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YARD'S 505 S.O.S; Old Peugeots are nicked for Africa.

THEY are the pride and joy of motorists around Britain ... but are being stolen in their hundreds to begin a new life on the roads of Africa.

Car thieves are targeting the Peugeot 505, last built nearly 10 years ago, because of its reputation for toughness.

So many have been stolen and shipped to Nigeria that Scotland Yard has launched Operation French Connection to smash the racket.

Constable Tony Trinkwon said: "Owners probably think no-one wants their old cars, but they are extremely popular in Africa.

"The 505s are either sold whole or broken up for parts.

"These cars will quite happily cope with Africa's tough terrain. I have seen many farmers in Devon driving around in 505s.

"They obviously know how reliable they are, and that they will go on for ever if looked after. We've no precise idea how many have been stolen, but it is probably at least 200 cars."

The French 505s are believed to have been taken to a breaker's yard at Rainham, Essex, and packed into containers before being shipped from Tilbury docks.

Pc Trinkwon added: "We are keen to learn any new information about those behind these thefts.

"Owners do get upset when their 505 is pinched because they have often enjoyed hundreds of thousands of miles of trouble-free driving.

The 505 is especially loved by taxi drivers worldwide.

Even with a couple of hundred thousand miles on the clock, it carries on.

TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson names the 505 in his top 100 cars alongside classics such as Aston Martin and Ferrari.

Once, while negotiating a taxi ride in the Middle East, he bought a 505 by mistake.

He said: "I think I still own it - it's out there somewhere." Peugeot, whose British base is at Coventry, were surprised to learn the 505 was such a hot steal.

A spokeswoman said: "You can understand why it is happening.

"The 505 is quite sophisticated. They have a reputation as strong vehicles. It is sad so many British owners are now being deprived of their 505s."

Even one of the last 505s - made in 1991 with 100,000 miles on the clock - would struggle to fetch pounds 1,000.
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Author:Jones, Gary
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 8, 2000
Words:365
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