It goes without saying really, that modifying a car is all about personal taste. In my education in the science of vehicular personalization, it became clear that there were three areas of focus. One was devoted to pleasing the eye, one to damaging the ear drum, and one to the desire to get into, round, and out of that favorite corner as quickly as possible. There are a lucky few who can afford to pursue all three, but for most of us, I suspect, we are content to concentrate on 1, or perhaps 2 areas from that list.
For me, it was, for the most part, number three, which instilled in me the strongest desire to lower the figure shown on my monthly bank statement. Now don't get me wrong, I love the look of a lot of modified 205's, but apart from the fact that the standard car has a certain classic something or other, I've always lived by the "should go faster than it looks" philosophy rather than the other way round.
Why Skip Brown Cars?
In my naivety, my first port of call was the local Peugeot dealership. "Do what to your car now?" Fortunately I came to my senses, and called upon the trusty message board of the Peugeot Sport Club, and before long I was winding my way down one of Cheshire's many twisting country type roads to Skip Brown Cars for a service and a chat.
There are just so many tuning companies out there now. They'll do this and they'll do that to your engine, and perhaps they really will, but what you get after they've done it all, is not always the spectacular increase in motoring muscle that you'd been promised. There are far too many horror stories that feature such traps of despair, and I'd read a good few of them before I splashed out on my motor. The only way you can really be sure of something is to see it for yourself. Of course, something like this is too costly to experiment with first hand, so the next best thing is word of mouth. People telling you what's hot, and what's not because they've seen it for themselves.
SBC 1.9S engine, with K&N induction kit
Word of mouth it was. SBC (Skip Brown Cars), who I'd now been to several times for little bits and pieces on top of regular servicing, had the cleanest reputation I could have hoped for and inspired my confidence in them to provide me with a top quality product. That product was to be the "Roadspeed 'S' conversion".
If you're wondering which step you should take next in making your 205/309 go just that little bit better, you should make your mission to read all the articles on 8v and 16v engine tuning. After hearing both sides of the argument, I decided the best route for me was the enhancement of the 8v engine already nestled under my car's bonnet, if at that point a little tired, as it was.
1.9 GTI years before Peugeot!
Now if you'd have happened into a Peugeot dealership in early 1984 to get a look at the relatively new 205 1.6 GTi, you just might have been lucky enough to have wandered into one of a handful of dealerships that were selling, from the forecourt, the 205 1.9 GTi-S. "Just a cotton pickin' minute", I hear you cry, "The 1.9 didn't start production until 1986". Well you'd be absolutely spot on. Years before Peugeot got around to it, Skip Brown Cars, and their fast road tuning division "Roadspeed", were turning 1.6 GTi's into 1.9 GTi-S's from new and passing them on to main dealerships as well as selling the conversions to existing owners. As well as the improved engine specification, the 'S' conversion included a specially developed body kit, white or silver 14 alloy wheels, and a suspension overhaul. This consisted of specially selected Bilstein inserts and rear dampers, increased rate springs and torsion bars, and 1 degree negative camber arms, all optimised for fast road use. There were also further options from altered gearbox drive ratios to electric windows and central locking.
Mocal 13-row oil cooler
Originally sold in this form as a comprehensive package, each aspect of the conversion was soon made available individually. Whilst for some the body kit may appear a little dated 17 years on, engine spec and suspension set-ups are not so affected. Initially though, my main desire was to obtain a little more go from my 1.9. As you might expect, the conversion from 1.9 to 1.9S is somewhat cheaper than to jump up from the smaller engine, but the result is the same, and the difference between the original car and the end product, is a testament to the tried and tested methods of this company's engineering.
What is it all about?
As you might expect, some of the finer details of the engine work remain a closely guarded trade secret. The main changes you'd subject your engine to with this conversion are as follows; Modified gas flowed head, high lift camshaft, stainless steel valves (all developed in house), blue printed bottom end, and larger capacity oil cooler kit. One significant point to note is to do with the gas flowed head. When SBC were developing the S engine, the head work was carried out on one of only 3 flow-benches in the country where genuine flow around the head could be studied and optimised. One reason for the disappointment experienced by many with replacement heads from some companies, can often be down to heads that may have been modified, but not properly bench tested, resulting in something that may not assist gas flow at all.
Mocal 13-row oil cooler
SBC started off in rally car preparation and competition, and the experience gleaned from such beginnings is a strong foundation on which to base fast road applications. The result for me, and for every other S' owner I've spoken to, is a very reliable and capable car, which is addictive to drive. The throttle response is instant, and the needle on the rev counter powers its way to the red line in every gear like never before. After 1000 miles running in, the car went back onto the rolling road for final adjustments to engine settings and produced 141bhp at 6500rpm. Given 15% to 19% as the average transmission loss for front wheel drive vehicles with this sort of power, that equates to about 165bhp at the flywheel. This does include my K&N induction kit, but the exhaust is standard and is SBC's recommendation for this mod state. The anticipated result as promised by SBC is 132bhp at the wheels from the S' conversion. I was lucky enough to achieve slightly more.
SBC's Rolling Road facility
In the end I paid just over £2700 (that's including VAT), which included new pistons and liners, and a new clutch, not necessarily a requirement for the conversion, but it's given me as close to a brand new engine as I'm ever likely to get. Without the pistons and any other complications, you can expect to pay just over £1800. It was a serious investment, but worth every penny.