Peugeot 205. A strong number for forty years (Part 1) – Vintage cars in Auto Motor Klassiek

The Peugeot 205 is often seen as the French brand’s saving angel. The powerful song struck a chord with a large audience immediately after its introduction. And in such a way that the 205 got the French manufacturer back on its feet. Peugeot laid a strong foundation for the future with the 205, selling millions of copies of the model. In two parts, we reflect on the history of the 205. We do this for a reason, because it is forty years since Peugeot introduced the model. Today you must read the first part.

During the autumn of 1977, Peugeot’s model range consists of the 104, 304, the all-new 305, 504 and 604. There is a gap between the 104 and 304, and Peugeot has been working on a successor to the Peugeot for almost ten years now, the old 504. 304 is also from eight years earlier, and the 104 is from 1972. Meanwhile, those responsible at Peugeot see that the beautiful series is rapidly taking steps towards obsolescence. In addition, the class of front-wheel drive superminis and compact hatchbacks is extremely popular, and the strong competition from Japan is also growing. Peugeot adds a fifth door in 1976, the likeable 104, and also expands the delivery and engine range, partly because the 204 does not return after the summer of 1976.

There is work to be done

Peugeot’s finances are still under pressure. In addition, the ailing Citroën has previously been added to the organization, and the acquisition of the European Chrysler brands is imminent. Those responsible are also aware that a lot needs to be done with the model selection. At the same time, Peugeot also realizes the importance of a sporty variant within the upcoming model range. You see, for example, that Volkswagen is successful with the Golf GTI. In France, this starting point is widely taken into account in the upcoming development of the new trump card within the compact hatchback segment.

The start of Project M24 and design proposals

Development of Project M24 starts. Traditionally, Pininfarina and Peugeot’s own design department in La Garenne are allowed to submit the designs. The Italians come up with four proposals in two years, including an early mock-up based on the 104, but they quickly clear the field in terms of lines. On the other hand, the Peugeot team led by Gérard Welter also comes with four consecutive designs in two years. Designs three and four in particular are strong indications of the design of the later 205. Paul Bracq is working on the interior on behalf of Peugeot’s design department.

The winning design

At the end of 1979 comes the answer to the key question. Will Peugeot choose Pininfarina or the design of Gérard Welter’s team in La Garenne? The answer is clear. Peugeot management chooses designs from Peugeot’s own designers. They come up with the most appealing final proposal. Crucially, the management also finds Pininfarina’s latest design too conservative. When you see the two final designs of Pininfarina and Peugeot next to each other, you also understand what Peugeot means by that. The result of the choice of design by Welters and his people is a design in which a low, strongly sloping bonnet, a sharp roofline and a large area of ​​glass constitute the basic ingredients for later success. The lines of the winning design can also be clearly seen in the final 205. In the run-up to the final model, the 205 also gets the ribbed plastic sheet on the tailgate. Gérard Welter uses this because Peugeot believes that the rear without a ribbed plate is too reminiscent of the Renault 14. For example, the upcoming compact Peugeot will be refined both outside and inside.

New techniques and production methods

During the M24 project work, the use of computer-controlled techniques is an important factor. It results, for example, in the construction of a well-thought-out driver’s seat and a strong body structure, which is of course thoroughly tested in the prototype phase. In addition, a strong anti-corrosion program is being developed, 42% of the Peugeot’s body weight consists of galvanized or galvanized sheet steel. Meanwhile, everything is being prepared to build the new 205 as efficiently as possible. The production method for the new 205 will therefore be innovative for Peugeot. Loosely translated: this is highly automated. An example: 91% of the 2572 welding points are performed by robots, and the press lines are no longer handled by humans.

Nice chassis

Furthermore, Peugeot prepares an excellent chassis with MacPherson struts at the front with a stabilizer behind the front axle. At the rear, Peugeot uses a cleverly designed system with trailed trailing arms, transverse torsion bars and (depending on version) a stabilizer. The construction is mounted completely under the luggage floor and therefore saves a lot of space. It will later turn out that the chassis construction brings the driving characteristics of the 205 up to a very high and mature level.

Basis for future rally success

While the 205 is getting more and more production-ready, Jean Todt sees a very personal perspective in project M23. On 19 October 1981, Todt takes over responsibility for the competition department of Peugeot Talbot Sport. He immediately decides to lay all his cards on the future 205 as a new rallying weapon. This later proves to be a very successful move. And that feature is being worked on at the same time as the development of the series models of the 205. They plan and model the 205 Turbo 16, which provides its basis for the future rally versions.

February 1983: definitive start of a multiple success story

Special: the gun is revealed in Morocco in February 1983. It happens a day before the official French sales start of the regular Peugeot 205, whose production starts in December 1982 in Mulhouse. The beginning of 1983 marks the beginning of a great success story for Peugeot. The 205 becomes very successful and pulls Peugeot out of hibernation. And also in a rally context, the 205 will impress immediately after the entrance. The 205 is loose and how! You can soon read the continuation of the success story of the strong number in part 2.

Bremen Classic Motor Show 2023
Peugeot 205. A strong number for forty years (part 1)
First mock-up by Pininfarina, seen here at l’Aventure Peugeot in Sochaux. The 104 lines are still clearly visible
Peugeot 205. A strong number for forty years (part 1)
Paul Buvot and Gérard Welter signed their first M24 design on behalf of Peugeot
Peugeot 205. A strong number for forty years (part 1)
Pininfarina’s third proposal came closest to the later 205 and was smoother than the fourth and final proposal
Peugeot 205. A strong number for forty years (part 1)
The third proposal from Peugeot’s design department is already an emphatic advance on the later 205
Peugeot 205. A strong number for forty years (part 1)
Paul Bracq was responsible for the interior design
Peugeot 205. A strong number for forty years (part 1)
On the left the final Peugeot design, on the right Pininfarina’s final design. The creation of the Peugeot team under the leadership of Gérard Welter is very gratifying for the Peugeot management
Peugeot 205. A strong number for forty years (part 1)
Test with a pre-series model of the 205
Peugeot 205. A strong number for forty years (part 1)
The 205 Turbo 16 is ready and will be presented in Morocco. This happens the day before sales of the regular 205 in France start
Peugeot 205. A strong number for forty years (part 1)
The 205th sales start took place in February 1983 in the home country of France. The moment marked the start of a great success, and the first step towards the Peugeot rescue

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