Tuning test: Peugeot 205 Mi-16

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Pocket supercar

In an age which has miniaturised mainframe computers to discount desktop items, or stereo entertainment from respectable wooden cabinets to hissing portability, true high-performance cars were an obvious target. In today’s traffic those fortunate enough to be able to own the finest thoroughbred machinery frequently find that it is not just the law that stands in the way of exploiting massive performance capabilities. The sheer bulk of many supercars renders them easy prey for the Hot Hatch set in the South East. Most owners of exotic cars also have a GTi clone to perform the daily chores.

In the Sixties the choice would have been Mini Cooper or Cooper S, the further modifications would probably have come from Downton or the firms spawned by former employees.

Trading from Airfield Road, on the Airfield Way Industrial Estate, in Christchurch, Dorset, Richard Longman & Co retains its links with the competition Mini breed. Former Janspeed and Downton employee Longman, himself a multiple British Saloon Car Champion in various Minis, now finds a sizeable chunk of his business concerns Peugeot.

Aside from contributing to the development of works engines for the Peugeot Talbot Team, Richard Longman has found a ready market for roadgoing Peugeot 205 GTi conversions. One of the most popular adds 25 bhp to the 1.9-litre’s already peppy 130 bhp and costs £805, installed and VAT-paid. Literally hundreds of such conversions have now been delivered “and you’d be astonished at the customers,” says Richard. Earlier research revealed a famous clergyman has one, as well as the more obvious customers who come through Charters of Aldershot, Peugeot Talbot Sport at Coventry or direct.

However, as with the Mini Cooper era, those with 150 mph cars like to forego as little outright performance as possible in the pocket editions. For the Peugeot 205 GTi that means either turbocharging (I have seen only one successful example: Turbo Technics), or the apparently obvious transplant of the 160 bhp Mi-16 four cylinder that is found in the Peugeot 405 or the Citroen BX 16v. Since Richard Longman already offers 155 bhp for under £1000, he knew that he had to offer more than a simple transplant. Thus the slanted Mi-16 unit now inserted within the 205 engine bay (a surprisingly straightforward task), has nearly 40 bhp extra over 405 spec. “That is why I chose carburettors (a pair of 45 DHLA Dellorto sidedraughts), because I knew I could get the best power and torque at the most affordable cost,” explained Richard. The horsepower bonus comes from an air-flowed cylinder head, replacement camshaft and solid tappets, all extending the working rpm range to a heady 8000 revs.

The result was an even tickover at a fastish 1100 to 1400 rpm and a working power band that begins at 4500 rpm and 122 bhp. The standard 160 bhp is exceeded at 6000 rpm and more than 190 bhp is delivered in the 7000 to 8000 rpm band; the peak was 198 bhp at 7500.

I had driven F50 PPC when it had the 8 valve/155 bhp conversion installed, and I was surprised how little ancillary work was required. The engine carried over an Mi-16 clutch, the flywheel was modified and a Quaife limited-slip differential fitted, but the engine and 205 transaxie lay across the engine bay as if the factory had done the job. Rumour is that Peugeot will extend use of the 16v engine shortly, but it will go in the neglected 309 GTi range …

Some stiffer Peugeot Talbot Sport coil springs were fitted to the front struts, and Mintex 171 pads served rather noisily in the standard four wheel disc brakes. It is expected that a set of 15in x near 7in rim factory rallying wheels, along with BF Goodrich tyres, will replace the Michelin MXV-shod standard 15in equipment we employed. That will cost approximately another £750 over the £4500 excluding VAT that we were quoted for the conversion. Such costs could be offset by selling the fuel-injected 1.9 unit, and that could fetch £800.

At less than 1000 miles recorded and facing a standard tachometer asking for a 7000 rpm redline to be observed I contented myself with using “only” 7500 rpm, but the little car performed with stunning vigour. If 0-60 mph occupies any more than 6 seconds I shall be surprised, and the top speed potential is certainly in excess of 135mph.

More relevant is the 16v 205 ability to reach Britain’s overall speed limit in second gear, and third brings up 100 indicated mph in well under 20 seconds. At the other end of the performance spectrum, the car drove away from Richard’s works with the manners of a fuel-injected unit. Subsequent investigation showed it would take full throttle flawlessly from 1750 rpm in fourth and fifth.

The effect of such powerful biceps in such a modest package could be horrendous, but the limited-slip differential manages to contain most of that apparently boundless energy. The swiftest of “Pugs” will run progressively wider as power is applied, and dislikes uphill bumps and cambers. Yet the “205 Mi-16” is manageable in a manner that could not have been imagined in the days of competition Minis with LSDs.

The brakes also proved able to handle the immense acceleration and general verve of this exhilarating machine.

I would agree with Richard Longman that it does need some sound-proofing on the front bulkhead (none is evident on the standard car) to dull the “crack” of those Pipercross-filtered dual carburettors over 4000 rpm. Once you are up to cruising speed — and 100 mph represents a bearable 5000 rpm — the throttle can be eased back and the noise levels then approach those of the injected production car.

I would commend the Longman “205 Mi-16” for its expertise and excellence, all at a lower price and higher pedigree than Continental equivalents. JW