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Peugette 104 Barchetta. The most unexpected version of the popular Peugeot

The relationship between Peugeot and Pininfarina has always borne interesting fruits. And it is that, Beyond the celebrated convertible and coupe versions of the 504 in 1969, the Italian bodybuilder is responsible for such elegant designs as the 404 of 1960. With a style reminiscent of some Lancia at the time, this was the first step in a collaboration that has had as its last great icon the 406 Coupé from 1996. A beauty with flowing lines offered first from Pininfarina to Ferrari and that, For the ultimate good of Peugeot, Maranello ended up rejecting. An episode where the icing on the cake is the prototype 406 Toscana.

However, the history between both brands has also left projects on the way. Vehicles that embodied an intelligent idea but ultimately not put into practice. This is the case with 104 Peugette. A creation presented by Pininfarina at the Turin Salon in 1976 with the signature of Aldo Brovarone. And yes, you just read two things right. The first is that this Peugeot barchetta based on rectangular lines is the brainchild of the designer of the Dino 246GTB and the Alfa Romeo Superflow. Something that should not surprise us, since the prolific Italian designer embraced the straight line in the XNUMXs with the same dedication that in the previous decade he venerated the curve. In fact, Aldo brovarone introduced its Lancia Gamma Coupé the same year as the 104 Peugette.

The second is that, far from being Peugeot that commissioned a prototype from Pininfarina as an exercise in style, it was the bodybuilder himself who devised this Peugeot barchetta alone to offer himself to the French company as a manufacturer. Something not so strange, well Pininfarina's logistics at its San Giogio Canavese factory have enabled it to assemble large series cars there. In fact, the 406 1996 Coupé was produced there with mechanics sent by Peugeot from France. An industrial approach that leads us to the following conclusion: far from being a simple experiment, the 104 Peugette was made with the intention of being brought to market. But why did this go wrong?

104 PEUGETTE. MUCH MORE THAN A STYLE EXERCISE

Seeing on the news some fashion show held on this or that international catwalk, many of us have heard about "No one would wear that". And it is true, since most of these creations are pure exercises in style unthinkable for mass production. So why are they made? Well, precisely to rehearse. To experience the limits of what is possible and thus be able to study trends. Just the same job for which car designers make their concept cars. Radical proposals impossible to bring to dealers, but brilliant when it comes to influencing for years to come.

The years between the late 20s and early XNUMXs are a good example of this. And it is that, although design exercises such as the Lancia Stratos Zero or the Ferrari Modulo would have been a nonsense in the market to which in fact they did not reach ... The truth is that they have exerted a decisive influence on everything that came in the following XNUMX years . In that sense, the 104 Peugeot Barchetta looks like another prototype without a desire to reach series. However, his intention was just the opposite. In fact, Pininfarina devised it on their own, thinking that Peugeot would be seduced by the idea of ​​making a small sports car as original as it was inexpensive.

That was the approach with which Pininfarina He thought to put sportsmanship and the most disruptive design within the reach of a daring youth in their tastes. And be careful, because with market studies in hand, the idea was more than interesting and profitable. After all, in the mid-XNUMXs the niche of a fun little popular sports car with flamboyant design was deserted. Even more so if we take into account that any Lotus or Alfa Romeo was priced well above what this 104 Peugette would have gone. Something extendable to the VW / Porsche 914-4. For this reason, Pininfarina thought how interesting it would be to do it on the basis of a compact as efficient and sold as the Peugeot 104. However, nothing went as expected.

PININFARINA LOOKING AT PEUGEOT AND PEUGEOT LOOKING AT CITROËN

Conceived as a car of simple and economic construction, the 104 Peugette had the young market in its sights. In fact, to simplify its production Pininfarina provided symmetrical body panels, the rear and front bumpers being the same. This was very economical both in terms of the assembly line and the supply of spare parts, making the Peugette an interesting product for people with low purchasing power. However, the truth is that this type of buyer does not usually opt for cars more focused on whim than on practicality.

Furthermore, what definitely kept Peugeot from the siren songs of Pininfarina was the purchase of Citroën. And it is that, the same year that the Peugeot barchetta was presented, the lion brand made the purchase of Citroën, turning all its financial effort to create mass-market cars to ensure the operation. Thus, the truth is that the Italians chose the worst moment to present their idea, which various specialized media of the moment regretted. Not surprisingly, having seen this series-produced 104 Peugette would have been most exciting. In fact, looking at some of the few tests that the press could do confirms a fun and powerful driving experience.

Something possible thanks to the fact that this vehicle is based on the 104ZS from 1976. Sports version of the utility capable of delivering 66CV with its four-cylinder in-line engine. Apparently not very high power, but more than enough for a car weighing less than 800 kilos and which, thanks to the widened rims or the barchetta body, ensured strong sensations at the wheel. Unfortunately, only the two experimental units were manufactured. One with two seats and the other with a single seat. Both crowned with a safety arch that provided greater rigidity in the curves. Just the natural terrain where this delightful creation by Aldo Brovarone promised to be a fantastic toy.

Photographs: Pininfarina.

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Miguel Sánchez

Written by Miguel Sánchez

Through the news from La Escudería, we will travel the winding roads of Maranello listening to the roar of the Italian V12; We will travel Route66 in search of the power of the great American engines; we will get lost in the narrow English lanes tracking the elegance of their sports cars; We will speed up the braking in the curves of the Monte Carlo Rally and we will even get dusty in a garage while rescuing lost jewels.

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