By on January 27, 2016

1989 Peugeot 405 MI16

Like every morning, I woke up yesterday, showered, and thumbed through my saved searches on eBay. When I saw a hit on my “Peugeot” search, I had a feeling it would be another crusty old bicycle, destined to become a fixie for some hipster that imports Gitanes.

Not this time.

I quickly clicked “Add To Watch List” and shuffled the kids to the bus stop, hoping the Pug that looked awesome on my tiny phone would turn out as nice once I got to a 24-inch LCD.

They say never meet your heroes. They should also say to never buy a car from within the eBay app. To be fair, the seller of this 1989 Peugeot 405 Mi16 does disclose that there are plenty of issues: it doesn’t run and might have a broken timing belt, which means bent valves and possibly scored pistons on this interference engine. There are scrapes and dents in the sheetmetal, and cracks on the bumpers. Oh, and rust.

I have to balance my Francophile enthusiasm with my serious lack of money and storage space. I see some fanatics restore old Porsches and Mustangs, retaining little beyond the VIN plate and replacing everything else. In comparison, this can’t be that daunting of a project, especially when there are marque specialists like Peugeot Holm here in the States. They’re still making the 405 in Iran, so parts can’t be that hard to come by with the right combination of patience and money.

Unlike many of my other automotive muses, a 405 Mi16 could be a reasonable daily driver, hauling the kids to their various activities when I don’t feel like using the minivan. Still, $1,200 might be too much when there is likely another $4,000 bill to make this heap right.

It doesn’t mean I’ll stop dreaming.

Chris Tonn is a broke classic car enthusiast that writes about old cars, since he can’t afford to buy them. Commiserate with him on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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42 Comments on “Crapwagon Outtake: 1989 Peugeot 405 Mi16...”


  • avatar
    julkinen

    I bought one of these in November, and paid about half. They’re not really eager to rust unless neglected or really salted, and the one in the article is probably both. The paint does flake off, both on plastic and sheetmetal. So far, I’ve taken care of the cambelt and various other issues that were included in the modest purchase price. My radiator is in Hamburg as of today.

    I haven’t owned mine long enough to say whether I made a good deal or a bad deal, but like a friend said, “That car could be haunted and on fire and it would still be awesome.” I hope he’s right.

  • avatar
    BobbieBeeBooker

    peugeot 405s are Still assembled here in Iran… with a modest price tag of $10,000… for an absolute base one.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      That’s very reasonable.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        And given that sanctions have just been lifted it might even be legal to import some of the parts that are needed.

        • 0 avatar
          Toad

          Of course, if you start receiving packages from Iran you will be on every government watch list you can imagine, and some you probably can’t.

          No car would be worth that hassle.

          • 0 avatar
            BobbieBeeBooker

            True Toad, especially if it is an old peugeot.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            To: Chris T., Indiana

            Fr: Concrete Block Haus, Abandoned-District, Iran

            Contents: “Special Sensor”

            Nope, no problem there.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            I’m being a wiseguy. I’ve never understood the fascination with Peugeot or Alfa or Sterling or any of the other brands that went running from the American market with their tail between their legs.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Merkur!

            No, I like Sterling though. A British-ised Legend, subtracting reliability but adding wood panel and style. The 827SLi was really a looker, Mr. Dan.

            http://www.blogcdn.com/www.autoblog.com/media/2011/08/001-ebay-find-of-the-day-sterling-827sli.jpg

            Sterling is the reason Acura never rose to the level of Lexus or got the jump on it in those four extra years it had, as I mentioned the other day.

          • 0 avatar
            jhefner

            The Rover Sterling was so promising; British flair with Japanese mechanicals. Instead you got British indifferent build quality.

            I still remember when they graced the glossy cover of Car Magazine; and I have a Matchbox Sterling in my diecast collection. Along with the Audi 5000s and Taurus, I thought they were the better looking of the early aero sedans.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            IKTR

            Merkur Scorpio goes there too.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Only the British could have figured out how to make a first-generation Acura Legend unreliable. I kind of admire the ingenuity.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            *singsong*

            Leyland Caaaaars.

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xm1aJx45F6k

          • 0 avatar
            Featherston

            @ PrincipalDan: Sample size of one, but the lone American Peugeot owner I know had a very good experience. She was the original owner of a 505 and got the better part of 20 years out of it. It didn’t hurt that she took care of it, always garaged it, and drove it primarily in DC rather than somewhere in New England or the Midwest. Interesting combination of build quality (quite good in her example), comfort, and performance (by which I mean nimbleness and handling rather than speed). Good manual transmission too, at least for hers.

            A friend in the UK got great service out of a 205 as well (just a plain Jane one, not a GTI).

            If Top Gear’s take is to be believed, Peugeot’s design, engineering, and quality have fluctuated wildly over the years. I’m not qualified to agree or disagree.

        • 0 avatar
          BobbieBeeBooker

          Honestly Dan, the parts are not of a very good quality, harmonious with the rest of the car.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Obviously the styling is amazing inside and out, but this thing is such a basket case of rust, missing bits, bad paint, falling headliner, etc. etc.

    I think it’d be better to just import one (since they’re old enough) from a country which values Peugeots, like France.

    I like that blue-purple late CL over there too.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Bonjour!

    http://www.leboncoin.fr/voitures/913981039.htm?ca=14_s 800EU

    http://www.leboncoin.fr/voitures/913978347.htm?ca=14_s 2200EU

    http://www.leboncoin.fr/voitures/910740132.htm?ca=14_s 3600EU

    http://www.leboncoin.fr/voitures/904845476.htm?ca=14_s 4300EU

    Trés simple, et bonne sélection.

    Or wait two years and then you can have a beautiful XM, the large and elegant 5-door hatch.
    http://www.leboncoin.fr/voitures/835495812.htm?ca=14_s

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    Those Peugeot leather seats were awesome. Just looking at them makes my back feel good.

  • avatar
    andrethx

    US 405 mi16 owner here (1991). patience and money are the key to parts for these cars. the iranian khodro/peugeot 405s are very different from the ones sold in the US and Canada up until 1991, there have been many revisions over the years to the cars. still, the 405 was a popular car and it shares lots of engine and suspension bits with other popular peugeots of the era so there are very few parts that can’t be found without some effort and money. the biggest problem is that these cars have been so cheap for so long that many of them have suffered years of neglect and deferred maintenance.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    I love off beat cars , and came close to buying a 504 and a 505 years ago while in collage, dodge a bullet on both and bought a Fiat so I love abuse but this one is used up and a parts car if that, find a decent one if you must have French love.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    I saw one of these on New Orleans craigslist, it was a good price for a very decent, rust-free car. I really liked it, and spent quite a while reading up on the 405. I seriously want one in my (fantasy for now) collection. I can park it next to the few other Euro rides I like, such as a BMW 318Ti, Audi Coupe GT, etc.

    Does the Brazilian VW Fox (Gol) still count as “Euro”? Lol. I want a two door Fox, either the coupe or the funky “Sedan Delivery” looking two door wagon. I think Id put a panel over the rear side windows, sorta like the Pinto Cruising Wagon, sans porthole/stripes/70s ugly.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      My first car was an 88 Fox sedan.I wish I knew more about cars at the time. I sold it for $125 needing a cv joint. I would buy a rust free one for a few hundred dollars today, to make a fun little project. I wouldn’t even care if the engine ran or not.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    You have to know when a car is just too much of a heap, and this car is just too much of a heap. It would be cheaper to wait for a better one than to try to fix this one up.

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    I had a VW Fox also…paid $400 for a 2 door, white with tan tweed seats, primitive little beast but really good in snow, had skinny little 13 inch tires on steel wheels. Last time I saw it, the new owner had put a dark red racing stripe on it, and was still tooling around the Metro East suburbs across the Mississippi River from St Louis.

    I like bigger Peugeots, this little 405 just doesn’t excite me. A 504 or 505 wagon would get my undivided attention…

  • avatar
    dave-the-rave

    I worked for Peugeot’s US ad agency in the early 1990’s. The ad campaign (“Bringing baby home in the Peugeot station wagon” and others) was effective at growing sales, until word of mouth from new owners started to spread and the brand cratered. Nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Nice to see Brian Holm is still in business up in Vermont. One of the true great eccentrics. He lives and works out of an old farmhouse way up a dirt road. Back 40 is covered in Peugeots, house basement and barn are stuffed with an Aladdin’s cave of parts. He was OLD when I still owned Peugeots almost 15 years ago.

    I ended up selling both of my 505 wagons to him, first the ’84 TurboDiesel then later the ’92 505 SW8. Wouldn’t surprise me if he is still driving the ’92, since there aren’t any newer and it is likely the only stickshift example in the US.

    This MI-16 is probably a parts car at best, but they are lovely cars when in good condition.

    • 0 avatar
      archer23

      Amen to all that you share here. I talked with Brian just the other day and he still sounds quite spry, being the eccentric that he is. I agree that condition can make all of the difference with a Peugeot. They need to be given care and simple regular attention. They deliver in spades when you do. I have and Mi 16 (mint) w/ 70K miles that came from Southern CA, a 405 DL with 205K miles on it (bought it new) with original clutch/throw-out bearing/everything, and a 405 automatic S with 28K miles that came off an elderly lady’s estate sale. Gotta take care of em’. They’re great cars!!

      I say this honestly…and have a mint ’07 Porsche Cayman. Still love the Peugeots, specifically the 405 model. Still has a non-dated fairly attractive style/appearance, if you ask me. But then , I have three of them. What else would you expect me to say??

  • avatar

    My family of origin got a 404 wagon in Paris in August 1965 (4 on the tree). We were there for a year, and we drove that car all over Europe the following summer. It was the first car I drove legally, four years later. Compared to American cars of that era, it was nimble, had responsive steering, and a really excellent suspension, that took Massachusetts potholed roads with aplomb. It wasn’t fast. After I got my license I took it on the highway one time and floored it for several minutes, getting it up to 85. (Paul Niedermeyer, who owned a handful of them, informs me that sometime after that, Peugeot boosted the power in 404s.

    My parents sold that car in the summer of 1970, because they were afraid to drive it across the country for another sabbatical. I didn’t think about it much for nearly 40 years until I dreamed one night that it had mysteriously reappeared along with several other family of origin cars. Now I miss it.

  • avatar
    davew833

    Which came first, the Nissan P10 Primera/Infiniti G20, or the Peugeot 405? They look like near- twins.

    You can probably get a running first- generation G20 for less than a grand and they’re almost as rare these days, especially for a decent one. I think the P10 styling is slightly more refined and organic, but I love the seats in the 405. I worked for Infiniti when the G20 came out and always thought the interiors were cheap looking. Great handling cars though, and of course the SR20DE engine was and is excellent.

    • 0 avatar
      julkinen

      The Peugeot preceded the Primera/G20 by a few years, as it was introduced in 1987. It’s quite certain Nissan benchmarked it for development, and the jump from Bluebird/Auster/Stanza to Primera was noteworthy.

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