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Peugeot Classic Car History - Web Exclusive

Throughout its 200 years, Peugeot has developed a unique vision, enabling it to anticipate underlying trends.

200 years ago, two Peugeot brothers, Jean-Pierre and Jean-Frederic, established the Peugeot company with the creation of 'la societe Peugeot-Freres et Jacques Maillard-Salins'. The company was set up after the brothers had converted their father's corn mill into a steel mill to make the most of the industrial revolution, which was gathering pace.

Since then, the French company has been associated with saws, tools, steel crinoline stays, salt and pepper mills, coffee grinders, bicycles, motorcycles, scooters, cars and vans. Each of these diverse products is founded on those early origins in steel while bearing Peugeot's hallmark of modernity and innovation.

Throughout its 200 years, Peugeot has developed a unique vision, enabling it to anticipate underlying trends, keep abreast of the times to adapt and accept new challenges. This vision led Peugeot to successfully produce bicycles and motorcycles from 1886, and then in 1891 the motorcar. From the first petrol-powered four-wheeler codenamed the Type 2, to its more recent products, Peugeot draws its strength from its industrial roots in the east of France allied to a pioneering spirit. That spirit led Peugeot to create the 403, the first mass-produced diesel powered saloon; to launch the 205, a true icon thanks to its many versions and sporting victories; to introduce the particulate filter as a world first on the 607; to drive an HDi FAP engine to victory at Le Mans and to create the BB1, the urban crossover between the car and the scooter. By continually nurturing its engineering, human and industrial development, Peugeot has grown from an annual production rate numbered in dozens to a present day average daily production of several thousand units across 18 families of cars and light commercial vehicles.

Expansion started after the First World War, as demand for more and more varied cars grew and in 1929 Peugeot instigated the numeric identification system that is still in use today. The 201, named purely because it was the engineering department's 201st project, was the first car to carry a number and this evolved to become the three-digit naming system. The first digit indicates which family the vehicle belongs to and the third number indicates the model's generation. The second number, the 0, is the link between them.

Since then, the 2-series and 4-series are the only ranges that have continued this system without interruption. More than 26 million of these cars have been sold, representing nearly half of the Marque's total sales. In 2000, letters were added to the three numbers to designate specific body shapes; CC for Coupe Cabriolet, SW for the family/leisure body shape. In 2004, 75 years after the 201, Peugeot added a four-digit moniker to depict models that were not part of the original range, starting with the 1007.

Comfort on the road is a regularly acknowledged quality of Peugeot vehicles and, perhaps due to the hilly countryside around its Franche Comte home, Peugeot has frequently led the way with innovations in suspension systems. The 201 was the first car to be equipped with independent front wheels, guaranteeing comfort for its occupants and Peugeot is still the only manufacturer to produce its own shock absorbers to fit on its models. Today, Peugeot is still committed to excellent road manners as illustrated by the 3008 which, despite its tall architecture, is impressing drivers with its drivability. The Peugeot 3008 Crossover also features grip-control, allowing the deployment of intelligent drive options in five different modes.

Among these innovations, the Coupe Cabriolet deserves special mention, with an ingenious system that allows the rigid roof to retract into the boot. This made its first appearance as early as the 1930s on the 401 Eclipse but it was the 206 CC that brought this body shape to a wider public at the turn of the 21st Century and, with 700,000 units sold, it has made Peugeot the world leader in CCs. Peugeot is also synonymous with the development of the diesel engine, which it made available for the first time on a production model, the 403, in 1959. This saloon was also the first car to feature an automatic cooling fan controlled by engine temperature. The popularity of diesel was instant, with the 403 being the first Peugeot model to pass the one million sales mark.

More diesel innovations were to follow: in 1975, the 604 became the first car in Europe to be equipped with a turbo diesel engine and, in 1999, the 607 was the world's first car to be equipped with a particle emissions filter, a technology that has helped cement Peugeot's position as a world leader in emissions reductions. More than 2.3 million Peugeots are equipped with the particle emissions filter.

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