The 203 was also assembled in Australia, beginning in 1953

Peugeot 203 - 55

The Peugeot 203 is a medium-sized car which was

produced by the French manufacturer Peugeot between

1948 and 1960.

The   car   was   exhibited   at   the   Paris   Motor   Show   in   1947,   but   by   then   had   already   been   under development   for   more   than   five   years.   Volume   manufacturing   was   initially   hampered   by   strikes and   shortages   of   materials,   but   production   got   under   way   late   in   1948,   with   buyers   taking delivery of 203s from early 1949. The   203   was   Peugeot's   first   new   model   launched   after   World   War   II.   During   its   twelve-year production   run   nearly   700,000   203s   of   all   variants   rolled   off   the   assembly   line   in   Sochaux, France.   Between   the   demise   of   the   202   in   1949   and   the   launch   of   the   403   in   1955,   the   203   was the only model produced by Peugeot.

The body

The   203   was   the   first   monocoque   bodied   production   Peugeot.   The   car   was   eye   catchingly modern   and   bore   a   marked   resemblance   to   the American   Chevrolet   Fleetline   fastback,   although its   wind   cheating   profile   also   reflected   the   streamlining   trend   apparent   in   some   of   Europe's more modern designs, including some of Peugeot's own 402 model, from the 1930s. The   four-door   saloon   was   the   major   seller,   but   from   1950   a   commodious   five-door   estate   version (Commerciale)   and   a   six-seater   (Familiale),   with   three   rows   of   seats,   were   also   offered   on   a wheelbase   lengthened   by   20   cm   (7.9   in)   to   278   cm   (109   in).   By   taking   the   trouble   to   extend   the wheelbase   for   the   estate   and   family   versions,   the   company   set   a   pattern   which   they   would follow   with   several   succeeding   generations   of   midsized   Peugeot   estate   cars   such   as   the   404   and 504. In   October   1952   the   Paris   Motor   Show   welcomed   a   modified   203   which   now   featured   hinged quarter   light   windows   on   the   front   ends   of   the   front   doors   and   an   enlarged   rear   window   on   the saloon/sedan   versions.   This   upgrade   also   saw   the   removal   of   the   speedometer   from   the   centre of the dashboard to a position directly ahead of the driver. Publicity   shots   from   the   early   1950s   tend   to   avoid   showing   the   rear   of   the   car   from   the   right side.   That   changes   with   203s   displayed   at   the   1953   Motor   Show,   after   which   the   hitherto protruding   fuel   filler   cap   was   sunk   a   couple   of   centimeters   lower   into   the   rear   wing,   and   gained the protection of an opening flap set flush with the line of the bodywork. Along   with   improvements   to   the   existing   cars,   Peugeot   introduced   a   2-door   203   coupé   at   the   end of   1952,   although   this   was   not   as   successful   as   hoped   and   quietly   disappears   from   the   brochures a   year   later.   There   were   several   low   volume   cabriolet   and   coupé   conversions   produced   by outside   specialists   in   collaboration   with   Peugeot   available   during   the   203's   production   run, though    removing    the    roof    from    an    early    monocoque    design    necessitated    extensive    body strengthening which added to the car's weight and reduced the performance. For   a   number   years   the   leading   edge   of   car's   nose   carried   an   angular,   forward-leaning   chrome lion   bonnet   ornament   –   the   lion   image   being   Peugeot's   trade   mark.   That   was   removed   for   1959, due   to   safety   concerns,   and   the   logo   was   incorporated   into   a   baguette   shaped   flatter   emblem   on the car's nose. A   military   variant   was   developed   and   presented   to   the   military   who   showed   little   interest.   The prototype was converted into a factory fire engine for the Peugeot plant.

Engine and running gear

The   1290   cc   four-cylinder   engine   was   unusual   in   its   'oversquare'   cylinder   dimensions,   and   was noted   for   the   hemispherical   form   of   the   combustion   chambers   included   in   the   light   metal cylinder   heads.   At   launch,   a   power   output   of   42   PS   (31   kW)   (41   hp)   was   claimed,   which   was increased   in   1952   to   45   PS   (33   kW)   (44   hp)   for   the   October   1952   Paris   Motor   Show.   Peugeot advertising   pointed   out   that   the   increase   in   power   came   without   any   penalty   in   terms   of   fuel economy   or   car   tax   (which   was   a   function   of   the   unchanged   cylinder   capacity).   Reference   was made   to   a   change   in   cylinder   design   but   there   was   no   change   in   the   compression   ratio   which remained   at   6.8:1.   Advertised   top   speed   increased,   in   1952,   from   115   km/h   (71   mph)   to   120 km/h   (75   mph):   the   longer   estate   versions   were   significantly   slower.   0-60   time   was   20seconds, and fuel consumption was 20-35mpg. The    column-mounted    gear    change    controlled    a    four-speed    manual    gear    box:    power    was delivered   to   the   rear   wheels   using   a   propeller   shaft   driving   through   a   worm-and-wheel   gearset at   the   differential.   Possibly   the   most   significant   upgrade   occurred   in   March   1954   with   a   new   the four   speed   gear   box   featuring   synchromesh   on   all   forward   speeds.   Cars   delivered   between   1949 and 1954 came without synchromesh on the bottom ratio. Suspension    was    independent    up    front    byway    of    a    transverse    leaf    spring,    while    the    rear suspension was coil springs with Panhard rod.


The   203   was   a   massive   hit   in   France.   In   a   move   which   under   some   conditions   might   be   expected to   have   encouraged   discounting   of   the   predecessor   model,   the   203   was   already   depicted   and advertised   vigorously   on   the   final   page   of   the   sales   brochure   distributed   to   potential   purchasers of   the   Peugeot   202   in   October   1947,   nearly   a   year   before   the   203   could   be   offered   for   sale. There   seems   to   have   been   a   good   deal   of   pent-up   demand   by   the   time   the   203   was   actually launched,   and   the   practicality,   price   and   reliability   of   the   car   wooed   many   motorists.   200   were coming   off   the   production   line   each   day   by   1950,   and   that   year   the   203   achieved   34,012 domestic   sales,   commanding   19.5%   of   the   French   auto-market,   where   it   was   second   only   to   the (far smaller and cheaper) Renault 4CV in terms of unit sales. Home market success was followed by the export of 203s, notably to West Germany. Six   years   into   its   production   run   a   growing   body   of   data   on   second-hand   sales   became   available. In   early   1954   it   was   noted   that   in   France   the   203   lost   value   more   slowly   than   any   other   French car   generally   available,   thanks   to   a   combination   of   virtues   including   a   reliable,   economical engine,   well   judged   equipment   levels   including   the   sun   roof,   good   manoeuvrability   helped   by   an unusually   tight   turning   circle   (possible   because   of   its   "old-fashioned"   rear-wheel   drive   lay-out), and   not   withstanding   a   rather   unfriendly   gear   box   which   during   the   summer   of   1954   would   be replaced by Peugeot's new all-synchromesh "C2" transmission. The   strongest   domestic   manufacturers   in   the   1950s   were   Citroën   and   Renault   who   in   the   ten years   after   1945   concentrated   on   large   cars   and   small   cars,   respectively.   The   success   of   the   203 was   therefore   a   tribute   both   to   the   excellence   of   the   product   and   to   the   absence   from   its sector,    in    its    early    years,    of    mainstream    competitors.   A    powerful    mainstream    competitor appeared   in   1951   with   the   launch   of   the   Simca   Aronde,   but   with   the   post-war   economy   finally beginning   to   experience   useful   growth   there   seems   to   have   been   ample   capacity   in   the   market for   both   cars.   By   1955   when   Panhard   gained   access   to   the   Citroën   dealership   network,   the   203 was   well   established   in   the   market   place   and   Peugeot   themselves   had   moved   beyond   their   one model policy. The 203 nevertheless continued to sell well till the end of the decade.

The end

The   final   Peugeot   203   rolled   off   the   production   line   at   the   Peugeot   Sochaux   plant   on   25   February 1960,   which   was   a   Thursday.   Three   months   later,   at   the   end   of   May,   the   model   disappeared   from the price lists. A   month   after   the   production   of   the   last   203,   Peugeot   launched   the   403-sept   which   was   a version   of   their   larger   newer   403   model   with   the   smaller   7CV   (7   fiscal   horsepower)   engine   from the   203.   At   the   time   of   the   203's   demise,   this   stripped   down   version   of   the   Peugeot   403   was presented   as   the   replacement   for   the   203,   though   it   could   be   argued   that   the   spacious   front- wheel-drive   1300   cc   Peugeot   304,   which   appeared   only   in   1969,   or   indeed   the   consecutively named   Peugeot   204   more   directly   occupied   the   market   niche   which   in   the   early   1950s   the   203 had made its own.

Australian production

The   203   was   also   assembled   in Australia,   beginning   in   1953,   and   thus   becoming   the   first   Peugeot model to enter production in that country.

Cape Town-Paris

This   was   the   route   taken   by   Andre   Mercier   and   Charles   de   Cortanze   in   1953,   it   was   15,000   km (9,300   mi)   and   they   performed   it   in   a   record   time   of   17   days.   The   event   also   sparked   interest   in the   incredible   fuel   economy   of   the   vehicle   -   a   single   tank   lasted   900   km   (560   mi),   even   with   the tough terrain. In   2003   to   commemorate   the   50th   anniversary   of   the   heroic   journey,   Didier   Pijolet   and   Leigh Wootton   both   completed   the   feat   in   under   a   month.   They   were   armed   with   their   own   203s,   one co-driver respectively and a film crew.


Engine 1290 cc 4 cylinders Power 42 HP Top speed 115 km/h Lenght/width 4,35 m/1,61 m The collections 203 has been inspected by museum authorities and it is in full driving condition.
Photos mainly by Matti Kreivilä. Historical facts and technical details of the vehicles provided by Wikipedia. Movies YouTube.