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Swap Time? 1960 Peugeot 403 Estate

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Jamie PalmerBy Jamie Palmer

Normally, I’m a fan of keeping cars relatively stock–this cute little Estate  is an exception. With the engine and some interior and exterior components missing, but a pretty solid body shell and suspension, I think this car is a perfect candidate for a small modern engine to be dropped into that engine compartment with a five or six speed transmission. The is located in Old Saturn Land, otherwise known as Spring Hill, Tennessee, and is listed for sale here on eBay, where bidding is only up to $560 and there’s no reserve to put a damper on your enthusiasm!

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Getting right to the point, here’s the hole you are trying to fill. As you can see, the car is really structurally sound with a conventional front engine/rear-drive configuration and a shifter on the column. If it were mine, as the buckets in the interior aren’t original anyway, I’d go for a pair of nice looking junkyard bucket seats and use a floor shifter. Since my favorite seats ever were the buckets from a Peugeot 505, maybe I could find those? How about a late model small pickup drive train–Ford, Toyota, Nissan? Although the original four cylinder, 1468 cc engine had a hemi head, it only produced 65 horsepower and 75 ft-lbs of torque, so any late model engine would be a major improvement! Don’t forget to plan on a brake upgrade too, and you might as well put dual-circuit brakes on at the same time. Again, a small pickup might be the answer for that as well.

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The bumper appears to be from a later Peugeot and really doesn’t fit well with the car. Since there isn’t a front bumper, I think I might go bumperless, or possibly just a strip of stainless steel front and rear like this. That shell sure looks straight, though, doesn’t it?

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It’s useful, too, with a nice load floor here and space for the spare tire and tools below. With a little padding back here this would be a great place for our dogs to ride in style. And with the weight of the original car at 2575 pounds, you should get decent performance and mileage from my proposed swap. So what do you think? Would you be interested in that combination? Would it be worth the trouble? Or are there any Peugeot purists out there that would restore this unusual Estate? I look forward to reading your comments!

 

 

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Comments

  1. Dave Wright

    Why……..this should already be trusses for a bridge.

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  2. Cassidy

    I like your plan, Jaime! Nice little car made better with a mechanical upgrade and that back door! Stinking awesome! Might be pretty inexpensive shopping at the junkyard for the drivetrain and interior. Mustang II frontend too?

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  3. Walter Joy

    Needs a 4wd drivetrain

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  4. Jim Mc

    Subaru AWD swap. Like an Outback Legacy, but more Frenchy, more styley.

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    • CarNut from Winnipeg

      Looks pretty narrow down there for a boxer. How about Celica All Trac donor?

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  5. Zaphod

    Little Nissan engine and transmission and this would be a winner. Check the rockers though, they’re painted black, not a good sign with French unibodies. 403 mostly led hard lives.

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  6. Derek

    A newer Peugeot engine would be the obvious choice.

    Is that a Renault 17 beside it? Haven’t seen one of them in ages.

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    • George

      You can melt the car down for a steel beams or mail it to Africa where there may have a need for parts. Peugeot wagons are extremely popular
      In that region.

      But the Renault 17!? That’s

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  7. Howard A Member

    It’s different, that’s for sure. Never seen a 403 wagon. I’d think that narrow box frame might limit your engine choices to an in line engine. Plenty to choose from. And that rear axle looks like the old “quick-change” axles in hotrods. IDK, pretty limited appeal.

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  8. Andrew marshall

    Hey dont forget what columbo drove, 1959 model 403 convertible of the 504 produced he had 2 of them

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  9. Sam W

    I would put the 2.0 litre petrol out of the 504, strong engine with plenty of power. I own 3 peugeot 504 here in the UK

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  10. Chas H

    My first car was a ’59 403 sedan, bought in ’63. My father was so impressed he bought a 403 wagon much like the featured car. He kept it until the road salt ate it up. I don’t think he made a single repair; and drove through the winters on the Michelin X tires just fine. It did have a distinctive whine from the worm gear final drive.

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  11. Bruce Best

    A Wankle engine would fit and be a similar weight so that could work easily. You would even have plenty of room for air conditioning.

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  12. Bill McCoskey

    My dad bought one of these brand new, a 1959 model, but a slightly different variant; our was called a Familiale. The rear seat was located almost all the way in the back, there was enough room to put a few grocery bags back behind the seat. The big difference was the set of folding jump seats, just like a limousine, they were full width and could handle 3 people sitting on the jump seats. The car had no problem fitting 8 people in it, except for not having enough power to go up hills when loaded with everyone.

    Years later dad said the local foreign car dealer [Manhattan Auto in Bethesda, MD], had bought several of these 3 row seat Peugeot 403 cars, planning on selling them for Taxicab use in Washington DC. Problem was, the dealer didn’t realize the DC Taxicab regulations required a separate large trunk for luggage, and they couldn’t be used as Taxicabs!

    Dad said he actually bought the car in late 1960, already almost 2 years old, for about $800 brand new! later he removed the back seat and built a wooden cargo area, and my brother & I simply sat in the jump seats [without seat belts]. The jump seats, when open, sat atop the cargo floor, and when folded forward, dad could fit a 4×8 plywood panel in there at a slight angle.

    Other than rebuilding the carb in about 1965 in an effort to get better gas mileage, and putting a set of brake shoes on it, dad never any problems with the car, it never let us down. In 1969 he sold the 403 with at least 90,000 miles on it.

    He sold the car to friends who were Australian, and while I don’t remember the reasons why, they drove the car on a multi-year long trip from Maryland down to the southern tip of South America, and another trip, top to bottom in Africa, before bringing it home to Australia.

    And what did dad buy to replace the Peugeot? A 2 year old white Porsche 911 with a 5 speed!

    In 1973, after finding out that both front torsion bar suspension mounts had rusted badly and were close to collapsing, dad drove the Porsche into the local Lincoln Mercury dealer [Safford L-M in Silver Spring, MD] and traded it even up on a brand new Mercury Capri! Was I ever upset when he came home with his new Capri! There went my hopes for owning that Porsche 911!

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  13. Ross W. Lovell

    Greetings All,

    I’ve seen Peugeot wagons but the roof line looks a little high, like an ambulance.

    The front end looks like a Nash/Hudson product, the rear, not so much.

    Engine transplant……anything in a four banger with a good OD auto should do and will be an improvement. I’d recommend a V6 but doubt the diff would handle that upgrade.

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  14. Paul B

    Our whole family went to the local Peugeot dealer in ’60 and looked at the 403 wagon. I liked the car, but I remember Dad being concerned the four cylinder engine wouldn’t deliver adequate performance while hauling us all. The salesman tried to assure him it would, but Dad didn’t seem convinced. After looking at the Falcon, Rambler and Valiant — and liking none of them — my folks ordered and about six weeks later took delivery of a new Lark V8 wagon. We kept it for ten years and wore it out. It was a tough go for North American Peugeot dealers in ’60 with all the new domestic compacts out, so these wagons are super rare in the US. I hope someone rescues this one.

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  15. Richard V

    My folks bought a ’60 Peugeot 403 sedan from the dealer and drove all 4 of our family from Glendale, CA to Kentucky on a road trip that same year. Four years later I learned to drive in that car. Great car and, like Volvos of that era, very robust. I wish I still owned it!

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  16. Richard V

    The grille appears to be from an earlier year.

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    • Jim Norman

      No, the grille is correct. The earlier versions of the 403 sedan and wagon had a grille with a single horizontal chrome bar. It was replaced in later years by the grille you see on this wagon. I know because I owned a ’59 sedan. Among the features that I loved: front seats that reclined all the way to make a (somewhat lumpy) bed; funky two-tone horn, steel sunroof, door lock buttons that poullked up to lock, pushed down to unlock — and best of all, it came with a crank that inserted in a hole under the grille to start the engine if the battery or starter ever failed! I used that feature a lot.

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      • Richard V

        Our 1960 had the horizontal bar grille. We bought it new from the dealer.

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  17. Chas H

    One morning the battery in Dad’s 403 wagon was dead. When we jumped it with another battery the headlights came on. That was puzzling as Dad had parked the car in its garage at night and there was no way the head lights on would not have been noticed. We found some animal tracks on the front fender and the drivers vent window open. I had a raccoon for a pet at the time, which ran around free. During the night, it had pushed open the vent window and then stepped into the car putting a paw on the headlight lever and turning them on. The surprised ‘coon bolted without turning them off.

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  18. Alexander

    I looked at this car yesterday. Don’t let the black on the rockers fool you, the frame is good and the body (except lower extremity mild steel) is sound. The fact that the car may sport some mis-matched parts doesn’t surprise me. This is part of a big Frenchie’s estate and the seller has grouped things haphazardly. The R17 is beautiful and unique, but be prepared for the swiss cheese you’ll find in the cargo bay and floors. The hardtop design has not been kind to this cool car…most of the window glass has not been rolled up for years.

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    • MikeH

      The R17 to the right and a 404 Peugeot wagon on the left. I would love to see the rest of this guy’s collection.

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  19. CC

    And a 404 peugeot at the right ?

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  20. Alexander

    All listed on eBay, MikeH. Hes had one deadbeat buyer on the R17 from some foreign land, so now back on I believe. $500 ask…

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  21. Michael Schine

    The size of a modern Honda Civic, but a turning radius of 30′ between walls could be fun in the city. Like many early European unibodies, narrow engine bay for Inline 4. While there was a conversion for similar Metropolitan to a Buick V-6 [GM 3800], I think the chose for this vintage and robust workhorse should be a turbo diesel, maybe from Peugeot. You need the torque for rear wheel drive, and the obvious loads of people and stuff you will carry. I can see a French Bakery repurposing this vehicle in French Blue, White, and Sunburst yellow! Vive La Différence! LOL

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  22. Alexander

    “Collection” can be viewed in Lynchburg, TN home of Jack Daniels Distillery. I am not affiliated with the seller. He is tough to get ahold of. But…everything he has is up on eBay and he lists his phone number. It’s not quite the “sight to behold” that everyone is making it out to be. Just a rarity in these parts!

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  23. Randall

    How about fab a frame and build a drag racer. Straight axle. ..blown V8 ..I’m seeing that parachute deployed now…well it’s just a thought.

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