Blog : Going French? Mais, oui!

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Mind you, it’s not as if I don’t have form…

Here are the latest three cars to join the ever-changing harem – and, as you can see, they are as British as a buttered croissant. But anyone who knows me will tell you that Citroëns are in my blood – and the fact that these CXs and this GS all came along at pretty much the same time didn’t stand in my way. I had to have them.

I guess it might be because I’m on the rebound. I really, really want a Citroën SM. For as long as I can remember, this is my absolute dream car. However, the reality is that they’ve always been tantalisingly out of my budget and, if I plumped for one now as an investment, it would be financial suicide. After all, who buys a car as an investment, and then would never sell it? Precisely…

Two Citroën CXs?

Yes! Anyway, the CXs have both come into my life as waifs and strays, but don’t think that this makes them any less loved. The one on the left came via Andrew Freeman, who sold me a Lancia Dedra back in 2009, and the silver one on the right came via fellow CXophile David Rutherford.

They’re both CX20 Pallas models, both mechanically healthy, and neither are concours. The gold one is on the button, and needs a little paint to be perfect, while the silver one needs a rear wing and an interior – and an MoT – but we live in hope. I’ll probably keep both and they will bankrupt me on the way – but not as quickly as the SM would have!

And a GS?

Yes! This one’s a beauty, and comes via committed Citroën collector Chris Salter. I’ve never owned a GS before, and I’m particularly excited by this one. It’s a great car that comes from a delightful period in automotive history when the major manufacturers were not afraid to innovate.

Consider that the GS has a flat-four engine, it’s air-cooled, front-wheel drive and has Hydropneumatic suspension – in a small car that was cheap to buy – and you’ll see what I mean. Citroën wasn’t alone, of course. In the early 1970s, it ended up battling the Alfa Romeo AlfasudFiat 128 and – of course – the Austin Allegro for honours in the small family car class.

All were technically interesting, diverse and, most importantly, innovative. Can you imagine that level of diversity in the family car market today? Of course not…

It will be interesting to see how things pan out for the GS. I need to pick it up from Chris in the next week or so, and will report back on how it goes, assuming you guys don’t mind hearing about it.

There is a link…

Don’t worry, AROnliners! These cars do have a vague link with the great British cars we know and love on this website. Cast your minds back to the 1967 and ’68 Aerodynamica concepts by Pininfarina.

There was the 1100 Aerodynamica (below) – based on the BMC 1100, and prescient of my GS. Was the Citroën influenced by it? You be the judge of that.

And the 1800 Aerodynamica (below) – based on the 1800, and prescient of my CXs. Was the Citroën CX influenced by it? You betcha!

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

16 Comments

  1. I’m in a new job; one where the car allowance is a thing of the past. That’s not only allowed me to indulge in a very low mileage ZT; it also means that I drive an awful lot of hire cars through my employer’s contract with Enterprise. Last week I had the misfortune to be delivered a C4 Picasso. I can only assume that it was developed by taking a canal barge, putting a blancmange at each corner, and adding a wheel to each one. For me – borderline dangerous at anything over 50mph.

    • That reminds me of taking a Mk1 Paccaso out on test drive in 2001. I was on my third XM (so I was used to Citroens), but I knew that it was a non starter before I’d even left the car park, it was dire to drive!

      It’s useful to be reminded that Citroen haven’t always built cheap and nasty tat with no technical innovation; what better cars to illustrate this with than the CX and the GS?

  2. More on the GS please. It’s the same model and colour as my assistant headmaster at Robert Gordon’s College bought to replace his blue Capri Mk.1. I have comic memories of both cars.
    Whenever he slammed the passenger door on the Capri, a long chrome trim strip sprung off the car at the front, and had to be clipped back on.
    Whenever he got into the GS, it leaned heavily to the right until he started the engine and pumped it back up. He was a former rugby player, built for comfort rather than speed!

  3. I remember how thin that seat material was on the GS cars [usually a light blue], it was like toilet paper, One clean and that was it!.

  4. I’ve heard some 1970s-80s French car seats used to wear out quickly, the ones in my Uncle’s Alpine needed aftermarket covers after 6-7 years.

  5. No, I’m quite sure we don’t mind you talking chevron on this site, We think the Dyanne, Ami 8 Estate (we had new in the mid 70’s,) and almost all the proper Citroens were fabulous! I do think they went through a bad time In the 80’s, 90’s and naughties – but then, did any manufacturer produce anything worth remembering in those years? Probably a ticking bomb on this site but there, I’ve said it. And what’s that C1 all about?
    Off to look at proper car tomorrow. A 1963 Wolseley 1500 – chuff knows where we are going to put it!

  6. Lovely stuff. CXs are great. Do you still have your C6 as well?

    Keith, out of interest, how many cars do you have in your personal fleet right now, and where do you store them all?

  7. I have the same disease as Keith … yearn for a SM and constantly thinking about a GS (oddly, I want a GSA for the mad dashboard). And, as ever, he’s absolutely right about the early 70s in terms of a fantastic era for innovation in that class – ‘Sud, GSA, 128, Allegro … did any of them actually render a profit for their manufacturer?

  8. Although the CX 20 was pretty much the base model, it’s no less desirable. It has all the traits of its bigger-engined sisters, if you ignore the slightly-underpowered 2-litre engine. In fact, the lack of power in a CX 20 merely accentuates the relaxed, effortless feel that all CXs are famous for.

    Both your cars are Series 1s, so that means chrome bumpers, small door mirrors and the pure, original bathroom scales instrumentation.

    What might not help are sources of NOS CX parts. Basically these were mostly bought up cheaply by German specialist CX Basis, who gleefully charge some pretty exorbitant prices. I mean, £300 for a headlight unit? Really?

  9. The CX was the executive car for people that wanted something different, in the same way the GS, like the Alfasud, appealed to people who wanted something other than an Escort or Golf on the drive. Both cars really stood out for their fantastic ride quality, interior space and innovative styling, and new prices were reasonable, a base model GSA was available for £ 3999 in 1981, same as an Escort 1.3 L, but a so much better car.

  10. My Dad had two Citroen GS’s in the mid ’70’s when they were a awful lot of tech for the money (until they went wrong). The first was a 1220 GS Club (estate) in dark blue ULB911M. Great flat loading bay. Left in the public car park in Penzance and the weather was so hot it split the roof lining – Dad then got a large fabric sunroof installed!. The second was a posher GS Pallas VLF705S(same beige as pic above). Much nicer dark brown luxury seats and door cards. Both had radio located between the seats alongside the suspension raising lever. Dad would go looking for roads ‘unsuitable for motor vehicles’ to demonstrate to us the jacking up of the suspension and we loved the fact that they sat on the ground and raised up when the engine was running. On long runs we had to fit the cover over the front grille, and with the handbrake coming out of the dash with a handle and trigger designed for LHD with the trigger being stiff on the Pallas, it was a pain to release, and the choke being really hard to pull out of the dash meant that we did have a lot of fun when the car was cold in get it to start without stalling. Neither were particularly reliable and eventually became more costly to fix than they were worth.After the two GS’s Dad used a relatives civil service discount on a new Audi 80 which was on another planet in terms of reliability

  11. I remember selling a cmatic? semi auto cx back in 1982 and it caused loads of grief as I think then it was such a new system to the market that no one understood it even the citroen main dealer!.

  12. I went on an old car rally ( non-competitive ) in West Somerset 2 weeks ago. One of the participants was in a French Blue Citroen Dyane , S registered so about 1978 , which had not been restored but which looked as though it left the factory last month . A stunning old car, and it went well too despite some quite testing climbs over a 3 day period !

  13. Like them or not, these old Citroen’s have character, which is more than can be said of many of today’s offerings. Or is it my age showing??

  14. I saw that in Belgium there is to be an auction of a guys collection of CXs, wonder if Keith will be taking a paddle!

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