Growing up in Machakos in the early 90s the most revered automotive brand my father would talk to me about was Peugeot. His enthusiasm for the brand ignited a curiosity in me and I began to notice that he had more than enough reason to give the brand so much credit. At the time, the Peugeot 504 had taken Kenya by storm for a few years already. It was the police man’s vehicle of choice, it was a taxi, a family car, a farmer’s best friend, a matatu, a school bus, a van; you name it, it could do it.
In 2006, I joined the Peugeot fraternity. One bright Sunday morning as a form one student eagerly awaiting his parents arrival during the bi-monthly visiting day, my Father drove into the school in a car whose iconic body lines had been etched into memory. It was like one of those halo moments when the lead character in a pop film has an epiphany, angels singing and a heavenly glow slowly revealed to me our family’s first car. He was driving a pristine Peugeot 504 station wagon in beige, with the classic dark brown interior that I had been accustomed to in Peugeots.
The next four years of high school quickly flew by and soon enough a much soughtt after commodity was in my young teenage hands. A driving license! Armed with my arsenal of two months driving experience in the city of Nairobi, I ventured on a 180km drive from Nairobi to my Grandparents’ at a beautiful small town in Kirinyaga called Karumande. The gear changes were jerky and my left foot was almost numb because the clutch was slightly heavy but after two hours of utter panic , wrong lane changes, wild overtaking maneuvers and almost knocking over a motorcyclist I had earned my Peugeot 504 driver’s badge!
These long drives became a family routine, and the more I drove it the more became one with the car. My foot became accustomed to the clutch and the gear changes became almost effortless except for one or two tough moments getting it to second gear. I must say, the former owners had done a good job maintaining it because it felt planted on the road. I couldn’t imagine learning how to drive in any other type of car.
The 504 station wagon is all things to all men; it seats 7 comfortably and has enough boot space for any family’s needs. An optional roof rack could be added and since it has minimal body roll for a vehicle its size, it encouraged some to be a bit generous with the loads they carried. I love the details on it, the chrome door handles, the dials, and that cute little clock (never worked in ours). It has some very beautiful body lines and the interior trim is a marvel for its class of vehicle.
I remain amazed at how Peugeot managed to extract this much character from a car despite its simplicity.
Jeremy Clarkson said, “A car becomes great, when you begin to think of it as a person.” However, the peugot 504 popularly named muruthi (Lion) became more than that, it became a Kenyan icon.