Peugeot – the family streamline
Text by

Dr. Oliver Schnaedelbach


1948 Berline and 1939 Berline Luxe
202 1948 Berline Luxe and 202 1939 Berline. Note the differences between the pre- and postwar models. The latter has been fully restored, while the former retains much of its original condition. However, the indicators in the front wings and the mirror have been taken from a 1960s 204 model.

Peugeot is one of the oldest french carmakers, having started as a mechanical factory and foundry in the early 1800s in eastern France. Later the company took up production of bicycles (in 1885) and, from 1889 on, motor cars. In the 1920s and, incidentally, between 1950 and 1980, Peugeot had a reputation to produce slightly dull, but eminently reliable vehicles which were easy to drive.

The post-1929 crisis was overcome with the help of the utterly practical model 201, 201also the first to sport the later patented cipher-zero-cipher scheme still in use today. This car and the related, but larger models 301, 401 and 601, were still very much rooted in 1920s design, with upright radiators, windscreens and boxy shape. A sign for things to come might have been the luxury 601 eclipse convertible with its electrically retractable metal roof from the spring of 1934. Two events shook the company in 1934: Citroen intoduced the now famous 7CV, called Traction Avant (front-wheel-drive), demonstrating modern technology in pleasing, though not revolutionary, design, and in America, Chrysler featured the first streamlined mass-produced car, the Airflow. 

402 Eclipse:
This car precedes a mercedes SLK by more than 60 years!

In Sochaux, the engineers worked feverishly on a successor to the now old-fashioned 401/601, and in 1935 the 402 was presented at the Paris Car Show. Motor journalists immediately dubbed the vehicle „the spindle of Sochaux“ and it is easy to see why: the body was aerodynamically smoothed, the headlights relocated to a position behind the grille, introducing the unique face of peugeot models until the war. 
In technical terms, the 402 was much more conservative than its arch-rival from Citroen, but nevertheless overhead valves and a partially synchronised three-speed box were decent technology. Later even an electric preselection gearbox by Cotal could be chosen. Soon the model palette was rounded up by convertibles, 6/8-seater models, and vans. In 1937 the 302 satisfied the demand for a scaled-down version, with a smaller engine and passenger compartment. 

This car has been subjected to a nut-and-bolt restoration. Seen at the Club Peugeot UK’s annual gathering at Shuttleworth, Beds., next to an earlier model from the 1920s.

A model called 402 Légère introduced in the same year is nothing but a 302 with the bigger engine – the Golf GTI of its day! One year later, the diminutive 202 was thrown on the market. With an overhead valve four cylinder unit of 1133ccm and 30 hp, the car competed with the likes of Simca 8, Renault Juvaquatre, Licorne 6CV and Rosengart Super Cinq and would have been bought by country doctors, travelling reps and young upstarts. Similar to the bigger models, peugeot offered a convertible, a soft roll-top called cabrio-limousine, and a vannette, and sells about 140.000 until the end of production in 1949, interrupted by the war between 1940 and 1946. The postwar models are of understandable austerity: no more „pilote“ wheels, no spare tyre cover, no more chrome handles on the seats, but at least decent hydraulic brakes are being introduced during the last production year. The models 302 and 402 haven’t even been restarted after the war, so the 203 of 1948 is the first new design in ten years.

1948 Berline and 1939 Berline Luxe
202 1948 Berline Luxe and 202 1939 Berline. The wing lights on the right-hand vehicle have been transplanted from a Renault 4CV in the sixties. Originally they were housed in the number plate arrangement above the spare wheel together with the brake lights.
Today, there may be several hundred vehicles still around in France, less than 20 in Germany and at the most 5 in the UK.

A brief history of the 202 pre-war model seen here:

1939 Berline Luxe Purchased by a lady in the southern Paris region in 1939 as one of the first 5000 ever built, the car was used as a daily commuter to work and survived the war behind a brick wall. Thus hidden, a fate as an German army commandeered vehicle probably destroyed in the russian plains could be avoided. After her death the car was bequeathed to her nephew who only used it sparingly and sold it to the present owner in 1996 due to moving house. Currently only used for shows or club runs at moderate speed (40 mph) due to its complete lack of safety equipment.

202 Interior:
The dashboard with an irritating array of knobs and handles, for ignition timing, starter button, battery lock or interior lighting. An ignition lock doesn’t exist. The knob in the centre of the (non-original) two-spoke steering wheel serves as a light switch and horn.

Technical Data:

Type 202 302 402 402 Longue 402 Légère 402B Légère
Years 1938-1949 1937-1940 1935-1940 1935-1940 1937-1938 1938-1940
Engine 4-Zyl. OHV 4-Zyl. OHV 4-Zyl. OHV 4-Zyl. OHV 4-Zyl. OHV 4-Zyl. OHV
Size 1133 ccm 1758 ccm 1991 ccm 1991 ccm  1991 ccm 2142 ccm
HP 30 43 at 4000 RPM 55 at 4000 RPM 55 at 4000 RPM 55 at 4000 RPM 63
Top Speed 100 km/h 
(62 mph)
105 km/h 
(65 mph)
120 km/h 
(75 mph)
115 km/h
(71 mph)
125 km/h 
(78 mph)
135 km/h 
(84 mph)
Length 411 cm 
(13ft 11in)
450 cm 
(15ft 3in)
485 cm 
(16ft 5in)
500 cm 
450 cm 
(15ft 3in)
447 cm 
(15ft 2in)
Width 150 cm 
(5ft 1in)
157 cm 
(5ft 4in)
165 cm 
(5ft 7in)
165 cm 
(5ft 7in)
157 cm 
(5ft 4in)
162 cm 
(5ft 6in)
Wheelbase 245 cm 
(8ft 4in)
(8ft 9in)
315 cm 
(10ft 8in)
330 cm 
(11ft 2in)
288 cm 
(8ft 9in)
288 cm 
(8ft 9in)
Weight about 1000 kg/
. 1195-1420 kg/
1265-1440 kg/
. .