COAL № 11: Citroen CX • Comfort Comfort Comfort – Did I Mention Comfort?

Not sure what sparked my interest to the CX. It always had been a fascinating car of course with a fantastic design, but far out of my comfort (!) zone which was anything old and British. I would admire a CX from a distance, curious how it would be to drive such a machine. I was lucky to live in Europe, where cars like this were frequently seen on the road. There was a school teacher who had an old CX GTi which was parked and very rotten (only 6 years old), but I admired that car. It was never a normal car, it was always special and seen as a bit out of line (which would suit me fine).

Series 1 on top, series 2 bottom


There is a clear distinction between two generations of the CX. From 1974 until 1985, they had (stainless) steel bumpers and the famous weird “moving scale” speedo and tachometer. The facelift in 1985 comprised of bigger plastic bumpers and a dashboard with round gauges. You could say Citroen gave in and made the CX a bit more normal.

By the late nineties, the “steel bumper” CX had become an old car, over 10 years old. They were still around but becoming a rare sight. Most were scrapped, failed the yearly test because of rust. I had a habit of checking old car ads in the local newspaper, you never knew what might come up. This was in the days before the internet, so the view to cars for sale was much more narrow.


No stalks in the CX. Note the finger tip switches to the left and right. Series 1 on top.


Like before, it was the case of arguing why I would want another car. There was no real need. Why could I not live with the cars I had? Most classic car owners only have one car. They would invest time and money into the car which would become better and better. I knew, and admired, the folks that owned a car for decades.

But I always wanted to try something different, new. Not new in the meaning of really new cars because these did not attract me at all. When I lived with two other students in a flat, one bought a Citroen DS. It was 15 years old or so, not in a good condition but it ran and I admired him for buying a car he liked.


The Dark Grey Pallas

So, while checking out the ads one day (late nineties), I noticed an photo advertisement for a beautiful 1983 CX Pallas in the next town. It just had its yearly test done, so it would be in a good condition, right?


This Pallas looked really good, a classy dark metallic grey exterior, beige cloth interior and a steel sunroof. The dark paint went well with the chrome bumpers and big chrome wheel trims. Yes, I did not really need a car. But my faithful old Triumph 2000 Mk2 was gone, in my mind there was space for another classic car. A CX would be a fresh experience, something completely different and out of my car bubble. It was not too expensive, so why not?



And so I fell for it. First experiences were great. The suspension was so different to what I was used! A CX has a relatively long wheel base, and the wheels are connected via a hydraulic system. Speed bumps (of which there are a few in my neighborhood) could be taken now without slowing down. It did lean in corners, but this was not uncomfortable. It was just a habit of the CX which one would accept as part of its quirks. Usually after half an hour or so a parked CX will slowly sink to the ground, it needs some care to step in the car. I can see the car journalists nowadays criticising this as a major flaw, now that the world is used to the high, easy to enter SUVs. Then, it was seen as a given which was part of the typical CX package. After all you knew you had a CX, not a normal car, right? So no complaining please about these minor niggles.



After turning on the engine, you hear the hydraulic suspension pump working and the front of the car begins to rise, followed by the rear. The children loved this (me as well :-)). The power steering is an experience too. When you turn the wheel, it will always quite strongly self centre. A little strange at first but really helpful, it also makes parking very easy. You will never see a CX parked with its front wheels turned (except for the very early basic version without power steering). Four disc brakes are excellent. The big single front windscreen wiper, with the washer nozzles fitted to the wiper’s arm, does its work well. The interior was interesting, no old world charm of wood.


parked in front of my house / garage


Modern, even futuristic instruments in a small dashboard. The dash itself with the strange speedo and rev counter always is a joy to look at, as is the single spoke steering wheel. Seats are very soft, often seen as a disadvantage but I found them supremely comfortable and never had experienced back problems.

No stalks for wipers or indicators, this is done by switches on the dash near the steering wheel – no need to take off your hands off the steering wheel for these functions.

There is a lever to lower or raise the car, in its highest position it is unfit to drive as there is no suspension left. At speed, the car is very stable on the motorway but also in the corners.



Talking of speed, that is something my Pallas lacked somewhat. I came out of a Triumph 2000 which was no speed demon, but that car never gave the feeling of being slow whereas this CX gave the impression that it could use a bit more power.

After a few months I learned what other CX models there were and found out there were versions who used a larger engine with fuel injection. These were markedly faster. So when I found one I sold the Pallas.


The Silver GTi

Through a garage I heard of a first owner car. This car has had a respray 4 years before, then the owner died and the car has been standing since. This meant it had no yearly test, but there were genuine maintenance bills for many years.


It looked fantastic in Silver with a grey cloth interior. It was one of the last steel bumpered cars, a GTi with the 2.5 injection engine. As a bonus it had the rare air conditioning option. A minor thing was that I could not hear it running (flat battery), but I was assured this was never a problem before and there were no engine problems. It needed gone fast, by the next week really because the house was sold. Because of this the car was offered below market value. I decided to take the risk, and trailered it home a few days later.

At my garage at home I found out it had been cheap for a reason. There was quite extensive rust to the underside. I got someone to repair the worst parts and it got through the yearly test. Apart from the rust, which was not visible from the outside, the car looked great. Paint flawless and interior very good. The bigger engine was nice, this was a much faster car compared to the Pallas.


somewhere in France, towing our 1971 Constructam caravan


We used this car to tow our classic Constructam caravan to France for a summer holiday. It was perfect for that, towing a caravan over great distances. The hydraulic suspension kept the car level, no matter how heavy the car was with all holiday stuff and the caravan.

At the next yearly inspection I got the remark that something thorough would need to be done before the next inspection. Not wanting to go through that again I put it up for sale after it got the yearly ticket, explained the rust situation in the ad. Because it looked so good it was sold quite quickly, although for less than I wanted. I made a loss on that car but this was entirely my fault. I promised myself I would never ever again buying a car gambling on the rust situation. I should have known, a Citroen CX had a bad reputation for rust and it was my fault not checking this before.


The Red Automatic

A couple of years passed by without a CX. I needed to travel a lot to and from work, and was using a modern(ish) car for this. One day I tried to avoid a traffic jam on the motorway by using a different route.


As found. Next to a Renault 16.


I passed a car dealer and through a barbed wire fence I saw a red CX. By now these were seldom to be seen so I turned to have a look. Wow!

The Silver CX was a really nice car but I would have liked a bit more chrome (window frames for example). If I would ever have a CX again it should be something like the Pallas but with a bigger engine.


Yellow headlamps were mandatory at the time for French cars. It looks good on the CX.


This red CX looked to have absorbed my wish list: a rare colour (a purple-ish red), NO sliding roof (these always either leaked or rusted in my view), the powerful 2400 fuel injected engine, leather interior, an automatic gearbox…. As a bonus it did have the rare optional mid arm rest in the front. There were a number of items on it that were exclusive to an early Prestige. The CX Prestige, top of the range, was equipped with a number of unique fittings, and these were also fitted to the red CX so I think a previous owner had access to a stripped early Prestige. Thin chrome strips around the head lamps and across the rear. Chromed inside door opening rings en polished pedal surrounds. Maybe not original to a non-Prestige but it looked very good on the car.



Not all was positive. The paint was flat, the body had a few small dents here and there, and at the bottom of the doors rust was showing. The car dealer said the underside was almost rust free, and offered to have the car on a lift for me to inspect. He was right, no rust to be found! Just on the doors. The car was sold with a fresh yearly inspection certificate.


For me, the red CX was everything a CX should be. Any CX is a smooth car, the automatic transmission made it even smoother. It lost some power compared to the manual GTi but a CX is not made for as fast as possible, it is made to drive in comfort. And comfortable it was! The suspension of the silver GTi was set a little harder, the red was softer. We took the car, a perfect car for travelling long distances, for a short holiday in Wales.



on the Newport Transporter Bridge


Top Tip: if you are ever in South Wales, go and use the Newport Transporter Bridge. A fascinating solution to the question on to how to cross a river by car without obstructing sailing boats.


Mechanically the red CX was excellent. The CX has a complicated suspension system, but once it is in good order it is reliable. All three CX I had were very reliable. There have been some annoying troubles with the electric windows, central locking system and a burned out headlamp switch, but never on brakes, suspension, engine or gearbox.


After a few years I was about to rebuild and extend my garage and house, and for the foreseeable future had no time for the car hobby. The end of the red one was near. The doors still needed repairs, some thinking was needed to get in a LPG system – I had heard of a successful installation from another owner.


Not sure why this is such a vague picture!


My regret is that I actually sold the red CX. It had its faults but was a fantastic car to drive and had good bones. I sold the car for far too little money, I should have stored it in the shed.

My car was for sale again a couple of years later. It looked very good, having had a repaint and a new interior. The seller asked a lot of money but it was worth it.  When I check the registration now it cannot be found. This means the car is scrapped or, probably more plausible, has been exported.

I have been glad to have experienced CX driving. They are very addictive…

More reading:

Curbside Classic: 1982 Citroën CX Pallas IE – Hydropneumatifragilistic Pallasialidocious

Curbside Classic: 1984 Citroën CX Prestige – Stealth Spaceship

Cohort Classic: 1981 Citroen CX Pallas D – Modernism’s Last Stand