My name is Michał Fidowicz and this is my first Speedhunters appearance. I’m a 23-year-old from South London who has spent the last six years giving my thoughts about how cars and our community make me feel via my own website. I’d love to take this opportunity to do the same here, with you.
Much of my time is spent browsing Instagram. This doesn’t make me sound very interesting, I know, but I’m as visually driven as I am lazy. Being able to sit on my desk chair doing not much, whilst taking in colourful pictures through a little screen in my hand satisfies my simple, endorphin-driven brain. One day sometime in early 2019, I was doing just this when a friend shared a small French hatchback on his IG story. What a lovely little car, I thought.
The cogs in my brain begun to whirr with curiosity as my interest in the Peugeot 106 started to grow. The paint was slightly rough but clearly original, it had those ’90s plastic textured bumpers which I adore, and 13×7-inch mesh wheels which turned out to be Compomotive CXN1370s after a little digging.
I had no idea who the owner was, but this man on the internet nailed the tyre sizes. Running 175/50s, the overall appearance of the car was well proportioned, low, and unlike any other 106 I’d ever seen.
I wasn’t really into this type of car prior to seeing this one. I grew up with 106s being a cheap starter car that you’re given at 17, not necessarily something you would lust after. The British automotive media I knew at the time brainwashed me to assume small French cars were terribly unreliable and the people who modified them would fit a very specific ‘boy racer’ demographic. You know the style. In hindsight, this was probably not the fairest of assumptions.
Of course, the recent resurgence of general late-1990s/early-2000s nostalgia has shone a new light on these hatchbacks, giving my perspective an attractive angle I never even had two and a half years ago. I guess seeing this man on the internet work the 106 chassis in a way I’d not seen before contributed to my change of heart.
When I find a build I like on Instagram it usually doesn’t take me long before I reach out to the owner. You could say I’m a bit of an IG detective/stalker. A few messages later I learnt the man on Instagram went by the name Mark Hill, he and was a similar age to me. Coincidentally, I’d be bumping into Mark at a car show in a couple of weeks’ time too.
Now, a car being someone’s symbol of expression is not a new concept. I find the way someone builds a car can generally give me some rough ideas about how they approach design, engineering and maybe even their style. At the time though, Mark’s IG profile was fairly reserved, giving me no clues as to what the guy would be like before I’d meet him. I didn’t even know what he looked like. Small, French car… should I look for a striped tee shirt and some onions perhaps? I decided to keep my eyes peeled for a man in a beret.
Turns out he didn’t wear a beret. In fact, there was nothing really that French about Mark other than his Peugeot – a 1996 Phase 1 106 with a tiny little 1.1L engine. I don’t actually know any other stats about that engine, but let’s just say it isn’t the most exciting power plant out there. I soon learnt that Mark had made the most out of whatever ‘go’ the Pug had as it was his trusty daily. As Mark resides deep in the bottom left corner of the UK, it’s a daily that also took him across the country from car show to car show.
Mark’s town, Yeovil, is about as far away as you can from anywhere when it comes to England’s geography. Perhaps that is why it’s still rather charming, full of greenery and quiet roads. Visiting Mark recently actually reminded me of my trips to France in summers gone by, where the sky is bluer and grass is just a little bit greener. The little 106 feels right at home here.
This Phase 1 we’re focusing on was never intended to end up like the car you see today. When Mark picked it up for daily duties he was also the proud owner of a Phase 2 106 – a face-lifted, more round and bubbly version of the Phase 1. It’s here where I started to understand two things more clearly.
Firstly, Mark is obsessed with these little French cars. He’s owned (and destroyed) a fair few of them at this point and adores them for what they are – simple, robust little hatchbacks with huge personalities. He knows them like the back of his hand and was surrounded by a good group of mates who shared his passion with French hatchbacks of their own. This always results in a good environment for ideas and creativity to flourish.
The second thing I started to understand was that Mark is an incredibly talented engineer with a sharp eye for detail. The Phase 2 was his engineering dojo; a holy battleground for his ideas to be let loose, and he made it very clear to me that he adored it. The Phase 2 he was building back in 2019 was pushing the envelope on a few fronts – through a number electrical goodies (I’m talking rear electric windows in a two-door hatchback type of goodies), custom subframe work allowing maximum flexibility in the car’s geometry, and a number of body changes such as pillar-less doors. The engine bay was smoothed of course, and everything that could be hidden was moved well out of sight.
I strongly believe a car is only as cool as the owner is. My relationship with Mark and his friends grew stronger and the more I interacted with his crew, the more in love I fell with the little 106.
With a brain like Mark’s, there was no way his Phase 1 daily would remain a simple project. Over the 2019 Christmas/New Year period, Mark decided that he’d call time on his Phase 2 project. I thought he was crazy to scrap years of work and passion, but he assured me the car had completed its duty as a learning curve. It was time to turn his attention to the Phase 1. That’s when Mark got a new daily, a Citroën Saxo. A daily for the daily – the common sign of a full project blossoming.
The Phase 1 was driven into his garden garage and Mark got planning. First course of action was to cut a hole in the roof, of course. The VW open-air ragtop roof was becoming the trendiest addition one could do to their show car in the UK, and Mark was near the front of the popularity wave. Transplanting VW’s best ever optional extra into the Peugeot’s roof is simple enough if you possess the minerals to chop it up and patience to source all the parts. Clearly Mark has both.
The engine was up next, as the 1.1 simply had to go. One of the benefits of having a small French hatchback of this era is that you can essentially breed it with other French hatchbacks of the same calibre. At this point, Mark had accumulated a number of these cars to cannibalise for his 106 and the engine of choice ended up being the 1.6L Saxo VTR unit. The engine got the ‘Mark’ treatment and was ripped apart to be inspected for anything that needed replacing. Undoubtably though, the best part of the new engine is the noise, supplied by a full Supersprint exhaust system, all the way from the 4-2-1 manifold straight through to the back box. It provides a low-pitched, buzzy four-cylinder burble that builds its way up through the revs into an angry scream at the top end.
The fresh engine needed a suitable place to live though. Mark decided this was a good opportunity to knock out two birds with one stone, so he raised the front strut towers and notched the chassis. This allowed him to run the car low through a custom set of Gaz front coilovers to match his rear shortened rear Gaz struts, whilst also improving ride quality at the same time.
The rear remained on a torsion bar, with the addition of a 106 GTI rear axle allowing Mark to upgrade to the GTI disc setup and away from the original drums. The front was also upgraded to 106 GTI discs and callipers. The engine bay was then smoothed with nearly every visible wire or hose hidden away. The washer bottle went in the boot, and all the headlight wiring was tucked up out of sight. Mark takes pleasure in telling people the headlights are operated by Bluetooth to see if they can figure out the magic behind the illusion. I’ll admit it, it took me a while.
Being able to carry out the work to do all the above takes some knowledge, but to push a project the extra mile you must have an eye for style to match the wisdom of your engineering. As the photos hopefully demonstrate, Mark is right at home when it comes to pulling the right visual ingredients together to give a car a classy appearance on the road.
First up was a custom, smoothed XSI bumper kit with shortened plate recesses painted in textured plastic black paint to give it that period-correct ’90s appearance. Even his shortened plates have the ’90s reg font to keep it all together. Mark didn’t go over the top with bodywork, keeping small touches untouched, such as the tailgate badges and areas where the paint showed its age. The bonnet and roof are most prominent here. Mark was planning to fit some original Peugeot headlight covers, but these were unfortunately snapped when rebuilding the front end. He told me he cried when this happened and hasn’t been able to source another set.
I can’t help but love the interior, which is unapologetically humble, ’90s and French in its design. The exhaust tunnel is tiny, housing nothing but a long metal rod for the gearstick. The dash is shallow and flat, yet the car has an abundance of leg room up front. The door cards remain from the original interior, however the seats are GTI leathers. The steering wheel was replaced be the awesome 205 GTI two-spoke number, and the rear windows were replaced with pop-out ones. When these are open, combined with the open roof, being in the car almost feels like you’re driving it from the outside. It’s unbeatable in the summer sun. The 1.6L engine came with a loom for two electric windows too, giving Mark another opportunity to crack on with some electrical magic converting the front windows from manual. The buttons for these are housed in his driver’s door pocket. It looks so OEM I didn’t know Mark did it himself until he pointed it out to me.
For me, the pièce de résistance is the wheels though. This was the final touch Mark made to the 106 before I visited him to photograph it, linking everything back to the first thing I noticed on the car when I saw it in 2019 in its first stage. Mark has simply nailed the fitment, this time with a set of 13×8-inch Tramont TY2 three-piece split rims wrapped in 175/50 tyres.
The 106 looks classy and fast. It also looks exciting to drive and most importantly it still looks inviting for people like me to approach Mark and chat to him about it.
If you ever find yourself down in Somerset, keep an eye out for this little blue thing. You’ll probably hear it buzzing away before you see it.
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