French, that's what it's like!
Seriously, there are some aspects of car mechanics and design that only the French could conceive of, and the 304 has plenty of them! Quite why a fan belt has to go around so many corners I don't know, and the high pitched horn is hilarious. I especially like the pop up air vent grilles, which do a good impression of a toast rack.
If you're looking for a performance supercar this is not it, but, it is pleasant to drive. It's nimble enough to give you some fun through the bends - with just enough roll to remind you that you're in a French car - and 75bhp (when new!) in a light car means it is nippy enough. On the motorway it will just about take you to the speed limit, but well before 70mph it's crying out for a 5th gear that it doesn't have.
The big bucket seats are great, as are the S version oversized headrests, and a low seating position makes it feel like you're going quicker than you actually are. It's comfortable enough for long journeys - though it would be useful if the driver's seat could go back just an inch or two more for comfort. A smaller and chunkier steering wheel looks great on these cars and makes the pug feel sportier, but I guess the original large skinny wheel gives it authenticity.
The coach work is typically French - light and skinny. You know how some cars - like a classic VW Golf for example - feel really heavy and solid? Well the 304 doesn't. The lightweight panels flex very easily, so don't be tempted to stand on the bonnet of one! The boot is really huge for such a small car - plenty of room for a picnic hamper or a breakdown rescue kit, depending on how confident you are.
Finding spare parts, in the UK at least, can be a tricky business. I had a donor car that I turned to from time to time, and I'd grab things from ebay well before I thought I needed them. There are a couple of excellent french forums where enthusiastic and helpful 304 owners gather, but be warned - try using google translate to describe the bit of carburettor you're looking for and see how far you get! All part of the fun!
Being so rare it does spark a conversation wherever it goes. Even drab petrol station attendants take an interest and raise a smile. And that, to me, is what this car is all about - a smile. It is not bling, it is not pretentious, it's not compensation for the less than well endowed. It's just a funny little French car with good looks and a decent drive that's rare enough to raise a smile. It's left field and fun.
Vive La 304!
Peugeot 304 and 304S Cabriolet / 1970s French Classic Car / Record of UK models.
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