Patrick Rugg has been buying, selling, restoring and running CXs since the Eighties. He also has vast stocks of used spares and, with another hat on, leads the Citroen Car Club’s CX section.
Confirmed Citroen nut Rob Moss started the Chevronic Centre in 1992, and is now based in Hitchin, Hertfordshire where his team continues to service, repair and restore all classic and modern Citroens.
Pleiades is one of the best-known names among fans of hydropneumatic Citroens, thanks to proprietor Martin Dunn’s long experience with every aspect of the system and others like it.
It’s well overdue but the Citroen CX has stopped passing for another middle- aged saloon and started turning heads like its near-legendary predecessor, the DS. Few are now in daily use, so their startling, shark-like profile is no longer dulled by familiarity. You see one, you stare. Luckily you can still buy a good example for £4000-£7000 - for now.
The truth is, the CX was never much like any of its contemporaries. Only now, 40 years on from launch, can we experience something like the same surprise and fascination that led to its 1975 Car of the Year award. The CX wasn’t revolutionary like the DS, but its evolution produced a better car. The Varipower speed-sensitive steering made parking a cinch but never felt over-light at motorway speeds, while the subframe-mounted suspension worked in harmony with the hydropneumatic system to improve the famed Citroen ride quality still further. The transverse engine saved space, leaving the CX 20cm shorter than the DS, despite Robert Opron’s styling giving an impression of greater length.
A good Series 1 2500 Pallas like this could be yours for £5000-26000
The biggest steps forward were inside. The dashboard is a piece of free thinking rarely seen among mass-produced cars, with ergonomic control pods instead of column stalks, rotating numbered drums for speedometer and rev counter and superbly soft, supportive seats. Even now, few cars can equal a CX for comfort and, in the case of the estate or the LWB Prestige saloon, equal them for interior room. The CX may be a Seventies vision of the future, but it’s a highly enticing one, as the upward trend in values confirms.
Driving a CX requires an element of re-learning for most drivers. The little brake pedal opens slide valves and releases huge braking power with tiny inputs - beware of chucking passengers into the glovebox.
Then there’s the steering, which has a strong self-centring action and only 2.5 turns lock to lock, with effort reducing markedly as you get further from straight ahead.
All of this is very much part of the fun of a CX - most first-timers are charmed. Only the CX GTi and GTi Turbo feel fast; all the others gather pace rather than shove you in the back. They are agreeably high geared and make relaxed cruisers, though size and visibility are against them for easy parking in city streets. Expect heaps of Gallic body roll in corners - but allied to a sense of grip and security that becomes rather satisfying.
The Series 1 CX wasn’t really rustproofed,’ says Patrick Rugg, ‘and though the Series 2 was, the quality of steel and the overall build quality were lower, so both can rust almost anywhere. The front and rear subframes of a CX are tied together by long, hollow rails called longerons. Rob Moss suggests examining their edges, There should be flat, neat spot- welded seams all the way along. If these are swollen, expect the worst.’
Repairs are possible but involved and expensive; you’re better off with a different car. Moss suggests some other crucial areas to check. ‘Rust in the rear subframe mountings is complicated and costly to fix, and while rot behind the back bumper isn’t as serious, it will still add up to a lot if you have to do the boot floor too.’
Engines are tough, and good secondhand ones are plentiful
Rugg suggests pulling the trim from either side of the load area, especially on Safaris, to check for significant rot in this area.
Apart from a dissolving battery tray most other rust will be more obvious, though not necessarily insignificant, They can go around the bottom corners of the windscreen, the area below the rear quarterlights, round the fuel cap and the bottoms of the front wings, but the biggest issue is the sunroof. Drain channels get blocked and both the roof aperture and the panel itself can corrode and cause leaks.’
Cars have been saved by grafting in non-rusted sunroof panels or even entire, sunroof-free roofs from donor cars, but it’s better to avoid a leaking one in the first place. Safaris have a problem at the rear of the roof where corrosion attacks near the tailgate hinges - another complex, time- consuming repair.
Forget the fear: Citroen high-pressure hydraulics are very reliable, cheap to fix and easy to test, as Martin Dunn describes. ‘With the engine idling and the car at normal ride height, get out and push one end down. It should sink smoothly down and float up again like a boat. If there’s any bounce, hardness or lack of travel, the accumulator spheres are failing.’
The green metal spheres cost around £30 each and Dunn estimates only £80 in labour to change all six: one for each wheel, one main accumulator right at the front, one for the brakes. ‘If they haven’t been changed in the past four years, assume they’ll need doing,’ says Dunn.
Spectacular styling can hide a lot of rot issues. Buy the best - don’t buy extensive work.
Check the condition of all the steel hydraulic pipes. They carry 175 bar or 2750psi, so failure can be dramatic. If any of the pipes look corroded, budget for immediate replacement. Drips from the low-pressure return hoses are inexpensive and easy to fix.
Dunn suggests undertaking another check. ‘If the rear wheels show negative camber or the tyre wear is greater on the inside edge, the rear suspension arm bearings are collapsing and that means the arm needs replacing.’
Rob Moss suggests jacking up the front end. ‘You often find play in the front suspension from worn ball joints, which cost up to £50 each and there are two each side, or sometimes from front suspension arm bushes.’
3 BRAKES AND STEERING.
Also ruled by the hydro-pneumatic system are the brakes and steering, both of which need specific checks.
Martin Dunn explains how to test the brake accumulator. ‘With the engine idling, set the suspension to its highest setting, then brake every two seconds.
‘Anything fewer than ten pushes on the pedal before you hear the pump click in to build pressure up again means a dying accumulator is something to think about.
‘After renewal you should get 20 pushes on the brake before a click.’
Every CX should track perfectly straight on a camber-free road. If it’s not doing so, it may just need adjustment.
However, heavy steering is rather more of a worry as it points either to accumulators low on pressure, or if it’s heavy only as you steer to the left, then to a failed steering control unit and a £500 bill to repair and reset everything.
A poor cabin on a Series 1 can be sorted by patient assembly of used replacement items or re-trimming in the original nylon fabric, available in a few colours. The door mouldings are harder to sort, as Rob Moss explains. The door cards are moulded, compressed cardboard, with a layer of vinyl glued to the surface. Over the years, the vinyl shrinks and either splits or pulls the door cards back, so people put screws through them, which is ugly.’
An easier fix is the headlining, which is often found to be drooping on non-sunroof cars. The lining is glued to a board,’ says Patrick Rugg. ‘New linings are freely available and can be glued to the existing board and replaced.’
The Jersey cloth seen on Pallas seats goes baggy and is harder to source, but Series 2 seat fabrics tend to be much harder wearing. However, the digital display panel, with its four LCD readouts, rarely works properly and can cost around £200 to replace secondhand.
5 ENGINE, TRANSMISSION AND TYRES.
Head gasket failure-like symptoms can be caused on Series 2 diesels by porous cylinder liners, though most have been replaced. Still, your first question on being shown a diesel CX should be ‘Does it use any water?’
The 2.0-litre and 2.2-litre OHC engines use cambelts, so demand to see evidence of a change within the previous four years. If there are thumps or knocks from the front during sudden acceleration or deceleration, suspect the bottom engine mounts need replacing at £ 130 each, plus fitting. Upper ones are cheap at £30 each.
The engines and gearboxes are pretty bulletproof,’ says Rob Moss. ‘It’s cheaper and easier to find a good used unit than to rebuild either an engine or a box, and only the C-matic transmission is hard to repair.’ Martin Dunn has large stocks of the C-matic’s special Fluid T, so remaining cars can be enjoyed in original form. A far more common issue is Michelin TRX metric tyres, which now cost at least £250 each and are common on CXs.
‘Check the sidewalls - the treads wear slowly but the sidewalls age and crack,’ says Rugg. They should be 210/55 390, but unless you have the Turbo’s T-slot wheels, you can also fit cheaper 220/55 390 or 190/65 390.
‘Another option is to swap to 14-inch, 15-inch, 16-inch or 17-inch Alfa Romeo alloys, which will fit the CX’s wheel studs.’
Rear seatbelts can be fitted to Series 1 cars; the mounts are already there. More important for the longevity of the car (though hardly a modification) is a treatment of cavity wax. 'Waxoyl them to death,’ says Patrick Rugg. 'It’s the best way to slow down or stop corrosion and it’s vital for cars that see year-round use.’
If you want your GTi Turbo to be faster still, try to hunt down one of the rare Maikonics kits. They included a rechipped electronic ignition box, as found on the inner wing, plus an AP clutch, and a different wastegate spring to allow higher boost. They can turn a 168bhp Turbo 2 into a 230-250bhp car,’ says Rugg.
Other CX enthusiasts have even tried nitrous oxide injection on road cars, but for highly tuned petrol CXs, people choose to install the tougher CX diesel gearbox.
NEED TO KNOW
Most interior restoration can be achieved with either secondhand or new materials, but Series 1 door mouldings are hard to find
Series 1: From 1974 and 1975: CX2000, 2200, 2400, 2200 diesel and (from 1978) 2500 diesel available in ascending trim levels: Comfort, Super, Pallas; then from 1979 Reflex and Athena are the lower two. Familiale and LWB Prestige 2400 from 1976, CX 2400 GTi launched in 1977, turbodiesel RD and DTR from 1983. 2500 petrol engine introduced the same year. GTi Turbo from 1984. Four- speed manuals initially common, now most survivors are post-1980 five-speeds. Some autos around but few C-matics still about.
Series 2: In 1985 the CX is relaunched with plastic bumpers and a conventional dash, and re-named as CX 20 RE, 22 TRS, 25 RI, 25 GTi, etc. ABS optional on top-end models. The 25 GTi Turbo 2 (1986) has a new intercooler and better performance. Production of saloons ends in 1989; new Safari models (22 TGE, 25 TGI and 25 TGD Turbo Diesel) introduced. Safari production ceases in 1991.
The best Turbo and Turbo 2 models now fetch £6500 to £7000. Prestige models are on a par, but Prestige Turbos are around £10,000. Turbo-diesel Safaris have a small following that makes a good one worth £5000 to £6000, otherwise pay £4000 to £5000 for any nice CX of a lesser specification. Below £4000 bargains can still be found, but expect a rolling restoration.
NEED TO KNOW
Body restoration £6000-£10,000, assuming you don’t start with a total wreck. Replacement of longerons c. £1000-21500 Repairs to both rear subframe mounts c. £700
Replacement of all hydraulic pipes £500
Replacement of rear suspension arm £300-£400 per side
Replacement engine £400 for good used one.
Who can help?
Citroen Car Club citroencarclub.org.uk Citroen CX for sale (Patrick Rugg) citroencxforsale.com, 07943173007 The Chevronic Centre chevronics.co.uk, 01462 455280
Pleiades Car Services 01487 831239 CX Basis (spares) cx-basis.de Andrew Brodie Engineering brodie.co.uk, 0208 459 3725 01784 452299
CAR FOR SALE
Third oldest CX in the UK. 1975 CX 2200 £4990 Rare twin wiper blades. Rare passenger side tray. Five excellent tyres. Very good paintwork. Solid underneath. Low mileage at 71.000 miles.
MEET THE OWNERS
‘You never want to drive anything else’
Chris thought he’d chosen wisely in May 2013 when he found a restored car disinterred from a long lay-up: ‘It was structurally and mechanically fine, but I’ve been correcting faults with the rest of it ever since. I’ve had to replace all the hydraulic pipes, the radiator, air-con parts and a rubber seal in the steering, but it’s finally fluid-tight.
'I've also bought new TRX tyres, so I’ve spent thousands on it already. But it’s nearly all sorted now. It’s so good to drive. The old cliche is that the first time you drive one, you never want to drive one again; and the second time you drive one, you never want to drive anything else. It's true!’
Brian Sweetman bought his first Citroen, an ID. back in the Sixties. However, the Rouge Lafarge 2500 Pallas automatic (the car pictured) is his first CX. ‘I bought it in 2010 and I’ve done about 3000 miles a year in it, including a couple of trips to France. It’s only needed servicing, once a year at a cost of between £200 and £300 at Chevronics. It needed a brake accumulator sphere one year, but apart from dumping me by the roadside in France with a dead battery it’s been very good. It hasn’t needed any bodywork. The ride is like a magic carpet and it’s terrific for long trips, even if it’s a bit thirsty, but to be honest I don’t worry about that - if it needs fuel, it gets some.’
Scott’s 22 TRS is his third CX, but the first he’s kept for any length of time. ‘I had two quite rusty, ratty ones about 12 years ago and while they were great when they were working, they were always needing new pipes or ball joints or bits of MoT welding. In 2011 I decided to spend a bit more and get a decent car. I probably should have held out for a Series 1 but this Series 2 came up near me and it was amazingly solid, having been waxed from new.
I do my own servicing and I reckon on about £150 to £250 a year in parts, allowing for the odd sphere, exhaust section, or the cambelt I had to replace recently. One year it needed nothing but an oil change.’
Engines are tough, and good secondhand ones are plentiful
|Sold/number built|| |
1974-1991/1,041,560 (all CXs)
All-steel monocoque plus perimeter frame
1965cc/2175cc/2347cc/2499cc OHV in-line four, 1995cc/2165cc OHC in-line four, 2200cc/2500cc OHV diesel
|Max torque||92lb ft-217lb ft|
|Transmission||Four- or five-speed manual, three-speed semi-automatic, ZF 3HP three-speed automatic|
independent by upper and lower arms, height-adjustable hydro-pneumatic strut
independent by trailing arms with height-adjustable hydro-pneumatic strut
Varipower hydraulic assistance, speed-sensitive DIRAVI
Pump-driven, split-circuit hydraulic disc brakes, front and rear