3-Series Alternative: 1985 Peugeot 505 STI

When it comes to entry-level classics, BMW’s 3-and 5-Series sedans tend to get nods as good place to start for first-time hobbyists interested in European makes. However, the sporting Peugeot 505 is often overlooked, and this example is dirt cheap and in very decent condition, making it worth a look if the German makes put you to sleep. Find it here on craigslist for just $1,750. 

What makes this one particularly intriguing to me is not only the clean cosmetic condition, but also the presence of the European-spec glass headlights. Either a passionate owner swapped those in or this is a gray-market car. The former is far more likely, but one can hope.

The automatic is a buzzkill, but the seat covers seem to have protected the original upholstery on the buckets. The dash and console plastics are in good shape, and hopefully those rubber floormats have protected the carpets. The gauge cluster is nice and clear, and the 114K miles on the odometer seems commiserate with the condition on display.

The seller offers little in the way of information regarding the history of the Peugeot, and that’s a bummer – for a car like this with a limited network of mechanics and spares, having a clear sense of what’s been done and what’s still needed is essential. Still, at the current asking price, it’s hard to go wrong. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Roger for the find.


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  1. Will Fox

    Wait until you need parts for this. Oh—and you will; trust me. It’s one of the main reasons Peugeot left our market to begin with. They’re junk. Just like Renaults.

    Like 8
    • mallthus

      You’re not wrong that parts will be more challenging, but they’re not impossible and the internet makes it far easier than in the past.
      These old Peugeots are NOT junk at all. They’re incredibly rugged and with proper maintenance, will last forever. They suffer, as all cars of this era do, from some questionable materials choices, especially inside. And many were declared unreliable in the US because mechanics that know them are thin on the ground in the US.

      Like 33
      • SubGothius

        Indeed, there’s a reason these were a ubiquitous model for taxi duty in Africa, rivaling the Mercedes-Benz W123 and W124. Inherent reliability is not an issue with these; parts availability and knowledgeable mechanics are, but presumably anyone getting one here would be a DIYer for maintenance anyway by now.

        Like 9
    • SebastianX1/9

      You’re the kind of guy who writes “Fix it again Tony” under the ad for a 1970 Dino Coupe with a Ferrari engine, or a rally winning Fiat 131. Garbage! Unlike those 1970s-80s American cars…

      Like 13
    • Fred

      There is an auto recyclers around that location. Although the the body looks good from the pictures, what are the chances this is a salvage title?

      Like 1
  2. UK Paul 🇬🇧

    No expert but expect its a US car as says Gasoline?
    They are not really my thing mainly as they feel so tinny but some Pugs are well respected. Things like the 205 GTi had a huge following and back in the day seen as equal to VW GTI.
    The larger models such as this quite comfortable and will be superior to many entry US built cars.

    Like 7
    • Bálint

      And the speedometer is in MPH primarily with KPH printed in smaller font. Definitely a US-market car.

      Like 4
  3. Francisco

    I bought one of these new back in the day. It had a fatal flaw in the cooling system.It frequently overheated. Dealer never could find the problem. After owning a 404 and an earlier 505, this one, and its problems, cured me of any desire to own another Peugeot. Diesel versions of this car were used as taxis in NYC for a while. Maybe they were more dependable.

    Like 3
  4. Will Owen Member

    My in-laws borrowed a Diesel 505 from a Parisian friend when we and they met there in ’91. Did one day trip to Chartres, then down to Burgundy for ten days with relatives, then down to Nice, Florence, and Nice again. Papa was the only one who got to drive; wife and I spent all but a few side trips in the back seat. And guess what: we loved it! The car itself pulled like a mule and ran with most of the fast guys, and those back seats were the best passenger accommodations I have ever experienced.

    I’ve had a couple of older Peugeots, had odd problems with them but nothing massively expensive nor hard to fix. Their best characteristic is the one I like least: 70 or 80 mph feels more like 50. That’s how French people like their cars. Most of my English ones are the other way around, which is okay with me. But as a passenger? Give me a Peugeot or Citroen DS any day.

    Like 12
  5. Evan

    Small but enthusiastic following in the US. If you need parts, just call Brian Holm. If he doesn’t have it, he knows where to get it.

    Like 5
  6. KevinR

    My parents bought an ’85 505S new. The car was extremely comfortable, quiet and got pretty good fuel mileage. Unfortunately I have forgotten all of the things that went wrong with it in 4 years of ownership. But here are a few: sunroof, automatic transmission safety lock, cooling fan, fuel pump, and seat upholstery stitching.

    We ultimately found a good local independent who took the car on as a challenge. Faced with problems getting parts (even while they were still in the market), he began adapting parts from Mercedes, BMW and Audi to make repairs.

    I think it would be interesting to own this car, but I wouldn’t even consider it if I didn’t have another car in the stable.

    Like 3
  7. Mitch Ross Member

    These STIs were the car to beat in their Showroom stock class back in their day. YouTube has videos of them beating more sporting cars in the SCCA runoffs.

    Like 5
  8. Tom Justice

    The diesels were much more reliable than the gas versions and much cheaper to operate hence their use as taxis, etc. I remember someone called in to Car Talk and wanted their advice on which car to buy, an Audi 5000, a Peugeot 505, and one other one I forget. They made comments about all of them and they said it was good that Peugeot was offering a membership in triple A when you bought the car and you were going to need every one of those tow trucks and repair stations if you buy the Peugeot. I worked on a lot of diesel wagons, they tended to pop head gaskets but were pretty easy to fix and worked well.

    Like 3
  9. Derek

    These are really nice to drive. I like the slim pillars and large glass area, too (my friend’s dad had a turbo petrol one).

    Like 3
  10. rapple

    These were very good cars in their time. Remember that the mid-80s was not a great vehicular vintage. As others have noted, their ride, like most French cars, was extremely comfortable and the performance was competitive with similarly sized and priced European sedans of the time. Assuming the rust showing on the front fenders hasn’t significantly penetrated the unibody, this could be cheap project for the right buyer who wants something a little out of the ordinary.

    Like 2
  11. CJM

    3 series competitor? Its almost as big as a 7 series!

    Like 2
  12. MikeH

    I bought one of these, actually a GL, new in ’84. Best car I have ever owned. It now has north of 250K and has never had a problem other than electrical relays going out. Oh, and 1 clutch.

    Like 7
  13. Little_Cars Little Cars Member

    My family had his and hers 84 GL sedans when new, one auto and one stick with the Euro mods. Most comfortable turbo sedan I’ve ever driven. I agree about the materials used to trim out the interior and the paint formulas tended to weaken if not garage-kept. One actually became my favorite “second car” until the local mechanic who hoarded all the NOS Poo stock retired from working on them.

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