Peu­geot 205 Turbo 16

A Pug-na­cious ho­molo­ga­tion spe­cial that ruled ral­ly­ing in the mid-’80s

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents -

CON­SIDER your­self a cer­ti­fied beanie-wearer if you can name the car that won the 1981 World Rally Cham­pi­onship. This was the year be­fore ral­ly­ing was re-writ­ten by both Group B and the all-wheel drive Audi Qu­at­tro … The 1981 driv­ers’ ti­tle was won by Ari Vata­nen in the leg­endary Ford Es­cort RS – but few re­mem­ber that the man­u­fac­tur­ers’ cham­pi­onship was won by a square-cor­nered hatch­back, the Tal­bot Sunbeam-lo­tus.

The Tal­bot brand had come with Psa-peu­geot’s 1978 pur­chase of Chrysler Europe; the Sunbeam was a tough, rear-drive hatch. The 2.2-litre Lo­tus-de­vel­oped rally vari­ants, driven by Guy Fre­quelin and Henri Toivo­nen, scored only one win but sev­eral podi­ums to nab the WRC con­struc­tors’ ti­tle.

Some key el­e­ments here – the Tal­bot’s small size and ser­vice­abil­ity, and Fre­quelin’s co-driver, Jean Todt – would sur­face again in the Peu­geot 205 Turbo 16, the car that would out-qu­at­tro the Qu­at­tro.

In 1981, Todt was ap­pointed to head up Peu­geot’s new mo­tor­sport di­vi­sion. Project one was to add zest to Peu­geot’s forth­com­ing 205 fam­ily with a 4WD rally win­ner, ini­tially co­de­named ‘M-24’. Todt’s 20-strong team, un­der en­gi­neer Bernard Per­ron, noted the Audi’s short­com­ings – over­hang­ing front engine, cum­ber­some size, heavy body – and de­signed their 205 Turbo 16 with a part-space­frame chas­sis and trans­verse mid-mounted engine and gear­box.

Mid-rally ser­vic­ing ac­cess was paramount, with the up­per rear half of the body­work a sin­gle, hinged clamshell. The front of the engine was be­hind a re­mov­able panel, ahead of the right-rear wheel.

Com­mon­al­ity was the key­word, ex­tend­ing to four in­ter­change­able drive­shafts, even the sizes of nuts and bolts used. It was a skunkworks spe­cial, cer­tainly, but the sil­hou­ette and the Xu-se­ries four-cylin­der block were at least true to the hum­ble 205 hatch.

Cru­cially, Todt in­sisted that the T16’s ‘evo­lu­tion’ com­pe­ti­tion spec be fully de­vel­oped prior to pro­duc­tion of the 200 road-go­ing ho­molo­ga­tion cars. The Group B pa­pers were lodged in Au­gust 1983 and the 200 road cars built in just eight months. Ho­molo­ga­tion was granted in April 1984.

Be­ing ef­fec­tively hand-built ‘evo­lu­tion’ cars them­selves, the road cars were ex­pen­sive – equiv­a­lent to the Fer­rari 308 GTB and Porsche 911 of the day – though with only a laggy 147kw, not es­pe­cially quick. But its ral­ly­ing twin was des­tined to be the most suc­cess­ful car of Group B, with 16 WRC vic­to­ries and swoop­ing both driv­ers’ and con­struc­tors’ ti­tles in 1985 and 1986.

A to­tal of 241 road-go­ing T16s were built.

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