1991 Peugeot 405 SRi
Owned by Sam Dawson (sam.dawson)
Time owned 6 months
Miles this month 350
Cost this month £172
Previously Shredded, incorrectly fitted cambelt rescued just in time
Engine-related disaster averted, I got down to the business of enjoying the Pug 405. I knew thanks to Barry Annells’ inspection that there was a great big list of things that needed fixing, mainly lightly corroded hoses, but they could wait. The weather was glorious, and it was a good feeling to have a car that I could just jump into and drive for the hell of it.
The SRi really does fulfil the original hot-hatch brief (yes, I know it’s not a hatchback, but you know what I mean) in that it’s a genuine all-rounder serving to remind how important they were to Eighties motorists. Unlike my old Quantum, it doesn’t leak in the rain or beach itself on bumpy roads. And unlike the BMW it replaced, it’s not a needlessly complicated, stubborn piece of over-engineering that threatens to cost me a small fortune every time I fire it up.
I exhibited it at the PSA X-Rally at Burleigh House, where it was made to feel at home alongside things like Citroën DSs and CXs. I drove it to one of the UK’s biggest antiques and collectors’ fairs, where it seemed equally at home alongside the predictable Volvo estates. And then, one morning in May, I set off for a twisting, motorway-avoiding drive to Warwickshire and the National Slot Car Festival at Gaydon. Yes, I know. There’s a good reason why Phil gets me to do the model reviews.
While blasting through rural Northamptonshire, enjoying the Peugeot attributes of neat body control and communicative steering, I piled into a deserted, slightly damp roundabout somewhere near Daventry and promptly left at the wrong exit on a trajectory of understeer. Recalling a conversation I’d had with former 405 SRi owner Keith Adams, they’re very tyre-sensitive and while not as tail-happy as a 205 GTi 1.9, will still quite happily spit you into a ditch if you’re not suitably careful.
Inspecting the tyres in the car park of the British Motor Museum, I realised I’d been an idiot. I was so concerned about rescuing the engine that I’d neglected to notice that the tyres were all mismatched, worn, cracked and quite possibly decades old. A chat with a 205 Rallye owner revealed that the optional steel wheels on my 405 were essentially the same items, and nowadays Falken ZE914s do a better job at wet-weather grip than the original-spec Michelins, thanks to increased silica content in the rubber compound, especially if I fancy a spot of road-rallying.
Apex Tyres in Peterborough duly fitted a set, and they proved themselves worthy on another long trip, to the British Touring Car Championship round at Snetterton. Next job? Sorting the rust in the driver’s-side sill and replacing a main fuel pipe. But at least it goes round corners properly now.
A new set of properly matched tyres should help tame the 405’s understeer. SRi proves its dynamic worth on country roads.