After creating that new Volvo, I’ve just gone station-wagon crazy! Remember that Citroën CX we did the wheel swap on? Well, I’m going to explain a little about the real thing, and give my opinion on the car.
The first thing some of the nerds are going to do is berate me for having hooked it up to a Majorette “Sterckeman Lovely 400” caravan. Unfortunately, the Sterckeman is the only caravan I own – and, the French being the great caravan holidayers of Europe, I thought a Citroën CX deserved one.
Citroën have always been very good at this. Anyone who knows the story of the DS will immediately see the Citroën innovative heritage in the CX.
Introduced in 1974, the CX rapidly scooped up the European Car of the Year award the following year. The car was a marvel of modern engineering innovation, known in particular for incorporating Citroën’s then groundbreaking hydropneumatic self-levelling suspension.
The CX enjoyed success because it appealed to the already loyal DS cult following and beyond.
Technology from the Citroën SM was also incorporated on board, including the DIRAVI adjustable power steering. The steering wheel had no column stalks – all controls were now accessible through buttons on the steering wheel, a design innovation you Edsel fans will be familiar with.
Road noise supression and superb ride quality were achieved through a sub-frame suspension fitted to the body through flexible mountings – a system that Rolls Royce actually gained use for on their Silver Shadow. The Germans were a bit sneakier, and copied the system for their 450SEL (their earlier Air Suspension proved inferior).
Like any French car, reliability and “teething troubles” were an issue. With power steering not being installed on some models (despite 70% of the weight distributed over the front wheels), company bankruptcy, poor investments, and a modest engine replacing the original rotary design, the CX often fell short of its potential.
The 1973 oil crisis affected the vehicle, and was still being felt through the 1970s – so a range of engines were available, including an “Economique” version – which was actually the same engine as the regular, but with different gear ratios and a reduced top speed.
The car was produced at an entire new facility at Aulnay-sous-Bois. This came at a massive cost – most notably, the price being the takeover by Peugeot in 1976.
When Peugeot took over, development of the CX was placed on the back burner, as their delicate executive car financial investments were funnelled into the Peugeot 604 and the Talbot Tagora.
As a result, the improvements on unreliable components (ironically, the reliability issues were not in the Citroën’s advanced engineering, but in the basic components like the starter motor and electrical connections) was slow, and the CX found it difficult to shake off its poor reputation for build quality.
By 1981, sales had tumbled, and there was no replacement on the horizon. Citroën, defiant of its parent, tried to design a CX replacement in 1980 and in 1986. Both times, Peugeot fired the people responsible.
A replacement for the CX Saloon was revealed in 1989, and was based on the Peugeot 605 chassis. It was rather ordinary, incorporating very little from the far-out spaceship styling of the CX.
In 2006, Citroën unveiled the C6, which was a funky executive car seemingly descended from the CX. Limited numbers were sold – only 20,000 – so the project ended in 2012.
Matchbox’s Citroën CX was produced from 1979 to 1985, and debuted in the Superfast series 1-75.
My version sports “Team Matchbox” (with “Team” incorporated into what appears to be a bicycle) livery on yellow metal body, with red interior paint and black metal base. The body style is the 7-seater “Familiale” with the station wagon/shooting-brake design and the raised roof, as opposed to the more commonly seen fastback version.
An interesting feature is the opening boot lid, which is made of plastic and is attached to the clip via two more rivets (with the Majorette Volvo 245, we saw that his boot lid was attached by just the metal clip).
The car comes with floaty suspension, courtesy of the Matchbox flexible metal suspension plate. Wheels are not original, as those had been warn and warped and did not ride properly.
The quality is, like all Matchbox of the period, superb, if not for the exterior damage to the paint (but we were all kids once, right?)
I’m hoping to restore this to sit nicely amongst my other cars. What colour do you think it should be?
Citroën CX Facts
- “CX” is the French equivalent of the English “Cd” meaning drag coefficient, referencing the car’s aerodynamic styling.
- The car was designed by Robert Opron, who was nominated for Car Designer of the Century in 1999.
- The CX was considered by enthusiasts as the last “real Citroën” following the company’s takeover in 1976.
- The CX had a transverse engine design.
- The CX was initially supposed to have a rotary engine.
- The full capabilities of the CX chassis were used when, in 1985, Citroën introduced the GTi Turbo gasoline model, with a top speed of over 137mph.
- The CX won five rally events in races like Paris-Dakar and Tour du Senegal.
- Just as the 1958 Edsel had used push-button control on the steering wheel, the CX also used a similar “floating drum” speedometer.
- Citroën believe that turning signals should not cancel themselves.
- The Citroën’s suspension made it valuable as an ambulance.
- In 1974, the year that the CX was released, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) prohibited height-adjustable suspension in passenger vehicles, killing off Citroën sales in North America. (The USA had bans on many automotive innovations “not invented there”) This also meant that Mercedes had to re-engineer their 450SEL for the American market. The ban was repealed in 1981.
- French President Jacques Chirac had a CX for many years.
- In 2010, Jeremy Clarkson built the “Citroën Grand Design” for BBC Top Gear; a motorhome styled to look like a contemporary three-storey house, built on top of a Citroen CX Break.
- Citroën CX mirrors were used on a lot of British sports cars, like the Lotus Esprit.
- Erich Honecker’s 1984 CX 2500 Injection prestige sold for over $100,000 dollars at Artcurial in 2015.
Featured Image: Citroën CX, by Achim Bodewig. Flickr. Original