I’m fortunate enough to have tried out quite a few cars for my age. Accommodating parents and no real responsibilities meant I’d burnt my way through more than 10 by the time I was 21. And, without exception I could tell you a few things that I loved about each and every one of them. The thing is though, I truly regret selling only one car. F201 WEF, a 1988 Peugeot 205 XS.
I can still remember the excitement I experienced when I found the listing. For me it ticked all the boxes: old enough to appeal, obscure enough to not be expensive and if the advert was anything to go by then it was actually in very nice, original condition.
Fast-forward a week or so, and I’d emerged as the auction’s highest bidder. A friend and I were collecting the car from a glum Birmingham industrial estate. My heart sank as I saw the state of the place, then the age of the guy who was flogging it – he was younger than me. Please don’t be a lemon, please don’t be a lemon. The reality of it was, I’d come too far to back out.
For the first time I’d seen my car and you know what, I was starting to feel a little bit smug. The Pug beaming back at me with a face as near as damn it to its big brother – the GTI, fog lights and all. Each of its front wings still had the original XS sticker; there was brown tinted glass and a sunroof, even the original upgrade radio/cassette was present. Strangely, the car had alloys fitted from a Roland Garros, they didn’t look entirely correct but they made it stand out further and I came to quite like them. Step inside and the interior was truly timewarp, and I don’t mean the bullshit you see in so many eBay ads, it really was in amazingly good condition.
Anyway, I did my best to try and look professional and contain my excitement but must’ve ended up handing over the cash embarrassingly quickly, the full amount of course.
Little did I know it but I’d just entered a crash course in basic car mechanics, a standard part of Peugeot 205 ownership I’d say. Just driving the car back was eventful, I’d not seen a choke lever since I was in single digits and a general lack of use meant the car was running badly, stalling randomly at lights and generally sending far too much fuel through its twin-choke carburettor.
Once the car was home, the first thing I did was have a friend replace the cambelt and water pump. I then serviced it with the parts it deserved. Plenty of polishing even brought back the baked bean orange panels to their former red hue.
People bang on about Peugeot 205s so very much that quite frankly it can get boring. The 205 XS never had pace to worry the GTI but that wasn’t the point. The 1360cc TU3S engine under the bonnet used an alloy block and was fed by a single twin-choke Solex carburetor, meaning 85hp – an ample figure for a car so very light. Better yet, the XS used a 5spd gearbox with shortened ratios, it was exactly what was required to pull the best from what sat under its bonnet.
The drive was just fantastic, with total communication through its wheel and pedals. The gearbox, with its comically close ratios, made it a traffic light champion.
I’d grown up reading about the tail wagging ways of 205 GTIs but it wasn’t long before I’d experienced this first hand. One evening, having left a friend’s house with him following close behind, F201WEF slapped me on the wrist. Entering a familiar right hand bend a little too enthusiastically saw the back wheels overtake the front as my dim-witted attempt at counter steering took hold. I could blame the tyres – two Michelins at the front and two budgets on the back, by the way. But the truth is I was driving like a fool.
Thankfully my friend saw the whole thing unfold and managed not to plow straight into the side of the car. Aside from laying some extra rubber on the road it was only my pride that took a beating. The car had stalled; I fired it up and drove away a more cautious and respectful driver.
As I shift the rose tinted specs a little further from my nose I can tell you more about the car. It always smelt of fuel, and its gear linkage, a notoriously fragile component of these cars, appeared to be the factory original – and it certainly felt that way.
Its chassis was so flexible that you could hear and feel it move when you reversed out of my steep driveway. A heater hose once gave out along Bristol’s ring road, cue a frantically climbing water temp and comical cloud of steam. I crawled the car back to a side road, where it would stay for one week. After sourcing a used part from a breakers yard I fixed the car at the roadside. The owner of the house I’d been forced to leave the car outside then came out and told me exactly what he thought of it, as you’d imagine these weren’t kind words.
Strangely, his neighbour promptly came out and told me he how much of an arsehole that guy was and helped me complete the job – cups of tea and all.
Not long after this I stuck the pug up for sale, not too sure why I did that but it’s something that I definitely regret. If the DVLA’s tax check is to be believed then F201WEF still appears to be with us, although it’s currently declared as SORN. I can only hope that someone out there is getting as much enjoyment out of it as I did. One day I’ll have another.
One last thing before I end this post. It’s not often that I find car videos that I can fully relate to but I was staggered at how accurate and generally beautiful this recording from YouTube channel Overtake was on the subject of the 205 XS.