If you want something sensible, buy an anorak. That advertising slogan of its heyday was taken to heart by a classic car collector who paid £25,200 ($51,706) for a mint-condition Peugeot 205 GTI at auction.
A Mercedes 280 SL Pagoda for £100,000, Jaguar E-Type for £72,500 and Ferrari 308 at £51,450, were all also sold under the hammer at Anglia Car Auctions this month, but it was the more modest 25-year-old hot hatch that got the classic car world talking. The restored 1.9 litre version of the hot hatch recently voted the best of all time fetched a believed record price at auction for a standard Peugeot 205 GTI.
The sale at Anglia Car Auctions to an unnamed buyer, described only as a serious collector of Ferraris and Bugattis who owned a 205 GTI when younger, is yet another sign that iconic hot hatches are firmly cementing their place in the classic car market.
And the auction result, made public in a way that private and dealer sale prices aren't, confirmed that Peugeot's much-loved 205 GTI is in the ascendancy.
It is at this point that I should confess a vested interest.
I’m one of the life-long fans who has bought a 205 GTI as they attain classic status (albeit not one that cost anywhere near £25,000). The 1991 cherry-red Peugeot 205 1.9 GTI sold at ACA had almost $41,040 invested in restoring it, according to the auctioneers, documented by photos and receipts.
The rust-free shell was taken back to bare metal and repainted, the engine and gearbox were rebuilt by specialists and original parts were sourced “to create a car that is as close to new as possible”.
Originally a low-mileage car that had done 44,000 miles (70811km) and had five owners, the 205 GTI sold with a recorded mileage of just 5 miles (8km) – the clock having been reset at restoration.
The record-breaking 205 GTI sale is the culmination of a year of intense interest in the hot hatches, which have stepped out of the realms of fan forums, into classics-to-buy round-ups and even onto the front pages of glossy car magazines.
Originally marketed to the 1980s yuppie generation, many then suffered as values tumbled in the 1990s and early 2000s, when just a select band of enthusiasts kept the fires burning. But over the past decade Britain’s passion for the first wave of hot hatches has been reignited. In the past couple of years this has stepped up substantially. Hot hatches are now hot property.
The Peugeot 205 GTI is now following the Mark 1 Golf GTI and Lancia Delta HF Integrale into the world of classic-car collectors. A generation of buyers in their 30s and 40s are chasing the cars they either owned or always wanted when younger. Those with deep pockets are sending the prices of the best examples climbing.
That includes collectors at the top end who are looking for either low mileage, single-owner cars, or completely restored cars with wads of history. One is rumoured to be Chris Evans, radio star, new Top Gear host, and famous classic-car collector, whose garage, which already included Ferraris worth millions of pounds, now reportedly also contains a 205 GTI.
The 205 GTI’s rise over the past two to three years is an almost stereotypical case of a rising modern classic. It was never difficult to find a 205 GTI fan, but the cars had fallen far from the limelight. Slowly that started to change and interest began to pick up, when 205 GTIs started grabbing column centimetres and pictures here and there in the classic car press.
The next chapter in this classic car story came with glossier features in car magazines and online and then the weekend supplements featuring cars, too.
BMW E30 M3s, Mark 1 VW Golf GTIs, Capris and other Fast Fords had followed this same trajectory ahead of the 205 GTI. In fact, despite Golfs, Lancia Delta HF Integrales and Ford Escort RS Turbos and Cosworths outstripping 205 GTIs so far in value, it is the Peugeot that is often considered the best of the bunch.
That was reflected in a poll by Pistonheads and Autocar which awarded the Peugeot 205 GTI the accolade of best hot hatch ever this year. Yet the rise in prices has come with concerns. Some of those expressed by members on the 205 GTI Drivers forum include worries about the rising cost of parts, the increased risk of theft, cars being garaged away and fans being priced out of owning them.
Five years ago a 205 GTI in reasonable condition that needed work could be bought for £1500 or less and a good one for £3000. Prices are now pretty much double that.
They could, of course, fall from here. The classic-car market looks a bit bubbly, but over the long-term the 205 GTI looks to be on the up.
So why did I buy a 205 GTI, despite them becoming more expensive?
It was the car that I always wanted. I owned a bog-standard 205 as my first car and loved it, and just under a year-and-a-half ago I bought a 1991 black H-registration 1.9 litre GTI.
My pockets aren’t deep enough for a £25,000 mint condition restoration car and nor would I want one.
Mine is in good condition, cost less than £5000, has 135,000 miles (21726km) on the clock and is pretty much standard. I bought it to drive it and enjoy it. If it goes up in value that’s great, but it’s not an investment — it has certainly cost me more in work done on it than the rise in value since I’ve owned it.
And there are a few more things that I intend to do to it that are sure to eat up any rise in value over the next year or so. I haven’t been disappointed to meet my hero. It is an absolute joy to drive.
The 205 GTI is as good behind the wheel as everyone says — it’s a small car and still feels quick, although a modern hot hatch would easily run away from it in a straight line.
It easily keeps up with traffic on the motorway, but it is the A and B roads that it loves and you can have the kind of fun at road-legal speeds that some of the much more powerful modern-day cars we get on test won’t let you have.
People also love it. At least once a week I’m stopped by someone who wants to ask me about it — often because they had one or always wanted one — and I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve offered to buy it.
There’s a pleasure that comes from owning a great car — and the 205 GTI is a great car. It’s an icon, just like its famous 1980s hot hatch brethren. It’s nice to see them well-restored and attracting interest, however, there is a part of me that doesn’t want the value of 205 GTIs and the famous hot hatches to go the way of the E-Types of this world.
Then they would be all but out of reach of normal people, who will buy them and enjoy them as they should.
Hopefully, the owner of that £25,200 205 GTI will drive it.
That might not make sense when it comes to keeping the value of a freshly restored car, but if he wanted to be sensible he would have bought an anorak.