The odd one out in the ex-Jaguar Land Rover James Hull collection sale is the 1938 Peugeot 402. It's a beautiful thing, but would you dare to buy it? We take a look
The Affordable Classics sale collection is, as you've probably gathered, mostly 1960s, '70s and '80s everyday classics – and there are some really interesting examples among them.
But in the middle of them all is the Peugeot 402, and boy, does it stand out. And not just because it's the oldest and the tallest.
This is a famously stylish car. One of Peugeot's all-time greats was the coachbuilt coupé version of the 402, the Darl'Mat, built by Carrosserie Pourtout, closely followed by the Georges Paulin-built convertible.
The car in the Brightwells sale isn't quite up the Bugatti-esque looks of those two, being the four-door saloon, but it's still one heck of a car. We were able to take a good look around it, and absolutely loved it – but it needs a lot of work.
The 402 is best-known for its front end, with headlights tucked away behind that sweeping grille. Streamlining was becoming fashionable by the mid-1930s, and Peugeot was one of the first mainstream manufacturers to adopt it.
It featured some advanced features for the period, such as those recessed door handles, designed for safety, and several that were considered luxurious at the time, such as the electric twin windscreen wipers, semaphore indicators, instrument panel clock, twin sun visors and the switchable fuel tank reserve.
Mechanically, it was utterly conventional, Peugeot leaving its rivals Citroën to push technological boundaries. It's simply a straight-four cylinder 2-litre overhead-valve engine, driving through a three-speed manual (though there was the option of a Cotal three-speed automatic) to the rear wheels.
The least sophisticated part of the design was the braking system, which was cable-operated drums rather than the hydraulic systems that were beginning to take over at this time.
But the relative simplicity of the design, and the sturdy chassis and thick metalwork of the body, will have helped this particular example survive. It's covered in surface rust, to the point that Brightwell's description of it being 'beige' in colour seems rather superfluous. But on a cursory look around the 402, there didn't seem to be any deep corrosion in the bodywork – the flimsiest parts are the rear wheel spats.
Underneath, it's a hefty chassis, with no shortage of surface rust. Does it go deeper than that? It' wasn't possible to tell from the quick look we were allowed, but the suspension mounting points looked sound. Under the bonnet, a modern fuel can demonstrates evidence of someone having attempted to start the Peugeot in recent times, but the fuel pump was empty, and the team haven't attempted to get this one going yet.
The interior takes 'patina' to new levels, the seat coverings and door panels certainly tired but still largely intact (we think) under layers of dirt. The brown-painted dashboard is lovely, with its sculpted alloy handbrake lever and bakelite-topped gearlever both poking out of the dash, either side of the long, (rusty) chromed steering column.
We like this Peugeot a lot. How great it would be to be able to keep the bodywork in its current condition, sealed to prevent further deterioration, and only restore the chassis and running gear. Food for thought...