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Grandpa Jan’s 404

Most cars change owners a few times in their life. Sometimes a car stays in one family for a lifetime. The Peugeot 404 XC7 from Hessel le Blanc from Vinkel is such a car that has always remained in the family. Three generations of le Blanc have been behind the wheel since its purchase in 1974. Twenty-year-old Hessel inherited the 404 from his grandfather and now drives it every summer every summer.

In 1974 grandfather Jan le Blanc got the car in use through his employer. It was love at first sight and the blue 404 was an immediate favorite with the le Blanc family. In 1976 the company replaced the 404 with a new Ford Taunus. The le Blanc family decided to take over the 404 privately because the 404 turned out to be an ideal car with its spacious trunk and 74 hp engine to pull the caravan for holidays to France.

The holidays to France are beautiful childhood memories for Hessel’s father. Together with his two brothers, they had plenty of room in the back seat during the journey on the Autoroute. The further south the family came, the brighter the sun and the hotter the leatherette upholstery became. “The back seat was sometimes so hot that your bare legs almost caught fire under your shorts. In a manner of speaking then… ”father Harco still remembers.

In 1983 a VW Polo arrived at the family’s door. For a moment it seemed that the 404 would leave the family. Only Grandpa Jan had become attached to the car. Grandma’s unsuccessful attempts to sell the car came to nothing. The 404 ended up in the garage under a cloth and entered a third phase of life.

The 404 was well preserved under the canvas in the garage. He only came out for a tour with the Peugeot 404 association or for a honeymoon ride. In 1988 grandpa and grandma took it on a trip to France. A tour with the Peugeot Club to Sochaux. It was a memorable ride to the cradle of the 404. With some weekend rides, the car still got some mileage.

Meanwhile a grandson had been born in the family. Little Hessel looked with wide, curious eyes at that mysterious car that was under a sheet in Grandpa’s garage. He couldn’t help but peek under the sheet at the angular taillights and the beautiful grille with that big golden lion. Grandpa was careful with the 404 so everything had to be viewed with great caution.

In recent years, the 404 came out of the garage less and less often. The engine stopped working because it was no longer used. A specialist had to be involved to give the car extra work. Meanwhile, Hessel had taken the backseat where his father had been a generation earlier. The tours with the Peugeot 404 association were picked up again, Hessel went along and the 404 got some movement again.

Hessel: “I think it is very special to drive the 404. The thought that my grandfather was behind the wheel with my father and uncles in the backseat and that I was there myself as a child gives a sense of connection. My grandfather passed away and I inherited the 404 from him. I was 12 years old at the time and my father kept the car for me for so long. Now that I got my driver’s license myself, I wanted nothing more than to drive the 404. It is a privilege to be able to manage such family property. I can really enjoy that. ”

“I still had to get the hang of driving in a 404. Together with my father on a quiet road, I have mastered the steering gear. It’s quite an experience when you drive a 404 for the first time. The comfortable seat, the mechanism, it is all special. On the road, passers-by often give the thumbs up for the 404 and with which modern car does this still happen? ”

“The car was in need of an overhaul. I took that for my account. I’ve addressed all kinds of overdue maintenance so that the 404 can handle it again. With an old-timer you always have something to fix or tease, but this 404 is now technically and optically a patent voiture. After all, a 404 is made to be driven in! “

“The car is inside during the winter months. Then I can immediately do some extra maintenance. At the moment I am working on refurbishing the chairs, or rather the armchairs and I also disassembled the instruments for some repair work. Just nice odd jobs on that car. I do try to keep as original as possible, no modern adjustments because that is not very helpful to me. But I have to hurry a bit now, spring is approaching and then we will hit the road again of course! The holiday destination is of course France. ”

Hessel likes to share his experiences with his 404 on Instagram. So if you like to follow his adventures with the 404, follow Hessel’s account: @peugeot_404_1974 and if you’re not into social media, give yourself a thumbs up if you’re the 44-AN-46 driving past!

Maarten van der Velden

Na mijn opleiding aan de Frederik Muller Academie ben ik jaren werkzaam geweest voor verschillende uitgeverijen zoals Elsevier en NRC Handelsblad. Daarvoor heb ik zelfstandig en met heel veel plezier het kwartaaltijdschrift Peugeot Expo Magazine uitgegeven. In mijn vrije tijd rijd ik graag in een Peugeot 403, ik Twitter graag over auto's en ik houd van hardlopen. Ik vind het leuk om mensen met elkaar te verbinden.

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