By on July 13, 2013

11 - 1989 Peugeot 405 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinPeugeot gave up on the North American market after the 1991 model year, thanks to poor sales of their new 405. I haven’t seen one of these cars on the street for at least 15 years, and junkyard sightings have been correspondingly rare. When I spotted this car at a Northern California self-serve yard a couple months back, it took me a moment to figure out what it was.
03 - 1989 Peugeot 405 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNearly 200,000 miles on the clock, which is comparable to what I see on (non-Mitsubishi) Japanese cars of the same era.
02 - 1989 Peugeot 405 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWhen the company that built your car retreats from your continent, keeping it on the street becomes quite a challenge. This one made it to age 24.
10 - 1989 Peugeot 405 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe only Peugeot I’ve ever owned was a 504 that came with a bunch of Linda Ronstadt 8-tracks. I liked that car, in spite of its frequent breakdowns (yes, I know, the 504 is supposedly bulletproof everywhere else in the world).


We have a few Peugeot 405 Mi16s racing in the 24 Hours of LeMons (they’re quite affordable, i.e. less than scrap value in most cases). They’re somewhat quick, but they tend to be pretty blow-uppy. Here’s one depositing a connecting rod in the windshield of a following car.

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62 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1989 Peugeot 405 S...”


  • avatar
    prndlol

    Why that’s the meatiest headrest I ever did see.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    I know a guy who got shot while driving one of these. Not sure whether the suspect was shooting at the driver or the car. Good call either way.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Amazed it lasted so long. The few Peugeot owners I knew where forever at Sportique Motors having their cars repaired…non lasted to 100K…

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      My hometown had a Peugeot dealership. It’s a college town and was a big market for anything that helped people feel intellectual. 504s and 505s were everywhere in 1980. They really were problematic cars though. By the time the 405 showed up, higher end Japanese cars were eating Peugeot’s lunch and the franchise had moved from a downtown Buick-Isuzu-Peugeot lot to a Chevy dealer on the edge of town. The 405s just sat forlornly on the side of the highway, waiting for the inevitable fire sale when Peugeot threw in the towel. While there had been a Peugeot house on most blocks a decade earlier, the only place to see a 405 was aging in the sun at the Chevy store. Today, the variety in local traffic once provided by Saabs, Peugeots, Volvos, diesel Mercedes, Renaults, MGs, Jaguars, and Subaru wagons has been replaced by Priuses and completely ubiquitous Subaru wagons.

  • avatar
    linkpin

    Looks like the yard employees didn’t know what it was either…does that say “89 Protege 405″??

  • avatar
    JimC

    Junkyard finds, car collectors, bodacious beaters, and repair shop memoirs have kept me reading this site for the last few years.

    Keep up the great work!

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    Part of the blame for their failure in the US is mine. I actually considered buying one of these in ’91; went with a Passat instead.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    For a few years of my life I would buy used cars on the cheap, fix them up a little, drive them for a few months, then resell them. I owned one of these, in blood red. Fun to drive, fantastic suspension, and seats from heaven. One of the cars that I miss. A damn shame that Peugeot couldn’t get its act together well enough to continue to be viable in the US the second time around…

    • 0 avatar

      This car and the 205 turned me onto Peugeot for life. I still have hope for them, but the 206 was really disappointing in driving dynamics compared to the previous one. Also drove a 306 SW recently. Bad 4 speed auto, and the car was in and out of the shop for a full year on an intermitent AC problem. Then the owner gave up. That and seeing the headliners and a variety of minor but pestering problems on their 206s has kept me away. The 307, the 3008, the RCZ though all lure me. So far I have withstood the Lion’s attraction…Maybe the 301 will finally bring me in. One day.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Is that a Scamp next to the 405? Future feature?

  • avatar
    Cirruslydakota

    I take it that 140 MPH speedometer is optimistic at best? Also, what’s that gauge just to the right of the speedometer that reads “mini” on the low side? Oh, you silly Europeans…

    • 0 avatar
      Garak

      220-240 km/h speedometers are pretty standard in Euro cars, even nowadays you see them in ridiculous places, such as in Volkswagen vans. However, I think the fastest 405 actually had a top speed over 200 km/h, so it sort of makes sense to use a standard gauge cluster like this.

    • 0 avatar

      Optimistic is the gauge on my 1.0 Ka! It too marks all the way up to 240, though it’ll only get up to 160 km/h. In my car, quite ridiculous, on this Peugeot that can crack 200 km/h? Not so much

    • 0 avatar
      kmoney

      That’s the oil pressure gauge. It reads, “mini” and “maxi” on the low and high sides respectively. Guess min and max was unsophisticated for french tastes.

    • 0 avatar
      kmoney

      That’s the oil pressure gauge. It reads, “mini” and “maxi” on the low and high sides respectively. Guess min and max was too unsophisticated for french tastes.

    • 0 avatar
      Athos Nobile

      That car will top 180 km/h (or 110 mph) on a good day. Single cam XU7 engine means it is not very fast.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Peugeot left in the ’92 model year. I had one of the last ’92 505 SW8 wagons off the boat. They sold 405s in ’92 as well. Lovely car, and like all of my Peugeots, quite bulletproof. I stupidly sold it to buy my first Saab 900T. The biggest problem with Peugeots was finding competent service. I did it myself, so no problems there. I dearly miss my ’79 504D, which was the victim of a job loss incident 10+ years ago. Sold it to a friend with a large collection of them, so it lives in a nice heated barn with lots of friends in Indiana now.

    I only stopped driving them as daily drivers because the parts situation for the RWD cars did get a bit dire. There aren’t really any left in Europe either, they have all migrated to Africa, as have all the parts.

  • avatar
    Cirruslydakota

    That video is awesome, especially the slow motion part where you can clearly make out the entire rod bearing cap coming straight at you.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Murilee you need to find a Le Car next…

  • avatar
    Carl Kolchak

    Really considered one of these back in ’89. at the Oldsmobile/Peugeot dealer. That dealer went on to be a Hummer dealer. Kinda seems like the location of Doom.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      What’s it now?

      Maybe we can find out the next victim.

      • 0 avatar
        Carl Kolchak

        It is a Chevy dealer now.It’s not the location. Golf and Meacham in Schaumburg, IL. Right by Woodfield Mall.

        • 0 avatar
          JimC2

          Soooo, are you implying is that the Chevy brand will soon disappear from the marketplace, lost to the dustbin of automotive history, accompanied by weeping and gnashing of teeth, a tidal wave of angry online comments arguing patriotism/protectionism/unions/management/left wing-vs-right wing politics, but…

          .

          wait for it

          .

          .

          …it will really just be revert, overnight, back to Chevrolet.

          (What did you think I was going to say?)

  • avatar
    spreadsheet monkey

    Great find! These sold very well in the UK thanks to competitive pricing, strong marketing, and favourable reviews from the motoring press.

    Comparable size US domestic cars of the time would have been the Ford Tempo and Chevy Corsica. Don’t know if Peugeot was able to keep the pricing competitive with those two. It’s definitely much better looking than either of them…

    What engine does this car have? Assume its the 1.9L four.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    ” Yippee I Yo Kiyay.
    Parlez vous Francais?
    Yippee I Yo Kiyo.
    My Peugot wont ? ”

    a Peugot owner breaks down in Wyoming. From Cartalk

  • avatar
    Andy D

    ” Yippee I Yo Kiyay.
    Parlez vous Francais?
    Yippee I Yo Kiyo.
    My Peugot wont go ? ”

    a Peugot owner breaks down in Wyoming. From Cartalk

  • avatar
    waltercat

    Brings back bad memories of my ’70 504. I’m still not sure why I bought it – this was back in 1973 and it was really cheap, with about 50K on it. What a poor-running, slow, unreliable, and unrepairable POS that turned out to be. It kicked around my family for a few years after I gave up on it, and my sister eventually junked it when the floors rusted out. Do you really think they last forever in sub-Saharan Africa, and all the other places they were sold? And – for the New Yorkers among us – remember during the ’79 oil crisis when the cab companies tried to press 504 diesels into cab service? Fail!

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      The African argument for Peugeots is pretty hilarious actually. It’s all about colonialism, and nothing to do with suitability. Parts sources and expertise explain why they’ve stuck, but they were never particularly better suited to local conditions than Beetles or Falcons or Corollas. Gordon Baxter’s “I’ll Never Get Rid of Old Herpes” is a great essay about the misery of Peugeot ownership.

      • 0 avatar
        Nutella

        Having grown in Africa in Peugeots, I lived through the switch to Toyota mostly because they were a lot cheaper and simpler. The colonial link is a fact but the Peugeots had much better suspension.
        Peugeot were designed like Mercedes with a lot of wheel travel and even designed their own shock absobers. Their handling on rough roads was excellent. Toyota in contrast were often using leaf springs and were uncomfortable and really dangerous to drive on dirt roads. None of that matter to the poor locals who were looking for cheap and reliable transportation.
        To this day, I have yet to drive a Toyota that approaches the refinement of french suspensions.

  • avatar
    kid cassady

    I’d love to know where the LeMons guys are finding their 405 Mi16s. I’ve never seen one for sale, and I know I would have seriously considered one as a bad-idea stablemate for my 9000 Aero if I had.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Is that a ’66/’67 full size Plymouth next to the Peugeot?

  • avatar
    jimbob457

    My wish list if you happen to run across any. These are cars I have actually owned. I have always had a penchant for finding used car bargains – decent vehicles way under priced as used cars.

    Sterling (actually owned two w/o the Lucas electronics)
    Daihatsu Charade (had the luxury version with 4 cyl and auto)
    Pontiac Astre (later versions had the iron duke engine)
    AMC Pacer (not much of a car, but it made me smile)

  • avatar
    LALoser

    When working in New Zealand I wanted a 406…but got an Accord…what.a.boring.car. It was even grey, or silver..it was truly automotive background noise…

  • avatar
    Joss

    I remember 405 as comparatively expensive & small for the NA market. The styling was Peugeot gone Japanese sans la QR. Gone too, was the Farina styling of the 404. Which so suited the Fedora & horn rimmed crowd of the sixties. I wanted 504 cabrio back then. Reality check: Peugeot velo.

  • avatar
    davew833

    I’m not making a value judgement or political statement here, but a majority of the proprietors/employees of the self-serve wrecking yards in my area (Utah) do not speak English as a first language, let alone French… I’m not surprised they thought it was a ‘Protege’ or ‘Plymouth’ since it seems to have been placed among the Chrysler products.

    About 10 years ago, I was on a Rover Sterling kick and ended up with about half a dozen 825 and 827sl’s over a period of a few years. I was amused to find that the local Pick-N-Pull always placed Sterlings in the middle of the Chrysler products, even though they had several rows of assorted European makes nearby.

    And jimbob457– if you owned any US Sterling they ALL had Lucas electronics if you dug deep enough. The ’90 and ’91 827′s had fewer Lucas components than the earlier ones (hence the increased reliability) but a lot of the control units for chassis electrical systems (lighting, AC/heat, locks, alarm, speedometer sender, etc.) were still Lucas. I kept a box full of various Lucas green and yellow relays and all the spare control units I could find from parts cars right up until a couple of years ago. (I had a Pacer too…No Daihatsu though.)

    • 0 avatar
      jimbob457

      Thanks for the info. I guess ignorance was bliss. Neither of my US Sterlings ever suffered any electrical problems. The Rover parts of both cars started into a death spiral at about 110k miles. My favorite mechanic at the time advised me to sell both cars. I did get about 70k of good quality, low maintenance miles out of each one. Plus, my wife’s black four door sedan with camel colored leather interior really looked sharp.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        The Sterling sure was a nice looking car, though…

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          So was the Merkur Scorpio!

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            I’ve never seen a Merkur anything, so clearly they were even LESS reliable than Sterlings.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Au contraire. In Ohio, I’ve seen many Merkurs, both the Scorpio and (more commonly) the XR4Ti. I have NEVER seen a Sterling driving around.

            In fact, a kid that went to high school with me (early 2000s) had a black Scorpio.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I’ve seen a few Merkurs in well to do areas around here and in Western NY. In fact the same family in WNY at one time in the 90s owned an early 80s Mercedes Diesel wagon, a Merkur, and a Peugeot. The wagon hung on in their ownership until the early 2000s.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    Worked with a woman occasionally 10 years ago who had a 1990 Peugeot 405 as a second car as her Ford f-150 used so much gas . IIRC , she had only paid $100 for the 405 . Rode with her in it a few times , interior still surprisingly nice, quite comfortable and it rode well . She had a hard time maintaining it of course and obtaining parts . Don’t think I’ve seen one since then . Myself , I own an eighties Peugeot that’s been totally reliable – of course it’s a bicycle .

  • avatar
    Buckshot

    I owned a 1990 Peugeot for 9 years. The only problem i had was with the lambda sond, but it was free thanks to the warranty.
    I drove this car about 70 000 miles, but not in wintertime.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    I drove a car based on this platform a couple of years ago. Suspension was Good, stable, comfortable and forgiving. But the front strut attachment to the knuckle was a weakness. I bent 2 struts after hitting potholes.

    The 405 itself is (or was, haven’t checked) still produced in Iran…

    The XU7 engine is torquey, and will make the car move, although not very quickly. Its 16V brother, the XU10 is very nice and so was the Xantia wrapping I sat in. Although this car would do fine with a TU5.

    • 0 avatar
      halkyardo

      I’m pretty sure that the US-market 405s all had either the XU9 or the 16 valve XU9J4.

      I had a BX 16v at one point, with the XU9J4. It’s an absolutely fantastic engine – mine had over 300,000km on the clock, so it was down a few horses, and burned oil like there was no tomorrow, but hearing it wail as I wound it up to the redline never ceased to amuse. The 405 was based on the same platform as the BX, minus the fancy nitrogen-oil suspension, and I was always impressed at how well the BX handled, especially for a car with such a smooth ride. Everybody I know who’s had a 405 raves about their road manners, too.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        He was in a Citroen which wasn’t in the US. So it was probably lots different.

        The Xantia was used in Ronin. It was the one that could keep up with/stay in front of the S8. LOLOLOLOL.

        • 0 avatar
          casm

          Slight correction: the car used in Ronin was the Citroen XM, not the Xantia.

          To be fair to the Xantia, the 3.0 V6 models (which received the same engine as in the top-end XMs) were little rocketships with brakes, steering, and handling to match.

  • avatar
    Marko

    In a strange coincidence (the “Junkyard Find Effect?”), I actually saw a 405 WAGON yesterday. It was in Narragansett, RI. It was only the third time or so I’d seen a 405 of any kind in my life, and the first time I’d seen a 405 wagon. How many even made it stateside?

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      “Junkyard Find Effect,” you say? Oh man… if this series turns out to be a virtual wishing well, I hope Murilee does pieces on

      a Bricklin,
      any three wheeled car,
      and, better make this one count,
      a Rickenbacker (the final model year with four wheel brakes).

  • avatar

    It was a good handling car. It was prized for good handling and was better as a car than any Honda or Toyota by the order of magnitude. As a used car it sucks therefore it is not a good car for America where people care only about reliability and nothing else.

    It cannot last 192K miles though, it is simply impossible – it would be nothing but a miracle. My guess is odometer shows 192K km and I can imagine what kind of effort it took to maintain it up to these 192K kms. Russian cars also can last 192K kms but you have to replace every part over time (some Russians buy two Ladas to merge them into the one eventually).

  • avatar
    casm

    Sadly late to the party on this one, having only just run across the post in a tangental Google search.

    Amusingly, this piece was published one day after I purchased another 405 Mi16 (this time a 1991; previous one was a 1989 model) to use as a daily driver after seven years without one.

    I may be biased, but they really are a fantastic car. Take care of them properly and they’re far from a nightmare, but get one that’s been monkeyed with and you can be in for quite a bit of agony.

    The first one I ever drove was a non-turbo diesel. Slow, but was still a great car to drive – handled well, had great steering and brakes, was *very* comfortable, and routinely managed something in the region of 45mpg (Imperial) at a constant 70-80mph.

    On moving to the US, my first car was a 1989 405DL. Base model – power nothing (apart from the steering), cloth seats, and the 4-speed auto. The A/C worked surprisingly well, but I eventually decided that the button that activated it actually stood for ‘acceleration control’, because activating it was more than the combination of the 110bhp and autobox could were really up to. Still, was an excellent highway cruiser (once you got it up to speed), and was sadly totalled in a hit-and-run.

    Had Peugeot known how to approach the US market properly, this car could potentially have saved their bacon. Bringing in the 205 and 605 would also have helped, but in the end it didn’t matter. A comeback would be nice, but it’s hard to see how their products would offer anything in this day and age that an established marque already doesn’t.


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