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The Lion in Summer: 1980 Peugeot 505 brochure

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Images are from the brochure collection of Hemmings Motor News

While Peugeot has a presence in nearly 160 countries around the world, this French automaker hasn’t sold cars in America since 1991. In a quest to grow its market share and to get back in on one of the largest markets in the world, the PSA Group -created out of the 1976 merger between Automobiles Citroën S.A. and Automobiles Peugeot S.A.- recently confirmed that it would re-enter the U.S. auto market with new models within a decade.

Founded in 1810, and having built its first steam-powered automobile in 1889, Peugeot is among the  oldest automakers still operating today. Its 203 models were initially imported to the US circa 1949, with the 403 following, the latter representing the car that was Peugeot’s first official US-spec model in 1958. Over the next 20 years, Francophiles and free-thinkers would have the opportunity to purchase 404, 304, 504, and 604 models, all of which sold here in (mostly) modest numbers.

The 505 was a new model here for 1980, offered in sedan form to replace the long-serving, funky-trunk’d 504 sedan (the 504 wagon remained available that year) alongside the larger, PRV V-6-powered 604 SL. This rear-wheel-driver was a mid-sized car (186.7-inches long over 108-inch wheelbase) that offered generous proportions for American families.

This new Peugeot was undeniably attractive, with crisp, efficient styling attributed to Italy’s Carrozzeria Pininfarina. The US-spec lighting regulations forced the most notable change to its appearance, with pairs of sealed beams nestled in housings that echoed the original large composite glass lamp units’ shapes. The 505 interior was equally appealing- functionally designed, upholstered in velour, and promising the marque’s renowned comfort.

Unlike the broad 504 line, with its elegant Pininfarina-penned 504 two-doors, the proposed 505 coupe and cabriolet never reached production. Eventually, the production 2-row and 3-row 505 wagons (“Break” and “Familiale” in French) would be sold in America -although not the modified, officially sanctioned Automobiles Dangel 4×4, which followed AMC’s Eagle but pre-dated Subaru’s trendsetting Legacy Outback, and all its followers, by more than a decade.

The advanced mechanical package that this 1980 model represented, including a tuned, fully independent suspension with front and rear anti-roll bars, power assisted rack-and-pinion steering and four-wheel disc brakes, and the option of fuel-injected gasoline or diesel engines, ensured its competitiveness for the long haul.

We would receive increasingly sporty and powerful 505 models through the end of the 1980s, culminating with the 180 hp 505 Turbo S, and that car even saw notable success in SCCA competition. More than 1.35 million examples were built in France through 1992, but production continued in other parts of the world, including China, through the late 1990s. Sadly, the 505 disappeared from our market -along with its attractive, compact, front-wheel-drive 405 stablemate, after the final 2,223 Peugeots were imported- in August 1991.

Have you ever motored in a Peugeot 505? And how do you feel about this marque’s return to America?

Click on the thumbnails below to enlarge.