Ahmadinejad's Peugeot 504 Not As Cool As Jerry Brown's Plymouth Satellite, But Still Cool

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
ahmadinejads peugeot 504 not as cool as jerry browns plymouth satellite but still

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has but one redeeming quality, and that’s his taste in daily drivers… and now he’s selling it! Yeah, he’d probably prefer to load the thing up with drums full of a VX/ BZ cocktail and crash it into a Tel Aviv nursery school… but, still, the story makes me want to rant about downscale “Man of the People” vehicle choices and the love/hate relationship I once had with my own 504.

Jerry Brown, having gone from Governor of California to Mayor of Oakland to California Attorney General and now back to Governor (where his first act once sworn in will no doubt involve the Suede Denim Secret Police— and, by the way, a friend who worked for Jerry at the Oakland City Hall tells me that the Guv hates the Dead Kennedys song to the point of “frothing at the mouth” over it), helped establish his image as an ascetic oddball by eschewing predecessor Governor Reagan’s limo and driving a ’74 Plymouth Satellite. In fact, he didn’t even go for the cop-grade Satellite with the 440, instead opting for the more proletarian 318. Did he savagely fenestrate Linda Ronstadt in the Plymouth’s base-trim-level vinyl back seat? Were her Malaise-Era-pop-star gasps muffled by a Wiffle Ball duct-taped over her mouth? Who can say?

All right, now “California Über Alles” is stuck in my head, so let’s crank it up as we continue:

What do Jerry Brown and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have in common? Yes, both are crazy and both chose “Man of the People” cars that turned out to be seriously cool. Was this just random? Did they know? Jerry could have selected, say, a ’74 Maverick sedan, and Ahmadinejad could have gone with a new-ish Iran Khodro Samand (the Iran Khodro Paykan, aka “Iranian Hillman Hunter,” is up there with the 504 in terms of coolness). We could muddy the waters further by bringing Ho Chi Minh’s Peugeot 404 into the discussion, but then we’d have to debate the relative merits of the 504 versus the 404… and we’ll get to that topic later on.

The only French car I’ve ever owned was, of course, a 1977 Peugeot 504. Perhaps it rolled off the assembly line just after Ahmadinejad’s. San Francisco, 1990: The California economy is in shambles— though the early-90s recession seems like good times compared to the current meltdown— and recent college graduates cannot find employment. But hold on now— some friends work at an anti-nuclear-weapons canvassing group, sending carloads of underpaid lefty activists to go knock on doors and beg for cash… and this organization takes tax-deductible donations of unwanted cars! Better still, their headquarters is an old school in a sketchy Mission District neighborhood, and the school’s former playground now serves as a parking lot for dead or nearly-dead donated cars. Dozens of them! Every day, several of the “crew cars” must be coaxed into life, at which point four or six or nine ever-optimistic canvassers climb aboard for their journey to the doorbells of San Mateo or El Cerrito (though often the journey is really to a journey to a patch of highway shoulder, where yet another ’73 Olds Delta 88 or ’81 Datsun 310 expires in a cloud of head-gasket steam). I am hired to use junkyard parts and/or duct tape to persuade a larger fraction of the No More Hiroshimas Motor Pool to run, and the first thing I do is claim the coolest of the bunch for my personal parts-running use: an Ahmadinejad-grade white ’77 Peugeot 504, complete with gas engine, sunroof, automatic, turn-signal stalk on the right side of the steering column, and factory 8-track player with a single tape in the glovebox. That tape, naturally, is a full-on Jerry Brown-grade album:

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  • Jellodyne Jellodyne on Nov 29, 2010

    That reminds me of the old joke... Q: Why does Linda Ronstadt sing so slow? A: She's got a governer on her.

  • PCP PCP on Dec 14, 2012

    My first car was a Peugeot 504L Automatic. The 504L was a cheaper version with a 1800cc carburetor engine and a live rear axle, where as the more expensive version had independent suspension. Makes you wonder how Peugeot could and cared building 2 different kind of suspension in basically the same car. Anyway, it was roomy, comfortable and reliable. The 1800cc was good for about 80HP and the 3-speed Automatic would loose most of it before getting to the diff. Still it could sort of slide, but then that was more due to the tyres, which were so old and hard as wood. Anyway I drove it until a lorry completely flattened the trunk. I loved that car - but of course I've loved every car I owned.

  • Jkross22 This might just be me, but the times that I've driven an EV, I use the brake regen paddles to quell my inner MT/control freak nature.
  • Randy in rocklin I had a 82 733 at one time. It was an awesome car. Good power and great handling. Smooth shifting and ride.
  • Jkross22 Gavin Newsom may not be aware of the fiscal problems of the state he leads, as his focus is on criticizing other states. It's actually better that he has someone shining a laser light on a map so he can stop making things worse here. Just lace his hair gel with some catnip and have him hit himself trying to get to it. Things in LA are getting so bad that even the leftists and progressives are showing up to LA city council meetings with mirrors to protest, well, everything - gas prices, the homeless pandemic, the house pricing pandemic, the crime pandemic. It shocked the City Council that their subjects dare attempt to ask for accountability. The Council president insisted that people with mirrors be escorted out, lest the council be reminded of their incompetence and hubris. That being said, there is no connection being made between the way LA subjects vote and the results it yields. Never underestimate the stupidity of the typical CA voter. The state is a basketcase but voters keep electing the same retreads every time.
  • ScarecrowRepair Too much for too little, unless you treat it strictly as a toy.
  • DedBull Mk2 Jettas are getting harder to find, especially ones that haven't been modified within an inch of their life. I grew up in an 85 GLI, and would love to have one in as close to stock configuration as I could get. This car isn't that starting point, especially sitting 3-4 years in the NY dirt. It's a parts car at best, but there might still be money in it even at that price, if you are willing to take it down to absolutely nothing left.
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