Peugeot 504 Coupé Retrofit: electric test in old

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Do we have to adapt to the car or is it up to the car to adapt to the times? The transition has been registered for new vehicles, with the European ban on the sale of thermal engines in 2035. Motorists will therefore have to adapt to electric, a task likely to be facilitated by the next years’ technological developments before reaching the deadline. For existing models, the answer can be twofold, especially for older people with a strong personality. If collector cars escape certain traffic restrictions, especially in Paris, the resulting maintenance, engine condition or simply their specific driving characteristics may still inhibit their regular use. “Retrofit” becomes a solution: replacing combustion mechanics with an electric machine. But that does not exempt the driver who would take the wheel from having to comply with some of these driving specifications, which are still very much present after all. Retrofuture is one of the companies that have started this business, which offers a new life to these cars with a busy experience.

Among the 15 or so converted models in the catalogue, it was aboard a 1972 Peugeot 504 Coupé that we set out to test this old-timer concept with a modernized heart. Accustomed to today’s electric cars, does the change in the mechanics of this old one bring it closer to our experience of the “modern”? One thing is certain, the anachronism between period style and relative silence in operation ensures a change of scenery.

Departure in the heart of Paris, from Place Vendôme, where luxury cars and extraordinary cars attract attention but do not surprise many people. However, there is no need to drive many meters behind the wheel of the very beautiful French coupé – signed by the Italian designer Pininfarina – to observe the first confused glances. A modern exclusive GT would not necessarily have given much more effect. Here there is a good deal of goodwill and no kind of jealousy.

Authentic sensations, new sound

Peugeot 504 Coupe RetrofitCredit photo – Autonews

Before starting the engine, it is initially a bit difficult to imagine that nothing happens when you turn the key. But after rounding the owner, there is no possible doubt, no trace of the 104bhp 2.0 four-cylinder engine under the bonnet. The electric motor is hidden under three battery packs of 5.3 kWh capacity each. In the trunk, the volume is reduced to fit three corresponding extra packages between a partition and the back seat. The new power unit (announced at 82 hp) was chosen not to exceed the power of the original, in the same way as the weight, to limit the complexity of homologation of the transformed model.

The manual four-speed gearbox is retained. To get off, it is therefore necessary to engage a report in hand, but it is advisable not to choose the first one that is too down-geared to support the immediate maximum torque of the electric motor. In any case, it was strongly discouraged. No need to control the release point with precision, the left pedal becomes more of a push button to operate when the position lever is changed. The first stops without touching the clutch, the gear is engaged, are necessarily a bit confusing.

3rd gear proves to be the most versatile, while 2nd gear improves acceleration capability, while 4th and final gear increases speed more easily and limits hissing noises from the gearbox and engine. The soundproofing remains the same as when it left the factory 50 years ago… Compared to the surrounding traffic or mechanical and chassis sounds of any kind, it’s not really the world of silence.

A little more, seen from the outside. Heads that haven’t turned to her style are showing interest in watching her quietly develop. The sensations are very different from a modern electric. Movement requires ample pressure on the accelerator pedal. The lower the gear is engaged, the more the shocks are felt in the first few metres. 4th gear erases them and proves to be the softest in use, less spirited to pick up pace but sufficient for calm starts, ultimately close to the pace used in the other gears when you hold back to limit the -strokes they generate.

Adaptation and small changes

Peugeot 504 Coupe Retrofit

Peugeot 504 Coupe RetrofitCredit photo – Autonews

In all cases, a loss of power is felt in tight curves before it is restored when the wheels are brought back into line. The 14-inch rims and the flexibility of the suspensions (revised, as well as the brakes and the use of newer radial tires with a vintage design) provide real driving comfort and also a little pumping on the relief of the road surface. As pleasant as the presence of electric windows, while the heating control has been rendered inoperable by an original system that has not been replaced after the removal of the heating engine. A bit disturbing in this summer period, but air conditioning is not on the program either. At the speed when the side windows are closed, it is advisable to rotate the front quarter panels with manual opening to avoid suffocation.

No problem with power to reach highway speeds (the Lioness is limited to 150 km/h). The direction goes back all the same sacred vibrations at the level of the steering wheel with net movements of oscillations. The sensation of gliding at a good pace on the long tape at reasonable speeds gives a very noticeable pleasure, balanced by this stubborn hoop, which encourages you to favor the secondary network. Definitely a wheel balance to review for our test model. Various solutions for integrating elements are being experimented with before making the ergonomic choices for the final versions, which will be delivered to customers in 2023 at the earliest.

On-sight navigation

Peugeot 504 Coupe Retrofit

Peugeot 504 Coupe RetrofitCredit photo – Autonews

The small monochrome screen added to the bottom of the dashboard will be replaced by a more accurate instrument (an option billed at €1,500) and one can imagine a more modern addition to provide equipment that did not exist at the time . The display here shows the kilometers traveled or the speed with a reliability that requires frequent recalibration. The original pin counter is therefore safer, but the pointer has a fidget syndrome that forces you to give up all precision. It remains readable.

With 165 kilometers of autonomy announced, it is possible to follow its development by keeping an eye on the bars of the small graphic on the screen located in the middle. Bars linked to the instantaneous consumption rather than to the remaining capacity of the batteries, as these can reappear during less energy-demanding driving or at a lower pace.

Approaches and a smooth ride in line with a “cool” setup, low non-adjustable seat, very reclined backrest in its most upright position, tall steering wheel with a view of the long hood, American “muscle car” style. Needless to say, we feel like we’re driving a car apart. Turn signal lever to the right of the steering wheel, no right mirror, left mirror with magnifying effect, although peripheral vision is perfect, you have to get used to new landmarks.

Awareness of the past

Peugeot 504 Coupe Retrofit

Peugeot 504 Coupe RetrofitCredit photo – Autonews

The lighting does not have the power of LED optics, but we can be sure that we will be seen. The smiles and other hand signals of pedestrians, even some of them approaching to exchange two or three words at the turn of a “zebra” crossing, are the best examples of this. Our 504 Coupé brought back some memories for one enthusiastic motorist who even rushed out of his car at a red light to find out a little more, all the more surprised to find it was running on batteries .

It says a lot that it’s hard to miss us when it’s time to recharge. A place occupied by an old woman who in advance has nothing to do there, but who is obviously connected with the rules of art, it also gave us a few unexpected stops in a double row and impromptu discussions time to recover a few kilowatt-hours in the accumulators.

The six battery packs have a total capacity of 31.8 kWh (30 kWh advertised) and it is possible to add an extra one (5.3 kWh) for €3,000 for a certain gain of 40 kilometers. Charging cable is included, and the socket is located instead of the fuel flap on the left rear wing.

new experience

Peugeot 504 Coupe Retrofit

Peugeot 504 Coupe RetrofitCredit photo – Autonews

The opening of this hatch, like the hood, are the only observable signs of modernity. The cracked furniture, tucked in by the blue velvet upholstery or the white imitation leather headboard, make them quickly forget. Unassisted driving too. Finally, the only drawback that this “retrofitted” Peugeot provides concerns the loss of the authentic sound of the gasoline engine. When we think about it, we sometimes have the impression of pretending that a good part of the fun of the old car is missing in operation.

One operation billed €12,000 to transform a model already in the customer’s possession, or €22,000 once the copy has been unearthed by Retrofuture. On the other hand, we also tell ourselves that this car has made an effort to adapt to our time, to facilitate our daily life, which was not its own when it came out. The driver would miss out on a pleasant experience if they didn’t try to adapt to it. A car, literally, electrified.

Shortly said

“Going electric”, an expression that takes on its full meaning in old cars. A conversion for the driver as for the vehicle itself, thanks to the “retrofitting”, installing an electric motor and batteries instead of the thermoblock and its tank. A technological leap that marks driving and amazes passers-by. We could experience it during a trip aboard a Peugeot 504 Coupé from 1972.

Quentin Cazergues

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