By on October 3, 2018

In Part I of the Citroën CX saga, we learned how the big sedan replaced the outgoing and legendary DS. Now, let’s find out just how difficult life was for the last genuine large Citroën.

At the time of the CX’s release in ’74, Citroën found itself in considerable financial trouble. The company decided before building the CX that it needed a new production facility. Expecting big sales figures for the new flagship, the factory was designed to build all three body styles: standard fastback, the long wheelbase sedan, and the wagon. The chosen factory location was on the northern fringe of the affordable city of Paris, at Aulnay-sous-Bois. Already a bit cash-strapped, Citroën could not really afford such an expenditure to build a single model. The company was in the red.

At the time, Citroën was partnered with Fiat in an uneasy marriage of instability and spending, and the French government had had enough. Peugeot was the new arranged marriage partner, and, with failing finances, Citroën was forced into bed with the roaring lion brand by the latter half of 1974. By 1976, Peugeot owned 89.95 percent of Citroën, as the company became part of the newly formed PSA Group.

All the while, the CX was gathering a reputation for expensive running costs and a lack of build quality. The attention of Peugeot with regards to improvements in quality control was spotty. Peugeot had to bring Citroën’s bank balance into the black while simultaneously maintain separate Peugeot and Citroën vehicle lines. Additionally, Peugeot took over all operations of Chrysler Europe in 1978. That purchase netted the company yet another flagship sedan to compete against the CX and Peugeot 604: the Talbot Tagora.

Peugeot’s stress aside, there was another issue for the CX. Citroën designed its new car for sale in the American market, right around the same time the NHTSA had other ideas. In 1974, the federal entity decided to ban all passenger vehicles with a height-adjustable suspension. This restriction (on a Citroën signature) piled on top of other innovations the U.S. blocked, like directional headlamps, flush aero glass headlamp lenses, and the use of mineral oil brake fluid. Citroën was stuck — the suspension system was an integral part of the car, and the company could not engineer around it.

Enter Belgium. A determined importer in the U.S. knew there was a customer for the big Citroën. The company gave up on selling the CX to Americans back in the ’70s, even after the government repealed the ban on height-adjustable suspension in 1981.

To provide enthusiasts with cars, the importer sent new CXs to Belgium, where it hired a company to engineer them again. Crash testing was performed, emissions upgraded, bumpers replaced, and headlights reworked. With the factory suspension legal again, the Citroën badges were removed and the federalized no-badge CX was sold via catalog order at a considerable asking price. The success of the operation was questionable, with numbers reported from a few hundred to about 1,000. The CX lived on in Europe through the 1991 model year, when it was replaced by the smaller and thoroughly Peugeot-fied XM we’ve previously seen on Rare Rides.

Today’s Rare Ride is a long-wheelbase automatic model in Prestige trim, with three-speed transmission and largest 2.5-liter engine. It has dents and scratches and French car issues, but all looks relatively solid. Seems like the seller might be willing to take $5,000, per eBay listings.

[Images: seller]

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27 Comments on “Rare Rides: A Large, Luxurious Citroën CX From 1987 (Part II)...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    That interior is really something. Would love to just sit in the back for awhile :)

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    “…and French car issues”

    There’s a phrase that should strike terror into the hearts of car-minded people everywhere.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Right after “English car issues…” “Italian car issues…”

    • 0 avatar
      spreadsheet monkey

      Running a 1980s Big Citroen in France (or even England) is no more of a challenge than running a 1980s Cadillac in the US. There are specialist mechanics out there who understand the engineering quirks of these cars, and can source spares and keep them running without spending a fortune.

      Appreciate that it must be a real labour of love to keep a CX in good running order in the US, when there’s no spares supply, no old Citroens in junkyards, and nobody understands the weird suspension.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Glorious, if not problematic. Say what you will, but the CX was anything but boring.

  • avatar
    civicjohn

    I’ll just say that I hope I don’t have nightmares after viewing these pictures. I don’t care if the thing had barcaloungers for seats, that is certainly in the top 10 of the ugliest cars I’ve ever seen.

    Leaped right over the Pontiac Aztec.

    • 0 avatar

      When viewed with the lens of being released in 1974 and designed in the early 1970s, it’s a looker.

      Think about American cars of 1974.
      https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1974_Chevrolet_Impala_(11146054173).jpg

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        If Porsche had been building the Panamera in 1974 this might be it

      • 0 avatar
        civicjohn

        I hear you, but I was carted to school in one of these if I missed the bus and I wouldn’t be ashamed:

        https://duckduckgo.com/?q=chevertot+cheville+1973+photo&t=ipad&ia=images

        I’m sure navigating that stereo driving down the interstate was a breeze. Forget about trying to get a kiss (or more) when you’re leaning over with your “let’s make out” cassette mix tape on and your perfectly set equalizer goes to h**l.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      I don’t find the exterior attractive, but if the old adage “beauty is on the inside” is applicable for any one car, then this is a beautiful car.

  • avatar
    Garak

    I’ve always wanted a CX, but haven’t seen one since the early 2000s. The cars were everywhere when I was a kid, but vanished immediately after the production ended. Keeping one running was apparently a bit challenging.

    Also, anyone calling the CX ugly has no sense of style, although I admit the US-spec round headlights are awful. Then again, I also think the 1974 Impala looks good.

    • 0 avatar
      Mike Beranek

      As always, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This car in particular is just so far from what I consider to be an attractive sedan, mostly because it tries so hard to be quirky and different (a one-spoke steering wheel?). There are similar Euro sedans from this period I find very attractive, like the Rover DS and just about anything from BMW in the 70’s & 80’s. The old 240 DL Volvo, the homely one that looks like it was modeled with Legos, is more of a looker.

  • avatar
    Stanley Steamer

    I find the dual directional controls interesting. I assume they are press and release, with the wheel return canceling the signal, although they look like toggle on/off.

    • 0 avatar
      WallMeerkat

      If you mean the blinkers / indicators, they’re a rocker switch, left or right. No self cancelling. And no fighting with them if you’re indicating the next left after a right hand turn (or vice versa)

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I remember that the importer (CX Automotive in New Jersey) included an at-the-time top-of-the-line Clarion radio with mobile phone capability (it was mentioned in the Car and Driver road test), but this one looks to have a Technics cassette radio and graphic equalizer.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Would look better with smooth bumpers that matched the color of the body. Those bumpers are terrible.


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