‘It’s hard to find the words to describe this car. Stunning! If a rally car can be compared to a 10,000 metre runner and a rally raid car is the equivalent of a marathon runner, then this one is a 100 metre sprinter. It’s on a quite different plane …’
So said none other than the great Ari Vatanen, who so famously blasted the Peugeot 405 T16 up the legendary Colorado Pikes Peak hill to a record time in 1988. The locals, quite understandably, didn’t expect this and reportedly didn’t know what to make of the ‘Poo-Joe’ when it arrived to try to show the establishment a new way to get up the hill in a hurry. By the time it had finished it had successfully changed the game.
Vatanen and Peugeot succeeded in great style, although in the interest of fairness the team did turn up with a 600bhp, 900kg (that’ll be 681bhp/tonne then…) missile with four-wheel-drive as well as four-wheel-steering.
The car was based largely on the 205 T16 which dominated Group B rallying before becoming one of several high-profile refugees from the series once the infamous regulations were abandoned after 1986. It was then adapted to carry a carbon-kevlar 405 body, and as if to rub salt into the wounds of the cars who’d lost out to it in the rallying world, it went on to win both the Paris-Dakar and Pikes Peak, twice…
Bear in mind also that, having cleaned up in Group B, Paris-Dakar and then Pikes Peak that the 405 was rebodied as a Citroen ZX and went out and won the Paris-Dakar again. We don’t mind admitting that the GRR office has a bit of a soft spot for the whole 205/405/ZX affair, but regardless of this the car stands up as one of the great non-circuit competition cars of all time.
Mr Vatanen again: ‘One thing I’ll remember forever was an occurrence during our preparations in Colorado. We prepared the cars in a workshop in an industrial estate, where it was possible to do a quick roll-out on a closed-off street. Jean Todt sat beside me in the car, but of course there was no passenger seat. The car’s acceleration on tarmac (0-200 in under 10 secs) had made me think that this is how it must feel to be catapulted off the deck of an aircraft carrier! Jean tried to hang on to whatever solid objects he could find inside the car, but when I stamped on the pedal he just disappeared from my peripheral view… getting squashed against the firewall in the back!’
Earlier this year we shared the legendary Climb Dance video of Vatanen driving up the hill as one of our ‘Flat-Out and Fearless…’ shares. If you haven’t seen it yet, do it soon. When it turned up at the Festival of Speed it was near the top of our list of cars we wanted to photograph. So here it is in all its glory. What a machine …
Photography by Antony Frazer