Digestible Collectible: 1987 Peugeot 205 GTi

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn

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”:

Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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  • RideHeight RideHeight on Jan 04, 2016

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

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    • Krhodes1 Krhodes1 on Jan 05, 2016

      @krhodes1 And many hundred pounds lighter than even a European 500. Most of that 6" of length is due to the fact that the 205 actually has bumpers that stick out of the ends.

  • Barryfaetheus Barryfaetheus on Jan 05, 2016

    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.

  • RichardF RichardF on Jan 05, 2016

    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'.

  • Deconstruction Deconstruction on Jan 10, 2016

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