Cold comfort

If you’d spent all day leading a 2CV convoy around some of the nicer parts of Wales, you’d probably like nothing more than to curl up on the sofa with a cup of tea, enjoying the heat from a roaring fire. Bliss.

Into the night

Brrr! Sub zero and dark, but work continues into the night

Instead, last night I found myself standing around outside acting as assistant to my mate Mat while he made a brave attempt to cure some of the BX’s many problems. First was an attempt to reseat the hydraulic pressure regulator’s ball bearing, which was possibly to blame for a low tick time – the amount of time between pump runs. A healthy hydraulic Citroen can maintain pressure for at least 30 seconds before the pump needs to cut in and re-pressurise the system. Mine has been cutting in every second or so, despite a new accumulator sphere. This may all sound like gobbledegook, but it’s simpler than it sounds!

As it happens, while we thought there had been some success, it doesn’t seem to have made any difference at all. The power steering is also still intermittent, so suspicion is that it is either a weak pump, or blocked filters in the LHM reservoir. If I’m feeling brave, I may yet nip out and have a go at sorting that out! It’s still very cold outside, if less dark.

Next task was to replace two more glow plugs. I hurriedly changed a pair before it went in for welding work, but ran out of time to change the two trickiest ones. It’s an annoying job as lots of things get in the way. Some plugs can be removed with a socket, but one needs a spanner. Quickly sorted though, and starting is improved.

Then the wiper motor assembly was replaced due to horrific wear in the one fitted. The replacement isn’t perfect, but it is far better. You need good wipers in Wales.

Finally, we tackled the tailgate wiring, as it had not been reconnected following the welding work due to lack of time. The number plates and central locking now work, but eventually we had to concede that warmth and food were a good idea, so the heated rear window and rear wiper will have to wait for another (hopefully warmer!) time.

Today, I’ve been tackling various issues that the 2CV and Peugeot 309 have developed. The latter now has an improved exhaust system while the 2CV has a temporary replacement ignition barrel – courtesy of a Dyane – and a cleaner roof. I’m hoping for another dry day tomorrow so I can water-proof it… You have to get your tinkering in while the weather is dry, by day or night!

Maintaining momentum

The trickiest thing with any project is maintaining momentum. How often do you see the immortal words “unfinished restoration” accompanying a classified advert? Keeping a positive frame of mind can be very difficult, especially when tackling bodywork. What seemed achievable when the car was complete may seem horrifically daunting once you start digging into the structure and discovering just how rampant the rot is.

Citroen BX estate rear

BX is coming along, but a long way from finished

Mechanical overhauls can be a challenge too. You fix one thing and immediately, something else goes wrong.

I thought that tackling my Citroen BX Mk1 project as a rolling restoration was the way to go. I therefore focussed on getting it back on the road as a first step. It didn’t have significant corrosion in key areas and seemed mechanically able. It was still pleasing that it did get an MOT pass. Hoorah! However, I now wonder whether I’ve shot the gun so to speak. Yes, it may be on the road but it has so many minor issues that perhaps it shouldn’t be. Would it not have been better to work through some more of these problems first?

That’s how it feels at the moment as while I can drive the car, I get little pleasure from doing so. The engine is down on power, the hydraulics are not working entirely as they should, the windscreen wiper mechanism is so worn that the bodywork gets wiped/thumped, the front passenger door doesn’t really want to open, the heater doesn’t work apart from on its fastest setting, the indicator relay is a bit slow and ideally needs replacing, the rear wiper/HRW are not connected up and three of the tyres have slow punctures. I could go on but I won’t for fear of putting myself into a depression.

The problem is, I love driving and a properly sorted BX – even a 1.9 non-turbo diesel – is a joy to drive. Mine just isn’t and getting the problems sorted seems at this stage both difficult and expensive.

This is when project motivation can begin to stall. The end cannot be seen and it all starts to feel rather futile. With this one, there’s the added element of rarity. Sometimes that’s a pressure I don’t enjoy at all.

Oddly, I always seem to feel low just after a major milestone has been achieved. Perhaps that’s because while there’s celebration for one small task completed, there are so many more that need sorting!

BX project – fuel filter

I’ve put off changing the fuel filter on the BX for a few reasons, such as not really enjoying getting diesel all over my hands and the fact that I accidentally ordered the wrong fuel filters to start with…

It needed doing. The engine has felt a little underwhelming, a touch flat. I know 65bhp from a thumping, normally aspirated diesel is never going to exactly push the tyres to their limits, but it felt like it was suffering from fuel starvation. I could tell it wanted to give just a bit more…

Gunky mess

Slimey mess in the BX's fuel filter housing. Yuck!

So, it’s a simple case of disconnecting the hoses to the fuel filter housing (19mm headed bolts), removing the housing itself (two 13mm headed bolts and nuts) and then taking it apart in a suitable container (releasing the 11mm bolt on the bottom of the housing). This last bolt was VERY tight, but I finally defeated it and could pull the housing apart. The filter plopped out, showing obvious signs of gunky debris, with a good layer of slime at the bottom of the housing too. No doubt this built up during the 3 years of inactivity while this car sat in a garage.

With the housing cleared out and a new filter fitted, it was then a case of bleeding the system and taking it for a test drive. There’s a 12mm bleed bolt on the housing so I released this and pumped the prime button until fuel came out. It took a few spluttering attempts before the engine ran, but it did seem a bit more eager.

However, that might have all been in my mind as out on the road, it still felt flat. I decided at this point to give it a slosh of unleaded fuel. These engines have been known to respond well to a touch of petrol mixing with the diesel, so I slopped in 5 litres with a fresh dose of diesel. On the return journey, it did feel a little less hesitant, so hopefully this combination of factors will lead to improved performance. So far, I reckon it’s not even doing 40mpg as I’m having to drive absolutely everywhere with my foot right to the floor! I know I’m a quick driver, but I expect even a normally aspirated BX diesel to feel a little more perky.

I shall see how it performs over the coming weeks, before it goes in for some drastic metalwork surgery later in the month. Hopefully this’ll lead to me being able to use the tailgate again…

The first long journey

Well, after just under two months of ownership, a lot of hard graft had the BX prepared for its first long journey. It now had MOT, replacement second-hand tyres, a new battery, radiator, water pump, cambelt, oil and filter. Test drives and local journeys had allowed me to clock up about 80 miles since returning it to the road. I was now going to undertake a 250 mile road-trip to Anglesey and back in a bid to locate some much-needed parts.

A drive the day before revealed a sudden drop in coolant level, but this seems largely to have been down to trapped air in the system. I carefully bled the system again, raising the front of the car by driving it onto ramps. Time was running out though, so I could do little else than keep my fingers crossed!

BXs

Ian's BX meets a few friends on its first long drive in years

After about 30 miles, I was really settling into the groove. I had some concerns about a slight looseness in the steering. I suspect a tired strut top and wishbone bushes. There was an occasional scraping from the rear too, which I suspect is flakes of rust resting on the brake disc. I’ll get that checked out. Being a normally aspirated diesel, and the earlier 65bhp incarnation of this engine (later BXs had 71bhp), she was struggling on the hills a bit, and perhaps more than I remember from my last BX. There was no doubt that she was barreling along quite merrily though, especially on the flatter sections. The engine settles down to a gentle hum on the move.

A quick stop at my mate’s house to fit a new accumulator sphere didn’t hold us up for long before we headed out onto the road once more, discovering just how bad the wind noise is. There are many broken window seals, and a massive hole in the boot floor! The tailgate still doesn’t fit very well either.

With parts collected – including a new tailgate – we could return home, with only the rhythmic THUMP of the windscreen wiper detracting from an otherwise easy first trip. I guess that needs some work as well as it’s going off the bottom of the windscreen…

So, still lots to do, but at least the BX seems happy to be used while the work continues. Now it’s just a case of finding the time…

BX – assessing the cost

A quick trip to my ‘local’ garage saw the somewhat iffy exhaust downpipe replaced on the BX. How pleasant it is to have  car which sounds so very different! £78 well spent, especially as replacing it was a fiddly pain in the backside – how nice it was to pay for someone else to struggle with it! In fact,  I was very glad I hadn’t had a go at the job myself – if it was this much of a struggle for two people with it on a ramp, I wouldn’t have fancied my chances with it sitting on axle stands and me lying on my back underneath. A good decision!

BX and Range Rover

New BX project causes some sacrifice on the fleet

A restoration can be a costly business and indeed, I reckon the total expenditure on the BX (including taxing it and collecting it from Bristol) is somewhere around £700. This is why I’m so glad to have sold the Saab – this project needs funding! The Saab isn’t the only casualty on the fleet though – the Range Rover is also going to have to depart. At least I got in while values are still low. Give it another few years and I doubt there will be such thing as a cheap Range Rover Classic…

To get the BX back to nice condition is going to cost a lot more though, which makes for some tricky decisions. This is one of the rarest cars in the UK, yet I don’t expect that putting it on the market would result in a flurry of interest from people with lots of cash. I reckon that just getting it straight and rust free could take my expenditure up to £1500, but it’ll really need a complete stripdown and rebuild to look anyway decent. That could get very expensive indeed, especially when you consider that a BX topping a grand is rare indeed.

There’s also the small matter of not having endless stocks of cash. My wife and I have chosen a low-income lifestyle and cars do seem a very expensive hobby! It will be interesting to see how this all pans out.

 

The BX hits the road

With the BX home, I could crack on with the most important jobs. The new radiator was fitted and I managed to free off the reluctant rear seat belts. Other than that, I thought she stood a pretty good chance of passing an MOT, though not being a tester myself, you never know what might be discovered…

As she sat on the ramp and I got my first proper look at the underside, it was pleasing to see how solid she was. There was a touch of softness in the sill – not near anything critical thankfully – but it’s the nearside sill, which has a ruddy great dent in it anyway. It will be replaced at some point. However, the tester spotted what looks like a serious leak from the water pump. I’d spotted this myself at home and had hoped it was something else.

BX is on the road!

It may be battered and bruised, but the BX is now road legal!

That’s not a real biggy – if you’re changing the timing belt, it’s sensible to fit a new water pump at the same time anyway. If the pump seizes, the belt will rip and the valves of the engine will meet the pistons. Bad news indeed. Parts are on order so look forward to a report on how the change went.

Amazingly though, I got my MOT pass! Or rather the car did. Yes, she looks dreadful but as I thought, she’s actually a good, solid car beneath all the dents. As she’d been in regular use before being stored (and stored pretty well) she feels ready to go.

I’m under no illusion that this project is a long way from over. There is considerable expenditure on bodywork to occur at some point, and the to do list remains sizeable. The priority, as ever, is to get her in regular use and hopefully tackle some of the major bodywork projects next year.

 

Saving the unloved – Citroen BX Mk1

I have always found great joy in the cars that the wider public consider rubbish. I’ve been into Citroen 2CVs since long before they were accepted into the classic car world, and ‘desirable’ is a label that rarely attaches itself to one of my fleet. The reasons are simple – if people don’t like it, then it’ll be cheap. Best of all, a bit of bravery often leads you to discover that these ‘shite’ cars are often far better than anyone ever gives them credit for!

This is how I tried to justify my latest project –  a Citroen BX Mk1 estate, with 65bhp of throbbing diesel power. The cream on the cake of shiteness was the condition. There’s barely a straight panel on it and it had been languishing in a Bristol basement garage for over three years.

Citroen BX Mk1 estate project

You see a pile of scrap, Ian sees potential

First glance was certainly not promising. The paint is shambolic, the tyres were flat and cobwebs and dust abounded. However, it seemed solid in all the right places – if not all over – and had been in regular use prior to being parked up. That can make all the difference. Three years wasn’t too long to leave it.

A plan was hatched to collect it, using my Range Rover as a tow vehicle and a hired trailer. My biggest concern was about whether the BX would be prepared to start. Thankfully, the owner had stored the car on blocks – which meant we could get a jack under it if it refused to start. Trying to move a hydraulic Citroen with a dead engine can be a real challenge!

The owner’s Citroen Xantia was used to coax some electricity into the BX, and miraculously, it actually started! It took a few attempts, and it ran on three cylinders for quite a while, but nonetheless, the ran and the suspension began to pump up.

Getting the BX out of the garage proved a tight squeeze and once it was on the trailer, life didn’t get much easier. It really was a tight little street!

Range Rover in tight spot

Bristol proves a tight squeeze

Somehow we escaped, and the three hour journey home proved undramatic. The Range Rover proved itself an ideal tow vehicle – it’s Italian diesel engine slogging away quite happily without having to be revved hard. Agricultural but torquey!

Getting the BX off the trailer proved a surprisingly entertaining side show for the villagers where I live. The LHM level was a bit low, and the back end of the BX was failing to rise adequately. We overcame this by unhitching the trailer and raising the nose on the jockey wheel. Off she came! I then got to drive my new purchase for the first time, if only down the driveway.

The exhaust was blowing very badly – that much was obvious – but it seemed to go well enough. The brakes even worked – not bad after so long in storage! With the car in the garage, I was able to get the wheels off and check the brakes. Yup, a little rusty but working fine. I cleaned them up a bit and left it at that.

The radiator was clearly a right mess though, so a new one was ordered and fitted. I still think the fan switch also needs replacing, and the water pump has now also proved itself leaky. New items are on order, along with a timing belt kit.

With the new rad fitted though, I could focus on getting the BX road ready. I reckoned it was close to passing an MOT, so with a replacement driver’s door mirror fitted – thanks to Tim Leech of the BX Club, and a few replacement light bulbs, it was time to take her in. Would she pass?!

To be continued…

BX - it lives!

The BX lives!