If your Ford had a Matthew McConaughey, it would be a Lincoln

How much 'youngtimer'/fun can you have for €300? Review!

A lot! Depending how you look at it. Last Thursday I bought yet another Peugeot 205. This time a base model 1986 with old 1970s mechanicals which were phased out in 1987. Measuring smiles/€ it’s been worth it already! Let me elaborate:

(repost for the weekday crowd)

My 1986 Peugeot 205 started life in 1986 with a 1.1L version of “X” suitcase or Douvrin engine. A joint venture between Peugeot/Citroëm (PSA) and Renault. It had a 4 speed manual gearbox. The engine had one single barrel carburetor and provided 50 hp. However, the engine developed a knock and was swapped by the previous owner. It got a 1.4L engine of the same X engine family and the 5-speed that was already mated to the donor engine. This 1.4L had twin single barrel carburettors and developed 80 hp. It was the ‘sporty’ engine, slotted directly below the GTi. The previous owner however deemed this too ludicrous, so he replaced the twin carburetors by the old single one from the 1.1L. So he could save fuel. Result; probably 60 hp. Note that the ‘dry’ (excluding fluids and driver) weight of this car is 749 kg (1650 lbs).


For those interested in the X engine: it was introduced in 1972 and it’s tilted at 72 degrees. The gearbox is underneath the engine, the drive shafts are equal lenght and the gearbox is driven by transfer gears. It makes a rather distinctive noise.


Anyway, back to the actual car. I bought it from a family who’d used it for their kids during their college days. It went from the oldest to the youngest, but they’ve since outgrown it. The son clearly liked the car though, enthusiastically telling me about adjusting the carburetor and fixing the shift rod with an inner tube of a bicycle tire, on the side of the road. More on that later. Their enthusiasm about the car made me almost buy the car. Yet I didn’t initially. Too much rust (optical, not structural) for my goal of breathing new life into a classic. So I walked away.

Yet, after 3 weeks they contacted me again and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. €300, and I could have it. Because I’m an ‘enthusiast’. I just couldn’t say no. €300 is pocket change for any car.


How does it look?

Good from far, far from good. The paint is beyond flat and there are many little rust spots. This rust won’t (structurally) kill the car, but it’s ugly and eliminates whatever economical value would be in the car as a ‘classic’.

It’s got many spots like this one.
The one spot where the rust is at least somewhat troublesome structurally.
Note the tape on the plastic trim, preventing it from falling off.

How does it drive?

This is where it shines. It’s hilarious. The engine is eager and the drivetrain provides a typical whine. Pedal response is instant. Manual choke is new to me, but let’s say it adds character. The chassis is great, yet the tires are like bicycle tires. 145/80/13! No power steering, but you don’t ever miss it due to the lack of weight and the narrow tires.


You can drive it fast, but there’s no grip! It’s also sprung rather soft. It really is a riot. This is the car for slow car fast. It’s eager, direct and communicative, yet the limits are very low. Also, the 60 (?) hp it has is more than enough the comfortably get along with traffic. It will also do 75 mph all day long, if needed. I still win stop light sprints against most people. Not that those people notice I’m doing my best, but that’s not the point.

Yes, 145 mm wide tires on 13 inch steelies with hubcaps.

Will it baby?

How would I know?

Is it practical?

Yes. We’ve sat in it with 3 guys, with me being the shortest and lightest. I’m 188 cm and 80 kg (6'2" and 176 lbs in legacy units). Will fit comfortably. Not 10 hour road trip comfortably, but comfortably. Also note that this car is marginally narrower and shorter than a 2016 Mitsubishi Mirage. It’s also extremely easy to park; It’s got a massive greenhouse, you can see the hood and you can see where the trunk ends.

You fold the bottom of the bench up, then fold the back section flat.

Toys? Does it have any?

Well yes. It’s got a, well, it’s got seatbelts in the back! And an aftermarket CD-player!


Let’s compare it with my 1988 Peugeot 205 GTi 1.6. That’s a fair comparison, right? The following list is what the 1988 205 GTi has but which the base model 1986 205 does not have:

  • Clock
  • Rev counter
  • Roof mounted handles to brace yourself in a corner
  • Intermittent wipers
  • Mirrors adjustable from the inside (manual). Just open the windows in the 1986.
  • Oil pressure gage, oil temperature gage, water temperature gage
  • Specific indicator courtousy lights. Just one in the 1986.
  • Rear wiper (black plastic blanks on a white car. Classy)
  • Partially foldable back seat (rather than complete or bust)
  • Power windows
  • Power locks
  • Reading lights
  • Glove box (rather than a glove... tray?)
  • Door bins
  • Fuel injection
  • Leather steering wheel

And probably a lot more. So it’s simple. Nothing to break, right? I also didn’t notice a cigarette lighter, but that can’t be correct. It’s a French car from the mid 1980s. I did notice at least one ash tray.


How is it mechanically?

Not bad actually. It will need some regular maintenance, but that’s to be expected. It’s certainly sweating oil, but it’s 30 years old. There’s a CV boot that will need to be replaced (inspection due: November 1!).

That boot will need to go. Look how dirty it’s made things. The rubber/plastic is crumbling.
The other side, for comparison.

There’s also a gearshift issue. Or, to be more precise, two issues with the shift linkage. One is that the shift rod on the transmission side is worn. As a non-native English speaker my description of these joints is that they consist of a ball and a bowl. The shift rod has bowls on both sides. On the transmission side it’s utterly worn, there’s zero grip on the ball. So the previous owner came up with an ingenious solution to keep them together.

An added issue was that this car shifted horribly. Like stirring in a pot of soup, but worse. It was an easy fix though. There was a lot of play on a bolt in the shift linkage. If you moved the shifter the amount of play meant that the first part of your movement had zero effect on the gearbox. I tightened the bolt, and it shifted great again.

1. Ball. 2. Bowl. 3. The bolt I tightened. 4. Secret hamster.
Shift rod, shifter side.
The previous owner tied the shift rod to that other rod with a part of a bicycle inner tube. This way the ball will stay in the bowl. Very ingenious.

While the ingenious solution by the previous owner worked, I’d like to fix it properly. The car came with a spare shift rod. However, in my inexperience I was unable to detach the not-worn side of the shift rod. Raw power wasn’t enough. Any tips?

I couldn’t get this loose. Yes, there’s WD40 in there. This connects directly to the shifter.

What am I going to do with this car?

Fix the issues, become a better (less horrible) mechanic, have some fun, resell.


I’ll add some extra pictures.

199k km. That’s 6.66 k km a year. A bad omen! Or is it?
Base model car. Glove box lid was optional. As were the door bins. I don’t believe it originally came without speaker covers though.
Fancy HVAC system! Well, HV.
Original steering wheel. The previous owner replaced it with the slight sportier less thin one it’s got now. Probably will swap this back in.
I opened up the door to press a dent out. I was only partially successfully. Who can guess what kind of car is in the background? Note the mirror and the wiper.
Engine. Not my picture, but my car none the less. Note the rocker cover (72 degrees! ha!) and the 1.1 on the air filter housing changed to 1.4 with pen.
Carb from the side. Still magic to me. This will change.
Stalked by my daily driver.
Spare keys? No! 1 key for the front doors, 1 for the ignition, 1 for the hatch, 1 for the fuel door. 4 different keys, 1 car.

Opinions? What would you do with this car?

Tell me!

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