I rarely peruse my local Craigslist. Maybe I should do it a bit more often, because I came across this car recently – not the typical car one would expect to find in a Virginia field… not your typical anything for that matter. Not only is this a Citroen, which is unusual enough in the US, but a CX (my favorite of the brand’s many models)… a wagon… a diesel… and it’s from 1976. Citroen pulled out of the US market after 1973, and I’ve never seen a privately-imported version from the late 1970s. So the ad definitely warranted a further look.
The seller evidently rescued this wagon from a farmer’s field, in an unsuccessful attempt at restoration. That’s not quite surprising – I can’t imagine that a mechanically, electrically and pneumatically complex Citroen could be easy to get roadworthy once it’s in a declining condition.
Judging from the other vehicles surrounding this Citroen (a Rover TC and a Mercedes-Benz 300CE), I’m guessing the current owner has a soft spot for unusual cars, and couldn’t bear the thought of a CX decaying in a farmer’s field forever, so he gave it his best shot.
And there’s a VW Super Beetle here too, and a Toyota MR2 that looks like it runs. But back to the Citroen – this is my favorite wagon ever built, and this angle has always fascinated me; it manages to look both high (thanks to the huge rear glass) and low (thanks to the kneeling suspension) simultaneously. Due to their extreme rarity in the US, I’ve only seen CX wagons in person fewer than half a dozen times, mostly examples imported by “CX Auto” in the late 1980s.
In the ad, the seller notes that some private imports trickled into the US after the company’s withdrawal, sometimes under “unclear circumstances” and possibly through diplomatic channels. I can’t judge the accuracy of that claim, but I do recall hearing about a few companies that imported CXs and somehow got them federalized. Even so, this car appears to be an oddity. It has US-spec headlights, but seems to lack side marker lights, and has what appear to be unaltered European bumpers — maybe that’s how the gray market worked back when this car was new(ish)? From what I understand, most of the tiny number of early CXs that made their way to US shores were diesels, like this one, which were evidently easier to conform to EPA regulations than were Citroen’s gas engines.
While non-US spec vehicles can be imported once they reach 25 years of age, I have a hard time believing this 1976 wagon was imported in 2001. After all, the license plate dates from the late 1990s, and was last registered in 2001. Even if the plate doesn’t belong to this car, this sure doesn’t look like a vehicle that would have been someone’s pride and joy after the turn of the millennium. My guess is that it was a gray market car imported in the late ’70s or early ’80s.
My favorite part of the CX is its dashboard, with that one-spoke, self-centering wheel, and an instrument pod made long before such a setup was common. Even in its current state and nearly a half-century after the car was built, I find it easy to envision this cockpit making its driver feel futuristic. Everything in this interior is unusual – which is part of the CX’s appeal. Those long sliding levers between the front seats are the heater controls, the horn is activated by a button on the instrument pod, turn signals are used via a rocker switch, and the radio faces straight upwards.
The seller claims that the engine turns over. Through the cobwebs here, we can see the details of early CX gauges. Apparently, the digital-looking gauge on the right-hand side of the instrument binnacle isn’t a gauge but rather a diesel pre-heater light.
Here’s the diesel engine, minus the spare tire, which originally nested underhood, tucked partially under the cowl. Early CX Diesels were offered either with a 2.2L or 2.5L engine, but since this car is advertised as a ’76, and the 2.5L engine didn’t come out until two years later, I will assume it’s a 2200, though it’s hard for me to tell for sure. If so, with 66 bhp, this a 3,100-lb. CX wagon would take about 20 seconds to reach 60 mph. It could maybe outrun a 240D, but that’s about all.
The seller here is asking $2,500 – quite possibly reasonable for the right person… someone who maybe has a collection of Citroens for instance, since there’s undoubtedly a treasure-trove of hard-to-get parts in here. For the few CX faithful in North America, this is probably an exciting find. For the rest of us, it’s simply fascinating to look at this wagon and wonder how it got here.