The early 1980s was a low point in American cars. We were getting a handle on emissions controls while Detroit’s design maxim of ‘longer, lower, wider’ was in its final death throws.
With this much distraction, we missed out on Europe’s hot hatchback craze. Everyone from Ford to MG had a driver-focused small sports car for sale in Europe at this time, but the only one we ever saw was the Volkswagen Rabbit (Golf) GTI. This meant we also missed out on one of the greatest hot hatches of all time, the Peugeot 205 GTI.
Although Peugeot was selling cars in the U.S. up until 1991, the small 205 was not one of them. Peugeot is more of a workman’s brand in other parts of the world, but a higher than average pricing gave it a more prestigious reputation when it was in the U.S. The cheap/little 205 did not fit in with the image over here, and so when Peugeot introduced its tuned GTI version, it never hit our shores.
The 205 GTI’s lively suspension and simple-but-elegant style makes it a desirable classic car, but the 130 hp from the 1.9-liter engine is considered tame by today’s standards. So the people at Pug1off are making a few changes.
These U.K. Peugeot tuners swap the engine with the unit from the 205 GTI’s bigger brother, the 306 GTI-6′s 2.0-liter 167 hp four-cylinder. Pug1off then adds a new camshaft, exhaust manifold, modified inlet housing and ECU remap. The result is a powerplant that churns out 195 hp. That may not still seem like a giant-killing power rating, but this 50 percent bump in hp now gives it a better power to weight ratio than a Porsche Boxster.
Now for the bad news. After the customer supplies the 205 GTI, the new engine will cost £2220 installed (about $3,600 at current rates) and then the upgrades to 195 hp are an extra £1595 ($2,600). Dropping over $6k into a 20+ year-old budget racer is not going to be everyone’s idea of a wise investment, but Pug1off does give this new work a 12 month/10,000 mile warranty.
The spending doesn’t end there. Pug1off is so committed to the 205 GTI they’ve also gone positively German with their options list. They have a long list of upgrades that offers everything from an alloy bottom engine pulley for £72 ($116) to a six-speed transmission for £2190 ($3,500).
Swapping the engine of a European classic like this may be sacrilegious to some purists, but there are also many who would love their classic hot hatches more if they didn’t get beat by a modern sedan. Unfortunately, we don’t get to weight in on this debate, because for us in North America, the Peugeot 205 GTI is a case of Look But Don’t Touch.*
*Although they were never officially offered in the U.S., or meet federal requirements, 1987 and older GTIs are now eligible for grey market importation under the NHTSA’s 25-year exception.