So what if the Golf practically invented the GTi class? Sure every fan of youngtimer Blue Ovals is seemingly going bonkers over RS Turbo’s. And who cares that it was the 205 which propelled Peugeot into GTi stardom?
All of that is of course hugely populistic! Those who are truly in-the-know, will naturally be perfectly aware that there is in fact something superior to all of the above. It may never have achieved huge sales success, but it’s quite possibly the most accomplished of GTi’s: the Peugeot 309 GTi.
The avid ViaRETRO reader may – or may not – recall that way back in December of last year I wrote about bringing fun back into the commute. Well, I regret to say that almost seven months later I still haven’t accomplished that. Granted, it’s hardly the biggest of chores having to commute in my BMW 330Ci Sport – it really does everything quite faultlessly. But I still daydream of undertaking my daily commute in something a little more analogue and involving. Imagine then my joy when I came across this little gem! My all-time favourite GTi. A car gifted with a fabulously rev-happy 1.9-litre engine pushing out 130hp, but more importantly a chassis and suspension set-up like no other GTi. However, also a car which has always been largely ignored by the masses, which now adds an element of rarity to its already very accomplished repertoire.
In 1984, Peugeot truly pulled the rug from under all their competitor’s feet when they launched their brilliant little 205 GTi. Then three years later, they gave it a big brother when they dropped the excellent 1.9-litre XU9 engine into the three-door 309 series. I’ll usually be the first to praise the lighter and smaller car, but there are exceptions, and the 309 is exactly that. It managed to be every bit as engaging and smile-inducing as its little brother (which is really quite a feat!), but the longer wheelbase also contributed to making the handling characteristics dynamically better balanced. With the 205 there was always an underlying fear of snap oversteer if the driver chickened out mid-corner and came suddenly off the throttle. The 309 was just a tad more stable and predictable, yet didn’t compromise its engaging adjustability. A true and undiluted driver’s car!
Approximately 18 months after the launch of the three-door GTi, Peugeot also made it available in the five-door body for the ’89-model. A year further down the line, the ’90-model was given a subtle facelift probably most noticeable by the new rear light design, a revised interior and not least a different rear spoiler for the GTi version replacing the very eighties integrated rubber item. Luckily they stuck with the GTi’s evocative face sporting all of four individual rectangular lamps integrated deep into the low front spoiler – ever so menacing. At the same time, LHD-markets were gifted with the thoroughly astonishing 309 GTi16 utilising the 160hp strong 16-valve XU9J4 engine from the 405 MI16. There was no need to touch the suspension set-up – after all, if it isn’t broke… But the extra power immediately propelled the aging 309 back to the very top of the GTi class. However, by late 1992, production of the 309 started to wind down as the new and rather bland 306 stepped in to take over. For five years Peugeot had produced what was probably the best all-round GTi the world had ever seen – and bizarrely, hardly anyone had noticed!
Imagine then my delight as I came across a RHD 1991 Peugeot 309 GTi on eBay. Now I know that I kept banging on about rear-wheel drive in my article about reintroducing fun into my commute. But I’ve already established that the 309 GTi is quite an exceptional exception, so I’m happy to make an exception too. I still remember when the 309 GTi was launched and all the way up through my teens, it was by far my all-time dream GTi. In my early twenties I finally got the chance to drive one, and it easily lived up to everything I had imagined it would be. I was genuinely buzzing as I walked away from that drive, trying frantically to restrain myself from laughing out loud. I wanted one.
So what, you may ask, am I doing sharing this car with all of you? Surely I should be handing over cash to the seller rather than writing an article. Well, at first I thought I would be. But then I started properly inspecting the pictures of the 309 GTi in question, and I was deeply disappointed! In the best of ways that is – because this car is clearly way too good for what I would be using it for. I would obviously want a 309 which was both rust-free, cared for and presented smartly. But I would also be using it as my daily car all year round – including those salt-infested winters we get up here in northern Derbyshire. So one thing is just how good this 309 GTi looks on the outside – it’s even in my preferred Miami Blue metallic – but have a closer look at that engine bay, not to mention the immaculate underside of the whole car. Just WAUW!! There’s just no way I can justify exposing this car to the elements of a northern winter. I would ruin it, and I don’t want to be that man. So instead, this astonishing hot-hatch has the honour of being the first GTi to feature as a ViaRETRO Prime Find, and you have the chance to make it yours…
Here are some pictures from the advert:
Besides looking utterly delicious in Miami Blue metallic, this particular Peugeot 309 GTi has only covered 85.000 miles. The seller tells us that it went through a full restoration four years ago and subsequently came second in that year’s concourse at the PugFest. Later that same year it was also displayed at the Classic Car Show at the NEC in Birmingham. Mechanically this 309 GTi is reported to be equally up to spec and it comes with a fresh MOT without any advisories. While I will always stress that an in-the-flesh pre-purchase inspection should always be performed before any cash changes hands, I must confess that this one truly looks like a good one. In fact, too good for my purposes!
Here’s the link for the eBay advert where it’s up for sale at £ 7,500 – equating to approximately Euro 8,500: 1991 Peugeot 309 GTi
With our Saturday instalment of Prime Find of the Week, we’re offering our services to the classic car community, by passing on our favourite classic car for sale from the week that passed. This top-tip might help a first-time-buyer to own his first classic, or it could even be the perfect motivation for a multiple-classic-car-owner to expand his garage with something different. We’ll let us inspire by anything from a cheap project to a stunning concours exotic, and hope that you will do the same.
Just remember – Any Classic is Better than No Classic! We obviously invite our readers to help prospective buyers with your views and maybe even experiences of any given model we feature. Further to that, if you stumble across a classic which you feel we ought to feature as Prime Find of the Week, then please send us a link to firstname.lastname@example.org