Classic Cars Wiki
Classic Cars Wiki

The Peugeot 403 is a car produced by French automobile manufacturer Peugeot from 1955 to 1966.


The 403 made its debut in saloon body style on 20 April 1955 at the Trocadéro Palace in Paris. The engine size gave the car a fiscal horsepower of 8 CV (8 hp), which placed it a class below the soon-to-be-replaced 11 CV Citroën Traction, but at least one class above the smal cars produced by the principal competitor manufacturers.

When it was first shown, and until after 1958, the leading edge of car's nose carried an angular, forward-leaning chrome lion hood ornament – the lion image being Peugeot's trade mark. That was removed in 1959, due to safety concerns, and the logo was incorporated into a shield-shaped grill emblem.

Subsequently the semaphore-style trafficators on the C-pillars were replaced with flashing indicators within the light cluster. The front lights were modified to conform to new standards and in 1957 parallel parking windscreen wipers were substituted for the original "cross hands" ones featured at launch.


Styled by Pininfarina, the 403 featured ponton, three-box styling incorporating, except on the most basic models, an opening roof panel.


The 403 came with an enlarged version of the Peugeot 203's 1290 cc petrol engine. Displacing 1468 cc, the Straight-4 unit employed pushrod-actuated valves and a hemispherical or cross-flow combustion chambers to produce 65 hp (48 kW) at about 5000 rpm and 75 lb·ft (102 N·m) of torque at 2500 rpm. An unusual feature at the time was the thermostatically controlled engine fan which cut out when the engine temperature fell to 75°C and reengaged when the engine temperature increased to 84°C. Claimed advantages included an improvement in fuel consumption of between 5% and 10% according to average speed and the avoidance, under many conditions, of fan noise.

A diesel powered Peugeot 403 estate was introduced in the Autumn of 1958, the first of a long line, followed by a diesel saloon a year later.

Upon the 203's discontinuation in 1960, a 47 hp version its 1290cc powerplant became available as an option on a reduced specification version of the 403, branded as the "403 Berline Luxe". Car tax in France was based on engine size, and the smaller engined 403 fell within the 7CV taxation class.


The 403 came with a manual 4-speed all-synchromesh transmission driving the rear wheels. The gear change lever stuck out from the right side of the steering column.

For the Paris Motor Show in October 1957 the manufacture offered, at extra cost, an elecro-magnetic Jaeger automatic clutch, activated when changing gear.

Body variants[]

The wheelbase was lengthened by 24 cm (10 inches) for the five door Peugeot 403 "familiale" and "commerciale" estate versions. The familiale provided a third row of seats and was described as a 7/8 seater while the commericale offered a more conventional seat configuration for an estate car.

The lengthened 403 estate had a solid rear axle fitted to an aluminum differential case. It came with a manual column shift and, in its "familiale" guise, fully reclinable front seats. Sunroof and steel belted radial tires were standard. Reliability was considered excellent for the time.

A two door cabriolet version of the car was also offered, with a luxurious interior featuring high quality leather upholstery. In 1958 the 403 cabriolet cost 80% more than the entry level "berline grand luxe" 403 sedan, and presumably for this reason the convertible 403 was produced and sold only in very modest numbers. In the spring of 1961 production of the 403 cabriolet came to an end, in anticipation of the launch later that year of the manufacturer's 404 cabriolet.

In the television detective series Columbo, the main character (portrayed by Peter Falk) drove a 1959 convertible model 403.

The end[]

Superseded by the Peugeot 404 in 1960, the 403 remained in production as a budget alternative until 1966.