Peugeot 405 T16 “Pikes Peak” (1988-89)

Published on: Jan 19, 2016 @ 18:20
Originally Published in: 2015 (old website)
(C) Jay Auger - website owner & author
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Peugeot’s bitter defeat to arch rival Audi and their special quattro at the 1987 Pikes Peak “Race to the Clouds” was only short lived as they quickly started to devise another special car for the following year’s event: the now legendary 405 T16. Based on the Group S formula, it sported an almost identical chassis and features to the Group B 205 T16.



The previous Peugeot 205 T16 Pikes Peak version was deemed as having a wheelbase that was too short for the long high speed corners that abound the particular venue. The engineers had already tried to stretch it to the maximum that the 205 body style would allow but more was needed. The adventure to fix this issue first started in late 1986 with a special version of the 205 T16 made specifically for the Paris-Dakar endurance race: the chassis was elongated by 12 inches (30 cms) between the engine and the passenger compartment. The much longer wheelbase would help give the car the more stable footprint that the engineers so desired. However, this modification no longer made the 205 T16 look appropriate in its exterior appearance, to which Peugeot took much disdain.

Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 “Grand Raid”

For 1987, Peugeot was about to release a new model, the 405 sedan, which was much longer than the 205. The company could help market the new car with a special competition version exactly like the 205 Turbo 16 did with the normal 205 back in 1984. It was a no-brainer for Peugeot Talbot Sport to simply adapt the very proficient 205 T16 chassis and drivetrain for the new 405 model.

Peugeot 405 Turbo 16 in “presentation version”

The revised chassis, albeit very similar, was now fully tubular and stretched to fit the required dimensions. This new longer chassis naturally made the wheelbase increase from the 205 T16’s original 100 inches to match the 405’s 113.7 inches. Besides this, the basic 405 T16, without equipment, was reported to weigh as little as 880 kg (1940 lbs). The lengthened section of the chassis would also allow to fit larger fuel tanks aimed specifically for the rally raid version. In all, the increased length simply made the car more versatile and made the perfect base for a new Pikes Peak conquering weapon.

Further improvements were made to the T16 engine package as Peugeot was no longer restricted by the Group B displacement class rules. Thus, the XU8T’s engine displacement was increased to 1905 cc and fitted with new technologies such as dual variable valve timing and a variable geometry turbocharger. While the claimed horsepower of the new “XU9T” engine was around 650, Vatanen later stated in an interview that his car had about 800 bhp. The car also featured a driver adjustable center differential to modify front to rear torque ratios on the fly and paired with mechanical rear steering. These systems were already in development for the planned 205 T16 evolution 3 (E3) due to be used in Group S before the class was cancelled.

For the 1988 Pikes Peak contest, arch rival Audi would not return, but Peugeot decided to once again field three cars and reunite the same driving team from that year’s earlier Paris~Dakar event; returning Ari Vatanen, former F1 driver Henri Pescarolo, and 1986 WRC driver champion Juha Kankkunen.

Vatanen was given the lead role and would not disappoint: he bettered Walter Röhrl‘s previous year record of 10:47.850 by a few tenths of a second (10:47.220). A record that stood unbeaten until 1994. The Finn’s feat was also immortalised in the award winning short movie “Climb Dance” by Jean-Louis Mourey (see bottom of page).

1989: Vatanen giving Unser advice before the start

For the 1989 running of the famous hill climb Peugeot brought back a duo of the same 405 T16s. This time Ari Vatanen was seconded by rising star Robby Unser. The American won the event with a time of 10:48.340, a little over a second on the record set by Vatanen the previous year. This brought Peugeot a second straight victory at Pikes Peak.

Unser crossing the finish line to claim victory

Although the 405 T16 was produced after the Group B ban, due to its extreme technical resemblance to the 205 T16, it can still be considered as a legitimate evolution Group B car, and a glimpse of what Peugeot’s future WRC Group S contender might have looked like in full rally trim if that class wasn’t also annulled.


Group/Class Unlimited Pikes Peak Special Version
Years active 1988~89 (2 wins)  # Built: 3
Type XU9T, I-4, DOHC 16v, gas located middle transverse
Displacement 1905 cc
Compression ratio 6.5:1
Output power – torque
  • 650 HP @ 7500 rpm (claimed)
  • 800 HP @ – rpm (Vatanen statement)
516 lb-ft (700 Nm) @ 4500 rpm (claimed)
Materials block: aluminium alloy cylinder head: aluminium alloy
  • Garret T31 turbocharger
  • air to water intercooler with water injection
  • Marelli-Solex fuel injection
  • Thomson ignition system
Boost: – psi (- bar)
Ignition electronic, firing order 1-3-4-2
Cooling system water-cooled
Lubrication system dry sump
Type four wheel drive TJ type – 6 speed manual gearbox
Gearbox ratios N/A N/A
Differential ratio N/A driver controlled adjustable center differential
Clutch carbon – hydraulic operation
Chassis / body
Type tubular steel spaceframe with front and rear subframes. 405 sedan type modified to 2 doors with carbon/kevlar body panels. Front and rear removable clamshells. Large front lip spoiler with side extensions and large dual deck rear spoiler.
Front suspension double wishbones with coil spring, bilstein shock absorbers and antiroll bar
Rear suspension double wishbones with coil spring, bilstein shock absorbers and antiroll bar
Steering system rack and pinion

  • Front: hydraulic power assistance
  • Rear: mechanical rear steering
2 turns lock to lock
Brakes Front & Rear: ventilated discs 327mm diameter with AP 4 pot calipers. dual circuit with servo, adjustable ratio split front to rear
length: 4250 mm (167.3 in) width: 1760 mm (69.3 in) height: N/A
wheelbase: 2888 mm (113.7 in) front track: 1430 mm (56.3 in) rear track: 1430 mm (56.3 in)
Rims – tires 16″ wheels
  • Front: 225/50R16
  • Rear: 270/45R16
  • Michelin
Dry/Unladen Weight 950 kg (2,094 lb)  Bias F/R: 37/63 %
Weight/power 1.5 kg/HP (3.4 lb/HP)
Fuel tank 35 litres


Peugeot 208 - 405 tribute.jpg

For the 2013 Pikes Peak event, Peugeot resurrected the 405/205 T16’s spirit with the even more technically advanced 208 T16 PP, driven to a massive record breaking run by rallying legend Sebastien Loeb.




(C) Articles by Jay Auger – website owner & author

  • Images & videos are the property of their original owners
  • Eifel Rallye Festival pictures used under permission – McKlein Publishing