Captain Misery's Miserable Mishaps

It's all a load of bollocks, quite frankly

Junior Delinquent

The last blog entry I wrote entitled “I went on the internet and I bought this…” recalled the encounter of me going on eBay to buy another banger. I’d been looking for a cheap runaround to replace the Punto as its floor had fallen off. I’d found a rather charming little 1987 Peugeot 205 Junior with 44,000 miles driven by 2 owners from new. The promise of a huge lever arch file full of service history, the photos on the auction listing and the fact that it wasn’t a Corsa looked too good to be true. Thankfully the car looked better than advertised and drove a treat. So, as this entry was written before I’d picked it up I thought I’d update the story with any set backs or breakdowns I may have encountered along the way in the two months I’ve had it.

So in my best Autocar style, here’s the road test bit.

Yes, it has one of these. It has some doors, windows, headlights, bumpers, bonnet, tailgate, wheels and much more which make up the exterior. This being the Junior model means it also has some stripes. On both sides. And some Junior badging. And colour coded wheel trims. Seriously though, it’s a fantastic looking car and considering the 205 was launched in 1983, its crisp lines still looks quite modern. Certainly, the 205 has always been one of my favourite hatchbacks of the 1980s.

Interior and equipment
It’s got one of these, too, largely made up of seats, dashboard and carpet. This being the Junior model means it has light stripes on the seats, and indeed the seats themselves are upholstered in a lavish and luxurious denim. The carpet is incredibly lavish pile made from expired French peasants. The dashboard is formed from the finest quality plastic with a grain not too dissimilar from an elephants’ bottom. Everything falls to hand readily (no, falls to hand, not falls off) and the controls logically situated. Steering wheel is in a good place, which is in front of the driver’s seat and the gear lever and hand brake are situated in the middle between the two seats. I’m not sure this idea will catch on personally, as it means your passenger could interfere with your driving by sabotaging the gear lever with, say, some super glue or worse still, leave a rancid Kipper on the handbrake. Still, the previous owners of this car have thankfully refrained from either of those practices and the interior is immaculate. Equipment wise, it has an up to the minute cassette deck with automatic tuning device for the radio system. The dials are fantastic, you have a speedometer which is handy for seeing if you’ve actually managed to get to 26mph yet and a fuel gauge which basically tells you there is fuel in the tank but not how much. The most impressive dial is just to the left of the speedometer. It simply says “Peugeot” and I’ve figured out what it’s for. It’s to remind you to that you couldn’t quite afford the GL model.

Somewhere under the bonnet beneath the carburetor lies an engine. Lies being the operative word seeming as it’s the Douvrin XV8 unit (the engine leans back 72 degrees). It develops an immense 45bhp from its 954cc which is enough to propel it to 83mph. It’s lively enough around town, but slower than time stood still for anything else. It’s a pretty smooth running engine that in its 25 year existence has covered all but 46,000 miles. It’s noisy in comparison with a newer car, but in a fun kind of way. These old lean-back engines have a distinctive whiney when pushing on, which makes you more aware that you’re extracting every little bit of power the poor little thing has to offer. I love it!

Erm, moving on…

Fuel economy
Impressive, in a word. It’s more miserly than Albert Steptoe. I’m not sure it even runs on unleaded to be honest as it’s that infrequently I actually need to go the petrol station. I can’t be arsed to work out miles per gallon figures as I have better things to do. Like write rubbish roadtests. Suffice to say we did a 120 mile round trip to Bude to see some family. Two days before, I put fifteen quids worth of unleaded in the tank from next to bone dry which did me a days worth of driving to work and back and the trip to Bude and back before replenishing any additional fuel.

Ride and handling / On the road
The 205 gained a reputation for being fun to drive. This one is no exception to be honest, even in lowly basic poverty specification such as this Junior. It’s not as sharp as the GTi, quite obviously, and has a fair amount of body roll but it’s fun to chuck into the bends all the same. Steering is light and is great for parking, but the turn in is good and feels positive. The gearchange is typical of other Peugeots from the time I’d driven. It’s rubbish until warmed up properly and then when warmed up very slightly less rubbish. The brakes are lacking in braking ability so much so that I think the front brake pads are made of Weetabix and the brake discs formed from water biscuits. The ride is superb even compared to more modern cars, thanks to typically French lofty suspension coupled to comfy seats as with most French cars of the time. This means it can at least transport eggs on French cobbled streets in superb comfort. So, dealing with the potholed roads of the UK is easy. Whereas speed bumps in my wife’s Vauxhall Corsa are undertaken as if it’s a bloody expedition to climb Everest, this little Pug makes speed bumps appear flatter that witches’ tits.

Living with the car / Reliability
It’s always exciting when you buy a new car no matter what age it is, and two months on the novelty hasn’t worn off. I went on about the condition before I drove it home, and getting it home meant I could have a proper look at it. It really is fantastic. Solid underneath, never been welded and the good sign is it won’t need any. Well, first day was event free on the drive back from Wadebridge to home via Falmouth. No fuss whatsoever. And if I’m totally honest, it’s pretty much been like that ever since (touching every piece of wood in sight). It has been given a minor engine service and a polish. So far, the bonnet has been up to top up the screenwash and to do the aforementioned service. It generally starts first (or third) time. Third attempt is a record so far, and that was on a blustery, rain-soaked day so I can forgive it that. My Basil Fawlty starting encouragement branch has yet to be used.

There are odd little bits and pieces here and there that I will probably end up doing but none of them are things that overly concern me. It has a very slight noise from its left hand front driveshaft, a pinhole in the rear silencer, a very minor engine oil leak and could do with its wheels balancing. Whilst we’re on the subject of wheels, I may put slightly wider wheels on at some point. It may be a little bit more stable on something a little bit wider than 135 section tyres. Nothing untoward will be going on as I’d like to keep it as original as possible.

To sum up the 205, then? It’s slow. It’s noisy compared with new stuff. Aside from a central locking kit that’s been retro fitted, there’s next to no equipment. The gearchange is rubbery and the brakes quite woeful. However, none of that really matters as it has a character of its own and makes me smile every time I drive it. That’s as important as anything else for me and the fact it’s cheaper than walking is also very appealing. It has quickly become one of my favourite cars so in my illustrious history of slightly shite motors. Is it going to be a stop gap car until something better comes along? I hope not. There’s not many of these Juniors at this age left on the road and I aim to keep this little machine battling on for as long as possible,  Yes, it’s bloody clean for its age. I’ve seen five year old cars look worse than this, however it’s a daily hack and therefore needs to work for a living getting me to work, doing the nursery run, going to the shops and filling in for when the Corsa is being repaired. Repeatedly. It will be cleaned, polished and maintained as well as possible to keep it going but it has to earn its keep. Final verdict? 10 out of 10.


October 12, 2012 - Posted by | Motoring | , , , ,

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