By on January 4, 2016

1987 Peugeot 205 GTi

As I wrapped up 2015 last week, I was reminded of my lust for French cars. My look at an inexplicably imported Citroen was the most popular piece I wrote last year, so it’s quite likely there are a few more of you masochists out there.

I also love me some hot hatches. The French know what they are doing with these cars, too, though most would think of the R5 Turbo or perhaps the 205 T16 rally replica rather than a proper front-engine, front drive commuter.

As we’ve reached another arbitrary point in our laps around the sun, we can look at importing a new batch of otherwise-unavailable cars under the 25-year rule.

I’ve mentioned before that I’d love to fly away and drive home a new-to-me car, like European Delivery for someone on a raman noodle budget. Randy Nonnenberg, my editor when I was at Bring A Trailer, did this a couple years back with a stepnose Alfa and I’ve been daydreaming about doing the same.

The car in question: a 1987 Peugeot 205 GTi with the bigger 1.9-liter engine. Why this was never imported to the States while Peugeot still had a presence here is beyond me, as it would have been a perfect competitor to the contemporary Volkswagen GTI and Honda Civic Si, among others. Peugeot even raced the Group B 205 T16 at Pikes Peak, as shown in the classic film “Climb Dance”:

This one is a UK market, right-hand-drive car, which makes sense as it’s in England. Certainly, I could have shopped in France, but my French language skills aren’t the best. It’s priced at roughly $11,000 USD. For the same price, with travel and transport costs included, I could probably buy a brand-new Honda Fit, or get awfully close to a Fiesta ST.

I’m sure the 205 isn’t as spectacular as I’m imagining — but this car looks so right. The 15-inch Speedline alloys, featuring wide offset lips not often found on front-drive cars, are perfect. The red carpet and three-tone leather/fabric seats are inviting to my inner boy racer.

Being a gearhead means rational decisions can often be dismissed. There is nothing rational with spending thousands of dollars to bring a commuter car to a land that won’t have basic maintenance bits available at every parts store.

But I’m still tempted.

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84 Comments on “Digestible Collectible: 1987 Peugeot 205 GTi...”


  • avatar
    EquipmentJunkie

    LOVE these cars! There are still plenty of them on the roads in France. If I were to import a 25+ year old European car, the 205 GTi and a Land Rover Defender are at the top of my list.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      I was nerding out over older French cars when I visited there for the first time a few weeks ago. I’m a huge Ronin fan so to see some of the places where the chases were filmed and some of the cars used in it was a treat. Also saw an absolutely immaculate Lancia Delta Integrale in that perfect shade of red in Strasbourg. I’ve gained a new appreciation for small European hatchbacks (and European cars in general) I think, now that I’ve seen them in their native environment. The newest designs I didn’t find that appealing, but anything from the late 80s to late 90s was really cool looking. I’d love to zip around Paris in one of these 205s, or even better, a big displacement unfaired street bike. There was a ton of Suzuki Bandit 1200s like mine and stuff like Goldwings and K1200GT BMWs. Surprising, given that they drive cars with tiny diesel engines but motorcycles get a pass.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    FYI, these cars are even smaller than they look.
    You will want to use some kind of octane booster with every fill-up, they were right on the edge of detonation even with the high-octane leaded European gas of the era.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “but my French language skills aren’t the best.”

    Zoot alors! Many preferables for a LHD one though, and probably better selection in France with preference for home market cars, and less stringent MOT things (I think).

    Plus like, Google will translate for you. Cheer ho! This one is a much better deal.

    http://www.pugsforsale.co.uk/ads/1-9-205-gti-1991-miami-blue/

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      “Zoot alors!”

      Zoot Allures.

      FIFY

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        It’s apparently zut alors, which I will admit freely I’ve been spelling wrong in my mind for years.

        • 0 avatar
          RideHeight

          No, you’re right about the languageness of it; I was merely attempting to draw your attention to a whopping great Zappa album.

          Aren’t old people a bore?

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I’m pretty sure that guy was dead before I was born!

            Checking: Nope, 1993. He lived longer than I thought. Sort of like Richard Pryor. I assumed he died in like 1985 in a fire.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Richard Pryor did almost die in a fire in the 80s. Freebasing cocaine, pouring 151 on yourself, and lighting yourself on fire doesn’t usually end well.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            What’s a 151?! Really strong ketchup?

            And I’m not sure if it’s bad or good that I don’t actually know what freebasing means.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            Zappa died because for over 30 years he considered cigarettes “food”.

            But at least he fully availed himself of the period’s cancer medicine unlike a certain tech tyrant I can remember.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            151 is a Bacardi rum that is 151 proof. So it’s basically 75% alcohol. Freebasing drugs means that you are smoking it instead of snorting or shooting it. So Pryor was smoking crack I suppose.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Ah ha! I’m learnin’ today.

            Does cocaine become crack when it’s freebased? I always hear them say “crack cocaine” on whatever show (Cops), but to my mind they were different things.

            I don’t feel like you could crush up crack really finely and then suddenly have cocaine again.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            No, in order for cocaine to become crack it has to be refined. Typically it is cooked with baking soda.

            It’s a relatively cheap and short high that is very addictive.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I thought cocaine was always very expensive relative to crack. That’s why rich white people in the 80’s in Miami all did cocaine, and then Tony Montana and stuff.

            Poor minorities in the midwest do crack.

            Per your second point there, the high is better than cocaine I suppose.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Crack isn’t any cheaper than cocaine if you adjust for active ingredients.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            *cues The More You Know banner*

            Thanks!

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            You would have known all this stuff if you’d grown up watching TV and movies in the ’80s and ’90s.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            There wasn’t much crack-cocaine talk on Fresh Prince, Friends, and Frasier man!

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Chandler was a drunk, not a crackhead.

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            Fresh Prince: no. 21 Jump Street: yes. There is a montage in Menace II Society where Kane makes a batch of crack. And Cops taught you everything you needed to know about American drug culture.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            21 Jump Street isn’t -quite- 90’s, ha.

          • 0 avatar
            05lgt

            Freebasing was DIY crack. You processed your own questionable purity powder in an attempt to smoke a purer form. So you have crack heads messing with flames, flammables, and precious substances while jonsing for the outcome. No one ever set a fire that way. The wonderful arguments about the yield percentage are something I never miss. Thing is Pryor was depressed and poured 151 on himself, the basing was just what he was doing right before.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Crack is too expensive for the Midwest – the drug of choice for a long time has been meth, since you can make it in your kitchen. Though my understanding is heroin is crazy cheap right now, and causing a LOT of deaths.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            Yes, I understand heroin is THE drug of choice around the Midwest.

            As for 151, makes for a decent Rum & Coke, but I always used the same amount as “normal” Bacardi.

            Only did that twice, IIRC, during my college years! Absolutely the worst hangover EVAH! :-(

  • avatar
    callmeishmael

    The only French car I want is a Renault 4CV and that only as a vessel for a Miata engine and LeMons.

  • avatar
    W.Minter

    Found a nice clean 2nd onwer LHD 205 GTi in Germany for 9200 USD:
    http://suchen.mobile.de/auto-inserat/peugeot-205-peugeot-205-1-9-gti-a-d-auto-bild-klassik-2-2013-elmenhorst/232730.html

  • avatar
    Chris Tonn

    My goodness. I love the tangents these comments take.

    For a bunch of people who have no problem calling “crackpipe” on some of the cars I post, you don’t know much about the drug itself, eh?

    ;)

  • avatar
    spreadsheet monkey

    205 GTIs are great cars, although they are far more expensive than they were 5 years ago. I’m not sure they would have sold well in the US. Even by 1980s standards, they were very lightweight and not renowned for their crash safety.

    The very best hot hatches from the 1980s/90s (205 GTI, Golf GTI, Renault 5 Turbo, Escort Cosworth) are massively going up in price, for the same reason muscle car prices are going crazy in the USA. People who wanted these cars but couldn’t afford them when they were in their teens back in the 1980s now have good jobs and money to spend.

    The prices of top condition hot hatchbacks will probably never get to Barrett Jackson muscle car levels, but they are still surprising classic car market watchers in the UK.

    http://www.specialistcarsltd.co.uk/vehicle/non-porsche/peugeot-205-gti-19

    http://www.4starclassics.com/ford-escort-rs-cosworth-lux-for-sale/

    http://www.4starclassics.com/renault-5-turbo-2-for-sale/

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    Look at how much glass that thing has!

    I don’t know much about Peugeots, but I like this.

  • avatar
    richardsheil

    By the way Ari Vatanen is driving a 405T16 up that hill in the video

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Peugeot-Other-309-GTI-/111837717005

    I also nominate this 309 GTI as more rare and also coupe! And it’s in The America already.

    I went to Ebay to search out an American 405 GTI but there weren’t any.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Couldn’t possibly imagine why!

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        It was the last car they sold here, too.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Again, couldn’t possibly imagine why!

          My anti-French car bias is definitely showing…but then again, it’s not every day you get to experience a car that started about 40% of the time, blew an engine in second gear doing 35-40 mph, and was so generally atrocious that the owner threatened to burn it in the dealer’s parking lot. Let’s just say Citroen aptly named this car the “SM”.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I just love the styling. Always have. I think that era of Peugeots, whether sedan or hatch, is fantastic looking.

            The SM is fantastic also, but in a more discotheque way.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Agreed on the 405’s styling – it was a great looking car. I also like the Alfa 164, which was styled in a similar vein.

            And the SM had 99 problems, but the styling definitely wasn’t one of them. I grew up in St. Louis, and from the looks of other folks in the road, you’d think a shuttle from the starship Enterprise had landed or something. You could raise or lower the car on its’ hydropneumatic suspension, so that got attention to.

            I was only 12 when when my dad had it, but it was apparently a pretty amazing drive as well. One fall day my dad and I shined it up and took it down the winding road we lived on, and the Beatles’ “Michelle” came on the radio. Combined with the Maserati soundtrack from under the hood, that was about as perfect a motoring moment as exists on Earth.

            Magnificent car, as long as you didn’t need it for silly stuff like transportation…

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            You know I have a similar awesome car moment, but it occurred in a Daewoo. Hard to believe, I know.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            @Freedmike

            Thing is, owning something like an SM, or even my Triumph is a VERY different thing today than it was 40 years ago. Back then, nobody really knew anything about them. They were new cars, but they weren’t built all that well, and in the US very few people could fix them. Today, there is 40 years experience with them, and the ones you want have been restored to better than they ever where when they were new. All the faults, and more importantly, all the FIXES for the faults are known, and the Internet makes information gathering (and parts shopping) soooo much easier. Now it is not so much can you get a part, but can I get the part with free shipping!

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      No such thing as a 405GTI in the US. We did get the 405MI-16 though. Fun car. Likely not many left, given the youngest of them are 24 years old now. One of my greatest regrets is not figuring out a way to buy the local dealer’s low-mileage demo car after Peugeot pulled the plug in the US. Was less than 1/2 price with like 1500 miles and full warranty.

      I LOVE 205s, and am lucky enough to have gotten to drive one on one of my trips to Hungary when they were still newer cars. Super fun, like a lighter friskier VW GTI. And super tailhappy on throttle lift. A lot of them crashed backwards.

      All of the great looking Peugeots from the 60s to the 90s were the work of Pinanfarina, who could not draw a bad line if you paid them to. The 504 Coupe and the 405 Coupe are particular standouts, along with the 205. Just so perfectly proportioned.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        What does full warranty mean when the importer is dead and many of the dealers had abysmal reputations for competence when they were supported?

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          Peugeot still had official dealers and an official parts operation in the US until relatively recently. Our local dealer was excellent, which is one reason that Peugeots were quite common cars in this area in the day. Little Maine had four Peugeot dealers actually, which is probably the most per capita in the country.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick_515

        I lusted after 406 coupes throughout the entirety of my undergraduate years in the late 90s. Also Pininfarina, sunken rear windshield.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I think I was thinking MI-16 with too much GTI on me mind. Would be excellent to find a pristine one now.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          The guy who now owns my 504D (among many other cool Pugs, including a 406 Coupe), has a pristine ’92 MI-16 with <30K on it. He has quite a collection in a pole barn in Indiana. I never did get the scoop on how that 406 ended up in the country, it is much to new to be here legit.

          I'd love to buy my 504 back, but it was a favorite of his late wife, so I don't think he will part with it anytime soon.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I hope it’s a paved pole barn. Otherwise the mices (and dampness) will just ruin everything in there.

            You should like, go over to Indiana and do a write up of his collection!

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            I suspect that while he calls it a “pole barn”, it is actually some sort of VERY nice facility. I have seen a number of their cars over the years, most of them are pretty spectacular, the collection goes back to the 50’s. They used to live in PA, so would bring 4-5 cars to the Carlisle Import Show every year. Now he just drives one of the more modern ones, last time I was there in ’13 it was the 406.

            He does a Peugeot gathering every so often for the club, but the stars have just not aligned for me to make it out there to one.

  • avatar
    Coopdeville

    Is this the car that Top Gear picked as best handling car in the world over every supercar? Can’t seem to find that episode, but recall it being pretty darn funny.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Yes, this was a cool car, but I have to ask how fast it really is. I’m sure many have been modded, but I’m finding 0-60 times in the high-seven second range. That was quick for a compact in the 1980s, but a modern compact (even the non- GTI / Civic Si / WRX / Focus ST types) can easily match that kind of performance envelope. A 2016 Golf with a manual would probably blow this thing away.

    Tells you how far the state of the art has advanced.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I bet a Civic automatic would blow it away too. Lol.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        The new one, maybe…the old one is kind of a slug.

        But given a mid-seven second 60 time, a manual Mazda 3, or even an automatic Golf would take it handily. The manual Golf actually posts high-six-second 0-60 times, so a plain-jane 2-door base model would be one helluva sleeper. Lightly used these come in under $15,000 these days. Thus, my strange Golf fascination.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      Agreed on all counts; today’s mundane cars will often run circles around the hot stuff of yesteryear.

      What the numbers won’t tell you, though, is the difference in feel between the cars. This 205 is going to feel much more involving at lower speeds.

      A V6 Camry might give a lot of big-inch 60s muscle cars a run for their money in a straight line (and murder them around corners), but you’d never know it from the drama you feel from behind the wheel.

      Related: There was a 2003 Grassroots Motorsports article wherein they raced a Honda Odyssey against a Porsche 356 and Jag XKE and found the minivan to be quicker.
      https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/articles/soccer-moms-revenge/

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Euro hot hatches have never really been about raw speed. They’re much more about driving experience on a budget. Honestly, even as someone with an irrational like of all things Honda, I think I’d really rather spend quality time with this old Pug than with a new Civic Si. I wouldn’t want to *own* it, but I’d sure like to drive it.

      What gets me is all the attention paid to the 1.9 when they were rarer than hens’ teeth on the roads at the time. I spent my summers in Switzerland (thanks, intercontinental divorce) through most of my childhood, and I think I’d see 25 1.6 versions for every 1.9 out on the road. The 1.9 is worth it for the wheels alone, though.

    • 0 avatar
      outback_ute

      I don’t think you could compare the road feel of electric power steering to manual steering (there was a version with power steering too), and the cars were light enough to get away without it.

      The 1.9 was only sohc 8-valve, and not terribly highly tuned, you can convert to the Mi16 engine and gain a lot of speed if you need to.

      Part of the appeal of this type of car is that you can use all of the performance, and have more fun than a faster car.

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    These little hatches don’t do it for me, but I’d be all over a clean Peugeot 505 wagon…or a 604 sedan. As long as it wasn’t my sole source of transportation we’d be all set.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Peugeot didn’t bring these to the US for myriad reasons. For one thing, small cars really suffered when adapted to US safety, bumper, and emissions regulations. Europe was still the wild west. There would be freeway accidents in fog with serious body counts and nobody batted an eye. Fuel economy trumped safety and emissions over there. Throw 300 lbs of door beams and impact bumpers at a 205 GTI and see whether it resembles a fun drive anymore. Now clip 20% of its power making it run on unleaded while exhaling through a catalyst. Suddenly you’ve got a Mercury Lynx on your hands.

    Peugeot also didn’t offer all their little cars, and there were many before and after the 205, because they wanted to be a premium brand in the US. It would have hurt their credibility as a Volvo alternative if they were also competing with Yugo.

    Peugeot was treading water in the US. Few people bought more than one, and Gordon Baxter’s “I’ll Never Get Rid of Old Herpes” spared many people the heart ache of even needing to make this particular mistake once. Small cars might have broadened their market, but small cars were also falling out of favor when the 205 came along, and it was their only decent small car. Besides, they needed to concentrate on their captive markets like France, Iraq, and French colonial Africa. It was enough to try and make people who had few choices buy their cars rather than competing with cars from other countries on equal footing.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Those wheels look mighty large and the sidewalls small for a 1987 anything. Can’t imagine they’re factory. Poo be upon them.

  • avatar
    barryfaetheus

    I actually imported a 205 GTI 1.6 a couple of years ago. Mine was a 1988 and it just had its 25 year birthday, allowing it to qualify for the DOT/EPA exemption.

    We found it online and friends back in the UK bought it, parked it until all the paperwork was cleared, then took it to Southampton docks. After it arrived in Tacoma by ro-ro, I picked it up and after getting a jump start was able to drive it directly home to Portland.

    Getting it titled and registered wasn’t too bad. About the hairiest moment was when the emissions test people dismissively flunked it for missing catalytic converters. Luckily I had an email print out from the DEQ environmental engineer stating catalysts not required on a non-US market vehicle, but it would still be held to the same emissions standards. And it just passed and no more.

    Sold it a couple of months later on Ebay. All in, it was a fun experience, but a lot of hoops to jump through.

  • avatar
    RichardF

    I live in the UK, and way back when, I owned a 205 GTi 1.6, used as a DD and for amateur motorsport (Arrive and drive, slalom/ autocross type events). In their time, these cars were the most fun thing on four wheels, anywhere in Europe.

    Not fast in a straight line by today’s standards, but quick enough then, and so involving to drive. Crisp, communicative steering, the revvy engine’s eager throttle response, closely spaced 5 speed box, proper brakes, supportive seats. Some nice engineering details, from the equal length driveshafts (to avoid torque steer), which many hot hatch makers didn’t bother with back then, down to the standard oil temp gauge.

    But the 205GTi’s ace card is the ‘Peugeot magic’ in its suspension setup, which largely banishes understeer, and enables (encourages) steering with the right foot… so neat, whenever you want to tighten the line. This is a car which always feels like it’s on your side.

    Many former owners, if they could have one car back again, would say this one. I was once at a promotional trackday for MG cars, talking with one of their suspension development guys, and I mentioned the 205 GTi’s driver-appeal. His answer? ‘Yes, I know – I’ve got one at home’.

  • avatar
    deconstruction

    205 1.9 have 15-inch wheels, 1.6 have 14-inch and the rest 13-inch.


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