In the world of hot hatches, the flyweight Peugeot 205 GTI is one of the big hitters. Its feisty performance, handling, steering and looks all combined to forge a reputation that still ranks as benchmark to this day. It's made the French machine one of the most fanciable modern classics, which in turn has pushed the values of the very best to some dizzying heights.
Reports of immaculate, time warp 205 GTIs topping £30,000 at auction now seems normal when there are a handful of examples out there garnering price tags of more than £40,000. Yet, the 205 was always one of the most affordable and attainable sporting cars of its era and remains so today if you don't mind a car that's not been bubble-wrapped since the day it left the factory.
A scour of the classifieds shows that £4000 is the starting sum for decent GTIs with plenty of life left in them. They won't be perfect at this kind of money, but that makes them perfect to use and enjoy and experience everything that made the car great in the first place.
Also, that price floor is dependent on condition rather than specification, so you have the choice of either 1.6- or 1.9-litre models depending in which takes you fancy. There's also the CTI cabriolet, which offers a cheaper entry to the club, but doesn't have quite the same handling precision due to its open-top body.
If you find a very early 105hp 205 GTI, it's likely to be pricier as enthusiasts are keen to own what's seen as the purist version. Even with this modest power output, 0-60mph came up in 8.6 seconds thanks to a kerb weight of just 850kg. When Peugeot upped the power to 115hp in mid-1986, the 1.6's weight crept up to 900kg, so 0-60mph took 8.9 seconds.
At the end of that year, the 1.9-litre model arrived with different wheels, disc brakes all round and a half-leather upholstered interior. It could crack 0-60mph in 7.8 seconds. Speed against the clock was only half the story as the 205 was just as much about agility. Some reckoned the 1.9 wasn't quite as deft through corners as the 1.6, but any 205 GTI serves as a reminder of just how simple and effective a lightweight hot hatch can be.
Bodywork and interior
Rust isn't quite the major issue you might think for a 1980s hot hatch as the GTI was galvanised from new. However, you will need to check all the usual corrosion spots around wheelarches, sills, windows, front and rear screens, boot floor, door bottoms, suspension turrets and around the sunroof if fitted. You also need to inspect the join between the front bulkhead and floorpan, as well as around the petrol tank and rear brake lines
Gear lever often looks tatty but is quick and easy to replace.
Look for any evidence of crash damage in the chassis legs, inner wings and boot floor.
Interior trim and plastics are quite hard wearing, but many have been modified so look for an all-original cabin. Leather on the seats is thin and wears, but re-trimming sorts this. Original replacement trim parts are now hard to source.
Look for consistency of paint colour to prove it's either original or a good respray. Red cars suffer from the usual fade from this era if still wearing the factory paint.
Engine and transmission
First port of call is to check the timing belt and water pump have been changed regularly, which means every 48,000 miles or four years.
Valve stem oil seals fail, which shows up as a smoky exhaust on start-up.
Camshafts wear if the oil has not been regularly changed and topped up, and check the correct filter with a non-return valve has been used at oil services to ensure correct oil pressure on starting the car.
Don't worry about a lumpy idle when the engine is cold, it's common. A worn distributor can exacerbate this. Cleaning the air pipes helps with smooth running.
Gearboxes are tough. Spot the earlier BE1 'box with reverse up and to the left of first gear, while later BE3/5 transmission has reverse down and to the right below fifth gear. The 1.6's 'box has shorter ratios.
Gear linkage can become loose with age and wear, but replacement bearings will restore the shift's accuracy.
Stiff clutch action means a new cable is needed.
Suspension and steering
Torsion bar rear suspension commonly sags with age. Check the car sits square and level - too much negative camber is a sure sign it will need a rebuild.
Many GTIs have been lowered. Restoring the rear end's correct height is made simple by rotating the torsion bar.
Front suspension drop links and wishbone bushes are a common source of knocks.
Rust is an issue for the rear beam, but replacements are available from IM Axle for £400.
Wheels, tyres and brakes
Alloy calipers on the front of the 1.6 and rear of the 1.9 can cause the bleed screw to seize and then sheer when trying to remove it. The calipers from a 306 fit and can also allow fitment of larger discs at the front.
Handbrake on 1.9 model is a common MoT failure point, so make sure it works.
SPECIFICATION - PEUGEOT 205 GTI
Engine: 1580/1905 4-cyl
Transmission: 5-speed man
Power (hp): 105/115/130@6250/6250/6000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 97/99/119@4000/4000/4750rpm
Price new: £6245/£9295
Price now: £4000 upwards