Adding Lightness

For hard-core petrolheads, preserving a car’s integrity is driving it at any chance. Sure enough that cars like the 205 Rallye and the 964 RS won’t be back anytime soon and driving them on empty mountain roads at dusk is the best way to encapsulate yourself in a time machine and have some pure, old fashioned fun.

Sure enough, this couple doesn’t share anything in common except the fact that they both correspond to the “less is more” mantra. Also, they’re two expressions of an era of making cars that won’t be coming back. It’s not all about the manual gearbox or that pure analog feeling, it’s the philosophy behind that makes these two great cars very similar between each other. 

Sitting at a bar, you could talk about these two cars for hours and of all the good memories of the people who had them back then, when they were new. For us kids of the nineties, these were the cars we started to appreciate when we were growing up. It’s the beginning of our lives as petrolheads and the first that were in our day-dreams. We might be getting old and grumpy, but contemporary cars do not seem to spark that same interest and passion that you feel in front of these two. 

Escape on Wheels is not a fan of contemporary branding and marketing strategies. Sure tough, these things are needed in the complex world of today, where cars have their own identity and have to be communicated to an ever-changing customer audience, but for us nostalgic lads… essence is all we need. 

Enthusiasts never recognize a car by their brand, but by their details, stance and appearance. If you’re serious about Porsche, you will sure recognize the RS’s presence and if you are a rally maniac, you will recognize its classic Blanc Meije finish with the unmistakable Talbot Sport colors. Badges are at a minimum: on the 964 there are only 4 of them and that’s all. 

Substance is all there is with these two. Sit behind the wheel of either one and there’s a sense of expectation that you feel only when you drive something special. As soon as you lay your hands on the steering wheel you start to wonder how it’s going to react to your inputs and how it is going to behave on the great roads of the Alps. Then you think about their fearsome reputation and their proverbial unforgiving nature and you start to wonder what’s going to happen once you start to give them some confidence. 

We all like this kind of exploration. So, with km of mountain roads ahead to re-discover once again, there’s only one thing left to do: drive. 

These cars are a trip into the dreams of many enthusiasts. The 205 especially is the embodiment of the attainable dream, of the car that many youngsters could actually buy with some extra working hours and some saving. It’s a box on wheels under every aspect, but it retains one of the most gorgeous body styles for any economy hot hatch. Designed by Gérard Welter and Paul Bracq it was a clear departure from the classic boxy shapes of the Peugeots of the previous years: its soft and rounded lines were remarkably french and still to this day, the Deux Cent Cinq is a great example of rationality and style. It was a first car for many young people and the Rallye was the no-nonsense, all out minimalistic performer. A tiny 1294cc l-4 fed by two massive Weber 40 DCOM 10 carbs which produces 103 hp is the heart and soul of this little beast. The 205 Rallye is like a blank canvass. Conceived as Peugeot’s entry level model for its sport range and made to homologate the 205 in the minor rally championships, it was a bare-bones variant, ideal to being modified by rally teams. Introduced in March 1988, the Rallye was perhaps one of the most exciting models of Peugeot’s line up: thanks to its low power to weight ratio of 7,66kg per hp and 790kg total weight with driver and liquids it was a joy to drive. More importantly, it represented for many the first step into the world of true driver’s cars. 

This is as basic and intriguing as a hot hatch can go: it’s your mom’s car on steroids, literally. Super lightweight and nimble, it’s impossible not to resist. The gearshift is possibly one of the best you can find in any motorcar: precise, direct and feels like the transmission is sucking the next gear at the tiniest movement of the lever. It’s motorcycle like and gives almost the same effect as pre-loading the shifter in a superbike: it’s in moment like this when you realize that paddle shifter are useless. The feeling of properly driving a car which is fun is long lost now: minimalism is the key to everything. You feel that the 205 Rallye has only one purpose and it is the one of being driven. Mon Dieu! The French are great at making cars! You sure do not want to stop driving this car ever and you do not care about anything more expensive at all! it’s a car that does something to you: it leaves a memory and it’s there forever. It’s with cars like this that you realize that what we truly want is not outright speed but a car that will tell you everything she has to do to be fast. If you think at how many cars have this kind of behavior now, you’ll be sad to discover that are very very few. Can a 30 year old French front wheel drive hot hatch make you forget about anything else? Oh yes, mon ami.

Such grandeur in something so petite, a truly remarkable motorcar, of any sort, which is obviously capable of outrunning the RS on mountain roads. It sure feels interesting to see the Guards Red bodywork disappear quickly on those tight corners. Predictable yes but utter fun to see!

On the other hand, hardcore Porsche lovers will surely appreciate one of the greatest 911’s ever made and one of the few bearing the RS badge. It’s one of the definitive track-day specials of the 1990ies, and it’s a true collector’s favorite. Light at around 1220 kg (100 kg less than the standard Carrera), it features thinner glass, aluminum doors and bonnets, magnesium wheels and bare-minimum interior. 

Porsche produced 2051 of which 76 of these were in the heavier Touring trim (+ 60 kg and with optional code M002) which made no sense, as it turned the RS into a classic Carrera 2. More popular was the Clubsport option (code M003) of which 290 were produced: this created a Cup car with a license plate, under every aspect. Despite this, the RS was a true driver’s car, as all RS’s had almost the same features of the Cup car, with a reinforced chassis, brakes and wheel supports from the Turbo and dedicated engine, namely the M64/03 producing 260 hp. Many in-period dyno tests showed that many new RS’s were producing figures close to 300hp, a fact which made many owners more than proud about their baby. 

The RS is minimalistic and driver focused. It’s rigid as its Bilstein suspension were made to go on a track rather than on a bumpy mountain road, but this doesn’t restrain you from driving it seriously.

What’s truly outstanding of the RS is its ability to devour the gears: in pure old-school fashion, this 911 comes alive at 4000 rpm but whether other cars accelerate, the RS enters another dimension. The progression towards the redline is ferocious and smooth at the same time: it’s difficult to explain, but long gear-ratios feel rally car-like and it’s so unique to this car that you always want to gun it properly.

It gives you the classic 911-joy, as you just laugh behind the wheel and want to drive forever. Stop thinking about mileage, just go full pedal to the metal and enjoy your life. Cars are the single object that gives us so much happiness that not living it is not worth the disturb of buying them.

Cars like these make us sad: they won’t return. They’re so good because they’re anachronistic, they transcend the time they live in, and they go against the rules. They’re a concrete reminder of how excitement was infused into some metal in times where racing mattered to people. It’s astounding that a tiny box like the 205 can make you so happy. 

Normally pieces of history need to be preserved for next generations but here the only way to preserve them is to drive them, on an empty sunset road lost somewhere in the Dolomites. It’s the concretization of an idea, a dream, a vision. In the end, paddles always work better on kayaks than cars.

The post Adding Lightness appeared first on Escape on Wheels.

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