Neil Moscrop is Peugeot UK's brand director and has been with them for 36 years. Here he tells AOL CARS why the 205 GTI was such an iconic car.
I remember the first time I saw a 205. I was a material control analyst back then and as part of the launch the company took the car on a tour for its employees to see. It arrived on a transporter and everyone in the Birmingham parts centre where I was working gathered to see it. There was just a collective 'wow' – you could tell then it was a special car. The GTI hadn't even launched back then but you could just tell it had the right proportions. It just looked right.
Peugeot has always had a motorsport history, so when the GTI arrived I knew it would be good. I think it was the first production car to really use that motorsport expertise. For me, there were three reasons why it was so iconic. The first was its looks – it didn't need massive wide wheels or blingy spoilers or anything like that, it looked perfect as it was.
Then there was its success on the rally stages. We won the World Rally Championship with the car and the Paris-Dakar. And thirdly there was the 1.9. The 1.6-litre started it all but the 1.9 made it iconic. You felt like a racing driver whenever you drove one. I remember my first time. I drove it about 30 miles – 30 miles of mad, stupid fun and my neck ached by the time I parked up. It was like driving a go-kart – so much fun.
I was a field sales manager and worked in the central region by the time the GTI arrived. I was responsible for about 100 dealers and would have to fight with the factory every month to get as many 205 GTIs as I could. Back then it was quite simple: if we had enough GTIs we would hit our sales targets. What made the 205 so special for me, though, was its looks. It was a pretty car. And not only that but it was blooming quick, too. We sold it at the right price, with the right specification and in the right colours. I always loved laser green and Miami blue.
The 205 has certainly been a tough act to follow. Yes, we have had other GTIs, but I don't think they've been quite at the iconic level of the 205 GTI. The market has changed – those sorts of cars just don't have the kind of following they used to. You couldn't launch a GTI now and expect it to make up 25 per cent of that model's sales. You'd be doing very well if that figure was 10 per cent these days. The 308 GTI we're launching now is expected to account for five per cent of sales – that's some change, isn't it?
My lasting memory of the 205 will be standing in Sutton Park and watching the 205 T16 belting around winning the World Rally Championship. It was simply the right car at the right time and its success in motorsport highlighted that. I will never forget picking up my first – a grey 1.6. I could not wait to get into it and take it out for a drive – and make my neck ache all over again.