The 205, which was launched in 1983, ushered in a new era for Peugeot, both in terms of style and technical innovation.

Initially, this model, which saved Peugeot economically, was to be called the 105. But in the end, Jean Boillot, the President of Peugeot at the time, decided that it would be included in the "200" series, a prestigious line which, since the 201 of 1929, has regularly been noted for its technical innovations. With this model, Peugeot resolutely wrote a new page in its industrial history.

The beginning of the 1980s was not a good time for Peugeot, which, like many other French and European manufacturers, was experiencing serious financial difficulties. The economic balance sheet was fragile despite the takeover of Citroën in 1974 which led to the creation of the PSA Peugeot Citroën Group in 1976. The risky takeover of Chrysler Europe (including the Simca brand renamed Talbot) two years later did not help the situation and Peugeot posted a 12.7% loss in 1982. But the manufacturer had the resources and the in-house design office, based in La Garenne-Colombes, designed the model that would bring the Sochaux brand out of the crisis.

The prototype developed by Pininfarina (shown here in a wind tunnel test) was much more angular than the one proposed by the Peugeot design centre.

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Two competing projects

It all began in 1977, when Jean-Paul Parayre, the new CEO of PSA, launched the study of the M24 programme. The objective was to replace the small Peugeot 104 in the more or less long term, but also to compete with the Renault 5 in the B segment of the car market. This category, which refers to small city cars and compact saloons, was booming in Europe at the time, particularly in France where it represented 64% of registrations. Under the aegis of two French stylists, Gérard Welter for the exterior design and Paul Bracq for the interior design, the M24 project led to the 205, with which the Lion once again showed its claws! From 1983 onwards, the two Peugeot stylists designed a 205 range with almost thirty versions, with three or five doors and with a variety of petrol or diesel engines. But if the final choice was made for the project developed by Peugeot internally, another route had been explored by the Italian designer Pininfarina, the long-time collaborator of the lion brand. As has been the custom since the early 1960s, the Peugeot and Pininfarina design centres were in fact in competition from the start of the M24 study.

Peugeot's latest model benefits from a dynamic and enthusiastic advertising campaign playing on 205, the big number!

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From the M24 project to the 205

The specifications imposed by Peugeot's General Management had to meet three technical requirements: lightness, aerodynamics and a high-performance engine. In addition, in order to respond to the market trends of the time, the car had to be front-wheel drive, with 4 independent wheels, have a two-body body, 5 doors and 5 seats, and be between 3.60 m and 3.80 m long. It must also be spacious, bright and able to accommodate a large part of the PSA group's engine range. Each of the prototypes developed required nearly 70,000 hours of work! At the end of 1979, at the end of a stylistic confrontation that lasted more than two years, during which drawings, 1/10th scale models and prototypes followed one another at a steady pace, the decision was taken by Jean Boillot, the number 2 at PSA. The Welter team's project was chosen and the latter was obliged to succeed, as Boillot's instructions were quite clear: "If we don't succeed with this car, we are dead!

According to the specifications of the M24 project, the engine range was based on a 1,360 cc block combined with a 5-speed gearbox.

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Launch with great fanfare

The team that worked on the 205 achieved a real tour de force by creating a car that looks like no other, while remaining within classic aesthetic canons. The perfect balance of shapes was found by emphasizing small details such as the original grille consisting of three thin horizontal bars painted in the same colour as the bodywork. During the winter of 1981, the first pre-production cars underwent extensive testing on the tracks of the Belchamp Technical Centre, near Sochaux, where they covered more than one million kilometres in 14 weeks. The official presentation of the new Peugeot 205 took place on 20 January 1983 in the luxurious Hôtel Loews in Monaco, in front of 424 dealers invited for the occasion. A few days later, Peugeot made 150 examples of the 205 SR 1,360 cm3 available to journalists throughout France, and then tests were organised in Morocco by the specialised press, which declared themselves very enthusiastic.

Thanks to its design by C.A.O. (Computer Aided Design), the structure of the 205 reconciles both lightness (194 kg) and robustness.

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Signed Gérard Welter

Gérard Welter (1942-2018) joined the Peugeot design office (then headed by Paul Bouvot) in La Garenne-Colombes in 1960. In 1975, he became responsible for the brand's exterior styling, which led him to develop the M24 project that would become the Peugeot 205, the masterpiece of his career. For more than three decades, he was involved in the design of the majority of Peugeot's models, of which he was the director of the style centre from 1998 to 2007. He was noted for his work on the Turbo 16, the competition evolution of the 205, and the Quasar prototype. At the same time, in 1969, with Michel Meunier, he created the WM team, supported by Peugeot in endurance racing. 


In 1951, Peugeot, which wanted to modernise the lines of its models, called on the Italian stylist Gian-Battista Pinin Farina, who had been based in Turin since 1930. The first collaboration with this world-renowned designer was the 403 (saloon and cabriolet). The great success of this collaboration led the two companies to sign a 5-year exclusive contract in April 1957, which saw the creation of the 404. The design office became Pininfarina in 1961 and strengthened its ties with Peugeot, which entrusted it, alternately with the internal styling office, with some of its most beautiful models over the next two decades: 504, 505, 604, as well as the cabriolet version of the 205, after having worked on the prototype of the saloon.