Before he bought it Victor Van Tress’s 1986 Peugeot 505 had a unique story. But as it’s turned out, his car’s backstory was only the beginning.
Because he and ‘Red’, his car’s nickname, would go on to make quite a bit more history. Including lots of laps on racetracks throughout the country.
And that includes some big wins and getting a fair amount of press coverage along the way. What’s kind of remarkable is that it’s all wrapped around a little-known French-made car. One that even surprised Victor. But, it also won him over.
Type Of Driving – 1986 Peugeot 505
Victor: First it was a TV commercial car, then a Showroom Stock Racecar for 3-years, and then regular transportation (daily driver) for 15-years.
What Compelled You To Buy The Car?
Victor: We were already racing in Showroom Stock and heard that Peugeot paid contingency money for the highest finishing Peugeot in class. Meaning you didn’t have to win but just beat any other Peugeot’s that showed up!
So, $500, $250 or $100 plus $100 for all races entered. Plus $5000 for most races entered plus $5000 for a Divisional Title and $10,000 National Title.
By way of comparison our 1979 Ford Mustang V8 Cobra paid $500/$250/$100 for 1st/2nd/3rd in class and it was not a winning car. But, it was a tax write-off.
The Peugeot made $80,000. And we paid taxes!
How Did You Come About Owning Your Car?
Yes, Victor’s car is the one used in the above TV spot. So watch that 30-second commercial and then read Victor’s comments below.
Victor: When we registered to race for Peugeot, were advised that they had some spare damaged cars that had been used in a TV commercial.
The TV commercial (above) was named ‘Dispelling Myths.’ And they knew the car would be totaled in shooting the TV spot.
So even though the TV commercial was for a red V6 model they fixed up the least expensive red 505 and made it look like the V6.
The stunt driver quickly found out the low-priced car was too slow. Because it crashed into the bed and destroyed the set.
So, the 2nd was a red V6 and it had more power. But, it flew by the camera at a 20-degree nose-down angle. And the stunt driver said, ‘I need more power.’
Enter the 3rd car – #405076. A white Turbo GL – the least expensive turbo model. They painted the car red and fix it up to look like a V6. And that’s the car you see in the finished TV spot. The one that flies over the bed. That’s my car!
Through the commercial shoot, it survived with a flattened oil pan and more caster in the front end than most other 505’s. And, I bought it with 16 miles on it, including some air time, for $8000, as-is, without a warranty!
What Did You Have To Do, Or Give Up, To Obtain Your ’86 Peugeot 505?
Victor: Our first race with the 1986 Peugeot 505 was at Riverside Raceway in the summer of 1987.
We didn’t do much in the way of repairs other than a new oil pan. It turns out the oil pump is built into the engine block’s center main. And it turned out not getting damaged hitting the ground during the TV shoot.
So, in goes the required bolt-in roll cage, racing seat belts, window net, and a fire bottle. And, then it was a race car with A/C and velour seats!
But it was also my daily transportation. Accordingly, there was a lot of incentive not to crash the car – anywhere. So, I drove it to Riverside, finished 1st, and drove to work the next day.
And that’s the way it was used for the next 3-years. In fact, it had 64,000 miles showing on the speedometer during our last race.
In What Ways Have You Modified Your Car?
Van Tress and his 1986 Peugeot 505 take a National Championship and are featured in the above 5-minute documentary.
Victor: So, Showroom Stock racing… they’re supposed to run absolutely as manufactured. But, it had to pass smog and use factory brake pads and stock size tires, etc.
But, but history shows that there was a lot of diabolical cheating going on. To be clear, my car was never disqualified.
The rules went so far as to disallow painting the car. Now, mine had been re-painted red (hence the car’s nickname, Red) by Peugeot for the commercial but no other GL model 505 Turbos were anything other than white.
And it was Peugeot that painted it. So, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! Boost was easy to change and most Peugeot racers did.
But what nobody (and I mean nobody) figured out was that raising the boost made the car detonate and would eventually lose power.
So Red always could pass a boost check. After this first National Championship, the Tech guys were ready to disqualify Red. Because the total advance was 54 degrees. Except there was no set total advance in this version of Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection and therefore legal.
What Are Your Favorite Activities With Your 1986 Peugeot 505?
Victor: We drove to, raced, drove home, and then to work after all 43 SCCA National Showroom Stock B races we ran.
And we did it all over the country. Including; Ardmore, Carlsbad, Firebird (4x), Hallett, Holtville (2x), Laguna Seca (6x), Phoenix (2x), Portland (2x), Pueblo, Riverside (6x), Road Atlanta (2x), Sears Point (3x), Seattle (2x), Second Creek, Texas Motor Speedway and, Willow Springs (8x).
Describe Your Top-3 Favorite Things About Your Car
Victor: Red now has close to 200,000 miles on it.
It’s had a water pump, a radiator, and rubber bits in the suspension, tie-rod ends replaced but little else.
I still drive the car today. It’s quiet, smooth, powerful, and loves corners. And, I didn’t get this car because I was a fan of Peugeot’s but it made me one.
On Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson did a piece on Peugeots and starts out by stating that the 404 diesel wagon was the most durable car ever made, the 405 and 505 were fine cars. He then goes on the lambaste the current versions, but I digress.
What Do You Have Left To Do To And/Or With Your ’86 Peugeot?
Victor: I stopped using Red as a daily car back in 2005 as I bought another 505 Turbo. And, it happened to be also red in color. Then, I put 100,000 miles on it and sold it with 170,000 miles.
Now I have my 3rd Peugeot – of course, it’s red, too. But it is an ’89. That gives it Torsen Differential and Motronic Bosch fuel injection.
I’m going to retire soon and plan on vintage racing – Red.
iDriveSoCal: Thanks for sharing your Car Story Victor! We definitely enjoyed learning about your adventures with Peugeot and Red specifically. Good luck in your vintage races!