The dust from Italy is still on the black sheet metal of the Peugeot 203A from 1951. A thousand Italian miles left their beautiful traces. And memories. Buby den Heeten and Joost Bindels drove the Mille Miglia 2021, a dream came true. A month later we are visiting them in the Land van Maas en Waal. And we are also allowed to drive the car ourselves, which withstood the adventure in Italy with verve. That is a privilege, and a beautiful journey back in time.
Italy is still completely in the system of Buby and Joost, they gained so many impressions during the participation in the Mille Miglia 2021. You will read much more about this in the magazine in the near future. Just like about the car with which Buby and Joost achieved a very handsome 126th place (this year 375 teams participated) in the final standings: the Peugeot 203A. And that is the car we are now allowed to drive. The Peugeot is in an almost original condition (except for things like the allowed rally systems such as the Terra Trip). Had that not been the case, the original participation stickers, the steering lead, number 183 and the verification sticker on the windscreen never came on this Peugeot. The Mille Miglia bar for originality is high, very high.
Last minute revision
Buby den Heeten picked the 203 Peugeot 1951A from the Visscher collection, with a standard sliding roof. No Berline Affair so, who had to do without that always delicious provision. Buby did not just choose the Peugeot. Its purchase increased the chances of participating in the Mille Miglia together with Joost Bindels. And it worked. The base of the car was already good. “Certainly for a car of seventy years old,” emphasizes Joost. To bring the Peugeot 203A into its current state, a lot had to be done. At the eleventh hour Edward van Zanten of Peugeauto overhauled the rear cylinder, and much more happened. You still owe us these adventures.
Nice old-fashioned driving
The 203A differs light years from a sixties classic like the 404, which is a lot easier to drive compared to the 203A. The Peugeot 203A feels nice and old-fashioned, it is a special experience to drive a bit with this Mille Miglia participant. It starts with the entry through the doors wrong. The steering wheel is nice and high, the seats filled with horsehair are fine. The whole ensures a nice classic riding position.
Braking: a challenge
And take the ministry. That is quite a protocol, for example you carry out the starting procedure with the help of beautiful pull switches. And when switching (via an ornament on the steering wheel) is accompanied by panache, patience and feeling. The first of the four gears is non-synchronised, which science requires extra precision and concentration. The brakes also require alertness. First you bridge a long distance with the non-hanging pedal, and only then do the drums do their job at their leisure. So anticipating, and especially in a car with this fresh Mille Miglia history, is quite exciting. But it is especially nice to be so busy and to find the balance between effort, enjoyment and relaxation in this way. It's challenging and beautiful at the same time.
Historical press reviews rightly praise
At the same time, you understand the praising historical press reviews, the Peugeot 203 was not for the cat. Of course we don't test the car as extensively as we did then, we quietly drive through the interior, the performance of the 203A is by far the best match. But it is clear that the 203A makes a stable impression. The road holding is certainly fine on the asphalt, on a piece more or less unpaved, the chassis construction also shows that it can handle a few things. Moreover, the Peugeot - one of the advantages of the self-supporting body - feels stiff and really solid. As if this Peugeot 203A wants to make it clear that you can count on him everywhere.
Smooth and imperturbable engine
Of course we cannot leave the 1.290 cc engine unnamed in that regard. “Especially uphill in Italy, we sometimes got the idea that he had lost quite a bit of his 42 HP,” says Buby. In the Land van Maas en Waal you don't notice much of this. The engine leaves a reliable impression, and is smooth. Of course, the power unit offers modest performance, but that it is up to the task is shown by the fact that it did its job imperturbably during a thousand Italian miles. He never brought the 183 team embarrassed.
When you drive the Peugeot 203A, you realize how clever it is to be able to test Mille Miglia in hundredths of a second, for example. To maintain concentration during the long rally days. Hit lines at the right time during special stages to keep penalty points low. Those two tapes on the left and right doors are there for a reason. And it is not for nothing that Buby and Joost trained frequently. We will also tell you a lot more about this in the magazine issue.
Good everywhere for classic fun
This well-prepared car can handle the most beautiful rally in the world, for that reason alone the Mille Miglia dust and all Italian proof of participation deserve to stay on the car as long as possible. It gives extra cachet to this classic, which certainly leaves a strong impression given its age. The Peugeot will probably provide a lot of fun for a long time to come. On Dutch rural roads. And in beautiful historic rallies. This Peugeot 203A can do that. We know for sure after a beautiful day in the Land van Maas en Waal.
Many thanks to Ellis Blase, Buby den Heeten and Joost Bindels
Photography: Bart Spijker