Noise Vibration and Harshness

All in the Familiale: Buying a 1964 Peugeot 404

How one Peugeot fan went above and beyond for another

As I write, there is a 1964 Peugeot 404 Familiale seven-seat station wagon sticking out like a sore thumb in the barren parking lot of a shipping depot somewhere near Livingston, Montana. One day soon, a big truck will arrive to haul the thing—its original white paint, original three-row, red vinyl interior, 40,000 genuine kilometers, and all—across the country to New York. To me, if that’s not already obvious.

To me, but still an ocean away from France where it was built and then sold to someone in the diplomatic service back in 1964, before being taken to Canada and put away, still wearing its original plates, for a long, long slumber. I’m betting mine is the only 404 wagon getting trailered across North America, though let us know if you see or hear otherwise. This is surely the only one that began its journey north of Calgary in Red Deer, Alberta. And therein lies a story.

Peugeot of North America is a closed Facebook group currently claiming a membership of 382 persons, with a not insignificant Canadian cohort. (Join us, eh?) I fell in with the group when helping son Ike find his ’92 505 wagon. One night around midnight I noticed a posting on the PNA page alerting members to a Kijiji ad (Canada’s answer to Craigslist) for this absolute unicorn. I’ve loved 404s since childhood, especially the funky bus wagons, and this one’s originality, almost-unheard-of absence of rust, and the price of $5,000 Canadian—around $3,500 U.S.—caused me to jump out of bed to work the phones and interwebs to buy the car sight unseen. The unsustainability of the collector-car price bubble scares me, so it’s comforting that a lack of capital makes the “$3,500 and under” category the heart of my old-car investment strategy.

Did I mention this bargain voiture only ran with a handheld gasoline supply? And that its brakes didn’t necessarily work? And that it was in Red Deer, wherever that was? These things drifted through my thoughts as I climbed back into bed after elatedly joining the Familiale family. I didn’t realize how central they would become to my dilemma, which went like this: Cross-border shipping was prohibitively expensive, close to $4,000. However, if I could get the car to Livingston, Montana, a mere 580 miles away, it would cost less than a grand.

As I pondered this potentially time-consuming and costly predicament, an Albertan member of the group fatefully stepped forward. There are good Samaritans and there are great ones, and into this latter category falls Hugh Logie. Hugh offered unbidden to trailer the car for me to Montana with equipment he could borrow from his place of business—the airport, where he’s a flight instructor. But first he would have to drive to Red Deer, 265 miles from his home in Medicine Hat. He wouldn’t accept payment for his efforts, other than reimbursement for his gasoline.

I then learned from the shippers in Montana that the 404 absolutely had to run and stop before arriving, and that it wouldn’t be loaded if either function was lacking, meaning it would sit until it did both. So Hugh decided the only thing to do was to drag it back home to Medicine Hat to fix, which he did, restoring braking facility and troubleshooting the fuel system while rebuilding the carburetor, all at no charge. He then towed the car the 421 miles to Livingston and dropped it there before driving another 421 miles and enduring another border crossing the following day.

Peugeot 404 Familiale 2

Understand that Hugh Logie is a gainfully employed 41-year-old with a wife, children, and a busy job. But he is a dedicated Peugeot fan. In the name of preserving the marque and furthering its appreciation, he volunteered to spend many days and several evenings working on a car belonging to someone he’d never met. And he took additional days out of his life to drive more than 1,360 miles, during which time he nearly asphyxiated himself while napping in his borrowed diesel truck with a leaky exhaust he didn’t know about. All so I might get my 404 wagon home cheaply. The guy is a saint and a potent reminder how sometimes old-car people are the nicest people, like family, only nicer and even nuttier.

Photos courtesy Hugh Logie.

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