Peugeot Quasar

Car of the Day #112: 1984 Peugeot Quasar

Peugeot Quasar
Peugeot Quasar @ 1984 Paris Motor Show • source unknown

One of the things I most adore about 1980s concept cars: it wasn't enough to be fast or to include a couple-a whizz-bang features. 

To truly captivate auto show crowds in that era, a concept car had to be fast and technologically advanced and look like it’d sear the cover off of Road & Track. Sure, concepts completed before the 1980s have always featured advanced tech, but the tech often was nothing more than nonfunctional window dressing.

When the 1980s hit, automakers immediately began stuffing consumer-grade electronics inside their concepts; sometimes, their production cars, too. Nothing showed crowds that an automaker was on the cutting edge like dashboard-mounted CRT screens, digital gauges, and a silver (it had to be silver) graphic equalizer. 

This era inspired several strange hybrids: features, supercar-like performance, and drop-dead gorgeous style…welcome to the 1984 Peugeot Quasar. 

At that time a World Rally Championship manufacturer, Peugeot's Special Stage rival Lancia had recently introduced the revolutionary 037: a rear-drive, 2-door rally weapon. With a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine (a development of the Abarth 131's) and supercharger, the final 037 Evolution 2 specification had horsepower at or above 325, from an initial 265 hp in 1982.

The last rear-drive rally car to win the World Rally Championship, the 037 was quickly made obsolete by the works Audi Quattro, Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 (T16), and other all-wheel-drive rally cars. 

However, we also know both Audi (RS 002 for Group S) and Ford (RS200) had the exact same idea as Peugeot did here with the Quasar: rally cars would be so much better if they left hatchbacks behind for good.

All of this is to say: I think the inspiration from the Quasar ultimately came from the 037, and a difficult question within Peugeot: what do we do when 205 T16 becomes obsolete? 

Jean Todt's competition department began rallying the 205 T16 in 1984, the same year as the Quasar's Paris Motor Show debut. If Group B hadn't been rightfully shelved due to dangerous conditions, and the planned Group S had been added as the top tier of rally, I estimate we'd have seen a Quasar-like competition car roll out of the Peugeot workshop…

Fitted with the existing rally car's drivetrain in an extreme state of tune, the mid-engined — fully functional — Quasar concept is said to have an estimated 600 horsepower from its 1,775cc 4-cylinder heart. Turbocharged, with a 4WD drivetrain, it was given race car-like pushrod suspension and a hint at downforce with an integrated spoiler and a rear diffuser below to help keep everything under control.

Exterior styling? By Gérard Welter (d.2018)…a true master of his craft.

Nearly every ’80s trick was packed into the car, from its glass canopy-style roof, to “Lambo” doors, and red leather seats featuring appropriately huge embossed lions. Eyes ahead, it featured a digital navigation system complete with some sort of warning system for the driver…hopefully it was a computer voice gently reminding them that it'd all be obsolete within a few months…

«Pas de Quasar pour toi.»

The cockpit was sketched by none other than Paul Bracq, who revitalized the styling of both Mercedes-Benz' and BMW's core models, including the beloved 230SL, W114, E12 (5 series), E21 (3 series), and E24 (6 series). The BMW 'Turbo' concept? Thank ya boy Paul.

1979 BMW Turbo concept car interior :: Shown just 5 years prior to the Quasar and also worked on by Paul Bracq; note how screens in the Peugeot have already replaced 'Analog Gauge and Status Light Central' in the BMW • via BMW

Your best chance at getting a Quasar is to simply find a new or used Matchbox car, the perfect form factor for a desk toy. Given its longstanding popularity and having been remixed with multiple liveries and mods, it’s no surprise the Quasar would go down a treat with kids of any age: a jet-like cockpit, a low-slung shape, and a shiny, exposed engine.

To me, Quasar’s exposed engine and tucked wires is the kind of ’80s optimism I’ve espoused but have since abandoned. 

Revisiting the Quasar now, even after a few decades at the mercy of hot rodders, Pimp My Ride, Fast and Furious, and Top Gear challenges; plus countless Instagrammers, YouTubers, kit cars, and exoskeleton-obsessed builders from every corner of the world…I want more exposed engines.

Quasar did it best — most others are unforgettably crass and leave little to the imagination — Borat's mankini has its place, but not on this bee-ch.

This presentation could only have come from a French automaker, being both well-engineered and subtly erotic. Like a carefully-plated Michelin Guide-worthy dish, seeing its powerplant cradled within the Quasar’s bodywork denotes a tremendous respect for the viewer’s understanding of the machine as much as it showcases the maker’s mastery of a craft.

Still, there's intrigue: is it a trumpet exhaust, an organ, or both?

It says of Peugeot, “We’ve already won Le Mans and the World Rally Championship; twist the key and together, we’ll finish first again…”

Quasar's exposed engine is the kind of long-relegated design detail that reads well for any age, and at any scale — but is one that separates true artists from poseurs.


Thank you to my supporting members: Ben B., Brad B., Chris G., Daniel G., Damian S., Daniel P., Drew M., Ingrid P., Karl D., Luis O., Michael J., Michael L., Michelle S., Mike B., Mike L., Mike M., Richard W., Sam G., Sam L., Wiley H.