I met my stepdad when I was probably five years old. He had come on that official-meet-the-kids-you-will-be-sort-of-fathering visit, and he came in a Peugeot 404. I remember being impressed. It was a snow white sedan, with a fan inside, possibly a user modification. I loved it. It was novel and seemed so dangerous compared to my grandpa’s VW station wagon. I had seen that bloody station wagon all my life – all five or so years at that time – and compared to the 404 sedan, it seemed lifeless and frankly, fuddy-duddy. The 404 seemed rebellious. It was the future, and it would seem, so was this guy I was meeting officially.
I don’t remember the exact next time I saw a Peugeot, but when I went to my first trade show, my uncle – step dad’s brother – came to pick us up in a Peugeot 404 station wagon. I remember it being roomy, and I remember being excited and insisting on occupying the back because I could play and roll around. I remember all the adults letting me do my thing. Of course looking back, I realise that it was hazardous for a kid not to be fastened with a seat belt. Yikes! But every other time this uncle came over, he would take us for a ride and he would let me take over the back of the car. In the back of that car I was free from my mother’s get-you-to-do-the-right-thing stare and from my sister’s ridicule.
Then as I grew up, I saw Peugeots everywhere. They were the ‘taxis’ of the nineties; the 404 station wagon and the 504 station wagon. They had two rows of seats and roomy backs: two passengers in the front sharing a seat next to the driver, four in the middle and in the back, four seating across each other. Somehow it worked. The car I had known for some years had this noble utility, and I sort of loved it. I remember calling the brand, pew-zha and feeling really fancy and exceptional because everyone else called it pee-joh-tee. I had after all been known the brand for longer than most, I thought. I felt like we had a connection.
Many many years later, in my early twenties, a friend got as a birthday gift from a suitor, a Peugeot 206 Sport. It was a coupé, metallic blue and incredibly different from the pew-zha of my teenage days. But that emblem, the roaring lion, it hit the spot like amangqina (cow trotters) and pap after missing them for years; or khabishi (cabbage) cooked like your mama or your grandma do (depending on your age). Yes the logo had changed from a lion’s head to a full lion. But it was still a lion. I remembered the rebel 404 sedan of my stepdad, the freedom cart aka 404 station wagon of my uncle and the utilitarian 404 and 504 station wagons turned public transport of my pre-teen and teen years. I was familiar, and I loved the warm fuzzy feeling that came along with it.
In the last couple of years, this gem of a brand has continued to innovate, and I am inspired. The pedigree in this brand is staggering, and yet it continues to reinvent, rethink and reshape. I feel proud, like you do when your homeboy makes it big and you, along with whole neighbourhood are proud of him as if you were all family.