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The Peugeot 205 was a small hatchback car manufactured by the Peugeot car company between 1983 and 1997. It is the model widely credited with resurrecting the company's flagging sales in European countries outside its native France. The 205, with bodywork designed by Pinnifarina, was available in a number of variants, including two-door, four-door, cabriolet, diesel-engined and the sporty GTI models. Initially made in France, production for the right hand drive British market shifted to Britain shortly after introduction. Production of the flagship GTI models continued in France, however.

The 205 was a particular success because it offered a relatively 'big car' feel and was quite sophisticated compared to its rivals, the Ford XR2/XR3 and the Vauxhall Nova. In its GTI form, it rivalled the legendary Volkswagen Golf GTI - the original hot-hatch - for the title 'King of the GTIs'. A high power-to-weight ratio was afforded by a high-revving 1.6 litre, fuel-injected engine. Couple this with sophisticated suspension and steering setups and a 'wheel at each corner' design and you end up with a hard-driving, fast, fun car with excellent handling. If you liked to frequently view your car stuck in a ditch with its arse in the air, you could opt for the 'big brother' GTI - the 1.9 litre "Wolf in wolf's clothing", as the adverts put it. This car re-wrote the definition of 'torque steer'.

Peugeot manufactured a rally version of the 205, called the T16. This was a turbocharged variant intended for competition use only and was succesful for several seasons in the Paris - Dakar Rally.

In my opinion, the 205 bore the hallmark of a truly great design: Aside from some minor tweaks, including cosmetic modifications to the dashboard and tail light cluster, the design remained unchanged, and the benchmark for competing designs, for the whole of its life cycle. Quite a feat in the world of car design.

It would be unfair to claim that the legendary Peugeot 205 T16 was only a car for the Paris-Dakar Rally. It is best known for rallying and is still considered one of the most successful rally cars ever having dominated the Group B era of the World Rally Championship during the early eighties. Drivers like Ari Vatanen, Timo Salonen and Juha Kankkunen were among the drivers who rocketed the nimble turbocharged, mid-engined, four-wheel driven monster to several championship titles. In their three full seasons in the sport from 1984 to 1986, Peugeot took the championship in 1985 and 1986. The team led by Jean Todt could only be compared to Lancia and Audi in terms of technical genius and success.

Some technical specifications which I've run across (Peugeot 205 T16 Group B, 1985):

  • weight: 907kg
  • length: 3825mm
  • width: 1674mm
  • wheelbase: 2540mm
  • middle-engined
  • 4-wheel driven
  • engine: XU8T inline-4, 4 valves per cylinder
  • displacement: 1775cc
  • turbocharged
  • power: 316.2kw / 424bhp at 7500rpm (depends on the tuning level, I suppose)
  • torque: 490nm at 5500rpm
  • HP/litre: 238.87 bhp per litre
  • HP/weight: 467.48 bhp per tonne
  • front brakes: vented discs with 4-pot calipers
  • gearbox: 5-speed manual

After the so-called "Super cars" became much too fast for their own good and several serious accidents (such as the death of young Henri Toivonen in a Lancia), the Group B cars were outlawed from the series and rallying returned to human speeds and performance.. for a while. Having achieved practically everything, Peugeot decided to drop out of the WRC series at this stage, not to return until the 21st century with the successful 206.

The venerable 205 T16 Evolution 2 was still a beast of a machine and quickly found its way to the marathon rally classic, Paris -Dakar Rally. Once again, several Finns piloted the cars across the dunes to numerous victories. The cars were also seen at the Pike's Peak race in the US in even wilder configurations. The French team even developed a 405 version for the marathon rallies: based on the 205 but with a larger base, better balance and larger fuel tanks). The model continued Peugeot's reign over Africa, only to be surpassed by the same PSA corporations next product, the Citroen ZX.. the final fruit of Peugeot's original 205-project.

Cars based on the B group Peugeots can still be seen in the hands of hobbyist in more-or-less unlimited races such as rally sprints and some rally cross events. But purchasing a well-preserved B group 205 is something you should not even dream about without a serious pile of loose cash. The cars have become collectors items.

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