How many times can one write about a particular model before the motivation runs dry? I’ve cooked up the Citroën CX in virtually every type of sauce: wagon, saloon, LWB limo – heck, I even wrote up a two-door cabriolet, and those were not even in the range! Well, I guess the wagon was a long while ago and rather underwhelming. Finding one in Tokyo, in its fully-fledged glory, might just bring forth enough creative juices to squeeze out one more post.
There are some variants of the CX that I do yearn for, such as a 1974-79 2-litre Super saloon (sans side trim, with plain chrome bumpers and, pretty please, a blue interior), or an early GTI. As a rule, I’m far less keen on the plastic-not-so-fantastic Series 2, but I cannot recall when I last contemplated such a clean-looking example of the breed. And it’s a wagon. There’s always room for a wagon. Or should that be inside the wagon?
I’m guessing this car was sold here new. It has the old-style (pre-1999) license plate after all, and it seems French cars, unlike more luxury-oriented imports, are RHD in this country. Makes this particular CX all the more interesting to document – and fortunately, this one was a very cooperative subject for photography.
The CX was the last Citroën devised before the firm’s second crisis. Which led to its takeover by Peugeot in 1974 – the very year the CX was launched. The LWB variants, namely the Prestige limousine and the wagon, arrived in 1976, complete with 25cm extra in wheelbase, clean flanks and oh-so-lovely blade-like chrome bumpers, as we can see above.
The CX wagon (or Break, as the French call them) came from a long tradition of family- and utility-oriented big Citroëns. Both the 4- and 6-cyl. variants of the Traction Avant and the ID/DS also came in this type of body style. The former pioneered the hatchback formula, while the latter added self-levelling suspension for good measure. Compared to its illustrious predecessors, the CX wagon provided a bit less innovation, but it made up for it with a mix of style, roominess and (relative) reliability.
The style was authored Citroen’s in-house design team, under the helm of Robert Opron. This is the same team that crated the SM and the GS – two other space-age ‘70s icons. Their work on the CX Break was excellent, though a few details, such as the rear wiper, seem a bit last-minute.
But I’m really nitpicking here. The overall design is superb, with that stepped roof, those thin B and C pillars bookended by a reassuringly thick D pillar. This is more than the usual put-a-box-on-the-saloon kind of exercise that most European makers were doing on their wagons. And when the suspension is set to minimum like this, the look of this thing is absolutely gangster.
The Series 2’s most egregious flaws, such as those ill-fitting body-coloured bumpers, were partially offset by a few undeniable improvements, such as the addition of more substantial mirrors. In fact, these mirrors became one of the CX’s least likely success stories, as this innocuous piece of kit was adopted by loads of ‘90s sports cars, including the Aston Martin Vantage and the DB7, the Jaguar XJ220, the Lotus Elan and the Esprit, several TVRs, some early production McLaren F1s, Marcos, Venturi and even Renault – the very nemesis of Citroën! – used it for their Spider.
Another big let-down with the Series 2 cars is the interior. Standard dials replaced the whacky ones used in the previous series, the plastic got worse and the radio, set next to the handbrake, is an ergonomics nightmare. The oddly warm space-age ambiance of the Series 1 cars was replaced by a very ‘80s coldness, evident in everything from the seat fabric to the shape of the gear selector.
But at least, the amount of space remained identical. You don’t know what rear legroom is until you’ve parked your behind on the rear seat of a long wheelbase CX. The extra headroom afforded by the stepped roof, coupled with the thin C-pillar, must make the Break’s rear seat passengers feel like they’re in some kind of panoramic train.
Our feature car has the biggest engine seen on the CX, a fuel-injected 2.5 litre 4-cyl. providing 136hp, mated here with a ZF 3-speed automatic. The “ABS” script is here to reinforce the CX’s technological bragging rights, now that the model was over a decade old, and remind the world that the 1985 CX GTI was the first French car to feature ABS – soon broadened to all cars equipped with the big engine, including wagons.
The CX was the last big Cit that was also a big hit. The saloon was put to pasture at the end of MY 1989, but the Break was transferred to Heuliez and carried on for a couple of extra years, just so the XM Break could have enough time to be finalized and launched. Just over a million CX saloons were built, but the Break, being more of a specialist model, only tallied 125,000 units.
These are now becoming very rare indeed – even in their home country, i.e. the Netherlands. No! France, I mean France. (Our Dutch friends have been buying the best-looking classic Citroëns from unsuspecting French owners since the ‘70s, as is well known in both countries.) Perhaps, since the stock of viable French CXs is thinning out, it might be time to seek new CX-friendly ecosystems. And perhaps Japan is such an place, as the (few) CXs I’ve caught here were, as with most classics in Tokyo, in exceptionally good condition. Our wagon here is a case in point.
Values are going up. This car’s near identical twin – a mint condition metallic gray Series 2 Break with the same interior and engine (but a manual transmission) sold for just over €22,000. Ten years ago, you would have paid a tenth of that sum for the same car. Bearing in mind that a DS wagon can easily be worth twice that amount, the CX still has a ways to go. And some say that they are now rarer than the DSs, because they are far more difficult to restore. It’s a hard life for fans of the big Cit. They just can’t catch a Break.
Vintage Review: Citroën CX 2500 Diesel Pallas, by Yohai71
Car Show Outtake: 1982 Citroën CX 2400 GTi – Fuel Injected Flying Carpet, by Johannes Dutch