Gee McDaid’s exceptionally clean 205 may look like a clean standard car, but delve a little deeper and it starts to get rather special.
It may look like a show car, but Gee McDaid built this perfect Peugeot 205 for blasting around the B-Roads… Words & Photos: Steve McCann.
When Peugeot launched the 205 GTi back in 1984 they led with a James Bond style advert, having the hot hatch parachuted into a snowy mountain range, shot down by a jet and chased by another huge plane while it slid furiously along ice and sideways down the slippery slopes avoiding explosions. Sure, it may have seemed more appropriate with an Aston Martin but regardless the message was clear, this was a driver’s car built for driving hard on the edge, a small car with a big personality. Fortunately, that’s how Gee McDaid saw it too. He fell in love with the 205 back in the day and that feeling has never left him. “I remember having a 205 pencil case at school so I guess it started then,” Gee laughs, “But my first experience of the real thing was a test drive years ago. The guy selling the car really pushed it to the limit and the 205 came alive, I knew immediately I had to have it!” From then on, he’s pretty much always had one. Until that point Gee had owned a lot of Fords, starting with a few Fiestas, then onto Escorts and an Orion. His love of cars in general was down to his older brother who used to pay Gee to clean his cars. At first he didn’t see the point, just the colour of the money, but soon discovered cleaning cars gives you an appreciation of them too. “It must have struck a chord as ironically, I now have my own detailing business,” Gee smirks, “As a kid I was getting paid to clean cars and now I still am.”
You can already see where this is going, a true driving enthusiast who is equally obsessive over car cleanliness. Is it possible to strike a balance and have a super mint motor that gets driven hard? Well, judge for yourselves….
“I really didn’t plan to go anywhere near this far with the 205.” Gee explains, “I just wanted to build something fun for the road that handled well, but it just evolved this way as I couldn’t help myself.” What Gee means is that his perfectionist nature and cleaning obsession wouldn’t allow him to cut any corners or settle for anything less than the best when it came to this 205 project and to be fair, that’s not really a bad thing!
The initial idea was to find a solid base car, fit a bigger engine, clean it up a bit and off we go. So, in 2012 Gee sourced a 1992 1.6GTi that had been parked up for a couple of years but was otherwise ok. He was even able to drive it home so was off to a good start. The initial proper inspection verified it was the right car, but Gee wanted to do some light repairs to the floor and get it undersealed. He felt the easiest way to do this was remove the engine (it was getting replaced anyway) and stick the 205 on a spit. Gee didn’t have a spit of his own but he does have some welding skills so made one! “The trouble is, once you get a car on a spit, that’s it, you have to go the whole way,” Gee explains. So, the 205 was indeed stripped to a bare shell with the floor repaired, chassis legs stitch welded and strengthened before the whole underside was treated to four blue base coats and six coats of lacquer! Once this was done and bits were being bolted back into place Gee’s OCD kicked in big style. He just couldn’t face putting anything back on the car that wasn’t renewed, repainted or powder-coated. Even tiny bolts and fixings, they all had to be replaced with new items. While all this was going on, progress was made in other areas.
A Peugeot 309 GTi was picked up for parts and Gee got a Christmas present from his wife Lynsey that all guys would appreciate – a Citroen Xsara! Thankfully, this wasn’t a driving alternative; it was donor car number two. As it turned out, both these vehicles would prove to be very resourceful for the project. The 309 was relieved of its complete rear axle which was of course stripped, with parts painted and powder-coated before being rebuilt and fitted to the 205. As well as giving a wider track, this provided the back end with a brake disc conversion. Wishbones and the anti roll bar were also taken from the 309 and along with various new parts such as polybushes, uprated mounts and the fantastic GAZ coilovers and dampers, the suspension set-up was a winner!
When it came to the powerplant, Gee was tempted to use the donor car 309 engine which turned out to be a 2.0 8V in the process of having a turbo conversion. However, he decided it against it. “I wanted the car to be as useable and reliable as possible,” Gee tells us, “so for that reason, the tried and tested 2.0 16v was a better option.” This is where the Xsara VTS comes in. It’s more common to see this kind of conversion done with a 405 Mi16 engine but Gee reckons that most of those around require a rebuild whereas the Xsara 2.0 16v (same as the 306 GTi-6 unit) may be heavier but it’s newer, has slightly more power and has better parts availability. As you would expect, there was no chance this lump was going anywhere near the 205 until the engine bay was prepped and painted. Also, the new engine had to be cleaned, painted and have the head ported and polished before fitment.
All the essentials were done at this stage too like the timing belt, fitting a new head gasket and replacing various seals and hoses. The Xsara gearbox was retained but reconditioned first and to cap it off a new Valeo clutch was added to the mix. It was all looking good but there were a few obstacles to clear before the transplant was hailed a success. The donor Xsara ECU and loom had been scrapped so another was found from a GTi-6 but took days to sort and solder. Finally, these engines have clearance issues that many solve by cutting holes in the bulkhead or modifying mounts but Gee decided to get creative. He cut and re-welded part of the exhaust manifold and it did the job perfectly, leaving a real factory finish under the bonnet.
With potent power, improved braking and a handling set-up to satisfy the side of Gee that demanded a quick, planted, fun car, it was time to address the cosmetic aspect. Overall he was looking for a subtle look, something close to how Peugeot intended, hiding the real animal underneath and that’s exactly how it turned out. Inside the cabin, the existing grey door cards remain but the Goodwood leather interior from the 309 slotted straight in with a bit of a squeeze. The seats are slightly wider but look right at home here. On the outside the bodywork received a fresh coat of Miami Blue paint and remains completely standard other than the mouldings. “I hate that plastic trim,” Gee explains “I have to clean that kind of stuff on a daily basis and it ain’t fun so I smoothed and painted mine in a metallic grey instead.” It was an inspired move as it looks fantastic against the blue and matches the refurbed 15in Speedlines painted in the same graphite colour. Small finishing touches that really make a difference are the replacement of all the glass, mirrors, headlights, spotlights, indicators and badges with new items. “I tried not to replace all these things,” laughs Gee “there was nothing wrong with lots of the original parts but it just had to be done.”
The end result looks stunning, but does it tick all the show and go boxes for Gee? “You can never be 100% happy and finished with a car, there’s always something that can be done.” Gee tells us, “But I absolutely love it and although I do like to keep the 205 clean, that side of me never gets in the way of using it as I always intended.” It’s true, this is a man who works extremely hard at his business (Pristine Machine is always fully booked for months in advance) so when he gets a day off and the weather is nice, Gee really makes the best of it and heads up into the beautiful back roads of Scotland, even as far as the Highlands to enjoy the car, the scenery and the escape. “It just drives as I had hoped, it’s got plenty of power with fantastic handling and has been faultless for the thousands of miles I’ve covered.” We think that pretty much answers the question then, it seems it is possible to have the best of both worlds.
Leather seats are straight out of a Goodwood edition 309GTi. For many Miami Blue is the ultimate 205 GTi colour, we’d be inclined to agree.
A massive inspiration for Gee during this project was his son Lee who sadly passed away in 2010 at the heartbreaking young age of 11. The build helped occupy Gee through extremely difficult times. He had a few 205s before this one and Lee just loved his passenger runs. December 2015 would have been Lee’s 17th birthday and the 205 would have been his present. RIP Lee.
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 2.0 16v Xsara VTS engine conversion, ported and polished head, Group N engine mounts, re-angled and heat wrapped equal length manifold, cylindrical air filter, BBM silicone coolant pipes with alloy thermostat adapter, #Taco
modified dual speedo drive with 405 cable, 306 GTi-6 loom and ECU, Xsara battery box, Sound of Silence custom stainless steel exhaust system, Xsara VTS BE3 box, new #Valeo
clutch kit, Group N mounts, competition adjustable linkages.
SUSPENSION: Rebuilt and lowered 309 GTi rear beam, Xsara VTS ARB, Group A rear beam mounts, #GAZ-GHA
adjustable rear dampers, seam welded subframe, 309 GTi #ARB
with polybushes, 309 GTi wishbones with polybushes, #GAZ
GHA adjustable coilovers with 250 lbs springs, Group N top mounts, Xsara VTS power steering rack and pump.
WHEELS: 6x15in #Speedlines
acid dipped, shot blasted, polished lip and painted metallic grey. Toyo R888 soft compound cut slicks.
BRAKES: Fully rebuilt 288mm front brakes, #Mintex
1144 pads, Stainless steel braided flexi pipes, 309 GTi rear disc conversion, 309 GTi servo and master cylinder, all brake and fuel pipe and clips replaced.
EXTERIOR: Bodywork repainted in original Miami blue including door shuts and floor pans, trims and mouldings smoothed and painted metallic grey, red alloy trim repaired and painted original colour, Clio rear wiper, new lights, new indicators, new spotlights, new aerial and new badges, paintwork wet sanded to remove orange peel and fully detailed, bare metal floor, stitch welded front legs, fully seam sealed, undersealed, underside painted and lacquered in original colour, seam welded and painted engine bay.
INTERIOR: 309 GTi Goodwood full grey leather, all new bronze tinted glass inc mirrors.
THANKS: My awesome wife Lynsey for putting up with all the hours I spent and for the donor car. Kev and John at KMbodyworx, Patrick at Max Marine, Robert and the boys at Autotec, Jamie T, Mark Wilson, Joe Blow and Aldo. Pristine Machine Vehicle Detailing (Port Glasgow).
Xsara 2.0 16V engine is the same as the one fitted to the Pug 306 GTi-6, so it’s kind a keeping it in the family.
Gee’s near-obsessive attention to detail means that the underside is as clean as the topside. Now that’s dedication!
When did you last see a 205GTi on the roads, let alone one as clean as this?
“I just wanted to build something fun for the road that handled well, but it just evolved this way as I couldn’t help myself.”