Even true artists can design bland bestsellers. Despite being designed by Pininfarina, the Peugeot 305 had no visual highlights to offer, but apparently this is exactly what struck a chord with customers. For years, it was Peugeot's best selling car. From 1977 to 1989 over 1.9 million 305s rolled off the production line either as a saloon with a classic boot or from 1980 as an estate car under the name Break.

Modern petrol and diesel engines were added making the 305, which weighed just 985 kilograms empty, an economical car, even with the initially 60 and 74 PS petrol engines. Later, however, it was primarily a 65 PS diesel that set the standard with the Peugeot 305 consuming 4.6 litres of diesel per 100 kilometres at 90 km/h (56 mph) in the standard cycle.

Gallery: Peugeot 305 V6 (1977)

Shortly after the introduction of the 305, Peugeot was already working on a very hot piece of iron for the World Rally Championship. The 305 V6 2.5-litre 24V with over 250 PS was created as a one-off at the end of the 1970s, a project that was later cancelled to make way for the 205 Turbo 16.

The late 1970s and early 1980s were the last phase of almost completely analogue motorsport with little electronics and no four-wheel drive. The recipe for achieving performance lay almost exclusively in engine capacity, and so in 1977 Peugeot prepared a rather unusual prototype based on the new 305 to replace the glorious 504 saloon and coupé in rallying.

The project envisaged a reinforced chassis with a widened track and the transplanting of a suitably tuned 2.5-litre naturally aspirated V6 engine with 24 valves from the Peugeot 604 into the engine compartment. It developed over 250 PS. This was more than double the output of the most powerful production model 305, the GTX, which was powered by the 105 PS 1.9-litre UX9 petrol engine; seemingly little by today's standards, but more than enough to give a mid-range saloon from the early 1980s a sporty character. 

Peugeot 305 V6 (1977)

The PRV-derived 2,500 cc V6 engine (a joint project between Peugeot, Renault and Volvo, hence the abbreviation), which was modified by Peugeot Sport, featured a new cylinder head with twin camshafts and timing belt control. Fuel was supplied via a mechanical injection system from Kugelfischer, with separate intake manifolds for each cylinder bank. The power output was 253 PS.

Adapted to the shape and volume of the front section of the 305, the V6 engine had been moved to the rear near the passenger compartment and lowered, which benefited the weight distribution and centre of gravity. Drive was via the rear wheels (front wheels on the standard 305) and followed the classic transaxle layout, with the 5-speed manual gearbox located at the rear.

With the exception of the enlarged wings/fenders, the lines of the V6 remained very close to those of the standard 305; much of the sheet metal was replaced by aluminium and plastic to keep the weight below 900 kg.

Peugeot 305 V6 (1977)

All in all, it was a promising project if the plans of Peugeot's sports department had not been thwarted shortly afterwards by two important innovations: the rapid spread of turbo engines and the introduction of Group B by the FIA.

The new premier class of rallying, introduced in 1980, placed no limits on the development of racing cars in terms of weight, power or traction, as long as the manufacturers only produced 200 regular examples to sell to ordinary customers.

Faced with this drastic change in the regulations, the then director of Peugeot Sport, Jean Todt, who was tasked with restoring the brand's sporting image, decided to abandon the 305 V6 project and focus on something completely new, the 205 Turbo 16. By the early 1980s the 305 was already a commercially successful product while the new 205, for which the company was planning huge investments, was the most strategically important model.

The commercial success of the 205 and its four World Rally Championship titles (two drivers' and two constructors' titles) vindicated Todt and those who, at the time, were going down the path of turbo engines and four-wheel drive.

The 305 V6, which was developed in parallel with the 205 Turbo 16 for a while, never went into production. It remained a single, fascinating prototype, which is now kept in the company's historical museum collection and is regularly exhibited at international events and exhibitions on the history of motorsport.

Gallery: Peugeot 305