The small rally 205 that shocked the world

The Peugeot 205 T16 is the 347-horsepower all-wheel-drive beast from France that had both Lancia and Audi down on their knees in the second half of the Group B era. It was driven by the likes of Ari Vatanen, Bruno Saby, Timo Salonen, and Juha Kankkunen.

The 205 T16, with ‘T16’ standing for ‘Turbocharged 16’ since the car was fitted with a KKK turbocharger and a 16-valve cylinder head, is arguably a strange case in motorsport. As one of the most successful rally cars of the astonishing Group B era, it is criminally overlooked. People idolize the Audi Quattro for its innovative four-wheel-drive system or the Lancia 037 which was the last rear-wheel-drive car to win the WRC constructor’s title, but the 205 remains the unsung hero.

It only debuted in 1984, in the third season since the Group B rules came into effect. This first model was known as the Evolution 1 and lacked the flamboyant, but efficient, aerodynamic elements of the Evolution 2. Unlike your usual 205 GTI, for instance, the rally car had the engine in the middle, and it featured a changeable epicyclic gear train that was used to alter the amount of power sent to either axle.

Once surpassing the inherent issues that arise after debuting a brand-new car, the Peugeot Talbot Sport outfit, led by none other than the future general manager of the Ferrari F1 team, Jean Todt, crushed everyone in its path winning 13 rallies between 1985 and 1986.

1984 Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 Evolution 1 Group B Exterior

1984 Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 Evolution 1 Group B
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Peugeot’s Group B rally car was based on the highly successful 205 model launched in 1983.

The hatchback, which sold over 5,000,000 worldwide, was developed after the PSA group, which consisted of Peugeot and Citroen at the time, took over the European division of Chrysler. They already had expertise in building small city cars with a firm example being the Chrysler Sunbeam which was renamed Talbot Sunbeam after PSA took over in 1978.

The Talbot Sunbeam also spawned a successful rally car in the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus which, as the name suggests, was fine-tuned by the engineers in Hethel. The rally-going Sunbeam Lotus debuted in 1979 and, by 1980, it had already won its first WRC event in the hands of the supremely talented Henri Toivonen. The Finn won that year’s Lombard RAC Rally and, just one year later, he helped Talbot win the manufacturer’s title in the WRC although team-mate Guy Frequelin lost the driver’s crown to Ford’s Ari Vatanen.

After 1981, with the advent of Group B and the four-wheel-drive Quattro, Talbot backed out of the WRC and its name was incorporated in the new Peugeot Talbot Sport team. It was to become the works team for Peugeot in all kinds of racing disciplines over the years, but its first undertaking was, naturally, rallying.

1984 Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 Evolution 1 Group B
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At the helm of this new team was a familiar face from the Talbot family, Guy Frequelin’s former co-driver, Jean Todt. The Frenchman had already displayed his organizational skills in his previous years as a WRC co-driver and seemed to be a natural at managing others. Former Talbot team boss Des O’Dell was actively involved in the early days of the new rally car project with initial works actually taking place at Talbot Rally Team’s HQ in England.

Later on, Todt and his men fully took over and the operation was moved to France, although O’Dell’s input was very much listened to by the Talbot Sport people throughout the development period.

The rally car, initially known as ‘Project M-24 Rally’, was developed almost at the same time as the Peugeot 205 which would act as its base.

Todt led a team of 20 engineers for this massive cost-no-object undertaking with Andre de Cortanze taking care of the chassis and Jean-Pierre Boudy of the engine matter.

1984 Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 Evolution 1 Group B
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The first working prototype was ready by February of 1983. All of the 20 205 T16s were built at the Boulogne plant and then shipped back to Peugeot Talbot Sport to be prepped for everything a rally could throw at them. The main body components were made out of polyester with polyurethane bumpers, while the main steel monocoque was connected to two steel sub-frames front and back.

Although the 205 T16 features a completely different architecture compared to the standard road-going 205, it still looks very similar, albeit wider and lower. The front end still features the now-famous three-strake grille painted in the color of the body with the trapezoid headlights on either side.

Underneath, the protruding upper bumper features a rectangular meshed opening for cooling purposes.

There are more holes cut in the front bumper, the main one being for the intercooler with two other square inlets for brake cooling on both sides.

The rally car was also fitted with a lip attached to the lower edge of the bumper. The removable hood has a massive rear-facing Y-shaped inlet.

1984 Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 Evolution 1 Group B
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Viewed from the side, you can’t help but notice the extended boxy arches of the 205 T16. Both at the front and, most prominently, at the back, Peugeot Talbot Sport widened the arches which give the car a purposeful look. The 15-inch wheels on this particular car seen in the images are covered by ‘Turbo fans’ which were fitted to the rims to aid cooling. All four wheels feature massive mud flaps. The car actually has only one exterior rear-view mirror on the driver’s side.

Towards the rear, the two air vents place inside creases in the rear bodywork are easily detectable. There’s an opening in the lower part of the rear quarter panel just before the rear wheel arch and a taller one which opens right where the rear side window ends.

The interesting thing about the back is that, in order to make the car easier to service, it all comes off as one big detachable body element.

Basically, everything that’s behind the door line comes off to reveal the tiny turbocharged engine. To make space for everything at the back, the slope of the rear window is different compared to the 2-door 205 road car and the back window itself is bigger.

1984 Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 Evolution 1 Group B
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Otherwise, the three strakes at the front are present at the rear as well with the minimalistic taillights on the corners of the rear bodywork. A single exhaust pipe sticks out from under the number plate. As is the case with any other rally car to this day, the 205 T16 is road legal even in full rally trim since it has to travel on public open roads between special stages and to get to the service area.

The Peugeot 205 T16 was the first to be covered in the classic Peugeot Talbot Sport livery.

The design of the livery itself is simplistic with a white base paint covered by some stylized quad-color lines around the wheel arches, the back end, and the hood.

1984 Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 Evolution 1 Group B Interior

1984 Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 Evolution 1 Group B
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It’s not that easy to wrap your head around the complicated dashboard inside a Peugeot 205 T16 if you haven’t been in a rally car of the same vintage before. The interior is bare for obvious reasons and barely roomy enough to fit two bucket seats for the driver and co-driver. The blue cloth Sparco seats are fitted with Sabelt harnesses.

In front of the driver, there’s the three-spoke steering wheel with – refreshingly – no buttons on it whatsoever.

Behind the steering wheel, there’s only one gauge with a white background which is the boost pressure gauge.

To its left there’s the oil pressure gauge and, a bit more to the left, there’s a tachometer. There are a few other gauges, like the fuel pressure and fuel level gauges, in the middle of the dash, almost randomly scattered in between a number of knobs and switches.

To the right of the steering wheel, there’s a red switch which activates the fuel pump with the ignition knob down below in the lower dash extension.

1984 Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 Evolution 1 Group B
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On the dash there are also a couple fuse boxes and, on the co-driver’s side, there’s an antique-looking ‘computer’ and colored switches for ventilation. The car doesn’t have a center column and the exposed gear shifter sticks right out in the middle, between the seats, with the linkages out in the open for everyone to gaze at. The shifter is fitted with a wooden knob.

Behind the seats, there’s a fire extinguisher while just under the dash there’s what appears to be an oxygen tank of sorts.

The full roll-cage inside looks massively outdated but it did its job adequately well in period.

Now, over 30 years on, however, it shows some signs of rust on this particular example in the pictures so it’s not the safest ride you can get.

1984 Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 Evolution 1 Group B Drivetrain

1984 Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 Evolution 1 Group B
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The Peugeot 205 T16 Evolution 1 is powered by the 1.8-liter XU8T DOHC 16-valve engine fitted with one KKK K26 turbocharger. With the added forced induction coefficient in place for turbocharged cars, the engine’s capacity rose to 2.5 liters being within the 2.5-liter class which meant the car could be lighter than N/A cars with bigger displacements.

The aluminum engine block itself is basically that of the XU diesel engine only with an altered valve head since the car ran on gas.

The engine came with an F1-derived anti-lag system that allowed air to spin the turbo almost continuously to reduce lag, although the technology was still in its infancy and it wasn’t that effective.

The engine was mounted transversely due to tight packing at the rear and had a compression ratio of 7:1. It was fed by a Bosch K-jetronic multipoint mechanical fuel injection unit and came with dry sump lubrication.

With 21.5 PSI of boost pressure (1.5 bar), the little four-pot developed as much as 350-horsepower at an incredible 8,000 rpm. Max torque was 332 pound-feet and was reached at 5,000 rpm. Couple these figures with a weight of just 2,160 pounds and you’ll understand why some drivers complained of ‘tunnel vision’ during Group B days from the killer acceleration.

1984 Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 Evolution 1 Group B
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All those ponies get to the four Michelin TRX-shod wheels through a Type TJ 5-speed manual gearbox, originally from the Citroen SM, with a two-plate clutch.

The gearbox was placed behind the engine and not underneath it to keep the center of gravity as low to the ground as possible.

The engine itself was fitted right off center. Steering was by rack and pinion

The suspension on the 205 T16 Evolution 1 is independent all around. Double wishbones with coil springs over Bilstein telescopic shock absorbers are fitted on all four corners and there is an anti-roll bar at both ends. Braking power is offered by ventilated discs with a diameter ranging between 10.7 inches and 11.8 inches.

1984 Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 Evolution 1 Group B Pricing

1984 Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 Evolution 1 Group B
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With only 20 examples of the 205 T16 having ever been built they rarely come up for sale. In fact, even finding one of the 200 road-going T16s is a hassle. This particular car, chassis #C11, hit the block during the 2016 RM/Sotheby’s auction in Monaco with an estimated selling value between $688,231 - $917,641.

You’ll probably have to pay around $1,000,000 for the 205 T16s that have been updated to Evolution 2 specification in 1985.

Meanwhile, the homologation versions sell for anywhere between $200,000 and $300,000. Be advised, prices will only go up on these cars which are essentially identical to the rally cars in terms of bodywork design.

Now, as always with racing or rally cars, the history of the car is important when trying to determine how much it will fetch at an auction. The car you see here was driven in period by Ari Vatanen who was co-driven by the great Terry Harryman (yes, the one who shouted “Dear God!” when Vatanen clipped a wall on the inside of a corner and almost crashed during the Manx Rally in 1983).

The car debuted at the opening round of the 1985 WRC season which was the famed Monte-Carlo Rally. Vatanen and Harryman clawed their way back to the lead of the rally after a timing error led to a hefty 8-minute time penalty that put the duo back behind arch-rival Walter Rohrl and in between Peugeot team-mates Bruno Saby and Timo Salonen. Vatanen’s near-heroic drive saw the duo win a total of 21 out of the 33 special stages that were run and park in victory lane with 5 minutes and 17 seconds-worth of cushion.

Up next, Vatanen took on the snowy Rally Sweden. Just like on The Monte, C11 had a 33/67 torque split between the two axles and Vatanen reverted to the short-ratio gearbox he used in the first few stages of the first round before choosing a longer-shift transmission for the rest of the rally. Audi’s Stig Blomqvist drew the first blood by winning stage number 1, but Vatanen sprung back and dominated stage 2 and the rest of the rally.

1984 Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 Evolution 1 Group B
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That year’s Portuguese Rally was the last event chassis #C11 took part in. It all went well for Vatanen and Harryman until a faulty flywheel and, subsequently, a suspension failure put them out of the event.

The car was only used for reece runs thereafter before being sold at the end of 1985 to a collector.

Meanwhile, Vatanen’s campaign unraveled after the Portuguese round with three more consecutive DNFs putting the Finn out of the title fight – before a horrid crash in Argentina almost killed him and Harryman. Fellow countryman Timo Salonen, on the other hand, was on a roll and won in Portugal and a further four more times to clinch the driver’s title while Peugeot became champions in the manufacturer classification.

1984 Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 Evolution 1 Group B Competition

Audi Sport Quattro S1

20 years ago Audi Sport quattro S1 triumphed at Pikes Peak
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The Quattro dominated the rally scene in the early ‘80s thanks to its breakthrough use of the AWD system. For 1984, Audi introduced the short-wheelbase Sport Quattro S1 to replace the Quattro A2 with its clunky proportions. Unlike the Peugeot, the Audi ran in the 3.0-liter class with its 2.1-liter inline-5 DOHC 20-valve engine fitted with a KKK K27 turbocharger.

The engine developed 444-horsepower, enough to power Stig Blomqvist to the championship title in its debut season while Peugeot with their brand-new car struggled. The body on this new shorter car was made out of carbon-kevlar but the whole thing still weighed 2,600 pounds and had a higher center of gravity compared to the Peugeot.

This meant that, by 1985, the best Blomqvist could muster was the vice-champion title behind Salonen. That is despite the fact that Audi continuously developed the aerodynamic package of the S1, ultimately rolling out the S1 Evolution in late 1985 before retiring from the WRC following the tragic Portuguese Rally of 1986.

Lancia 037

1982 Lancia 037 Stradale High Resolution Exterior
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The Lancia 037 was the epitome of the Italian way. Lancia looked at the Quattro and went on with the RWD system regardless. Granted, the Abarth & Dallara co-developed 037 had the engine mounted in the middle and handled better than the A1 and A2 Quattros.

Once reliability was sorted, the 037 became a weapon on rally stages, be it tarmac, gravel or snow. Markku Alen from Finland and Germany’s Walter Rohrl romped away during the 1983 campaign and sealed the manufacturer’s crown for Lancia with one round left to go. Despite not showing up in Finland due to his disliking of the big jumps in the 1000 Lakes event, Rohrl still held a mathematical chance of bagging the driver’s title at the last round.

However, Lancia didn’t show up at all and Audi’s Hannu Mikkola became world driver’s champion. After 1983, Lancia never again reached such peaks although they hired the talents of Henri Toivonen and introduced the 037 Evo 2. The car was fitted with a supercharged Lampredi 2.0-liter four-pot developing over 260-horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque.

With most of the body panels made out of Kevlar, the car only weighed 2,116 pounds. But the shoddy roll cage was appalling when it came to protecting the occupants in case of a crash. Italian Attilio Bettega died after crashing sideways into a tree during the 1985 Tour de Corse. After that, Lancia hurredly introduced the Delta S4 which sometimes matched the Peugeot but the French car was the sturdier of the two and barely ever broke down in 1986.

Final Thoughts

1984 Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 Evolution 1 Group B
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The Peugeot 205 T16 Evolution 1 marked Peugeot’s works entry into the world of top-level rallying. While it didn’t succeed from the get-go, it was the car that kicked-off two years of almost complete domination of the WRC by the Jean Todt-led Peugeot Talbot Sport team.

The car’s clever packing, easily serviceable engine and suspension, and great driveability made it almost unbeatable as it won 7 rallies in 1985 along with five extra podium finishes. A total of six victories and six other podiums established Peugeot as the king of rallies as the Group B was banned on safety grounds.

Basically, Peugeot arrived rather late to the party and mercilessly dominated until the class was no more. Peugeot went on to return to world-class rallying with kit cars and world rally cars in the new millennium and enjoyed similar success with the 206 WRC.

  • Leave it
    • Expensive to buy
    • Very rare, which means parts aren’t easy to come by
    • You’ll never drive it as good as Ari Vatanen did

Source: RM Sothebys

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