Home » A Ratty Old Peugeot Truck Reminds Me Why LA Is Such A Great Place For Cars: Cold Start

A Ratty Old Peugeot Truck Reminds Me Why LA Is Such A Great Place For Cars: Cold Start

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I left Los Angeles a good number of years ago, and I still miss the cars. I mean sure, there’s cars everywhere, even interesting cars if you’re willing to look, but LA is a special case in that the number and variety of interesting cars is so vast that you barely even have to look. Unexpected things just pop up, like hamberries in a hamberry muffin. That’s what happened when Autopian contributor Emily Velasco was velocipeding around the El Monte area and spotted this remarkable orange wonder: a 1971 Peugeot 404 diesel pickup! There can’t be more than a handful of these in America, if that, and this one has some details that tell us it comes from an even more unexpected place. Let’s dig in.

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The first thing I noticed about this delightfully ratty yet charming pickup truck was a small yet significant detail: those little white reflectors under the headlights. There’s only one country in the world that required cars to have white reflectors up front, and that country was South Africa. You can see them in this ad for South African Peugeot 404s:

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The South African origin of this truck is further confirmed by the fact that it’s right hand drive, too. The fun thing about little facts like these are that sometimes they’re exactly what’s needed to uncover even more facts, which is why I was able to find the actual car itself in a Reddit post, along with more pictures. Based on the post, the last time the truck was registered before the current owner was in 1982! The bed of this one may be a South Africa-unique item, because the European 404 pickups seem to have had a different bed, though there are examples of this bed in other markets, too.

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That rear bumper looks like it came from a Volkswagen Type 3 Squareback, cut in half, and separated a few inches, leaving a gap that the earlier photos showed once held a tow hitch.

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Inside, we see a dash that looks in surprisingly good shape, along with a seat that seems oddly well-preserved, too. The shifter looks column-mounted, with a white shift knob that reminds me of a marshmallow stuck on a stick, awaiting the kiss of flame.

What fantastic little truck! Good find, Emily!

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Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
1 year ago

It still has a South African rear license plate, so I think some of that sleuthing could have been skipped. Great write-up.

Denis Maina
Denis Maina
1 year ago

My Dad had one of these, a petrol 404, back when I was in kindergarten. I’m a bit nostalgic as at a point it was the family hauler. Also, it seemed every shade tree mechanic had parts for it and could have it fixed on the side of the road. Not to mention it seemed to handle rural Kenyan roads very well. It was also my first time seeing brake failure first hand, when my uncle had to pump the brakes when approaching a busy roundabout. If I recall correctly, the Kenyan assembled trucks had white reflectors as well.

Last edited 1 year ago by Denis Maina
Ward William
Ward William
1 year ago

My granddad was a Peugeot mechanic so I grew up in 203s, 403s, 404s, 504s etc starting in the late 60s. The ride quality in the 404 was wonderful. They were bulletproof. Find a good one and you could DD that sucker even today.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ward William
Steve Schwinghammer
Steve Schwinghammer
1 year ago

Hey Torch, can you do an explanation on CA emissions and vehicle inspection requirements? I always hear that it’s impossible to keep old cars in CA because of their regulations, and DT’s stories about moving out there seem to confirm that, but then you see cars like this. How do these cars exist in CA? Are they registered somewhere else, or are there exemptions for pre-OBDII or classics like in other states?

Help me understand!

3D-DesignerWagoon
3D-DesignerWagoon
1 year ago

CA emission Laws are for cars after 1975. Anything Pre 75′ gets a thumbs up to be on the road without SMOG checks. hope this helps

Manuel Verissimo
Manuel Verissimo
1 year ago

Damn you Torch. I found a cheap one close to home and now I’m considering putting my finances in jeopardy again!

Ward William
Ward William
1 year ago

Questionable choices must be made. Ask Tavarish.

Tim Cougar
Tim Cougar
1 year ago

Speaking of South Africa market uniqueness, I recently learned a version of the AMC Hornet called the Rambler Hornet was built in South Africa – in a factory owned by Toyota and powered by a Chevrolet engine.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
1 year ago
Reply to  Tim Cougar

Those Chevrolet engines (the old 230ci six and four-cylinder derivatives) were installed in tons of machines, due to South Africa’s local content laws which were based on weight. A locally built, heavy-ass engine made a lot of sense.

Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
1 year ago

A pickup truck perfectly suited for Lieutenant Columbo! 🙂

…Just one more thing……..

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
1 year ago

I can smell the inside of that car.

A family member had a contemporaneous 504 and there’s something about the seat vinyl + motor fluids smell that’s unmistakable.

Amberturnsignalsarebetter
Amberturnsignalsarebetter
1 year ago

I kinda love the SNCF Orange color. It feels like the perfectly French equivalent of Forest Service green.

Ben Duke
Ben Duke
1 year ago

And what about the Peugeot 505 sedan you can see in the first and 3rd of the 404, is it the same one, not sure I can’t enhance this page, I think it’s an error 404.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ben Duke
Doug Kretzmann
Doug Kretzmann
1 year ago

can confirm, shifter is column-mounted, 4 speed. OE the knob is grey soft plastic. Source: the 1970 Peugeot 404 I learned to drive on in S. Africa..
That was a terrific car, shockingly reliable and sturdy. Thank you and Emily for showing this one, now I need to visit LA and that Peugeot specialist shop..

Dsa Lkjh
Dsa Lkjh
1 year ago

We used to have a Peugeot 504 Diesel pick-up work truck.

Terrible but also unkillable. We did just awful things to that truck.

My first day at work we drive to the beech and ate a bag of chips (think really fat French fries, I’m not sure what you call them over there), then rattled our way to the supplier down the coast to fill it up with cast iron doodads, then scrapped our way back to the warehouse. I learnt a lot about workplace skiving at that job, and this was before we had the internet on phones to help with that.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
1 year ago
Reply to  Dsa Lkjh

Wait they made a 504 pickup truck?!

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
1 year ago

Yep, I have a 1982 French brochure for a 504 pickup and saw them all over Israel. They are effectively the French HiLux. One of my daydream custom ideas was to fit a 504 pickup with US spec hquad headlights, bucket seats and a floor shift, plus alloy wheels as a custom mini truck

Ward William
Ward William
1 year ago

Yep, we still have quite a few on the road here in Brazil where I have lived for 30 years. All Diesel. Built in Argentina. Damn Brazilian government only allowed imports of the ute version, but not the 4 door saloon sadly.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
1 year ago
Reply to  Ward William

My mother photographed a four-door 504 Pickup in Brazil, amazing vehicle.

Timohb
Timohb
1 year ago

I love this about SoCal! I never know what I’ll see next. Yesterday I saw a Spectre.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
1 year ago

Cool. My Dad owned several old models. The first one was a car like Colombo drove. Very cool back in 1960 or so. Thanks Torch.

Chronometric
Chronometric
1 year ago

The designers left a perfectly flat place to mount good-sized taillights aside the tailgate. And then they placed tiny ones in a terrible position down low.

Chronometric
Chronometric
1 year ago

That is some good Autopian.

TheHairyNug
TheHairyNug
1 year ago

LA is THE car spotting town

Matt Sexton
Matt Sexton
1 year ago

You had me at “Peugeot diesel pickup”. What the hell? I didn’t even know there was any such thing.

DubblewhopperInDubblejeopardy
DubblewhopperInDubblejeopardy
1 year ago

I think that truck is ripe for a conversion to an L28 motor, preferably massaged by Rebello Racing.

Acrimonious Mofo
Acrimonious Mofo
1 year ago

Looks like Emily found a little treasure trove of Peugeots. There’s one parked behind the truck, and another a little further down the street. Color me intrigued.

Acrimonious Mofo
Acrimonious Mofo
1 year ago
Reply to  Maymar

That google street view gave me some feels.

Doug Kretzmann
Doug Kretzmann
1 year ago
Reply to  Maymar

thank for the 404na link.
Well worth reading on there, an account of the 404 performance in the African rally races of the 60s..

Tippett – Article Africa Rally | peugeot404na

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
1 year ago

Crazy it hasn’t been towed or ticketed. Everywhere I’ve lived, you can’t street park an unregistered vehicle.

Sid Bridge
Sid Bridge
1 year ago

Didn’t you see Lethal Weapon 2? It’s South African – DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY!

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
1 year ago
Reply to  Sid Bridge

touché

Flyingstitch
Flyingstitch
1 year ago

I’m fixated on the ad copy, specifically the misplaced hyphen in the phrase “fine tooth-comb.” Did tooth-combs precede toothbrushes, or were they an evolution? Do they untangle and straighten your teeth? So many questions.

S13 Sedan
S13 Sedan
1 year ago
Reply to  Flyingstitch

The tooth comb actually predated floss. We always had brushes but you needed something more rigid to get in between the teeth.

Joshua Mackay-Smith
Joshua Mackay-Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Flyingstitch

It really should be “fine-tooth comb,” but people can’t be expected to get every detail right.

A. Barth
A. Barth
1 year ago

It really should be “fine-toothed comb”, since it is describing the comb as having fine teeth.

The ad also describes the trucks as being “Thoroughly built”, which I think we can all agree is perfectly accurate. 🙂

The Matts
The Matts
1 year ago
Reply to  A. Barth

That is a perfectly cromulent description.

Dar Khorse
Dar Khorse
1 year ago
Reply to  Flyingstitch

Fun fact: tooth-combs were only ever marketed in the UK.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
1 year ago
Reply to  Dar Khorse

Did they ever catch on though?

Delta 88
Delta 88
1 year ago

It’s got a different rear window, too. Man, what a neat little truck though.

I wonder, is there maybe any particular reason the owner has “RIGHT HAND DRIV” in mailbox letters on the tailgate? Just aesthetics, or general quirkiness perhaps?

Flyingstitch
Flyingstitch
1 year ago
Reply to  Delta 88

Helpful note to any cop who may pull them over?

Delta 88
Delta 88
1 year ago
Reply to  Flyingstitch

I suppose? I feel like it would maybe be pretty obvious to anyone following behind the truck lol

Maymar
Maymar
1 year ago
Reply to  Delta 88

Between that and “DIESEL” it seems to be a subtle warning to drivers behind to chill out, because they’re not going anywhere quickly.

Beer-light Guidance
Beer-light Guidance
1 year ago
Reply to  Maymar

Actually it says “DIESE” I’m assuming the “BOFA” fell off.

Maymar
Maymar
1 year ago

Good catch – that slow, you probably want to conserve weight wherever you can.

ES
ES
1 year ago
Reply to  Delta 88

i was watching some show or movie recently and a U.S. miltary truck in the UK had the warning: caution left hand drive painted on the tailgate. it’s a thing for fish out of water?

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
1 year ago

Cool discovery. This, car builders, this is what a small truck looks like, remember? Make something this size.

Chronometric
Chronometric
1 year ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

I love this truck but it is underpowered, unsafe, difficult to drive, and not mainstream attractive. The Ford Maverick Hybrid (which I also really like) is the closest you will get to this truck in the modern world.

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