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    Slip-sliding away

    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

    Car #1991 / #Peugeot-405-SRi / #Peugeot-405 / #Peugeot / #1991-Peugeot-405 /

    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.
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    Healing wounds 1991 Peugeot 405 Sri

    Car #1991 / #Peugeot-405-SRi / #Peugeot-405 / #Peugeot / #1991-Peugeot-405 /

    Owned by Sam Dawson (sam_dawson)
    Time owned Eight months
    Miles this month 40
    Costs this month £150
    Previously Refreshed the tyres after a scary drive

    You won’t see me doing much driving over the course of the next few issues. Unfortunately, just a week or so after fitting the new Falken tyres so I could enjoy some fun summer drives, I injured my left shoulder. Incapable of driving for a month, the Peugeot just sat in my garage.

    By the time my arm was out of its sling and I’d got enough movement back to turn a steering wheel and change gear, autumn was fast approaching with its promise of rain and road dirt. So thoughts turned to the rusty driver’s-side sill section and the fuel pipe running through it where the post-purchase inspection had found corrosion. I booked the 405 back in to the Bourne Citroën Centre and told Barry Annells to take his time, because I wouldn’t be driving for pleasure again any time soon.

    More than a month later, both myself and the car are much better. Alarmingly, the rust appeared to have gone all the way through the sill at the back corner of the rear door jamb. However, when Barry removed the fuel pipe to attack the sill, it turned out the serious rust had skirted around it rather than through it. It turned out that the pipe just had a coating of surface rust that looked worse than it was.

    Barry and son Peter cut out the offending corner section, fabricated a new sill section, welded it in and treated the whole sill to a new coat of anti-rust paint. Thankfully the rot hadn’t climbed into the Topaz Blue section, which might have made respraying awkward. While away from the car, the fuel pipe was de-rusted. With the rust addressed and the underside of the car coated with Waxoyl, it’s ready to enjoy again – as a celebratory blast through Rutland proved.

    Next up will be addressing the spongy brakes, and sorting out the dent in the front wing, the only remaining evidence of the crash that saw it confined to a barn for 10 years. In preparation for that, Barry found a rare under-headlight plastic strip during a parts-sourcing trip to Holland, to replace the cracked part on mine. The wing will need straightening first, but everything’s coming together very nicely. I wish I could say the same of me, but at least I now have the option of driving to my umpteenth hospital appointment in Eighties Franco-Italian style.

    An autumnal blast provided Sam and his Pug with some much-needed post-layup exertion. Rust needed only repairing and respraying.
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    Pop… bang… ouch! 1991 Peugeot 405 Sri

    Car #1991 / #Peugeot-405-SRi / #Peugeot-405 / #Peugeot / #1991-Peugeot-405 /

    Owned by Sam Dawson, news editor (sam_dawson)
    Time owned 10 months
    Miles this month 13
    Costs this month £22
    Previously Halted the spread of the sill rust

    It all started so straightforwardly. After the NEC Classic Motor Show, where the Peugeot Sport Club invited me to the 405’s 30th anniversary bash at Prescott in summer 2018, I thought I’d make sure all was well under the bonnet. I’m in the middle of moving house at the moment so I’m a little preoccupied, plus it’s all too easy to neglect your classic in the middle of winter when a quick glance out of the window can suddenly take the shine off any weekend-drive plans.

    Anyway, I’d planned to drive the Peugeot to KartMania at Silverstone (more news on this some other time) with half a mind to taking a long diversion via Ryton-on-Dunsmore, where the car was made, on the way home. The Rootes-era factory has long since been replaced by Jaguar Land Rover’s slick Special Vehicles department, but I figured it would still be a great destination anyway.

    Noticing the coolant level was low and with the stark warnings I’d put in my own 205 GTi buyers’ guide the other month about looking after the XU engine still fresh in my mind, I fired up the 405 and headed to Halfords to buy some more. It ran fine all the way there, but the fuel gauge needle was dropping a lot. Oh well, probably just finding its feet, it had been a while.

    It first coughed at a big motorway roundabout, a sudden cutting-out. The needle dropped yet further. A few splutters later and the cabin was full of pungent petrol fumes. With the fuel gauge now red-lining, the car having gone through £10-worth of fuel in little more than 10 miles, I pulled into the office car park and popped the bonnet. And promptly got a jet of neat petrol in the face. The old fuel hoses running from the underbody lines into the injection system itself were perished. Then I remembered another thing I’d written in the guide, about oil and petrol ingress into the distributor. I opened everything and let the petrol evaporate.

    Replacing the fuel hoses is the sort of job covered in the Haynes manual with, ‘Unfasten the jubilee clips. Remove old hoses. Replace’. The reality is a little different of course. It’s more like ‘Rummage around in the dark behind engine. Accidentally snap battery terminal cover with trapped elbow. Swear. Remove clip by mangling with screwdriver. Free hose by slicing with craft knife. Stab self in finger. Swear. Get petrol all over hands. Swear.’ But I got there in the end. I missed the drive to Ryton, but it snowed anyway.

    Speaking of leaks, there’s a minor one somewhere in the power steering system, so I’m giving this new Prestone Power Steering Fluid & Stop Leak a go. Working on a similar principle to the puncturehealing Slime I put in my mountain-bike tyres, it’s got an additive in it that promises to relubricate hardened seals in danger of perishing. It may not be a full-on cure, but it’s worth a try, especially because I need to get the driver’s side front wing straightened out before the 405’s 30th birthday party. Oh, and move house…

    Replacing the fuel lines wasn’t quite as easy as the workshop manual hinted. Perished lines meant unwelcome fuel spraying.
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    Hot Pug Time Machine

    Dripping in retro-cool – and yes he’s keeping the oh-so- Eighties door protectors.
    Three little letters that saved Sam a big sum.
    Car #1991 / #Peugeot-405-SRi / #Peugeot-405 / #Peugeot / #1991-Peugeot-405 /
    Owned by Sam Dawson (sam.dawson@drive-my.com)
    Time owned One month
    Miles this month 150 Costs £1100
    Previously Sold a very orange BMW

    Having decided I fancied something Eighties, front-drive and hot to replace the BMW, I turned my thoughts back to childhood memories. Carlos Sainz hurtling through forests in Toyota Celicas figured strongly, but after a couple of wasted weekends looking at misadvertised Celica GTs with holes in their sills, no service history but plenty of bolt-on accessories or – in one case – a mysteriously missing V5, I figured the moment had passed. My thoughts turned to the greatest hot hatch I’ve ever driven – the Peugeot 205 GTi.

    In some ways I felt I’d missed out. My earliest driving days were in Fiats, and while they were fun on the rally-stage roads of the Peak District, friends with various Peugeots enjoyed them even more. Okay, so my £1500 wasn’t going to get me a 205 – Classic Cars contributor Adam Towler was probably the last person in the country to get a cheap one – but it wasn’t alone in Peugeot’s sporting range at the time. A surprisingly cheap 306 XSi came up for sale in Redditch, but vanished before I could check it out on account of the seller deciding to keep it after realising how much it was really worth. I was starting to despair, especially when 205 GTi prices leapt once again following a volley of auction sales. But then I happened upon this £1100 405 being sold by Ben, a record-shop owner in Manchester whose spare time was largely being consumed by his Scimitar GTE.

    As well as the 309 GTi, Peugeot installed the famous 125bhp 1.9-litre XU engine in the fine-handling 405, creating a four-door ‘GTi’ slotting in beneath the expensive homologation-special Mi16. Problem is, Peugeot called it the SRi, so it hasn’t quite managed to bask in the glow from the 205 GTi’s halo the way that the 309 and 306 have. Rather, it’s found itself the target of restorers in search of bits to cannibalise. As a result, my new car is one of just 14 left on the road. Ben wouldn’t sell unless I promised not to break it for parts.


    Before driving home I filled it up at the petrol station opposite my old secondary school, where a bunch of kids took photos and proclaimed it ‘retro cool’. I was bemused, but realised that they were the equivalent of me standing on that same spot in 1995 admiring a 1968 504 coupé.

    On to those roads between High Lane and Baslow where my friends and I first gained a taste for hard cornering, Ozzy Osbourne’s The Ultimate Sin in the tape deck as a freebie from Ben, I realised I’d made the right choice. The 405 SRi drives like a more surefooted 205 GTi 1.9, complete with buzzy torque goading me to go ever-faster.

    But its appeal runs even deeper than that. It’s a red-pinstriped time machine, taking me back to being 18, complete with cassette hiss and trim rattle. For some of you it may have been an Escort Sport or Mini Cooper that defined those formative years. But for my generation it’s Peugeot GTis. Even when they’re not badged GTi.
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    Sam Dawson
    Sam Dawson updated the group cover
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    Sam Dawson
    Sam Dawson created a new group Peugeot 405
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