Most petrolheads have at some point in their lives made an impulsive purchase. Whether searching for a car worth a few hundred pounds or many thousands we all like a bargain, and sometimes the lure of a car’s description can be too much to pass by.
Such was the case for vintage enthusiast Jeremy West, when he stumbled upon a barn-find 1928 Peugeot 172M on an online auction website.
“I was looking for a vintage car to restore, and I saw this on eBay,” he told me. “The car was in France, and despite being in a bit of a state, I could see the potential.” After speaking to the seller, West bought the car unseen, and a few weeks later the tiny car arrived, brought across the Channel in the back of a box-body van.
The Peugeot 172M is a small front-engine, rear-wheel-drive semi-commercial with two seats at the front, an unusual (for a native French car) right-hand drive layout, and a cargo area with twin tailgate in the back. The gearbox is mated with the rear axle, and it drives the wheels without a differential.
West’s description of the car as being in ‘a bit of a state’ is somewhat of an understatement. The car had apparently been dry-stored for fifty years, awaiting restoration for an unknown museum, and when it arrived only three of the wheels were fitted. The reason soon became clear- the fourth wheel was a totally different size.
“I was lucky with the wheels,” West told me. “A friend was at an autojumble in France and found another pair that matched perfectly. They are flat steel ‘Bibendum’ rims- a Michelin design which has a flat section to make the tyre fitter’s job easier. I now have a good set I am restoring.”
The engine was also not in the best of form. “The seller described the engine as ‘ceased’,” West said. “The description was correct- the motor was certainly dead.” At some point a rod had pierced both sides of the 690cc, 4-cylinder block. A repair had been undertaken, with a steel plate fixed onto the block with 35 bolts, but with the engine and head cast in one the motor was beyond repair.
One of the most interesting elements of the car’s history is the colour it wore when West bought it. “It’s a sort of matte mud- brown colour. I presume the car was painted during the War.” On the flank, figures (presumably the weight limits) are still visible.
Under the paint, West found the original colour- similar to British racing green- and some very finely-detailed woodwork.
“I cleaned up the top of the door trims and the dashboard and found a beautiful piece on mahogany inlaid with ivory. It seems strange for a commercial vehicle to have such ornate woodwork. I romantically image it having been a local parfumeur’s delivery van.”
West is now restoring the vehicle, although he is keen to retain the patina that gives it a superb sense of age. “The woodwork was al in remarkably good order,” he told me. “A few areas needed woodworm treatment, but nothing dramatic. The canvas is in great condition, with the original chicken wire still in perfect condition underneath.”
So far, West has restored much of the running gear, with various elements (such as kingpins and steering linkagess) having been remade locally or modified from other items. He’s not new to this game- he already owns an Austin Seven- but has found the support of Club Peugeot UK to be invaluable.
Whether it once delivered Chanel No 5 to the local mademoiselles, or was converted from a road car to a commercial for use in the war, the small Peugeot is keeping its cards close to its chest- it unfortunately came with no written history. Nevertheless, West is keen to start the next chapter in the car’s history. “I’m planning on driving it to the Stowe School classic car meet in June next year.” We wish Jeremy all the very best of luck.
If you have a car undergoing restoration, did you know that we can provide laid-up classic car insurance at very reasonable rates? Please ring one of the team for a quote.