News Culture

The Peugeot 806 Runabout Was a Convertible Van that Wanted Desperately to Be a Boat

Did we mention it came with a custom jet ski?

France is known for making strange cars—how about them Citroens? You can therefore imagine how unusual their concept cars must be. Even with that prior knowledge of Gallic weirdness, what Peugeot came up with in 1997 is beyond odd. It’s unorthodox, nautical, and decidedly French. Meet the Peugeot 806 Runabout, which can’t decide whether it’s a boat trying to be a car or a car trying to be a boat. And no, it doesn’t float.

Really, The 806 Runabout was a pleasure craft-styled car for cruising around the balmy south of France. You’ll notice the windshield and the deck out back are styled like that of a boat. All of the wood is real teak, even the exterior trim on the side.

Späth Chr | Wikimedia

For a fuller understanding of why Peugeot’s designers went in this direction, check out this quote from the original press release:

“By subtly combining the balance of the European monospace, the practicality of the American pick-up and the outdoor feeling of the Cabriolet, the designers have created an open top vehicle whose sleek bodyline brings to mind images of a classical motorboat; thus the name Runabout. This is Peugeot opening up to other lifestyles, both European and non-European.”

See, it’s all about the lifestyle. The rear deck moves up and down hydraulically, allowing it to turned into a lovely spot for your even lovelier French spouse to sun themselves. If you don’t believe someone would actually do that, here’s a particularly Nineties video Peugeot made to demonstrate all of these features.

Ahh, I’m extremely relaxed after watching that. As demonstrated, the car has two separate split tailgates, one at the back of the vehicle, and one behind the seats. Oh wait, just a moment. My wife has just arrived on a float plane to lounge around in the back of my Peugeot.

Alright, I’m back. Just in time to take my custom matching jet ski out for a little cruise on the lake. The 806 Runabout had a winch so you could tow it up into the wooden cargo area for transport. We’re not certain if the watercraft was functional, but it at least floated, as per the video.

One part of the Runabout that was actually quite nice was the interior. It was complete with a CD player, an attractive automatic shifter, and a series of chrome buttons to satisfy your every whim.

Plenty of wood, plenty of chrome, Peugeot

The rope-lined steering wheel is particularly interesting. The whole aesthetic of the interior actually reminds me a lot of Michael Graves’ iconic tea set for Alessi. 

A few aesthetic parallels.,

See what I mean?

What makes this entire concept even stranger is the vehicle it was based on—the 806 ‘Eurovan’. Unlike the 806 van from the period, the Runabout was powered by a 3.0 liter, naturally aspirated V6 making 191 horsepower. It sent power to the front wheels via a four-speed automatic transmission. There are no reviews of the concept from any publications, even though it ran and drove. Unfortunately we’ll never know if it was a real corner-carver or more of a boulevard cruiser. What a shame.

The original 806, Peugeot

Peugeot only made one of these, and there was really no purpose behind making this car. “Because France” would be the only reasonable justification. They would have sold about two, and they knew that. It’s currently parked in the ‘Museum of the Peugeot Adventure’ in France, if you want to see it in the flesh.