A Peugeot 201 followed by a 402 streamliner on Flanders' roads: a beautiful sight!
Form the first to third of May this year, “l’Aventure Peugeot” held the 2009 edition of its annual international meeting at our Belgian coast. As one knows, Peugeot has at Sochaux its dynamic “Museum of Adventure”, which welcomes not only 100 000 visitors per year since its opening in 1988, but also organizes every year an international event with the co-operation of a local Peugeot historic Club, where the Museum cars take their outing.
This year, the meeting was organized together with the Belgian Club for Old Peugeots (BCOP), and what a “sortie” it was: not less than 215 historic Peugeots participated in the event!
The cars came from not less than 12 countries, from as far as South Africa and …Australia.
The Museum came up with some very unique examples, notably the 402 Eclipse and the Darl’Mat.
The type 163 Peugeot in a truly Belgian setting: on the dyke boulevard in Blankenberge, before a takeaway "frituur" or french fries stall...
I followed the cars on the 2nd of May, armed with my Nikon D40 camera on their drive from Blankenberge to Oostduinkerke, through the beautiful backroads through the polders, passing historic white painted farms and little villages. A more typical setting for historic Peugeots could hardly be found. I drove behind two participants in a 1919 type 163 open tourer, and was amazed at the ease and the speed with which the car took the winding roads in its stride. It kept an easy cruising speed of 40 to 50 kph, hardly slowing down for the bends, its narrow big wheels coping easily with every rabbit pothole the narrow dyke road had in store for the “Automobiliste” and its passenger.
A few minutes later, the 1919 Peugeot was motoring happily on the open Polder roads... the wonders of the automobile existed also 90 years ago!
Suddenly one realizes what a revolutionary invention the automobile has been at this beginning of last century, with cars travelling in a few minutes from the coastal town Blankenberge some kilometers away into the polders, able – if the driver had wanted it – to cover the entire Belgian coastline in just a bit more than an hour of driving!
A significant model from the post WWI era, the type 163 was an entirely new vehicle. Its 1.4 litre four-cylinder engine propelled it to 65 km/h, which the car reached again without apparent effort some 90 years later. Available in torpédo, saloon, coupé de ville (on the 163B long chassis) and utility body types, the type 163 would have a long career. Its 5 versions were built up to 1924, with 13,732 being built in total.
Before my lens appeared a 1939 402"B" streamliner, which had a more powerful 60 hp 2142 cc engine, making it fast for its day (some 130 kmh).
A few kilometers later I stopped to get a shot of the beautiful 402 and 302 streamliners, cars which Peugeot built in the 30’s and which set its reputation as a progressive and high-tech quality car manufacturer. Admittedly, the car was less revolutionary as the Traction of André Citroën, but well built nonetheless.
Named the “Sochaux Spindle”, this daring design by Henri Thomas, became part of the aerodynamic movement which was flourishing in the mid 1930's in the United States and Europe. The design was inspired by the 1934 Chrysler Airflow but Peugeot improved the aesthetic aspect. With close-set eyes, hiding behind a convex radiator grille in the form of a shield, the 402's original front end panel was to be the new face of Peugeot.
Here one sees the 302 in action... similarly styled as the 402.
This seductive silhouette which was extended to the entire range up to the war (302, 202 and utility versions), and we show also a photo of a 302. Continuing on the 402, suffice it to say that under the bonnet was a four cylinder two litre engine with overhead valves together with 55 hp, enabling the car to reach speeds of up to 120 km/h. This was coupled to a silent, three gear gearbox or a four gear electro-mechanical Cotal gearbox, which was available as an option. The customer could choose between not less than seven bodywork versions with three cabriolet versions including a long version (the 402 L), and the light, high-performance versions of the 402. The car was built right up to the second world war, and went through several changes, particularly in 1939, when the car became the 402 B with a 2142 cc, 63 hp engine.
Some unique 402’s: the Eclipse and the Darl'Mat.
A beautiful cabriolet version was the 402 Éclipse Décapotable, featuring the first powered retractable hardtop which had been designed, and in 1931 patented, by Georges Paulin. The retractable roof system was incorporated into various low volume Peugeot cabriolets in the 1930s, assembled by Émile Darl'mat’s Paris-based Peugeot dealer and coachwork business — which also produced aerodynamic sports coupé 402s following the line of the coach builder’s own body for the Bugatti Type 57 Atlantic.
The age of Pinin…
I still slowed further down and got the Nikon lens eye to eye with the so typically styled Peugeot 203, with the coupé versions of this car timidly announcing the inclination of Peugeot for Italianate styling, as the window surrounding of these coupé 203’s shows. The 403 breathes even more the classic Latin shapes, finding its pinnacle with of course the Pinin Farina styled 404. Peugeot was set to hold on for years to this style, and it certainly does the “Marque” no harm: the cars age very well indeed.
We let you enjoy this nice event further with the photos I took with the Nikon D40 at an ASA 800 setting for extra sharpness, and indeed we can agree with the organizers, it is not only a museum, but also a “rolling” adventure... in which not only the Museum cars, but even members of the Peugeot family themselves participated!