Home » Unusual Euro Sedans: 1982 Peugeot 604 vs 1991 Mercedes-Benz 190E

Unusual Euro Sedans: 1982 Peugeot 604 vs 1991 Mercedes-Benz 190E

Sbsd 12 20 2023
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Welcome back to Shitbox Showdown! Today we have a pair of European sedans that you don’t see very often. Both are five-speed manuals, you’ll be happy to know, and both of them run, although one needs a little help in that department.

Often, I have a suspicion that one vehicle might run away with the votes, and yesterday was one of those days. And as it turns out, I was absolutely correct – a lot of folks thought the idea of the fire truck was cool, but the reality of it was less so, and the 300ZX cruised to a comfortable win.

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I mentioned yesterday that I wanted to know what cassette was in the 300ZX’s player, and a few of you offered guesses: No Jacket Required by Phil Collins, Under Lock And Key by Dokken, and Ministry’s Twelve Inch Singles were mentioned. All solid choices, in my book, and all definitely fit with the vibe of the car.

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Today, we’ve got the cars that I was planning to post tomorrow. However, as occasionally happens, one of today’s cars sold before I could start writing about it. Those of you who hate it when I do project cars dodged a bullet, I suppose – this was the car that sold:

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Yep. Most of a 1972 Alfa GTV. It sold for four grand, after being posted for only a couple of days. The classic car market has well and truly lost its collective mind.

So instead, we’re going to check out two old Euro sedans. One is a rare spec, and the other is just plain rare. Let’s see what you think of them.

1982 Peugeot 604 TD – $6,000

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Engine/drivetrain: Turbodiesel 2.3 liter overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, RWD

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Location: Minnetonka, MN

Odometer reading: 78,000 miles

Operational status: Runs and drives, but stalls – suspected fuel starvation

Peugeot left the US market after 1991, due to poor sales, but in other parts of the world, its cars are legendary. Peugeot diesels last forever, in some incredibly harsh environments. But the French brand never really caught on in America, despite making cars that were sturdy, comfortable, and good-handling. The smaller 504 and 505 sedans and wagons aren’t common, but you do see them once in a while. This 604 sedan, however, is a rarity, especially with the combination of a turbodiesel engine and a manual transmission.

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This 604 hasn’t seen much use, and the shores of Lake Minnetonka are certainly not as hard on cars as sub-Saharan Africa. Its 2.3 liter turbodiesel engine has only propelled this big square sedan 78,000 miles – barely broken-in by some standards. It runs and drives well, the seller says, but it has a fuel leak from the fuel filter housing, which causes fuel starvation after a few minutes. I don’t know how difficult a repair that is, but again, African farmers keep these things going for decades with baling wire and ingenuity.

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It looks quite nice and clean for a 41-year-old car, which is to be expected with the low miles. All of the electrical accessories work, including the very cool Blaupunkt radio with tape deck. For this one, I suppose the appropriate cassette would be Serge Gainsbourg?

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Some European designs of the 1970s and 80s were able to weather the onslaught of safety regulations for the US market with some dignity and style. Sadly, the Peugeot 604 is not one of them. This Pininfarina-designed sedan is handsome with trim European bumpers and glass composite headlights, but the American-required 5 mph bumpers and rectangular sealed-beam headlights give it a face only a mother could love, and a rear end that looks for all the world like a swim platform on the back of a boat.

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1991 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.6 – $3,900

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.6 liter overhead cam inline 6, five-speed manual, RWD

Location: Wakefield, MA

Odometer reading: 108,000 miles

Operational status: Runs and drives well

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There are six words that I imagine everyone here has uttered when looking at a car saddled with an automatic transmission: “If only it had a manual.” We all have found cars that would be perfect, except for the lack of a clutch pedal, and we all dream of finding the parts to swap in a manual gearbox. But how many of us have done it? Well, whoever owned this 190E before the seller did. This car left Bremen with a four-speed automatic, like nearly all of the models bound for the US did, but it now sports a five-speed stick.

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Honestly, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a 190E 2.6 with a manual. The four-cylinder models with sticks were rare enough. There’s no way of knowing how carefully the conversion was done, of course, but it’s not like swapping in a gearbox that doesn’t belong; manual 190Es are only rare here. The seller says it runs and drives great, so apparently the transplant was a success.

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The “2.6” in this car’s name refers, of course, to the single overhead cam M103 straight-six engine under the hood. There is nothing wrong with the 2.3 liter four in most 190Es, but German sedans and inline sixes go together like peanut butter and chocolate. This is a smooth, strong, durable engine that really suits the “baby Benz” well.

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You know there has to be a catch, though, and in this case it’s the old European car Achilles heel: rust. Most of the car is fine, but there are some worrying photos in the ad of the jack points underneath. It looks like it’s rusting from the inside out, which is bad. This car’s days are numbered. It won’t crack apart tomorrow, but it won’t last forever either.

I know a lot of you shy away from European cars altogether, but I think they get an unfairly bad reputation. Yes, they’re higher-maintenance than Japanese or American cars, but keep them up, and they can last a long time. And the road feel is something that has to be experienced to be believed. So which will it be: a rare French executive sedan with a legendary diesel engine, or a compact German six-cylinder converted to the proper transmission?

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Andreas8088
Andreas8088
5 months ago

The benz is way too close to no longer passing MA state inspection, and I think the MA owner knows it, so that’s a definite pass. Plus, I really dig that Peugeot! If it was closer, I’d be seriously considering it.

Cyko9
Cyko9
5 months ago

Although the Mercedes is more to my liking, there’s not really anything wrong with the Peugeot. You might save some money on the 190E, but that rust will kill it.

Matthew Binns
Matthew Binns
5 months ago

Oil burning Purrjoe for me. I had a 504 estate in the UK for a while and loved it – such efficient use of space and lovely to drive though it could have used a 5th gear or overdrive. I paid almost nothing for it and 30,000 miles later it blew its head gasket and I walked to the nearest village and left the keys with the first garage I came across in return for a lift to the station.
Accept that you may have to spend a little to tighten up the fuel delivery system and embrace the simple, spare styling.

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
5 months ago

I’m in Europeland and when my sister-in-law was looking for a car recently she asked me for a list of things to avoid. Being a good engineer I wrote a huge list that she couldn’t be arsed to read and just asked for a simpler list.

I replied with “No French cars, and remember Nissan is half French”.

So it’s the 190 for me.

She bought a Nissan.

Stig's Cousin
Stig's Cousin
5 months ago

I will take the Benz. It looks more fun to drive than the Peugeot, and I am a big fan of the styling of ’80s and ’90s Mercedes-Benz vehicles. It may be slowly rotting away, but it doesn’t appear structurally unsound and should be safe to drive for a few years.

I’m also skeptical of the Peugeot. This is another car sold broken with the seller implying it could be an easy fix. I presume the seller either suspects something else is wrong with the car or is aware that replacing a fuel filter housing in this vehicle is a tremendous pain in the ass. Either way, I am staying far away from this car.

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
5 months ago

Zut alors! J’ai besoin cette Peugeot!

And I’ll be that guy driving around my neighborhood blasting the “Ratatouille” soundtrack.

DONALD FOLEY
DONALD FOLEY
5 months ago
Reply to  Geoff Buchholz

Elli et Jacno, Main dans la main.

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
5 months ago

Huh… I never knew that the Peugeot 604 existed or that it was offered in North America.

Let alone with a diesel and a stick…

GIMME THAT PEUGEOT!

Clubwagon Chateau
Clubwagon Chateau
5 months ago

Welp, I s’pose it’s high time for me to learn to weld bodies! Merc it is! That powertrain and that model’s reputation for handling’s too much to resist for my vote.

Fjord
Fjord
5 months ago

I had an ’81 manual TD 604 for a couple years, and it was totally solid – supremely comfortable with very compliant suspension but not floaty, and with great steering. It was very slow as you’d expect. Always funny to get a thumbs up from truck bros while rolling coal on uphill grades, and confusing people at the diesel pump. I’m much more a small car guy vs. full-size sedans though, so I didn’t keep it but I can easily recommend one.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
5 months ago

Normally I would go running and screaming from a rusty German luxury sedan, but from DT’s standpoint, that one is clean and rust-free.

Never been a fan of oil burners, so I’ll save $2100 (yeah, I know, that is just a temporary savings) and go with little Benz.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
5 months ago

Pepe Le Pewgot

I voted for the blue car. The Euro headlights and bumpers are probably swappable, if you really want to swap them.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with a built-in park bench in the back. You can sit on it for tailgating and other fun shit LOL

Also, it’s less-rusty than the white car

Last edited 5 months ago by Dogisbadob
Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
5 months ago
Reply to  Dogisbadob

Just needs a picnic table like those old CR-Vs.

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
5 months ago

The 604 has a built-in park bench. I’m taking my chance with a rusty less expensive (up front) 190E in this case

Kevin B
Kevin B
5 months ago

If the U.S. bumpers can be easily replaced with European bumpers, the decision is a slam dunk. I always wanted a Peugeot 505 or 604.

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
5 months ago

When I saw the headline talking about “unusual” cars my first reaction was that there’s nothing unusual about a “Benz 190”, but indeed you came through. It’s rare to see a six-cylinder 190, much less one that’s manual swapped.

The price on the Pug is a bit eye-watering and the rear bumper is butt-ugly (pun very definitely intended) but there’s an Autopian ride if I ever saw one. Figure out the fuel starvation problem and you’ll have a very stylish and unusual ride.

I’m not sure you could find it on cassette but I would be driving the Pug rocking some Igorrr like “Downgrade Desert”:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCqG9B8j-cI
French metal meets baroque, and well, it’s just weird and awesome. “Downgrade Desert” is described by one commenter as “An Atreides ornithopter pilot crashlands in the desert and has to haul ass back to Arrakeen in his broken stillsuit while a passing Bene Gesserit yells at him.”

Richard O
Richard O
5 months ago

I went with neither today, but I had to say something about that Peugeot. I’m familiar with BMW diving board bumpers, but the back one on the Peugeot is a poop deck.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
5 months ago
Reply to  Richard O

I was thinking it looked very much like a BMW rear, especially the tailights.

Richard O
Richard O
5 months ago

Yes. Very much like the 80’s E28 (528e, 533i, 535i)

EmotionalSupportBMW
EmotionalSupportBMW
5 months ago

So, the 190 has been for sale since at least July. I’ve kicked around the idea of heading down there and checking it out. The price is pretty good for a w201 (I think he started at like 7k though). However, the fact that this car hasn’t sold in six months tells me something is very wrong with it. If there is one place on Earth you could sell a w201 quickly, its Just Outside of Boston. There are so many MB collector types around there, if this was clean it would last maybe a week on Market.

So, using my insider knowledge to pick up Prince’s Peugeot. Which is probably also totally rusted out next to the cold waters of Lake Minnetonka. Maybe the Vikings could use it as a Love Boat or something. Anyways. game blouses.

Griznant
Griznant
5 months ago

Personally, after I purify myself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka AND have pancakes, I’ll check out the Pug. I think it’s the clear winner here. The game does indeed go to the Blouses.

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
5 months ago

Charlie Murphy!

Alexk98
Alexk98
5 months ago

That 604 has the most egregiously massive afterthought 5mph impact bumpers I’ve ever seen, and the novelty of that coupled with FAR less rust than the Benz makes it an easy win

Glutton for Piëch
Glutton for Piëch
5 months ago

Color me surprised, an old Benz that runs and drives, and will until the seat falls thru the floorpan. I’d go with that just because the same trans will work in an S124, but all the hard work has been done. Drive it till the doors are see-through then find a nice, rust free 124 (easy) and drive it till you die.

Also I’m eternally biased when it comes to old Mercs, especially the Bruno Sacco stuff. Just excellent.

Fruit Snack
Fruit Snack
5 months ago

The Benz is visibly too rusty.. the hood is already swiss cheese. Cars from Minnesota are also questionable, but the 604 must have been vacuum sealed to look that good on the outside.

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
5 months ago

Whoah, that’s a hard one:

Crazy wipers against crazy wiper!

Those Dunlop wheels on the Peugeot are absolutely wonderful, and the ones on the Merc a little too boy racer’y for me.

But having owned a 504 and seeing how much they rust, I’m guessing it’s about the same with the 604, and going with the 190. The not so dirty insides of that one also has a thing to say.

–Would have been nice to use the rear bumper of that Peugeot as a picnic bench on roadtrips though 😉

Last edited 5 months ago by Jakob K's Garage
Cheats McCheats
Cheats McCheats
5 months ago

Too many unanswered questions about the Benz. Would need a serious inspection before I pulled the trigger on it. So, Pug today please.

Toecutter
Toecutter
5 months ago

The Benz. It was built to not only last, but to be repaired back to good-as-new condition when something breaks. Mercedes stopped building them this good on the next generation that came after this model, and will probably never build them as good ever again. These, especially the diesel variants, are used in Africa as bush taxis with good reason.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNllOMDF0I4

It’s a waste of resources NOT to build cars to at least this level of simplicity, reliability, reparability, and longevity.

With modern EV technology, it in fact is greatly easier to do so and with even less maintenance involved over the life of the vehicle, yet the EVs we get are overcomplicated unrepairable landfill fodder that will last only as long as the battery, on purpose…

Last edited 5 months ago by Toecutter
Nycbjr
Nycbjr
5 months ago

Voted french today, rust at the jack points is a baaaaad sign!

Clark B
Clark B
5 months ago

Was gonna go with the Benz till I learned about the rust. Never buying a rusty car again, so Peugeot for me.

Mr. Asa
Mr. Asa
5 months ago

I’ll be happy to purify myself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka, however I’m gonna drive away with the Benz.

Edit: bet all of you a dollar David doesn’t get my reference.

Last edited 5 months ago by Mr. Asa
Nycbjr
Nycbjr
5 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Asa

prairie home companion i believe!?

Mr. Asa
Mr. Asa
5 months ago
Reply to  Nycbjr

Fairly sure that’s Lake Wobegon

Nycbjr
Nycbjr
5 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Asa

Oh yes!

Yngve
Yngve
5 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Asa

Who knows? DT might be a closet Prince fan…

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