Cohort Sighting: Oltcit Club; Or If That’s Too Exotic For You, How About Citroen Axel?

Oltcit Club

Never heard of an Oltcit Club? Welcome to the Club! I did recognize it for something, but something else; in fact the same thing that Yohai Rodin, who posted it at the Cohort first thought it was: A Citroen Axel. I’m sure you did too. But no; this is a genuine Oltcit Club, made in Romania, but rather obviously a Citroen design, although it’s unique from actual Citroens, like the seemingly similar Visa. And when some of these were exported to Western Europe from 1984 – 1990, it was badged as a Citroen Axel.

Now that name “Citroen Axel” turns out to be rather ironic, because some of the later versions of this car actually had a Renault 12 front axle, as well as wheels. Even with out that little twist, this car is an oddball from beginning to end, and has quite a story.

Citroen G-miniimage via

It dates back to 1965, when Robert Opron was given the big challenge to develop a replacement for the 2CV. A series of very space-efficient designs ensued.

Citrone prototype  Y

A later offshoot of this 2CV replacement project resulted in the Project Y, during the time Fiat was involved in Citroen. It used a Fiat 127 platform.

Citroen Visa fq

After Peugeot took over Citroen in 1973, it was decided to ditch those underpinnings, and build the Visa (above, posted at the Cohort by Charkle the 2nd), as it was now called, on the Peugeot 104 platform, and available with either a Citroen air-cooled boxer twin or the Peugeot 104’s four cylinder.

Oltcit Club  Autoimage via Wikipedia

But in a rather odd turn of events, the Project Y was sent to Romania, where Citroen had a partner, Oltcit. And there it went into production, with either the 652cc boxer twin, or the 1129 or 1299cc boxer fours from the Citroen GS.

Citroen Axel ad

Since the Oltcit didn’t sell well enough in Romania, and failed to generate any real profits to recoup the investment, it was decided to rebadge it as the Citroen Axel and to sell in Western Europe, Canada and a few other markets.

It may have seemed odd to bring this back to compete with the Citroen Visa, but the Axel was strictly a three-door, and it was a bit cheaper too. And since the Visa was only built as a five-door, and sales weren’t all that strong, Citroen was happy enough to throw another car into that critical market segment.

Oh, the Renault 12 axle and wheels? These were only used on the last two years of Oltcit Club production, a version called RM, which supposedly stood for “Romanian Improved”, and used Renault 12 front axles, brakes and wheels.