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Peugeot 207 - part 1

Broadcast date : 25th June 2006


The much-anticipated Peugeot 207 arrives in South Africa this week. 

This little hatchback is the latest in the famous line of 2 Series Peugeot models, and made its debut in Europe a few months ago.

The 207 is built just outside Paris. While the famous Arc díTriomf presents one of the most daunting challenges to foreign drivers attempting its free-style lane-merging traditions for the first time, a much more relaxed experience awaits motoring fans a few hours outside Paris near Mulhouse, on the Swiss border.

The Adventure Peugeot Museum was built at Sochaux in 1988, where Peugeot has one of its largest assembly plants. 

Since then the museum has tripled in size, and attracts over 100 000 visitors each year.

The Peugeot name, with its famous Lion crest, pre-dates the dawn of the motorcar, with the first Peugeot car being built in 1889.

For us, the star of the museum was the 401 Eclipse.

Created by the famous French designer Paulin, it was the first car to feature a folding steel roof.

In the 1950s the idea was resurrected by Ford and later by Mercedes-Benz in the mid-1990s. But way back in 1934, the 401 Eclipse was to be seen on the Champs Elysees as the cafť society strutted their stuff.
The first Coupe Cabriolet, as we now know these cars, featured the beautiful flowing bodywork that became a hallmark of 1930s design, and no-one was better at it than the subtle French.

Mechanical ingenuity goes hand-in-hand with French car design, but in the 1930s this device must have seemed like magic from another dimension. The curved panels are raised and lowered by electric motors and steel levers, as this was an era that pre-dated the common use of hydraulics.

In the previous decade, the motorcar was still struggling to shed its horse-drawn roots in terms of body shape, and most designs were very box-like and upright.

Yet in 1929 a significant milestone was reached in Peugeotís history as the 201 made its appearance at the Paris Motor Show.

This was the first car to have a zero in its name, and the far-sighted Peugeot marketing people immediately registered all combinations of three numerals with a zero as the middle number.

Hence the Peugeot 207 can trace its direct lineage right back to the 201, which was introduced as a modest-sized economy model.

The advent of World War Two interrupted development, but by 1948, one of the most significant models in the companyís history was ready for production.

The 203 was a thoroughly modern car for a new era and in many respects way ahead of its time. It was sold in great numbers in South Africa, and featured a revolutionary monocoque chassis, where the body panels and floor pan are one unit, doing away with a conventional chassis.

The 203, produced in many forms including the delectable cabriolet version, also featured an overhead valve cylinder-head with hemispherical combustion chambers. Sorry, all you Chrysler Hemi fans, but Peugeot got there first.
By contrast, the next car in Peugeotís 2 Series was quite bland by comparison. But mechanically it was also advanced.

The 204 may have been mechanically advanced but exciting it wasnít. 

Nor were any other Peugeots of the time and it began to dawn on Peugeot management that the swinging sixties had passed them by and so had the sexy seventies.

Peugeot 207 - part 2

Peugeot 207 - part 3

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