The undisputed king of Group B? Sixteen race wins, two drivers’ and two constructors’ championships between 1984 and 1986 made the Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 the most successful rally car in the wildest and most exciting years of the World Rally Championship. This small French pocket rocket was developed in secret under the technical direction of Jean Todt, Director of Peugeot-Talbot Sport, and was presented in February 1983. The reason for its existence? Obtain the homologation of a rally thoroughbred. The FIA required a minimum of 200 street cars to be built before being released into Group B competition.
It respected the exterior design of the normal 205, although underneath its kevlar body it had no similarities with the production model, and only shared the doors, the windshield and the headlights. It can be easily distinguished from its pronounced wheel arches and the huge air scoops, and was only available in the exclusive “Dark Grey” color. The 205 Turbo 16 had a longer wheelbase and four-wheel fully independent suspension with double wishbones mounted on Bilstein shock absorbers and long-travel adjustable springs.
The front half of the chassis, including the cockpit and co-pilot, was a steel monocoque, while the rear half was a tubular steel space frame where the engine and rear suspension were installed. The huge tailgate was integrated with the fenders and the windows, and its opening allowed easy access to the mechanical assembly. This contributed to reaching a final weight of just 950 kilos. The technical novelty was to have placed the engine and gearbox transversely, halfway between the cabin and the rear axle to allow an excellent 45/55 weight distribution. The 4WD system employed the Ferguson Formula epicyclic center differential with viscous coupling to split torque 33/67 front to rear under normal conditions and to lock the axles in the presence of a significant speed difference. Both the front and rear axles have a ZF limited-slip differential.
The heart of the beast was a supercharged 1775cc twin-cam 16-valve four-cylinder with a KKK turbo delivering 200 hp at 6750 rpm. Peugeot declared six seconds to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h and a top speed of 208 km/h, which is shown to be suitable for an eighties street version for homologation purposes. The 5-speed manual gearbox was very precise and with close ratios that prevented turbo lag during sporty driving.
The two-passenger cabin offered a dashboard with a lot of information through seven analog clocks where the speedometer and tachometer stood out; a leather-wrapped steering wheel that read “Turbo 16” in red, aluminum racing pedals and leather upholstery on the top of the dash and on the seats.
Like other “homologation specials” such as the Ford RS200, the Metro 6R4 and the Lancia Delta S4, the Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 was not a cheap car or an easy one to sell, despite the fact that the competition version won in any terrain where Group B ran thanks to the 550 hp that made it a real destroyer. Who doesn’t remember the Evolution 2 with its aggressive aero kit that included a wide front wing, side air vents and a huge rear wing, flying over the roads of Finland and spitting fire from the exhaust?
Today, the 205 Turbo 16 is an invaluable collector’s car, not only because of its scarcity -only 200 were made between 1983 and 1984- but because of its sporting pedigree and triumphs. And because in an glorious age where power and speed seemed to have no limits, this leon was king.