The CarAdvice team reveals what's hidden away in their sheds and backyards awaiting some TLC.
When this story started late one night while scrolling the modern-day market bazaar that is Facebook Marketplace, it could have ended in a completely different way.
In fact, it probably should have ended in a completely different way.
As you may have read, I missed out on buying a classic Peugeot 505 at a recent Shannons auction, and still had a Peugeot-sized hole in my heart (if not a similarly sized hole in the CarAdvice garage.
Buying a 28-year-old, French modern classic, with enough tarmac under its wheels to see it travel the equivalent of Melbourne to the moon, sight unseen, for a ridiculously reasonable price… I mean, what could possibly go wrong?
The fact the car was located in the ‘not particularly close to me’ Snowy Mountains region of New South Wales simply added a degree of challenge to what was, in every possible way, a bad idea.
But here we are, and here it is. My 1994 Peugeot 405 Mi16 Phase II.
Launched initially in 1989, the 405 Mi16 was the more mature and comfortable stablemate of the legendary hot hatch, the Peugeot 205 GTi. Production extended until 1995, with a mid-life change in 1993 signifying a ‘Phase 2’ car like mine.
Here, the iconic aluminium block 1.9-litre 16-valve engine was exchanged for an iron-block 2.0-litre unit, the interior was ‘modernised’ and there were some subtle changes to the rear lamp treatment.
Power output increased from 108kW to 116kW at 6500rpm, but torque stayed the same at 193Nm at 3500rpm. The heavier block upped the 405’s mass from 1115kg to 1203kg, which dropped the overall power-to-weight ratio (96.9kW/t to 96.4kW/t) but even with this, the Mi16 is still pretty lightweight for a comfortable four-door sedan.
I will be honest and say that the Phase 1 cars are more desirable (especially in red), but the Mi16 is something I’ve always wanted and so while my Magnum Grey 2.0 isn’t a perfect example of the perfect specification, it was complete, had the luscious velour interior, was running and most importantly, was very, very well priced.
And really, if you can’t spend a few dollars to take a risk on chatting to a man you’ve never met about a car you’ve never seen that resides in a place you’ve never actually stopped in before… what’s life all about?
So, after a few back-and-forth discussions with the seller (and some yes or no chats with Rob, Trent, Kez and Justin), the deal was done and I arranged to pick the car up on the way home from a working trip to the Sydney office.
We had a new long-termer to bring back, the car was in Cooma which was geographically in the right direction, it should be an easy task, right?
Turns out on the one week I could make the planets align, the seller wasn’t going to be home, so he agreed to leave the car out the front and the key with a neighbour.
As I have come to learn, Peugeot people are a friendly bunch!
Needless to say, in some pretty awful weather, the trip was made, the car collected and the drive home completed successfully… or perhaps more accurately, it was completed brilliantly!
The Mi16 was heralded as the best-handling sports sedan of its era, and on the twisting run down the back-side of the Great Dividing Range toward the Victorian coastline, the plucky Pug did not disappoint.
Supple and compliant suspension, mated to pin-accurate steering, gave the 405 a wonderfully balanced and entertaining nature through the constant curves. There was still plenty of power and response to be had from the 16-valve unit, and with a sweet, European burble from the exhaust providing a soundtrack, I really felt I had scored the bargain buy of the year.
It even maintained a constant 7.0L/100km fuel consumption!
So despite my concerns, and the CarAdvice team's reckoning I wouldn't make it more than halfway without a breakdown or catastrophic French failure, the Peugeot made it all 700km back to Melbourne without skipping a beat.
But what would a project car be without a project, and so it is fair to note that the car isn’t exactly in showroom condition.
For example, it is completely without clear coat on the roof and rear spoiler, and the front bar is peppered with stone chips, so a splash of ‘Gris Magnum Metallic’ will be in order.
The mismatched rubber is from a decade or two ago, so a set of 15-inch Michelins will also need to be sourced. There’s a sagging roof liner, faded trim, a few missing trim elements and a random relay clicking away behind the dash. It could definitely use a service and is strangely sitting a little high at the front, so I can assure you there is going to be plenty of stuff that will need some attention.
Which, after discovering that locally distributed spare parts are all but extinct, is all part of the fun! Right?
The first thing on the list though is to get the Mi16 cleaned up, checked and registered so that I can enjoy driving it around.
That sweet manual gate, the plush red and grey velour seats, and the free-revving 16-valve engine make this a timeless driver’s car, not to mention a worthy and cost-effective addition to my family of rad-era (1980-1999) modern classics.
So bienvenue à la Peugeot! Stay tuned to see if this was indeed a bargain or just a classic French surprise waiting to happen...