Life Cycle of a 1979 Citroën CX GTi Series 1

Citroën CX lost and rediscovered. Life Cycle. The Citroën CX GTi that went from daily driver, to concours, to barn find and back via a series of wonderful coincidences.

Alan Makepeace buys it new in 1979 for £7026.06 ‘I’d had a Citroën SM for eight years from new, and did all the work on it myself,’ explains serial Citroën owner Alan Makepeace as he remembers his car ownership in the Seventies. ‘I’d even fitted an improved ignition system to it, and it was in good running order. I would have kept it indefinitely if I’m honest, but in 1979 I’d just started to notice rust blisters coming through on the front wings and didn’t want to do bodywork repairs. I’m fine sorting out anything mechanical but once rust gets hold of a car it’s an endless battle, so I sold it to a fellow enthusiast.

‘I went down to my local Citroën dealership in Bradford and ordered a new CX GTi. They didn’t make the SM any more but this 2.4-litre shortgeared sporting version of the CX was intended as a replacement of sorts. The ordering process was fairly straightforward. I simply chose the colour – white – and selected air conditioning rather than a radio. It was an either/or option because the controls occupied the same dashboard slot. It would’ve been an unusual choice at the time, but I’d had aircon in my SM and got used to it, and have had it in every car since.’

The CX has led a fascinatingly divergent life of love and neglect.

Mint daily-driven CX represents the breed in 1984 Although the CX was Makepeace’s daily driver, transporting his family around, he kept it in superb condition, and has always been an active member of the Citroën Car Club. The car was often chosen to represent the CX on club stands at car shows, especially once the long-lived model became somewhat blander to look at inside and out following Citroën’s 1985 Series 2 restyling. As the chrome bumpers started to date it, Makepeace embraced the car’s historical significance.

‘I started to enter it in Citroën Car Club concours,’ explains Makepeace, ‘and always seemed to end up being beaten to the trophy by a DS Safari owned by Len Drew. I always felt it was a bit unfair because Len would trailer that DS to the competitions and kept it perfect in his garage in between, whereas I used my CX every day!’ At one such event at Knebworth in 1984, a young Dyane-driving Newcastle University student named Neil Osbourn took a photo of Makepeace’s CX, simply as an enthusiast who planned to perhaps buy one someday. Little did he know that, more than 30 years later, he’d own this very car.

1989 – concours success at last!

‘After years of coming second to that DS, I decided to enter the CX in the Benson & Hedges Concours heat at Harrogate in 1989, and it won!’ exclaims Makepeace. Organised by Classic Cars magazine throughout the late Eighties, ‘the B&H’ was a huge and hotly-contested national multi-marque concours open to any car more than ten years old, with a series of regional heats culminating in a grand final in the summer. Makepeace had intended to enter the CX in the B&H a year earlier – Len Drew had won it outright in 1988 with the CX’s concours-nemesis DS – but at nine years old the CX was considered too new. By the time the Harrogate heat came about in 1989 the CX was ten years and one month old.

As Brian Palmer reported in the October 1989 issue, ‘Class E saw John Norris as Runner-up in his Jensen Interceptor Series II. But he was bested on the day by Alan Makepeace, another Harrogate contestant, in a quite remarkable Citroën CX GTi – an unusual entry which demonstrates just how quickly time lies.’ The victorious CX – a model still in production at the time contesting a category in which Jensen Interceptors were considered modern classics – went through to the International Final at Stratford-upon-Avon, where it was beaten in Class E by Phillip Walker’s Jaguar E-type and ultimately John Heagren’s plasticbumper MG BGT V8, which also picked up the overall International Champion title, inheriting it from Drew.

A fateful photo taken in 1984 by an unbeknownst future owner of GWX… …and 34 years on he still loves driving it.

‘It just missed out!’ exclaims Makepeace, ‘but we had a lovely time with it. I didn’t keep it for much longer after that though – ironically I sold it because it was in such good condition and I simply didn’t want it to deteriorate, so it went to Roger Bradford in 1991.’ It had racked up 49,000 miles in 12 years.

The CX joins the Whitney collection in 1992

‘I’d got a job with an investment company in the very early Eighties and my first company car was a Citroën GSA Pallas,’ recalls Paul Whitney. ‘I was due an upgrade in 1983 with a £6300 budget. At this time an entry-level 2.0-litre CX was £7200, so I rang up Citroën UK’s head office and said ‘I’m a very happy GSA owner and would like to stay with Citroën but can’t afford a new CX – can we do a deal?’ They asked me if I’d have a problem with a 1983 model rather than a 1984, which I didn’t, and I was offered a base-model CX in British racing green-type Vert Chartreuse for £6200.

‘It really gave me a liking for them, so nearly ten years later I bought this used GTi from Roger Bradford’s place on the M1. I had a vision to build a collection of Citroëns. Bradford threw an old GS in with the sale for free – it was falling to pieces but was still a GS, and ideal formy son to learn to drive in – and I also wanted an SM, a Big 15, a Light 15 and so on. I wanted an example of every significant Citroën.

Alan Makepeace and his wife with GWX at the 1989 B&H Concours final. The CX being exhumed from the barn in which it was laid up 1997-2016.

‘I bought a Big 15 that someone had spent £15k restoring, and went looking for either an early 2CV or an SM, but then I bought a new house in Norfolk that didn’t have enough garaging space for the planned collection, so had to give the Citroëns away to my children. Not long after I separated from my wife and was living in London, but the CX remained in Norfolk along with several other cars including a Ferrari F355.

‘I simply didn’t have anywhere else to keep it. It was expensive for a CX, and a concours winner too, so I couldn’t have used it as an everyday car, but I didn’t get the chance to drive it either so I hardly used it. It was a great car, and very rare too especially in GTi form with chrome bumpers, but I laid it up for too long.’

GWX and its concours nemesis, Len Drew’s DS, at the Northern Classic Car Club show in Belle Vue in Sept 1986. June 1986 CCC rally in Worcester – the Dyane belonged to Alan’s son.

GWX changes ownership in 2003 without moving

‘In 2003 I left Norfolk for good,’ says Whitney, ‘and left the CX to my ex-wife along with a Bond Bug – I’d test-driven one of those back at university and always wanted one but couldn’t afford one at the time. I gave my Lotus Elan to my daughter, who lives in France and is married to Graham, a motor mechanic. My wife sold the house and had a clear-out, and Graham came over to get the CX’s engine running again, then went back to France. It’s nice having all these cars, but you have to use them or they get tired. Although it was in concours condition when I bought it, only driving a few miles to warm it up every now and then can’t have done it much good. It ended up with collapsed suspension and a front wing dented by a builder’s ladder. Meanwhile the F355 was followed by an Aston Vanquish and now a Lamborghini Gallardo Spider, all of which need exercising as often as possible.’

‘Only driving it a few miles here and there didn’t do it any good’

2016 – Neil Osbourn is reacquainted with GWX

‘In the Eighties I was newly-married; my wife Janice and I had a Dyane and a Visa, and were members of the Citroën Car Club,’ says Neil Osbourn. ‘My first company car was a Ford Escort, but I persuaded my boss to replace it with a BX. Janice and I would go to club rallies in Harrogate and I aspired to own the top of the range – the CX GTi. Back then I took photos of cars I liked – that picture I took at Knebworth was a happy coincidence because the GTi was parked next to a Traction roadster, so for me it was a double coup.

‘In May 1988 I got a BX GTi, which was written of two months later by a lorry at a T-junction. I was due a promotion as a town planning consultant in Swindon, and persuaded my boss to let me have a £10k rather than an £8k car, “beitting a level I aspired to reach,” and so I got a CX 22 Croisette. But I still longed for a Series 1 CX, with the chrome bumpers and revolving-drum instruments.

Being judged at the final of the 1989 B&H concours. GWX 171T is now back in a high place after being sympathetically recommissioned. Osbourn appreciates the CX GTi’s many idiosyncracies. Current CX owner Neil Osbourn likes his cars practical yet sporty.

‘I knew Alan Makepeace had sold his GTi in 1991, and Roger Bradford had kept it for a year, doing 700 miles in it. He had a lot of respect for his CXs but was never one to let cars hang around. And then suddenly in 1992 it seemed to disappear of the face of the Earth.

‘I’ve known Rob Moss of Chevronics since he was a schoolboy selling a collection of Ami parts from his bedroom – I was his first customer! In 2016 Rob bought a GS to restore from a man who told him “my brother-in-law has a CX, are you interested?” We went of on a Saturday trip into the wilds of Norfolk planned around a nice pub lunch, expecting to find a rusty £100 wreck, and instead found a house with a huge brick barn with ten cars in it. I lifted a blanket and there it was – the white GTi I’d first seen 28 years ago. It was sat right down on the floor, hadn’t moved in 19 years, the leading edge of the bonnet had rusted through and damp in the barn’s walls had left the interior very mildewed – but crucially there was hardly any rust in the sills or door bottoms. I didn’t want a restoration-project CX, but I mentioned it to Janice later and she said “you’ll kick yourself if you don’t buy it!”

‘The first owner did 49,000 miles in this car. It only has 52,000 on the clock now‘

‘Legal ownership had passed to another member of the Whitney family, also based in France, but he was only contactable via his English mobile phone when he was working in Paris. I arranged sale of the car via this third party in France, who I never met. It took a month, and the sale was finally agreed a week before the August bank holiday in 2016, with delivery arranged to Chevronics. Rob Moss performed a light restoration – during which a rat skeleton was found in the rotting interior – and I collected it on December 1.’

2017 – ‘Does anyone know Alan Makepeace?’

In April 2017 I’d taken my newly acquired Peugeot 405 SRi out for a drive, and was overtaken on the A1 by a succession of French classics, including a white CX GTi. Remembering that the PSA X-Rally was being held at Burleigh House, I followed the CX into Stamford to join the show. ‘That was the CX’s first public outing in more than 20 years!’ Osbourn tells me. ‘It was the first time we drove it any real distance.

‘I treated the CX gently for the first few months. During one early drive Janice found the entire service history in the glovebox, and asked an open question on the Citroën Car Club’s Facebook page, “Does anyone know Alan Makepeace?” Not long after we had a phone call from Alan out of the blue, which turned into a long chat, and he met us on the CCC Northern Rally in Wetherby in May to be reunited with it.’

In November 2017 the CX returned to its early role as a concours contender. ‘I had my Ami Super at the Practical Classics Restoration Show in 2016, where I’d mentioned to the show’s PR Andrea Seed that I’d got a CX I was putting back together. She wanted it for the 2017 Restoration Show, but it hadn’t been shaken down quite properly yet. Instead, it went to the NEC Classic Motor Show, where it joined the Pride of Ownership concours display.

‘Alan Makepeace did 49,000 miles in this car. It only has 52,000 on the clock now, but there will be many more to come,’ says Osbourn as he surveys his CX alongside his other classics at his home in Cambridgeshire, including DS, BX and 2CV. ‘I won’t be getting rid of any of my classics. I won’t be buying any more Citroëns though – I’ve had 22!’


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