1937 Peugeot 402 Roadster

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In the 1930s, French manufacturer Peugeot was best known for respectable drivers, but they did manage to present some beautiful cars with custom coachwork design. This steel-bodied 402 features a body created either by Pourtout, or the Ateliers de Carrosserie de Becon of Paris. The exact date that the coachwork was added is unknown as well. Around 1980, the front section was redone in a style reminiscent of the Talbot SS.

The design itself has attracted considerable acclaim, and has appeared at prestigious events like Pebble Beach, Amelia Island, Meadowbrook, Geneva Concours, and actually won People's Choice at at Glenmoor, Masterpiece, and Keeneland Concours. The car received full classic status by the CCCA and scored 100 points at the Grand Classic in 2010 at Hickory Corners.

This car will be sold by Mecum Auctions in Monterey, California on August 18-20, 2016, right before the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance on August 21.

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(from Mecum Auctions Press Release) 1937 Peugeot 402 Roadster

Automobiles Peugeot has the distinction of being the oldest continuously-operating automobile manufacturer in the world. Its roots are in Les Fils des Peugeot Frères, a bicycle manufacturing concern at Valentigny, France. In 1889, Armand Peugeot built a steam car, with an engine from Leon Serpollet, and in 1890 drove it from Paris to Lyon. Daimler-powered gasoline cars came next, vee-twin-engined, tubular frame, tiller-steered machines, one of which made the first long-distance auto journey in France in 1891.

In 1897, Armand Peugeot left the family firm and established S.A. des Automobiles Peugeot at Audincourt, in eastern France, building large cars: a 3.3-liter design and 5.8 liters by 1900. Front-mounted engines were adopted across the board in 1902, and shaft drive was adopted gradually through 1909. In 1910, the automobile and cycle operations were reunited, and a new plant at Sochaux, which would become the firm's principal location, was erected. The most famous Peugeot from that period is the diminutive Bébé, designed by Ettore Bugatti and introduced in 1912. That same year Peugeot went racing with a twin-cam engine designed by Ernest Henry. The engine was revolutionary even by today's standards, a four-cylinder with twin overhead camshafts, hemispherical combustion chambers and four valves per cylinder with desmodromic action to operate the valves. After winning everything in Europe, from speed records at Brooklands to the Coppa Florio, the L3, as the car was called, went to Indianapolis, winning in 1913 with Jules Goux driving. The feat was repeated by others in 1916 and 1919.

Peugeot cars of the 1920s were relatively upright and orthodox. By the early 1930s, some streamlining was becoming evident, but it was the 402 model, introduced in 1935, that set new standards in design. The 402 had a 2.0 Liter inline 4 cylinder engine, usually mated to a Cotal preselector or manual 3-speed gearboxes, and the cars were occasionally fitted with strikingly rakish coachbuilt bodies.

While this car shares mechanical specification with its perhaps better known cousin, the 402 Darl Mat, it looks nothing like them. This 402 employs a sleek one-off all steel body which is beautifully proportioned. Some debate exists as to who the original coachbuilder may have been for this particular body. One school of thought is that it may have been styled by Pourtout, while others suggest that the supporting evidence points towards Ateliers de Carrosserie de Becon of Paris, often abbreviated “A.C.B.”. This is the opinion of Hubert Auran, who is among the world’s most well respected historians of Darl Mats. Whether by Pourtout or by Ateliers de Carrosserie de Becon of Paris, the currently fitted body very likely replaced a version of the more common 402 coachwork which original cloaked chassis number 797280. Indeed, it was not unusual for customers desiring specialty bodies to acquire and deliver an automobile to their chosen coachbuilder, such that a body could be hung on an existing chassis, and it is believed by some that the striking coachwork we see here was completed shortly after WWII. Interestingly, a period photo exists which is dated to the 1940s by Nick Valcamp, a leading art historian, depicting what is believed this car in an unrestored state, which would mean the body would have existed well before the conclusion of WWII. The chassis measures 114-inches in wheelbase, which was elongated for this particular project. When compared to the Darl Mats, it is considerably larger and longer, roughly the size of a Delahaye 135. While debate may continue to exist about the origins of this body, what is absolutely clear is that it is a remarkably beautiful and very early French design, highly evocative of the deco styling of 1930s European culture.

According to Hurbert Auran, by the 1970s this car was owned by famous collector Maurice Broual who sold the car to Roger Baillon, who has since become incredibly well-known for his “Sleeping Beauties” collection which included, among other wonderful cars, a Ferrari 250 Short Wheelbase California Spyder, was auctioned in Paris in 2015, shattering world records. Mr. Baillon auctioned this Peugeot in 1980, at which time it was exported to the United States. At some point around this time the front section of the body was reworked in the style of a Talbot SS.

The car’s first American owner was an enthusiast who started a comprehensive restoration in the early 1980s. After enduring the restoration process for some years, the car was acquired by Jerry Sauls as partial payment on a Duesenberg transaction, who continued the restoration while in his care. The present owner bought the lovely 402 from Mr. Sauls as he was winding down his collection, still in restoration process, and commenced an even more comprehensive restoration to the current award-winning presentation. This restoration work was done over a three year period ending in 2010 by pre-war restoration authority Dan McMann at International Auto Restorations in Illinois. Mr. McMann had previously won his class with a Stutz at Pebble Beach, and as we can see from end-product, was clearly well-suited to the unique process this low-slung one-off Peugeot had to offer. This work included re-situating the nose to its current style, which is believed to be in keeping with the styling employed by those who crafted its post-WWII configuration.

Once completed, the present owner set off actively campaigning the car in North America’s most prestigious concours events. It was invited and displayed at Meadowbrook, Amelia Island, the Glenmoore Gathering, Keeneland Councours, The Masterpiece, and the Geneva Concours. The car showed well against stiff competition from some of the world’s most amazing enthusiasts; The Oscar Davis and Peter Mullin Collections, to name a few. The Peugeot won senior awards and People’s Choice Glenmoor, Masterpiece, and Keeneland Concourses. The car was given full classic status by the CCCA and scored 100 points at the Grand Classic in 2010 at Hickory Corners, and in 2015, it was invited to be displayed at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

Today, the car presents beautifully. Its low-slung lines and short, rakish windscreen lend themselves well to the handsome silver over black color scheme. While there are some signs the restoration is mellowing slightly, they are generally limited to some paint imperfections near the opening panels, and only visible upon close inspection. The brightwork remains in superb order, and the car retains its correct and beautiful Marchal domed headlights. The interior also in excellent, show ready condition, with supple leather, wool carpets showing no age, and warm, glossy dash and door top wood in unmarked condition. The under hood area is also suburb.

The car is in good running and driving mechanical order. It starts easily and makes strong power output for a car of its age and displacement. The Cotal gear change is effortless, and immediate. The brakes are well-adjusted and stop the car reasonably straight. The tachometer is not currently operational, but the balance of the gauges and switchgear appear operational.

Whether to be kept as the keystone of a collection, for continued show enjoyment, or for use in tour and rally events, the one-off coachbuilt masterpiece with immense show pedigree is sure to appeal to the French motoring enthusiast who recognizes the once in a lifetime opportunity it represents. Save for Pebble Beach, where it was shown in 2015, it remains a welcome entrant to nearly all the world’s most prestigious show venues, and is well situated to compete in category against some of the most beautiful and influential designs of the 20th century, almost always the genre from which the Best of Show winner is selected.