Peugeot 205 XS: The car I should never have sold!

I’m fortunate enough to have tried out quite a few cars for someone of my age. Accommodating parents and no real responsibilities meant I’d burnt my way through more than 10 by the time I was 21. And, without exception, I could tell you a few things that I loved about each and every one of them. The thing is though, I truly regret selling only one car. F201 WEF, a 1988 Peugeot 205 XS.

The legendary Jaguar XJ220 powered Ford Transit of Don Law

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Roland Garros wheels never looked quite right but I didn’t have the money to do anything about it

I can still remember the excitement I experienced when I found the listing. For me it ticked all the boxes: old enough to appeal, obscure enough to not be expensive and if the advert was anything to go by then it was actually in very nice, original condition.

Fast-forward a week or so, and I’d emerged as the auction’s highest bidder. A friend and I were collecting the Peugeot 205 XS from a glum Birmingham industrial estate. My heart sank as I saw the state of the place, then the age of the guy who was flogging it – he was younger than me. Please don’t be a lemon, please don’t be a lemon. The reality of it was, I’d come too far to back out.

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There was a slight dent in the driver’s door…

For the first time I’d seen my car and you know what, I was starting to feel a little bit smug. The Pug beaming back at me with a face as near as damn it to its big brother – the GTI, fog lights and all. Each of its front wings still had the original XS sticker; there was brown tinted glass and a sunroof, even the original upgrade radio/cassette was present.

Strangely, the car had alloys fitted from a Roland Garros, they didn’t look entirely correct but they made it stand out further and I came to quite like them. Step inside and the interior was truly timewarp, and I don’t mean the bullshit you see in so many eBay ads, this Peugeot 205 XS really was in amazingly good condition.

Anyway, I did my best to try and look professional and contain my excitement but must’ve ended up handing over the cash embarrassingly quickly, the full amount of course.

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Just look how mint the interior was

Little did I know it but I’d just entered a crash course in basic car mechanics, a standard part of Peugeot 205 ownership I’d say. Just driving the car back was eventful, I’d not seen a choke lever since I was in single digits and a general lack of use meant the car was running badly, stalling randomly at lights and generally sending far too much fuel through its twin-choke carburettor.

Once the car was home, the first thing I did was have a friend replace the cambelt and water pump. I then serviced it with the parts it deserved. Plenty of polishing even brought back the baked bean orange panels to their former red hue.

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F201WEF in all her glory

People bang on about Peugeot 205s so very much that quite frankly it can get boring. The Peugeot 205 XS never had pace to worry the GTI but that wasn’t the point. The 1360cc TU3S engine under the bonnet used an alloy block and was fed by a single twin-choke Solex carburetor, meaning 85hp — an ample figure for a car so very light. Better yet, the XS used a 5spd gearbox with shortened ratios, it was exactly what was required to pull the best from what sat under its bonnet.

The drive was just fantastic, with total communication through its wheel and pedals. The gearbox, with its comically close ratios, made it a traffic light champion.

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Original number plates, dealer stickers e.t.c, it was a totally honest car

I’d grown up reading about the tail wagging ways of 205 GTIs but it wasn’t long before I’d experienced this first hand. One evening, having left a friend’s house with him following close behind, F201WEF slapped me on the wrist. Entering a familiar right hand bend a little too enthusiastically saw the back wheels overtake the front as my dim-witted attempt at counter steering took hold. I could blame the tyres – two Michelins at the front and two budgets on the back, by the way. But the truth is I was driving like a fool.

Thankfully my friend saw the whole thing unfold and managed not to plow straight into the side of the car. Aside from laying some extra rubber on the road it was only my pride that took a beating. The car had stalled; I fired it up and drove away a more cautious and respectful driver.

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The banging Philips sound system ate the first tape I gave it

As I shift the rose tinted specs a little further from my nose I can tell you more about the car. It always smelt of fuel, and its gear linkage, a notoriously fragile component of these cars, appeared to be the factory original – and it certainly felt that way.

Its chassis was so flexible that you could hear and feel it move when you reversed out of my steep driveway. A heater hose once gave out along Bristol’s ring road, cue a frantically climbing water temp and comical cloud of steam. I crawled the car back to a side road, where it would stay for one week. After sourcing a used part from a breakers yard I fixed the car at the roadside. The owner of the house I’d been forced to leave the car outside then came out and told me exactly what he thought of it, as you’d imagine these weren’t kind words.

Strangely, his neighbour promptly came out and told me he how much of an arsehole that guy was and helped me complete the job – cups of tea and all.

Not long after this, I stuck the pug up for sale, not too sure why I did that but it’s something that I definitely regret. If the DVLA’s tax check is to be believed then F201WEF still appears to be with us, although it’s currently declared as SORN.  I can only hope that someone out there is getting as much enjoyment out of it as I did. One day I’ll have another. (EDIT: The owner of F201 WEF has since got in touch and confirmed the car is not only alive but well!)

One last thing before I end this post. It’s not often that I find car videos that I can fully relate to but I was staggered at how accurate and generally beautiful this recording from YouTube channel Overtake was on the subject of the 205 XS.

17 comments

  1. The Roland alloys were an optional extra, which I passed on when buying-new in May ’89; merely opting for the sun roof. (That rear spoiler’s someone’s add-on) 10.5 yrs & 177.5k miles later, and with a family now that the car afforded little protection to now that all modern cars are built like tanks, I new I couldn’t justify the expense of a new gearbox. My 8yr old daughter was a little sniffly on the way to the garage as we set sail for the last time, but I was holding back. But then, as we got out of the car, she burst forth and all I could do not to join her was to limit myself to a few grunts and nods, rather than engaging in full conversation, and turning away every 15 seconds or so to whipe away tears.

    I heard a Spitfire pilot once say of that plane; “you didn’t get in it; you strapped it on.”

  2. Thanks for the info, John, always interesting to hear about these cars. It’s a shame yours is also gone — that really does sound like quite an emotional moment!

    10 years and nearly 180k is pretty good going! Always nice to hear from a likeminded individual.

    Cheers,

    Oli

  3. Cool…although you’re on yr honour now to tell me if you ever do get another one! Seriously though, if you did, as silly money is often being thrown at these cars now, a cheaper way in might be to look at 5-door variants: I think everyone knows about the 5-door GT model, but I wonder how many know that the SR is also sporting (I think) that engine. If memory serves, the thing to look out for (acc to my long lost Haine Manual) is to look for the engine code K2A (stamped on the engine block?) K1A or K1G are 1360cc too, but are single-choke 65/70HP versions.

    I sometimes dream about getting another but, being an “armchair mechanic” (I read extensively when a car of mine goes wrong, but have never got further than an oil change……and even then never summoning the courage to include the oil filter!) I somehow think it’s never going to happen, do you?

  4. Sorry, I’ve only just seen this comment!

    I have had a few of the 5dr variants on my watch list on eBay, but it’s a 3dr I’m really hankering after.

    I’m taking a hiatus from car repairs. My old 190E left me stranded last year, and it cost a small fortune to keep up on the preventative maintenance.

    Perhaps we should be looking at slightly newer Pugs, I’ve always thought a 106 XSI or even a Quicksilver should deliver similar thrills without the inevitable troubles that come with a car that’s already 25+ years old.

    Back to the classifieds…

  5. brilliant write up. last year i bought a 205 gtx and i can say it makes me a very happy man. it is a beautiful dark grey 3dr or rallye steels in almost imaculate condition. far to clean for my liking as i have to restrain from my back lane rallying tendancies. the car handles unbelieveably, i have driven it hard often and only unstuck the back end once when seriously prevoked. i also have a quiksilver which i have driven for the last 4 years, 3 engine and 5 gearboxes down i can tell you i definitly love the car lol. although the 8v engine 1400 or 1600 (vtr) and not nearly as much fun or as torquie as the 205s engine. the 205 seems to hit every corner in the right revs and have a lovely pull throughout. the 106s gear box is shite once youve fallen for the xs’s. if you are looking for the peugeot thrill you will definitly need the 16v 106 if you cannot find a 205. the 106 gti engine i now have in the quiksilver is bags of fun, with a better box and a lot of top end power you can easily have to much fun when you get into the corners. i have to say the power steerk g of the 106 still gives awsome feel and slightly assists you and in my experience is helpfull when it comes to sliding the car and being able to control the snappiness of the machine. i could go on and on but i wont lol. 106 gti or 205 xs the choice is yours. peugeooooooooooòoooooooot

    • Thanks for getting in touch, I’d almost forgotten about this website so I’m glad that it’s still giving people some pleasure. I’m very jealous of your 205 GTX and your enthusiasm has got me once again flicking through the classifieds looking to spend money that I do not have! 😀

  6. Great article! You will be pleased to know the car is alive in Devon. It’s got got 1.6 gti wheels now. One of my garage customers looks after it and I have tried to buy it but the owner wants to keep it. Next time I see it I will get some pictures.

    • Hey Jonathan, sorry I’ve only just read this comment. Really pleased to hear the car is still going strong, would love to see it in action at some point. Seems they’re almost impossible to get hold of nowadays!

      Cheers, Oli

  7. Jonathan: So good to hear about the few that still run. Owner may know this but these left the factory with ignition timing “advanced”: You couldn’t/shouldn’t put 95RON in until/unless you retarded ignition timing 4 degrees (I think there’s a mark or two on the flywheel? Stroposcopic light? You know what I’m talking about prob more than I do) He may want to “play” but, if he “advances”, whereas he’ll be safe with Shell V Power/Tesco Momentum (99RON) I’m not sure about others as everyone else’s Super appears 97 only.

    I am (we, Oli, are?) so jealous

    • I did not realise this, I also have a 1988 205 XS and although I occasionally put premium in, most of the time it gets regular – although it seams to drive well on either. They are great underated little cars!

  8. My family owned a white J reg XS and I couldn’t agree with the title of this article more! Having owned 15+ different cars over 20 years of driving it is the only one I would love to track down. Amazing power to weight ratio and it was the ideal car for the Norfolk backroads. I had it first then my brother took it over until selling it locally in 2004. I saw it a couple of times after but had then bought a 405 SRI to see what all the fuss about the 1.9 engine was about. It was one of the the most fun cars I have ever driven, ours was entirely standard bar a Mini Disc head unit! The only thing was it chewed its way through a lot of drive shafts during our ownership, that is about the only negative I can think of! Sadly it hasn’t been taxed since 2006 so am assuming it has gone to the Pug graveyard in the sky. J534 RPY in case anyone knows any different! Great article.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Alex. It’s always great to hear from like-minded previous owners. Pleased you enjoyed the read.

    • Oh really? I’ve always wanted to know the following (from someone who’d know): So which eclipsed which? The D Turbo or the XS? And what minded you (and when & why) to ditch the former?

  9. [IMG]https://img.photobucket.com/albums/v512/JonTheMiller/edited-image.png[/IMG]

    Spotted by a friend today, wheels have changed from 1.6 pepper pots to white steels and it looks like the car is being very much enjoyed still.

  10. I dunno, it’s like the only people who haven’t got an XS is me and Oli! Didn’t realise you too had one Jonathan. If, by 1988, you’re alluding to yours being one of the older-engined models (with 2 single-choke carburetors) then don’t quote me on the “4 degrees” thing: If memory serves, with them it was 3. Anyway if you’re running okey, maybe it’s been retarded already.

    Last word of advice for those with the TU3S (newer) engine? Cambelt: every 60k miles: I say this as I had a Haine Manual that omitted to point this out. (Got away with it; getting it changed, once I realised, at 110k or so.)

    • Thanks, mine is the later TU3S engine, same spec as the car above. To be honest one of the reasons I bought my XS was F201WEF. I sold my MK2 Escort last year and wanted something cheaper but still fun to replace it. I was looking at various cars but seeing F201WEF at one of my customers garages inspired me to do some research into the model – and when my customer said that he didn’t think the owner of F201WEF would part with it I started looking on ebay. I had a couple of derv 205s including a Dturbo (an awesome car) but never a petrol, but the XS and GT models are really underated fun cars. I think its the driving involment at road legal speeds that makes them so good!

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