Patrick Teague cycled through France to buy his 1968 Peugeot 404 Pick-Up
By the time I was 15, I’d been to lots of historic trials and race events with my dad, but I’d never spent much time in the workshop. That changed during lockdown, when he and I built an Austin Seven Ulster Rep together. Then I bought an MGB trials car that hadn’t been used for about five years, got it running and did a seasons trialling in it in MCC events, before selling it to put money toward this Peugeot.
MAN & MACHINE
I’d fancied a classic’ tow car for the Ulster and I was also planning to do some travelling, so I was thinking of either a camper or a van I could convert, but then my dad said: ‘What about a Peugeot 404 pick-up?’ I very quickly fell in love with the idea, especially since we wanted to have a proper father-son adventure. The plan was to go out to France on bicycles, buy something and drive it back.
Originally we were going to cycle between potential buys and then choose, but prices were starting to rise and so we decided to find one we liked online, put down a deposit and go out and get it. In June 2022 we found this 1968 example on the French website leboncoin.fr, for sale down in Narbonne on the south-east coast, so got the train part of the way and then cycled a couple of hundred miles, camping on the way. We’d already posted a load of tools and a few spares to the vendor s address, so we didn’t have to carry them on the bikes.
Fairly early on in the negotiations we’d realised that the seller was English! He’s an expat builder who also deals in old French vans and he turned out to be a really nice chap. This 404 was an ex-EDF electricity company pick-up, and you can see where the stickers used to be on the doors, but I really like the patinated look it has now.
About five minutes into our return journey the oil pressure warning light came on — until we realised the light is shared with the water temperature sender, and it was the engine that was overheating. That was a recurrent problem, due to incorrect jetting in the carburettor, so we did quite a lot of mixture tuning until it would at least drive OK, although it wouldn’t then tick over… My dad was doing all the driving — I was still 16 at the time — and sticky pedal linkages due to lack of use made things doubly interesting.
The engine also sounded rather tappety and eight months later I finally took the rocker cover off to find that seven of the eight doubled-up valve springs were broken. Trapped moisture had caused everything to become rusty and the oil would repeatedly go milky, something I’ve now cured by adding extra breathers. Being an early 404 pick-up, it has a 1.6-litre petrol engine with about 52bhp and a four-speed column ’change; it will cruise at 60mph but it gets noisy above that so I’m hoping to engineer an MGB overdrive into the tail housing of a spare 404 gearbox.
On the way back through France, we bought a tilt frame and hood from a lovely old couple and I’ve now made up a removable camper interior with a fridge and a kitchen unit, plus a sofa-bed. At the moment I’m using the Peugeot for a 45-minute commute to college where I’m studying for my А-levels, but next year I’ll drive it through France and Spain into Morocco. It will feel really good to be on the ‘right’ side of the road in it again!