Courtesy of Silverstone Auctions

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1984 Peugeot 205 T16 “Evo 1” Group B Rally
Years Produced:1984–85
Number Produced:20 (Evo 1) plus this car
Original List Price:N/A
SCM Valuation:$400,000 (this car)
Chassis Number Location:Unknown
Engine Number Location:Unknown
Club Info:Peugeot Sport Club U.K.
Alternatives:1986 Ford RS200, 1985 Audi Quattro E2, 1985 Lancia Delta S4
Investment Grade:B

This car, Lot 149, sold for $409,799, including buyer’s premium, at Silverstone Auctions’ May Live Online Auction on May 23, 2020.

You say that you want excitement and thrills? Something to get the old adrenaline pumping as you hurtle down a twisting gravel road at insane speeds? How about buying a 1984–86 rally car that has been deemed so dangerous that it and its brethren have been prohibited by name from competing in FIA-sanctioned historic rallying?

Granted, they can still be used on closed circuits, hillclimbs and parades, but you get the point — these things can kill you. Welcome to the world of “Killer B” rally cars.

Through much of its history, rallying was a relatively genteel sport, practiced in production cars on public roads. During the 1970s, things began to change, as promoters discovered that lots of people were willing to pay to stand and watch ever-more-specialized rally cars hurtle over back-country — mostly gravel — roads. By the 1980s, professional rallying was attracting more paying customers than Formula One.

Auto manufacturers quickly realized that “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” applied in spades to having their cars in the show, so they threw substantial budgets at the effort. The FIA, as the governing body and charged with the success of auto competition around the world, was eager to help, and to that end, seriously relaxed the rules about what was legal to run.

In 1982, the FIA split rallying into two groups: groups A and B. Group A was the old production cars, but Group B broke new ground.

The Killer Bs start to buzz

To qualify in Group B, a manufacturer only had to build 200 cars that had a given mechanical layout. Then they were allowed to build up to 20 “Evolution” pure racing variants per year. These “Evo” racers needed to share the mechanical layout and the general external appearance of the road versions — and little else.

Thus, 1984 and 1985 saw the arrival of very specialized “homologation special” street cars like the Ford RS200, the Lancia Delta S4 and the Peugeot 205 T16 (among others). By themselves these were very special — even scary — little hot-rod coupes, with turbocharged mid-engine layout, all-wheel drive and minimal interiors, but they were just the excuse.

The main event, of course, was the “Evo” version of each, destined for the World Rally Championship events. Production chassis were replaced with tube frames. Metal bodywork was replaced with fiberglass shells. Suspensions were redesigned to give more travel and survive brutal usage. And the engines were reworked to double — and even triple — their original horsepower.

There was no attempt to even pretend that these were street-legal cars — they were purpose-built racers designed to be driven flat out over really bad back roads while spectators cheered.

If all this sounds dangerous, it was.

Hazards — and deaths — galore

The routes were primarily logging access roads built with zero thought to safety: trees, ditches and cliffs were frequently only a few feet off the path of travel, and guard rails were all but unknown (fine if you are a logging truck at 15 mph). Participants had very limited access in advance. They usually got a single reconnaissance run so the navigator could make notes to read back to the driver, so courage and reaction time were paramount.

The roads were point to point, so nothing ever repeated.

Spectators were an additional problem: The crowds could be huge, but they were just sitting along the route in places they thought would be great viewing. There was little or no crowd control, and if something did go wrong, it took time to get emergency crews to the scene. Combine all this with roughly 2,200-pound cars with 500-plus horsepower going flat out, and the recipe was for thrills and occasionally disaster.

As often happens in these situations, things started out pretty good and then spiraled further towards the extremes until luck ran out.

1984 was the first year that the B cars were a serious component, and things went pretty well. 1985 was the year that the boost knobs were screwed down further, and cars got faster, but it all continued to be a great show for all concerned.

In 1986 it all came apart — horsepower was out of control, with 500 being the norm and some cars making 800 — and fate finally caught up. A series of truly horrendous accidents, killing both participants and spectators, forced the FIA to bow to reality and pull the plug. The era of the “Killer B” cars was over.

Rallying continued, of course, as it does to this day (and it remains arguably the purest test of sheer driving ability in all motorsport), but safety regained its role as arbiter of the game.

Fast, special cars

Of the roughly seven manufacturers who fielded serious Killer B rally cars, Peugeot was the most successful, with its T16 Evo, posting 13 outright wins to win both Constructor’s and Driver’s titles in 1985 and 1986.

Based loosely on their 205 FWD hatchback model, the T16 moved the engine to a transverse position behind the seats and incorporated a 5-speed Citroën SM gearbox feeding all four wheels. They used the 1,800-cc diesel block for its strength and built a 16-valve head for breathing — and, of course, a turbocharger to force the horsepower. Weighing in at 2,200 pounds and producing anywhere from 300 to 500 horsepower, the cars were able to maintain superb handling to match the performance.

Our subject car was not a Peugeot team racer, and it wasn’t built at the factory.

A wealthy American named John Woodner wanted the ultimate weapon for American rallying, so he had this car built (in 1984) by Peugeot Sport U.K. It is apparently a completely correct T16 Evo 1, just not built in France. After a few seasons in the U.S., the car made its way to New Zealand, where it remained active into the 2000s, picking up various engine-management and fuel-injection upgrades along the way.

It returned to the U.K., where it was comprehensively restored and has spent the past 15 or so years as a treasured vintage rally car. The current 350-plus horsepower keeps it very quick — but more survivable in the show/demonstration kind of use it is now very welcome to have.

It is not as collectible as any of the factory team cars, though. This car is more of a high-level, weapons-grade toy to go enjoy and frighten your passenger with than a collection anchor.

As such, it sits in the middle value range for cars of this ilk, well above a “production” Ford RS200 but nowhere close to a factory Lancia Delta S4. Using a cost-per-adrenaline-rush value base, I would say this was fairly bought. ♦

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