• EXTRA RARE CITROEN BX 297bhp, supercharged GTi

    This immaculate BX was saved from the scrappy and now makes a very healthy 297bhp... Words Midge. Photos: Matt Woods.

    “There are so few of these cars left now, it’s even more impressive”

    It could be argued that the #Citroen-BX-GTi-16V is one of the most underrated hot hatches of all time. It’s certainly one of the rarest. That’s not to say they didn’t make a few, between 1987 and 1993 they rolled-out around 3000 of ‘em, but the fact is nowadays there’s probably only about 30 left and, by anyone’s standards, that’s a pretty rapid demise. On the face of it this motor had all the performance credentials. Along with its ‘in-house’ brother, the Peugeot 405 Mi16, it was the first French car to be fitted with a 16V lump. It was slightly faster than the Pug too with a 0-60 time of 7.2-seconds and a top speed in excess of 140mph… and don’t forget that was way back in 1987. The special edition bits and pieces on the body, especially when it came to the 1990 Phase II model, were sweetly distinctive and the all-round disc brakes that had been fitted to the whole BX range since 1982 didn’t go unnoticed either. Some say it was ahead of its time. I’m pretty sure they’re right.

    So, what happened to them all? You would think that enthusiasts would be all over these right? Well, the trouble is they’re unbelievably complex and, being from #Citroen , when they went wrong it was generally something a tad more expensive than a thermostat. Fitted with Citroen’s hydropneumatic suspension system (albeit one of the coolest inventions ever) it wasn’t exactly a car that was easy to fix and that’s probably why over the years many have donated their Mi16 innards to keep a 405 or the odd converted 205 ticking along. It just goes to show that sometimes being totally different to the competition doesn’t always help with longevity. And that’s a massive shame.

    Of course the other reason may have a little to do with the styling. Like many of the older Citroens the BX has always been something of an acquired taste. Some, like myself, think the shape is extremely cool, in a retro kinda way. Others say these look like the bastard child of Robocop and your nan’s Zanussi washing machine. Either way there’s no denying they all have a face that only a mother could love.

    Ian Nixon, the creator of this particular supercharged beast agrees with me on that. He fully admits he’s never been a fan of Citroens but equally he couldn’t step away from the serious performance the BX GTi 16 offers. “I hated them until I realised the potential. I tried to blow one of these off in my Audi 80 when I was a kid and before I looked round it was gone. I couldn’t believe it.” Years later Ian had a Xantia run-around and was impressed by the handling the hydropneumatic system serves up so, with that in mind, an old school BX build was always on the cards – the only trouble was finding one.

    Locating a base car that’s rarer than a load of hen’s teeth nestling in a pile of rocking horse shite is one of those neighon impossible tasks. I guess Ian was lucky coming across a car collector that wasn’t exactly impressed with his. Then again ‘lucky’ is a relative term and a blown head gasket on the drive home kicked off an epic re-build quicker than he may have imagined.

    Still, like many of us, Ian isn’t the type of fella to pull off a head, chuck on another gasket and leave it at that. Being an engineer and a bloke who looks after all sorts of highend exotica, race cars and performance motors he asked himself the eternal question “why just repair when you can improve?” And I suppose the rest is history.

    If you read through the engine spec you’ll see it’s extensive to say the least. Even though Ian specifically states that on a car like this “everything’s a mission” he’s managed to squeeze 297bhp from the 1.9-litre lump with the help of everything from a fully re-worked head, forged internals and a custom Rotrex supercharger install. There’s even a 6-speed box conversion! What’s more, the real talent lies in how it’s all been put in – if you ignore the fact it’s not covered in oil like many an old Citroen out there, it almost looks factory. That’s not an easy task to pull off.

    The rest of the car is just as immaculate because it’s taken nearly as much work as under the bonnet. Then again, you don’t go throwing 8-grand’s worth of lump in a 400-quid motor with over 20 owners on the logbook without wanting to sort out a few bits along the way. Ian contracted the bodywork out to a local restoration shop and I’d like to say the rest was easy, but unfortunately it wasn’t. With the car stripped and not a whole load of work completed in 6-months he actually had to go and get it back before they destroyed the whole thing.

    Handily they managed to lose most of the special 16V parts too meaning Ian had to find another whole BX 16V, just to get the bits needed to compete the job. It was another seriously lucky find, even if the circumstances were a little infuriating. The second time around Ian enlisted the help of paint supremo Steve Bell, and after a serious amount of welding (yes, it’s a proper Citroen) and fettling it left the booth pretty much as you see it today. With the stunning Dolmen Grey respray and a few exterior touches it’s clear that he’s chosen to keep the styling true to the original. Even the 17-inch BBS wheels are somewhat reminiscent of the standard 14-inch Speedlines fitted at the factory. A subtle but undeniably nice touch.

    In all, it’s not been the simplest of jobs but you have to commend Ian for his never-failing persistence. Without bringing that quality to the table this could have so easily been yet another BX 16V relegated to the scrappy. Instead he’s not only built himself one of the sweetest retro motors in the UK but, perhaps most importantly, he’s kept another super-rare French legend on the streets.

    TECHNICAL DATA SPECIFICATIONS #1991 #Citroen-BX-GTi-16V-Phase-II / #Citroen-BX / #Citroen-BX-GTi

    Engine: 1.9 #XU9J4DFW engine ( Mi16 ), stage 5, high flow head, big valve #Siamese ported cylinder head, #Kent-PT81 inlet cam/ PT82 exhaust, #Kent VS34 double valve springs and titanium retainers, Kent vernier pulleys, #Richard-Longman 4-1 manifold, #Cosworth-57X exhaust manifold fixing kit D6C block with #DFW pistons (comp 9:5:1), PEC performance H section light weight conrods with #ARP bolts, #Peugeot-Motorsport GPA 1:1 oil pump, Constella Sump baffle, Mocal oil breather system, #Accusump 4 quarts oil accumulator system, #Rotrex SP30/74 centrifugal supercharger, Pace charge cooler from RS turbo, Range Rover P38 intercooler, #Samco intake and discharge pipe work, #Baker BM coolant hoses, #Baker-BM engine hung mounts and solid stabiliser mount, Standard #Bosch-Motronic 4.1 ECU live mapped by Wayne Scofield of Chipwizards, #Astra-VXR injectors, #Sytec high flow fuel filter, Sierra #Cosworth GPA fuel pump, #FSE fuel pressure regulator.

    Transmission: Peugeot 306 GTI-6 BE-6 gearbox, #Quaife-ATB differential, Royal Purple oil.

    Chassis: 17-inch #BBS-RX alloys, 205/45 R17 tyres.

    Interior: Standard 16v Le-Mans cloth trim, #VDO boost gauge, Quaife nylon gear knob.

    Exterior: Extended bumpers to accommodate intercooler, additional air intake on NSF wing, fog lights removed and turned into brake ducts, steel bonnet, Mk3 Golf gas bonnet struts, resprayed respray in original Citroen Dolmen Grey.

    Thanks Steve Bell for the paintwork, Peter Greenwood for the fibreglassing expertise, Wayne Schofield for the mapping and advice and Jackie for spanner passing, making tea and towing around the country on trailer.
    “I hated them until I realized the potential...”
    Period interior is also in decent nick. #BBS 17s look almost OEM.
    The fat pipe gives you a clue...
    Mi16 unit makes 297bhp.
    “There are so few of these cars left now, it’s even more impressive”