Peugeot 505: Only reliable in other parts of the world?

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By Guest Writer
Jun 9, 2024 | Peugeot, 24 Hours of Lemons, Peugeot 505 | Posted in News and Notes | From the Aug. 2023 issue | Never miss an article

Photography Credit: Nick Pon

Story by Nick Pon

Introduced in 1979, the Peugeot 505 became one of the most iconic models for the French automaker. Globally, the 505 is known for its robust build quality and excellent suspension, making it popular in various global markets. In Africa, especially, the durability of the 505 is the stuff of legend. 

Meanwhile, here in the States, the 505 is no less weird than any other French car, and it has a reputation for unreliability. Seeing one in the wild is a rare occurrence. 

There are various reasons for the Peugeot 505’s relative obscurity in the American market, including a limited dealer network, meager advertising efforts and, probably, the existence of the Honda Accord. It’s a mystery how a 505 can cover a million miles as an African taxi while being considered mechanically flaky by the average Yankee. 

Seattle-area Lemons team French Foreign Legion Action Team figured a car couldn’t be simultaneously indestructible and fragile, so they decided to bet their racing future on the Africans being right. Despite immediate evidence of flaws in that logic (their 1985 505 was found dead and abandoned on a llama farm), the team pushed forward with the Lemons build. 

The car had been parked due to some issue with the fuel injection, so the team (a collection of old motorcycle buddies) did what any sensible gearheads would do: Slap on a random Weber carburetor stolen from a VW-powered trike. Amazingly, the car fired right up, with at least some of the fire happening inside the engine. 

To say it ran well would be a vast exaggeration, but the fact that it was running at all was a huge improvement from the llama pasture. Inspired by this success, the team began to work on adapting a set of four bike carbs to the 505. 

Knowing that the Peugeot’s 2.0-liter four had 500cc of displacement per cylinder, they figured any bike with a single carb feeding a 500cc cylinder would be in the ballpark. Ultimately, they found a 1000cc Yamaha V-Twin with twin carbs and grabbed two sets for the 505. A custom intake manifold was fabricated, and the Yamaha carbs were fitted with assorted supporting bits from eBay. 

After some careful tuning, the 505 now runs smoother than ever. Although lap records remain (highly) safe, the car has completed seven Lemons races without a DNF, finally achieving at least a portion of the reliability that made this car (in some places) famous.

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Comments
Tyler H
Tyler H GRM+ Memberand UberDork
7/7/23 9:56 a.m.

Any car can be reliable when ingenuity is vastly more abundant than resources.  I.e. Cuba and Africa.  I always thought the 505 was a handsome car and I owned one that I used for precisely one RallyX national tour stop.  Bought it for $500, won my class in my first ever RallyX, sold it the next week.

CyberEric
CyberEric Dork
7/7/23 10:07 a.m.

I'm totally fascinated by how people perceive cars as reliable or not. The fact that some consider the 505 durable is just another example.

Its like the old MBs that you see in Africa. I would not want to own and maintain one, but maybe I'm spoiled by what I have access to. I wonder what would happen if you swapped a Camry for one. How would it be perceived?

I do like how the 505 looks. There were a million of them in Argentina when I lived there in the early 2000s. 

Spitsix
Spitsix GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
7/7/23 10:15 a.m.

 

The Briody Racing 505 I crewed on back in the day

The Briody Racing 505 I crewed on back in the day

Spitsix
Spitsix GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
7/7/23 10:22 a.m.

Aaron_King
Aaron_King GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
7/7/23 11:06 a.m.

I very much remember driving to college, must have been 96 or so, and being behind a 505 with SCCA stickers and a partial cage at a stop light.  I have always thought they looked cool and would probably own one if the right circumstance presented its self.

vwcorvette (Forum Supporter)
vwcorvette (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UberDork
7/7/23 6:51 p.m.

Arlo Cota and Imported Car Center in Vermont had a 505 Turbo with over 80000 race miles on it. It did everything from IT to hillclimbs.

Wally (Forum Supporter)
Wally (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/7/23 6:53 p.m.

I think it has to do with many countries being smaller and having a population comfortable with public transportation. It's a lot easier to lower your expectations when you've got options. 

Turboeric
Turboeric GRM+ Memberand Reader
7/7/23 7:51 p.m.

A lot of the Peugeot reputation overseas has to do with durability and not reliability, and was forged by the 504, not the 505. A durable car can be repaired and rebuilt endlessly  with simple facilities and rudimentary skills (think VW Beetle and Model T Ford), without necessarily being anvil reliable. 

93gsxturbo
93gsxturbo UltraDork
7/8/23 9:46 a.m.
Turboeric said:

A lot of the Peugeot reputation overseas has to do with durability and not reliability, and was forged by the 504, not the 505. A durable car can be repaired and rebuilt endlessly  with simple facilities and rudimentary skills (think VW Beetle and Model T Ford), without necessarily being anvil reliable. 

Pretty much this.  Not super reliable, but stone simple compared to a Camry.  Front engine, RWD.  Lots of room to work.  Lots of suspension travel.  

CyberEric
CyberEric Dork
7/8/23 12:41 p.m.

Damn it, now I want a French car! Ugh.

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