Curbside Classic: 1986 Peugeot 305 Break GLD – Gimme A Break

I’ve been meaning to write this one up. This is another ‘80s Pug from Provence, as per the 104 I wrote about a few months ago. It’s a little harder for me to work up enthusiasm about the 305, though. These were literally everywhere for so much of my life that they blended in to the background. They still do, in many ways.

But I have noticed that their numbers have been plummeting, compared to the beginning of this decade. The same thing happened with the 204 / 304 in the ‘90s. And the 505 in the early 21st Century. So it feels appropriate to shine a light on the 305 now, for soon these will be museum exhibits, not CC fodder.

Peugeot wagons are something of a CC specialty item. Well, certainly the older RWD ones. Is there any love out there for the smaller FWD Pugs? Maybe the 204 / 304, the first generation that had a fair bit of success in the ‘60s and ‘70s. They were very elegant and, thanks to their transverse layout and all-alloy OHC engine, quite advanced for the time. But they rusted away many moons ago.

As we can see with this gloriously scruffy wagon, the 305 had better rust protection than its predecessors. This was mostly true of later cars like this mid-‘80s GRD. However, when the model was unveiled in late 1977, things were a little different. It wasn’t just Peugeots, of course. Most cars of that era were prolific rusters, but Peugeots had had a relatively good reputation on that front until the ‘70s. The notoriously biodegradable PininFarina-made cars (304 and 504 coupé/cabriolet) were the worst affected. Somehow, the next worst always seemed to be the 604 and the 305, which one could see disintegrate on the road throughout the ‘80s.

Technically, the 305 was a stretched 304, with a few updates. The engines were the same; the all-independent suspension, front disc brakes and rack-and-pinion steering did not change – nor did the base engine, an all-alloy 65 hp 1290cc directly inherited from the 204 / 304. But it was clear that the 305 was destined to go a little higher in displacement, being quite a bit larger than its predecessor. And indeed, a 1472cc version (initially 74 hp) was made available from the get go. The intention was to leave a gap between the 305 and the 104, to be filled by the 205, and use the bigger-engined 305s to gradually take over from the base-level 504.

Above: the 305 in high-end SR trim; below: the Break, launched at the 1980 Geneva Motor Show

Things take a bit of time, over at Peugeot. They waited two-three years to give the 305 a Diesel and a wagon, so as not to kill the 304’s sales outright. Once those were dead and buried in 1980, the 305 range really took off.  And it was quite a success: 1.6 million made between 1977 and 1990.

Here’s one 305 that never went past the prototype stage, sadly. It’s unclear to me why Peugeot lost their appetite for 2-door variants in the late ‘70s. All Pugs had them until the 604 arrived in 1975, which was the first saloon-only model Peugeot had ever made. The 305, 505 and 405 at least had wagon variants, but still broke with a long-standing tradition of the marque.

For model year 1983, the 305 got some new engines. The previous 1.3 and 1.5 litre petrol engines were carried over, but were joined with a new GT saloon and Break featuring a 94 hp 1.6 litre mated to a 5-speed gearbox. Diesel-wise, the wheezy 49 hp 1.5 was replaced by the new XUD engine (1.9 litre, 65hp) that could also be found in the Citroën BX and the Talbot Horizon. The new Diesel, being a bit bigger than its predecessor, forced Peugeot to redesign the 305’s hood. While they were there, the Peugeot designers performed a discreet grille/headlamp facelift. The interior was also given an update.

This 2nd series 305 had a couple of years in the sun, but the launch of the 309 in 1985 was the beginning of the end. It lingered on, though – the saloon was made until mid-1988, but the wagon carried on until 1989 – and even 1990 for the delivery wagon below.

This is an interesting trait of certain French cars, the Breaks that outlived their saloons by a model year or two. Apart from the 305, the same phenomenon was seen with the CX, the Ami 8, the 304, the Talbot 1100 and the 505 – a PSA quirk, it seems. Though there was that Skoda Combi and some Corollas, as well, if memory serves. Could make for an interesting CC post…

So the 305 was a rather decent car for its time, launched over 40 years ago and designed by PininFarina. What’s not to like? Well, I have always experienced a feeling of overwhelming blandness when seeing a 305. This was the point when Peugeots became a wee bit boring, to my eyes. There were a few interesting cars, such as the 205 or the 406 coupé, but most of the -05 and -06 Pugs don’t really get my juices flowing, unlike the -04s. Familiarity breeds contempt…

Caught in Chiang Mai a few weeks ago – got only one pic, so I’ll just shoehorn it in here…


How long does it take for nostalgia to kick in? When I see a 505 nowadays (which happened recently, there are a few around even in Thailand), I’m all over it. This one was moving, unfortunately. But it was in very good nick and would have made a great CC, had I caught it standing still. I do remember a time when 505s were common street junk to me. That lasted for a while, too, because they took a long time to disappear. But the 505 is firmly on my radar and has been for years.

The 305 is not there yet. Especially the wagon. Much as I like wagons in general and Peugeot breaks in particular, the 305 Break lacks the saloon’s attractive rump. It’s probably the least remarkable wagon Peugeot ever made. It’s unclear to me whether Peugeot designed this variant in-house, as they did with the 204 /304, but that is quite likely. PininFarina would probably have given it a bit more zing.

Looking at these pictures again, I have to admit that some angles do look quite fetching. The old PininFarina magic still operates at the front. The smoothly sculpted fender line is in the same vein as the 604 and the 504 coupé. One might even see shades of the Fiat 130 coupé – another PF masterpiece. This places the 305 in pretty good company.

I suppose that seeing fewer of these around is affecting my perception of the 305. Nostalgia is creeping in. As the transition between the old-style PininFarina Peugeots and the more contemporary design language that started with the 205, it does have its place within CC’s Peugeot pantheon of unbreakable Breaks. Not at the top of the pile, but it does belong there. Maybe one day I’ll find a saloon in relatively decent nick and fully convert to the 305’s hidden charms. But I doubt it’ll ever crack T87’s Top 10 Best Peugeots list.


Editor’s postscript: the 305 was not sold in the US.