Bonjour mesdames et messieurs, I hope Curbside Classic’s convertible celebration is suitably salubrious for you! Celebrations such as this generally call for fine French champagne, but this is Curbside Classic, not Curbside Connoisseur, so may I instead present you with a fine French automobile: a 1989 Peugeot 205 CL Cabriolet. Yes I know that although ‘cabriolet’ is French for ‘convertible’, purists will say it isn’t a convertible because it has a rollbar and the rear windows don’t fully retract, but I consider it a convertible because it converts from a tintop to a no-top! I spotted the featured 205 no-top at a car show late last year where, rather than cavorting in the sun with the other cars, it was snoozing gently in the shade. Vive le sieste? Or plaisir sous le soleil?
Well actually, the 205 was anything but a snoozefest, winning immediate acclaim from journalists and the public alike when launched on 24 February 1983. When we first covered one here on CC, in 2011, author James Pembroke Tenneson credited it with “Unexpected Greatness”. Roger Carr went one step further in 2013 when he put the 205 forward as “a candidate for the Most Significant Car of the 1980s“, noting the 205 had the following attributes:
- looked good
- good to drive
- brought diesel power to the mainstream
- was the the “best hot hatch of all time” in immortal 205 GTi form; and
- set the size template for modern superminis
Looking good was and is one of the 205’s most emotive attributes, and the styling was so ‘right’ that it remained basically unchanged for 15 years. In fact, it influenced many of Peugeot’s later designs, and its echos can still be seen nearly 25 years after its launch in my partner’s Peugeot 307.
Although the two tintops tykes were Peugeot designs, the company had a long-standing relationship with Pininfarina, and called upon the latter to style the Cabriovertiblet. The resulting styling makes me think of words like ‘pert’, ‘pretty’ and ‘cute as a button’. It also make me think of Wham’s 1983 hit ‘Club Tropicana’. No, I don’t know why – the Club Tropicana video clip doesn’t even feature 205s, but the song is carefree, bright and breezy, just like driving in a topless 205!
One of the few things to change over the 205’s life was the interior. The dashboard changed in 1988, and a couple of years after that, the rest of the interior was updated. The feature Convertioletble was sold new in New Zealand on 13 April 1989 and features the new dashboard. It also features a 1300cc engine and five-speed manual transmission, so wouldn’t be terribly fast. In fact, in the featured photos, it looks like it’s standing still! Oh wait… But let’s face it, a convertible-cabriolet that looks as cute as the 205 isn’t about speed! It’s about fun in the sun, and the 205 Cabriolet offered that in bucketloads – vive le plaisir sous le soleil!