PAST OWNER : MARK SCARFE
Back in the 1980s during a holiday to the extraordinary little village of Menet in France, a funny little car by the side of the road caught my eye. It's big bug eyes just appealed to me somehow. I made a mental note of it, and when I got back to Blighty I looked it up in the Exchange and Mart (remeber that?!). It was a Peugeot 304 Cabriolet. I decided, one day, I'd like to have one.
The years rolled by and I always had an excuse not to own one (no garage, kids, little cash). Then a very good friend of mine died, way too young, from cancer. During his last days he said to me life is short - get on and enjoy it. I thought what the hell, lets get that 304 convertable. I found one on ebay that looked reasonably sound, bid, and won the auction for an unseen 304 at a modest price. So that was me sorted - a classic car owner.
I took a train from Norwich via London to Worthing to collect the car. I was delayed for a couple of hours due to a suicide (someone had thrown themself onto the track). The 'life is fragile' message hit home again, and I still often wonder what life that poor person had endured. Eventually on a blisteringly hot summers day I reached Worthing, and a driveway in which sat a funny little green car with big bug eyes . . .
The journey back from Worthing to Norwich was interesting, and a little scary. I knew the car had been laid up for a few years, so I treated it gently and kept to below 50mph. That meant cars, lorries, coaches et al were thundering past my little tin can. I felt pretty vulnerable to be honest.
I really didn't expect to make it back without incident, and anticipated breaking down in a haze of smoke and steam. All the way home I was keeping an eye on the left hand side of the road for a suitable bale out zone should the little Pug give up on me. But I needn't have worried. The car, complete with a boot full of odd spares some of which I never did identify, made the 200 mile journey without missing a beat.
A few days later I took my new Pug to my 'old-school' mechanic for a once over. He swore and grumbled something bad under his breath in brummie drogue when I showed him what I had bought. "Awe bloody 'ell". But after giving it a safety check and service, he conceded I had bought a decent motor. And so I had.
Fortunately my Pug was structurally sound from the off, with a reliable (if not original) engine. Previous owners had clearly done a lot of work on the car - there was evidence of welding underneath and on the bulk head, and not all of the work had been done sympathetically . . . several parts were in place that belonged to other models of 304s, or worse still other brands of car. The previous owner had SJN resprayed (fortunately in the same, original moss green spec) but there was some blistering to the finish, and generally the paintwork looked dull. The paintwork was also quite rough to the touch. The engine had been replaced (by Darius Brunch according to the previous owner) and although clearly a 304 engine, I wasn't convinced it was a 1.3 304S version. There was no past paperwork or service records.
None of that mattered too much - it was on the road, looked quite nice, drove well and gave me a bit of a project. It jjust needed a new owner with enthusiasm to give it the TLC it needed - perfect!
After buying the car in 2007 I gradually improved the condition of it, including . . .
- the paint work was clay barred, polished and protected; there are excellent articles on www.polishedbliss.com on how to do this correctly. It was really enjoyable, and the paint finish was improved tremendously both in look and feel. Poorboys Natty Past Wax was applied a couple of times a year to protect the finish and to give a warm, natural shine.
- the interior was thoroughly cleaned and minor repairs made; I tried several products on the interior before settling for 'Poorboys Natural Look' for the trims, dash, rubbers and seats. I really like that product - so simple to use, and leaves a naturally low sheen finish with none of the sticky or tacky issues you get from the likes of 'cockpit shine' and similar. Smells amazing too!
- chrome decals were restored or replaced as appropriate; on purchase, the little pug had mismatched wiper arms and wing mirrors, and heavily tarnished badges. Tracking down the correct replacements took time, but made a big difference to the appearance of the car once they were found and fitted.
- the original door cards and carpets (not restorable) were replaced; I used standard automotive carpet 'off the roll' for the interior, and found a supplier in France who produces modern door cards for the 304 can which are a very good match to the originals (new originals are not made anymore and impossible to find).
- when replacing the door cards I created a new problem - where to fix the speakers. They were in the doors originally, but I really didn't fancy cutting holes in my expensive new door cards. My solution was to site the speakers in the side of the footwells, and hand make a couple of custom speaker grilles from perforated metal sheet to fit. The solution worked perfectly and looked so right I wonder why peugeot didn't do it in the first place.
- the seats and tonneau cover were brilliantly refurbished by a local specialist; they were in decent condition to start with, but he really brought them to life and I doubt if any 304 has better seats than SJN.
- All the lights and lenses were replaced with NOS originals. I still remember the joy of replacing the two cracked rear light clusters with two brand new ones . . . they are like gold dust to find, and after a long wait they transformed the back of the car.
Only very minor welding was required, nothing out of the ordinary for a classic, and MOTs were generally stress-free. It was used regularly during the summer months, garaged throughout the winter, and made occasional appearances at local shows. It didn't see rain - or a break down vehicle - once in my ownership.
I sold SJN in the Spring of 2017 after 10 years of very enjoyable ownership, and I already miss the fun of taking it out on warm, sunny days. It sparked so much conversation wherever it went - even staff on the tills at petrol stations stopped to chat about it. Still I'm really happy that the car left me in a much better condition than when I purchased it. Although not yet in concourse condition it is sound, presentable and reliable and with further TLC it could be a genuinely fine example.
A well behaved, usable, and now much-missed 304S!
This was my car for a highly pleasurable 10 years between 2007 and 2017.
Here's my story of ownership . . .
Peugeot 304 and 304S Cabriolet / 1970s French Classic Car / Record of UK models.
Website by scarfecreative.co.uk
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