Parking garages, multi-storey car parks, vertically-tiered parking lots, call them what you will. Make a Saturday afternoon trip to the shops and they offer you two things; somewhere to stash the jalopy while your better half makes merry with the credit card; and somewhere to sneak around with a mobile phone camera and take poor quality, poorly composed photos of whatever rare and wonderful wheels might crop up.
Today I rather feel I’ve excelled myself, especially in terms of photographic terribility. And I haven’t seen one of these 205s for a while, either.
The Peugeot 205 was one of those iconic family hatchbacks that were literally everywhere during the ’80s and much of the 90s, but which have gradually gone the way of all flesh and evaporated from UK roads. Taking over from the Talbot Horizon (wow, what a hard act o follow…) in the newly enlarged Peugeot group in 1983, 205 was very nearly voted Car Of The Year, but that honour instead went to the Fiat Uno. There were two flavours, a rather pert three-door that everybody always says was designed by Pininfarina, and the five-door which always managed to look bland and frumpy despite having the exact same size and silhouette.
Of course, it’s the “interesting” models that get all the adoration, the XS, GTI and Rally models continue to be worshipped to this day, and deservedly so. As such, those variants seem to make up the majority of surviving 205s left. In other words, if a 205 isn’t one of the above (or a diesel; the 205 GRD and XRD in normally aspirated or turbocharged forms are much-prized due to their ability to be made to run on a tankful of pretty much any old rubbish), it must have a very special reason for having been preserved for twenty-four years.
I thought I’d nailed it pretty quickly when I clocked the “automatic” emblem at the back. Now, unlike certain other parts of the world, automatic transmissions were always seen as bit “why would you want one of those?” in anything that wasn’t a big, chromium plated luxo-barge. Drivers, by and large, preferred to row-their-own, and people who’s driving licenses were scarred with the words “Automatic Only” are pitied and mocked. In fade-into-the-background grey/bronze, the majority of this type of 205 would have been bought, cherished and loved by a motorist of advancing years.
In fact, the 205 Automatic received its motivational thrust from the same 1.6 litre engine as the original GTI, albeit in a lower state of tune that meshed more suitably with the characteristics of a fairly rudimentary ZF automatic gearbox. Equipment-wise, the Automatic was aligned with the middle-rung models, not as stark as the entry level cars but by no means as glitzy as the Roland Garros examples which veritably dripped with leather and baubles.
It wasn’t until I brazenly slapped my camera against the window to attempt an interior shot, when I realised what was probably the key reason for this car surviving as long as it has; the steering wheel is on the wrong side.
How didn’t I notice it earlier? I guess it’s from having spent too long on this website, surrounded by images of cars with the wheel in the west. What it means, though, is that this car has likely spent a fair portion of its life somewhere else in Europe. There’s bound to be a story to it; maybe a couple retired to the South of France, bought a nice little automatic Peugeot locally and brought it home when they returned to this stormy, claustrophobic country. Or maybe it’s owned by a local who uses it for the occasional trip across the channel? If you’re the owner and happen to be reading this, let us know.
Whatever the story, this little Pug deserves its survival, and I hope it keeps on languidly groaning along for years to come. It certainly has the look of a car being kept alive out of love, not just necessity.