This series of articles will track the history and rebirth of my much loved but often ignored Peugeot 205 GTi into a Targa spec rally car, suitable for racing in club sprints, hill climbs and ultimately Targa Tasmania.
Original Commercial for the 205 GTI
There’s something unique about the irrational love affair with your first car. You wait for your licence, your birthday, and you save endless hours’ wages at your part time job. Then you pine over all the cars you dream you could afford, you whittle down the shortlist to cars you can just about aspire to – it has to have the right balance of street-cred, personality and performance. When you finally get your hands on that elusive machine, it’s the realisation of a long-held quest, and thus, an irrational love affair is formed.
Ask any motoring enthusiast and they will give a long winded and detailed explanation of their relationship with their first car, usually tinged with the highs and lows of purchasing something you couldn’t afford in the first place, let alone run. My irrational love affair was formed with my 1989 Peugeot 205GTi in 2001. Growing up in a family obsessed with the most unconventional of French cars – Citroens, the Peugeot was positively mainstream. Standard coil springs suspension, conventional dash layout and cracking performance this was an ideal French chariot.
When it hit Australian shores in 1987, the 205GTi was an eye-watering $30,000. De-tuned for our newly introduced low octane unleaded fuel, locally delivered GTi’s were a hybrid between the 1.6 and 1.9 variants of Europe. But rave reviews from the Continent ensured high demand for the diminutive hatchback.
Wheels Magazine coined the name ‘LeKart’ when they first reviewed the car, in homage to its go-kart-like dimensions and handling. The name stuck and the original owner had the LEKART number plates added. When I picked it up some 11 years later, LEKART was clean but well used. Its looks, handling and spritely performance belied the 167k on the clock. Certainly capable of keeping the Commodore SS’s of the day honest on a winding road.
The early years had an intensity of ownership unmatched since. There were countless hours spent cleaning, polishing and fettling the beast – only limited by my budget and imagination. Many happy hours touring Victoria’s back roads ensued until finally we moved up to the track day circuit and my passion for motorsport was ignited. The endless quest for competitive lap times meant more serious modifications were required…
Thankfully Shell oil company came to my aid by way of an academic scholarship. With bulging pockets, I swapped out the stock suspension for Koni shocks and Eibach springs up front. Rear torsion bars were lowered to the correct height, Wilwood 4 pot stoppers and OZ Racing wheels went on, and a Sebring exhaust took care of noise duties.
A few successful track days later a bulk buy on Quiaffe LSD differentials was too good to pass up and was promptly added to the diff housing. Probably the single biggest performance improvement I made! Two wheels gripping from the apex allowed the tail-happy handling to be worked hard into and out of corners. It was now a compact machine with handling and breaking far outweighing its meagre 105bhp. Despite the obvious need for more power, a CAMS certified roll cage was fitted to strengthen the chassis and protect against unintended off-road excursions.
However, the wandering eye of youth soon had me looking for pastures new, and I tucked the Pug beneath a car cover and shipped it off to storage in Gippsland while I traded places for the northern hemisphere. And what an eye-opening experience it was. The strength of the GB Pound and the insanity of used car prices had me salivating at the possibilities. I tried all manner of steeds, starting with a 307 HDi daily commuter (worst car I have ever owned), then on to a BMW 330 E46 and finally a Porsche 911 4S (996), I was in motoring heaven. Outrageous excursions to Spa-Francorchamps, Nurburgring, Silverstone, and Goodwood were ticked off the bucket list. All the while LEKART was sitting back home dutifully gathering dust under its car cover waiting for its moment in the sun once again.