My relationship with the Citroen BX

No, not like that. Behave.

In early 1999, I bought the nicest car I’d ever owned. That may not sound that bold a statement for a 20-year old to make, but in three years, I’d already owned about seven cars. All of them rubbish (if lovable). That changed when I handed over the extraordinary sum of £1600 for a 1992 Citroen BX 19TGD in silver. Sadly, I don’t seem to have any photos of it in electronic form, so you’ll have to take my word for it. It was silver and felt hugely rapid! It was a 1.9 non-turbo diesel, so most of that was down to the fact that my only other experiences were 2CVs, Dyanes or a 1-litre Fiesta and a 1-litre Skoda Estelle that barely worked. Compared to these, the BX was a flyer, and it had five gears!

I clocked up about 6000 miles in six months, taking its total over 150,000. It still drove incredibly well, but I stupidly traded it in for a brand new Daewoo Matiz later in 1999. I have made better decisions over the years.

It didn't look much better, even in focus

It didn’t look much better, even in focus

Not until 2004 did I get my hands on another BX. This time, rather than a 71bhp diesel, I opted for the most powerful BX (Group B rally cars excepting) that you could buy. The fearsome 160bhp 16-valve. It was ludicrously quick, ludicrously shoddy and huge fun. I somehow clocked up about 4000 miles in it during a frantic eight weeks of ownership, including trips to Devon and North Yorkshire. It was utterly knackered, but kept on going somehow. It was sold and later broken for spares, where it was discovered that it was hopelessly rotten. Oops.

I sold it mainly because my driving licence was in real danger. In a diesel BX, the power is pretty much all gone by 4000rpm. In a 16V, it’s only just waking up. Hitting 4000rpm felt like pressing a nitrous button. The thing would leap down the road and the scenery went all blurry. The problem was, you just wanted to keep on doing it! That was a problem in a car that would spring from 30mph to 70mph in just 7.4 seconds. Blink, and your speed was illegal. It was still hugely addictive, with the engine roaring in a manner that just encouraged you to be a hooligan. It had to go. It was swapped for a far more gentle Rover 414 ‘bubble.’

It would be a few more years until I scratched the BX itch again. A foolish plan was hatched by a friend and I, to take part in a Citroen BX rally that would drive around the perimeter of France – about 3000 or so miles. The only slight sticking point was that we didn’t own a BX. Happily, I found one on Ebay that sounded ideal and was on our doorstep. I bought it with an entire month still to go. It had 142,000 miles on the clock, and had lived in our village for most of its life.

It was so clean when I bought it!

It was so clean when I bought it!

Frankly, it was the best £266 I’d ever spent on a car. It didn’t come with much service history, but I popped to our local garage, and then got a print out going back years! I now had a fully historied diesel, in pretty good condition, with tax and MOT, for next to nothing. Result! Sure, the heater control had been cobbled together with a bicycle brake cable and the rear suspension arm bearings were groaning a bit, but I didn’t care. It’d be perfect! It just needed a livery…

Is it time to bid farewell to the BX?

The Green Tiger ready for its trip to France

It was too. I treated it to a service and then we headed off, wondering just what we’d let ourselves in for. Ok, so it wasn’t problem free (one split coolant hose and a rear disc shroud fell off) but we clocked up over 3000 miles in 17 days, averaging 48mpg in our £266 car. I felt a real bond with it after that, and couldn’t bear to part with the car or the graphics. It became my daily driver.

We used it to drive around Wales one weekend, where we found the house we wanted to move to. It helped us move too, with several 400-mile trips back and forth from Cambridgeshire. We went on holiday to Scotland in it. We once got stuck in a hideous snow storm in it. We even once slept in it (actually, I didn’t learn my lesson and attempted this once more on my own at a later date, with little more sucess).

Naturally though, I got bored with it in the end, and flogged it to a friend of mine. He hideously abused it for 30,000 miles and when I got it back, it was in a very sorry state. I tried to revive it – it remains the only car I’ve owned twice – but my love for it just wasn’t there anymore. I sold it for a pittance to someone who uncovered a lot of serious rot. It was sadly scrapped last year. It didn’t half pack a lot into its last few years though!

Not long after first selling it, I got wind of something quite remarkable. A Mk1 Citroen BX estate! At the time, these were just impossible to find. I paid £250 for it and dragged it home with my Range Rover. This one did not have full history and an MOT. It was a wreck.

BX is on the road!

The wreck I revived. What a car

The above was taken after several months of ownership. It took that long to fettle it into a state where it could just about scrape an MOT. I won two awards for it at two shows, both for worst car there! Truth was though, I found it a bit of a disappointment. The Mk1 BX has the wacky, original dashboard with utterly bonkers controls.


Bonkers, complete with rotating drum speedo

It was as insane as a Citroen dashboard should be. For example, there were no column stalks, just a lot of switches within easy reach of the steering wheel, banked down each side. You indicated by using a rocker switch. A slider controlled lights or the front wiper. The speedometer needle did not move, so the speedometer itself did, rotating around on a drum. I probably spent FAR too much time looking at how fast I was going, just because of how lovely a speedo it was. Thankfully, it was a diesel (and a poorly one at that) so I was never travelling very quickly.

But the switchgear wasn’t very nice to use. I didn’t enjoy it even half as much as a CX I’d owned earlier. I actually began to pine for the later Mk2, which still groups switchgear around the steering wheel, just with more sanity and sensible dials. I sold the Mk1 to a very enthusiastic enthusiast, who has continued its restoration. It still looks dreadful though! I still love it for that.

I was still feeling the BX love though, so bought my first turbo diesel for £375 in 2011. The extra performance was nice, as was even better fuel economy (54mpg on a run) thanks to taller gearing. That made it better on motorways than the non-turbo diesel. More refined.

Citroen BX turbo diesel

This car was very quick. Its Peugeot alloys were sold very quickly

I hate alloy wheels, so they were quickly sold. With the proceeds, I purchased a set of winter tyres and found them superb. I also fitted a remote central locking kit. Wonderful. I liked this car a lot, but began to miss the extra practicality of the estate – nice as it was to have a sunroof. It lacked a tow bar too, so for some reason, I bought another BX that was (in theory) better.

BX estate turbo diesel

BX Turbo Diesel estate was not as good as I’d hoped

Now I briefly owned two BXs! The red estate had covered over 300,000 miles. The thing was, it felt it! I lost my love for the vehicle after it blew a front-to-rear pipe, which cost almost as much (£400) as I’d paid for the car (£500). The silver BX got sold, which was probably a mistake looking back. The red estate later got swapped for a Volkswagen Golf, which was not a mistake – though it did quickly make me realise how inferior the Golf was when it came to ride comfort.

So, I left the world of BXs on a bit of a dark note. I decided to have a break from them. That’s lasted since July 2013 so far, and it’s now February 2014. I’m looking forward to a return to BXs once more – my fourth non-turbo diesel! I’ve gone through my reasoning before, so I won’t do again. While the BX isn’t perfect though – I get very frustrated by the single windscreen wiper, lack of a flip-wipe and flimsy interior build quality – I still haven’t yet managed to find a car that really matches it as a general all-rounder. Not that I’ll stop looking of course! That’d be silly.




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