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Thanksgiving Turkey: My 1992 Peugeot 405 Mi16

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How’s this for a thanksgiving turkey? The Peugeot 405 Mi16 I bought a year ago is still in bits, still unfinished – and now with lapsed MOT. Remember the scene in Money Pit where Tom Hanks has no other choice than to laugh at the gaping hole on the floor where his bathtub once was? Why do I mention that scene? No reason, really…

As we speak, there isn’t a Flintstones-style hole in the Mi16’s bottom, and it’s not likely that there ever has been. But in the past year, I’ve had to shell out money to replace most everything between the licence plates – which I’ve also replaced some time ago. It’s not going to be a complete restoration, but it’s not far from one, either.

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And yet, after all of this, I still refuse to admit I bought the wrong car. Sure, it was the cheapest running Mi16 I could lay my hands on, and I’ve put that 600 euro purchase price into it many times, but the way forward is to think of the car as a clean sheet. I’m still baselining the thing, trying to get it into the kind of shape where I could actually enjoy the car, instead of having to think of it as an albatross around my neck.

Compared to this, the Polo was a piece of cake to deal with. (And that sucker’s road legal.)

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The laundry list of replaced parts is daunting. The car couldn’t really be driven as it was, as the cambelt was very overdue for a change. After the cambelt work, the radiator was replaced; it had a gaping hole in it, making pouring in coolant a fruitless, yet crucial task. A new radiator was sourced and fitted, after which a heater core leak was discovered – damn that pesky mist accumulating on the windshield! Luckily, the core itself seemed fine, as it was only the piping that needed its o-rings done. And it was a Valeo unit, not Behr, meaning parts were available. That is not always the case.

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The steering wasn’t still quite up to scratch, so I had the front shocks replaced with OEM ones, after some reassuring shock tower welding was performed and the tops properly lubed. The metalwork was done at the same time as the peeling paintwork was addressed by prepping and respraying the car from the waistline trim down. I left the rear bumper as is, as it needs to be removed for the unsightly, useless, rusty towbar to go. The front bumper gained new foglights – still unfitted – and lost the block heater plug that had been carelessly screwed on.

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As the shock tops finally felt like they should, not jarring, I also had the driver side CV joint replaced as it was making a clacking noise. Another surprise was there in waiting, as the CV axle on the driver’s side has been replaced with one meant for an eight-valve car at some point. But of course! That might be reason why the car has been eating CV joints almost yearly. The exhaust was also replaced in its entirety from the manifold onwards, including a new oxygen sensor.

At the same occasion, it was time to rectify the leaking cam cover gasket. It was so due that it kept leaking oil on the exhaust manifold, but of course it was. The replacement also included plug well ring seals, which had to be sourced from a specialist in the UK as they weren’t otherwise available. They also needed to be done, as a couple of HT lead ends were coated in oil when I had a look in there. Of course, ignition bits like the distributor rotor and cap along with the leads were done, as was the squealsome PAS belt, whose pump is right there next to the distributor and conveniently done at the same time. For extra security, I have a spare pump.

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After all this, it was time to head for the yearly inspection, a bit late. And the car failed on several accounts: not only was the handbrake not any good at all, the emissions were too high to pass. Regarding the emissions, it might only be a matter of a tune-up needing to be done; there’s a mixture screw in there somewhere which might do the trick. The main thing learned at the inspection station was that the rear axle – an Mi16 killer – was deemed fine and not due for replacement. This is a first for this car.

And as for the brakes, I ordered new rear brakes in their entirety, so there will be recommissioned Girling calipers together with new pads and rotors. The latter of which weren’t fitted yet, as the driver side rear hub-bearing combination was found to be past its due date, and I had to source the last remaining OEM one from the other side of the country. It turned out to be an SKF part, which I could’ve gotten from somewhere else for the same price, but I enjoy getting the last available part for the car. The same goes for the last available Citroën Xantia pleather gearknob I just received in the mail, from a northernly Citroën garage.

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And why is the car not yet put together and inspected?

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Because the clutch is gone. I mean, really gone. It kept slipping in second gear when I drove the car home from the inspection attempt.

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I anticipated it some time ago and ordered a clutch kit from the UK – advertised as a Continental/Contitech part, it was something else entirely. It still fit the car, but it’s not what I really wanted, as I’ve tried to go OEM for longevity’s sake. Still, it was half price compared to a Valeo kit, and it was a good opportunity to access the crankshaft seal which did seep oil. Doing the clutch on an Mi16 means 12 hours of labor at the very least, so I was happy to be able to let the vocational school auto shop tackle it.

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This brings us somewhat up to date. It’s been an annoying year with a barely functional car, one that produced a new problem whenever one got fixed. But there have been bright points: both the Citroën ZX 16v wheels and the 205 GTi 1.6 wheels I got for it look pretty good, the latter shod with 175/65 Semperit winter tires. The paintwork portions that haven’t been redone need a good buffing, but the car should look pretty great when it’s all said and done. Inside, I’m fairly sure I can address the trim issues bringing the interior down. Future plans include a baffle kit for the sump to pre-emptively fix any possible XU9J4 oil surge issues, and that is a good opportunity to make sure the oil pump chain is tight enough.

I’ve basically spent 2016 driving the Mi16 from one garage to another, and I really hope 2017 will change all that. It’s bound to, isn’t it?

  • Rover 1

    It’s the same thing with all these ‘youngtimers’. Too new and common to have moved far off a new vehicle depreciation curve. Patience and time will be your friends.

    I’m unfortunately in the same position with all my cars.

    But in a world where mint condition Datsun 120Ys are somehow valued, 405 MI16s should be as well.

  • duurtlang

    You’re doing a great job there. These cars deserve to be preserved. Especially one as rare as the Mi16! Preferably in their original condition.

    At the moment I own 3 1980s Peugeots, all 205s. The amount of work they need differs quite a lot. My ’88 GTi doesn’t need that much at all, yet it has most kms of them all. Some simple gaskets (rocker cover, oil pan) and some hoses. Yet my ’87 CTi, which had the same drivetrain and fewer kms, was utterly worn mechanically. Leaked like a sieve everywhere, especially internally. So I sourced a Zeta 2.0t motor donor, and that engine is getting utterly overhauled before it’s installed. My last, an ’86 base model with the 1970s suitcase engine/transmission, is just an old car with old car problems that’s clinging to life.

    Interesting those 14″ 205 GTi 1.6 wheels on a 405. They fit the car better optically than 15″ 205 GTi 1.9 wheels on my 406 coupe, which look too small imho. https://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/nunj2j88mhtqr6qe9rcs.jpg

    • outback_ute

      Are the standard rims 17″? No wonder the 15’s look small.

      Kudos Antti on the restoration of the Mi16. I couldn’t say when the last time I saw one on the road here in Australia was, I’ve probably seen one in the last 3 years and very few ‘normal’ 405’s.

      I have seen a couple in historic rallying where they have a class for ‘standard’ road cars with the aim to take rallying back to its roots before you needed to spend many thousands of $$$ preparing a car. The events are more navigation-based rather than speed oriented, to mitigate not having roll cages. You are allowed to fit sump guards etc – which the 405’s need and make full use of!

  • crank_case

    Keep at it, Peugeots are always a pig to work on, but it’ll be worth it.

  • Keep the faith, man! I’m lucky enough that all three of our cars seem to be impeccably behaved. Mind you, the oldest is only 21.

  • Owl

    Yea, my motoring year has been a doddle in comparison – even my (closely related to a Peugeot 405) Citroen BX hasnt needed much. Persevere good sir. I remember 405s as being well worth the drive

    • Rover 1

      What model is your BX? I have an ex JDM BX19TRi manual, which after being loaned to my ‘too used to driving an automatic’ octagenerian mother now needs a clutch. It turns out you can’t just leave it in second and slip the clutch more. My brother asked if it was worth fixing, I take a very long view and said yes, of course.

      They are a great drive though, it’s a shame Citroen seem to have forgotten they can make cars that ride and handle well at the same time.

      And think of the weight saving of no jack required.

      • Owl

        Mine is an 89 one little old lady owner 14RE, scratched and torn on every panel. Bought it because it seemed a good idea that my then 19 year old son should learn to drive a car with a choke, no power steering, no ABS and no airbags etc. Its being used as a mobile skip at present but I did 300 miles last weekend and its a very good BX – at least until its annual inspection on Thursday…

  • Joey DaVive

    HCOTY!