," a web piece in which staffer Sue Callaway accompanies Infiniti design boss Alfonso Albaisa on his first visit to the island his parents left in 1962.
   Also on the trip: a pre-production 2017 Infiniti Q60 coupe for Albaisa to show off in a country where, in his words, "the romance of the automobile is still completely alive."
   U.S. car?
   Despite the contributions to its styling by Infiniti's San Diego design centre, the Q60 is about as American as sukiyaki.
   Just like its predecessor, the Infiniti G37, the Q60 shares its platform with the Nissan 370Z. And it's built at the same Tochigi factory as the 370Z.
   It's Japanese.
   Perhaps Fortune was confusing it with the similarly named QX60, the sole Infiniti model produced at N…

A man and not his bicycle

THIS MAN is Canadian, and so is the 10-speed he holds, an iconic Supercycle from the Canadian Tire retail chain. But this isn't his bike. It would have arrived in Cuba, perhaps years ago, with one of his countrymen. It's long been a practice for Canadian visitors to bring old bikes, ride them for the duration of their stay and then leave them on the island in the hope that Cubans can put them to good use. And the Cuban who now owns this Supercycle has done just that, renting it to tourists such as this gentleman for 10 CUC a week.
   Good deal all around.


In pursuit of hire powers

   MOTORCYCLES MAY BE the most common type of taxi in Santiago, but they aren't the only choice. For travellers seeking more comfort and security – not to mention room for more than one passenger – here are some alternatives.


1. Gladway three-wheelerAt one time, it was safe to assume that any motorized trike in Cuba – flatbed, van, tuk tuk-style taxi – was an Ape (pronounced ah-pay, hand gestures optional) from well-known Italian manufacturer Piaggio. Even the homegrown coco taxis in Havana and Varadero ride on Ape underpinnings. Now, three-wheelers from China have joined the Chinese buses and cars already common on Cuban roads. The Gladway above is a product of the Shandong Mulan plant in Jinan, south of Beijing. Parent company Gladway Holdings Ltd. specializes in electric vehicles, but also offers gas-powered models.


2. Peugeot 404   In other Cuban cities, late-model Hyundais and ageless Ladas make up the formal taxi fleets, while older cars – generally American – served as fixed-…

Where Cody LeCompte went wrong

It seems that detained tourists in Cuba areput up in beach resorts while the island’s wheels of justice grind along like the gearbox in a Russian tractor.
  Cody LeCompte, a 19-year-old from Simcoe, Ontario, has been forbidden from leaving the island since an April traffic accident in which the rental Hyundai Accent he was driving (hmmm, sounds familiar) collided with a dump truck. LeCompte and his three passengers were injured, and all spent time in hospital.
  Since then, LeCompte has been staying at a resort in Santa Lucia with his uncle. It's not clear who’s paying the bills.
Although the family insists the other driver was at fault, a Cuban court this week apparently decided that LeCompte must stand trial. His mother told reporters she’s heard the trial may not take place for six months to one year.
  Canada’s Foreign Affairs department says traffic accidents “are a frequent cause of arrest and detention of Canadians in Cuba” -- although if that’s the case, such incidents haven’t…

The last cars out of Cuba

(First of a series)

   It's Oct. 31, 1960, and the SS City of Havana, an automobile and passenger ferry that began life as a Second World War landing craft carrier, is easing to its berth at Safe Harbor in Key West, Florida.    Sixteen years earlier, this vessel, then known as HMS Northway, carried amphibious trucks and their Canadian and British crews to Juno Beach in the Normandy Invasion. But on this day, those aboard are fleeing, not approaching, conflict. Of the 287 passengers, 232 are Cuban citizens who hold United States residence permits, key to their own economic and political safe harbour.
   Also aboard are 86 cars, of which most belong to the U.S. embassy in Havana. After imposing an embargo on trade with Cuba in retaliation for the Castro government's seizure of U.S. property and alignment with the Soviet Union, the United States now is cutting diplomatic ties. This photo, taken upon the City of Havana's arrival and provided by Key West History magazine, shows ro…