Life Cy­cle

This Citroën has hauled a fam­ily around, shared a garage with su­per­cars, and gone from con­cours to barn find and back via some un­usual twists of fate

Classic Cars (UK) - - Contents - Words SAM DAW­SON Pho­tog­ra­phy ALEX TAPLEY

The Citroën CX GTI that went from daily driver, to con­cours, to barn find and back via a se­ries of won­der­ful co­in­ci­dences

Alan Make­peace buys it new in 1979 for £7026.06

‘I’d had a Citroën SM for eight years from new, and did all the work on it my­self,’ ex­plains se­rial Citroën owner Alan Make­peace as he re­mem­bers his car own­er­ship in the Seven­ties. ‘I’d even fit­ted an im­proved ig­ni­tion sys­tem to it, and it was in good run­ning or­der. I would have kept it in­def­i­nitely if I’m hon­est, but in 1979 I’d just started to no­tice rust blis­ters com­ing through on the front wings and didn’t want to do body­work re­pairs. I’m fine sort­ing out any­thing me­chan­i­cal but once rust gets hold of a car it’s an end­less bat­tle, so I sold it to a fel­low en­thu­si­ast.

‘I went down to my lo­cal Citroën deal­er­ship in Brad­ford and or­dered a new CX GTI. They didn’t make the SM any more but this 2.4-litre short geared sport­ing ver­sion of the CX was in­tended as a re­place­ment of sorts. The or­der­ing process was fairly straight­for­ward. I sim­ply chose the colour – white – and se­lected air con­di­tion­ing rather than a ra­dio. It was an either/or op­tion be­cause the con­trols oc­cu­pied the same dash­board slot. It would’ve been an un­usual choice at the time, but I’d had air­con in my SM and got used to it, and have had it in every car since.’

Mint daily-driven CX rep­re­sents the breed in 1984

Al­though the CX was Make­peace’s daily driver, trans­port­ing his fam­ily around, he kept it in su­perb con­di­tion, and has al­ways been an ac­tive mem­ber of the Citroën Car Club. The car was of­ten cho­sen to rep­re­sent the CX on club stands at car shows, es­pe­cially once the long-lived model be­came some­what blander to look at in­side and out fol­low­ing Citroën’s 1985 Se­ries 2 restyling. As the chrome bumpers started to date it, Make­peace em­braced the car’s his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance.

‘I started to en­ter it in Citroën Car Club con­cours,’ ex­plains Make­peace, ‘and al­ways seemed to end up be­ing beaten to the tro­phy by a DS Sa­fari owned by Len Drew. I al­ways felt it was a bit un­fair be­cause Len would trailer that DS to the com­pe­ti­tions and kept it per­fect in his garage in be­tween, whereas I used my CX every day!’ At one such event at Kneb­worth in 1984, a young Dyane-driv­ing New­cas­tle Uni­ver­sity stu­dent named Neil Os­bourn took a photo of Make­peace’s CX, sim­ply as an en­thu­si­ast who planned to per­haps buy one some­day. Lit­tle did he know that, more than 30 years later, he’d own this very car.

1989 – con­cours suc­cess at last!

‘Af­ter years of com­ing se­cond to that DS, I de­cided to en­ter the CX in the Ben­son & Hedges Con­cours heat at Har­ro­gate in 1989, and it won!’ ex­claims Make­peace. Or­gan­ised by Clas­sic Cars mag­a­zine through­out the late Eight­ies, ‘the B&H’ was a huge and hotly-con­tested na­tional multi-mar­que con­cours open to any car more than ten years old, with a se­ries of re­gional heats cul­mi­nat­ing in a grand fi­nal in the sum­mer. Make­peace had in­tended to en­ter the CX in the B&H a year ear­lier – Len Drew had won it out­right in 1988 with the CX’S con­cours-neme­sis DS – but at nine years old the CX was con­sid­ered too new. By the time the Har­ro­gate heat came about in 1989 the CX was ten years and one month old.

As Brian Palmer re­ported in the Oc­to­ber 1989 is­sue, ‘Class E saw John Norris as Run­ner-up in his Jensen In­ter­cep­tor Se­ries II. But he was bested on the day by Alan Make­peace, an­other Har­ro­gate con­tes­tant, in a quite re­mark­able Citroën CX GTI – an un­usual en­try which demon­strates just how quickly time flies.’ The vic­to­ri­ous CX – a model still in pro­duc­tion at the time con­test­ing a cat­e­gory in which Jensen In­ter­cep­tors were con­sid­ered modern clas­sics – went through to the In­ter­na­tional Fi­nal at Strat­ford-upon-avon, where it was beaten in Class E by Phillip Walker’s Jaguar E-type and ul­ti­mately John Hea­gren’s plas­tic bumper MG BGT V8, which also picked up the over­all In­ter­na­tional Cham­pion ti­tle, in­her­it­ing it from Drew.

‘It just missed out!’ ex­claims Make­peace, ‘but we had a lovely time with it. I didn’t keep it for much longer af­ter that though – iron­i­cally I sold it be­cause it was in such good con­di­tion and I sim­ply didn’t want it to de­te­ri­o­rate, so it went to Roger Brad­ford in 1991.’ It had racked up 49,000 miles in 12 years.

The CX joins the Whit­ney col­lec­tion in 1992

‘I’d got a job with an in­vest­ment com­pany in the very early Eight­ies and my first com­pany car was a Citroën GSA Pal­las,’ re­calls Paul Whit­ney. ‘I was due an up­grade in 1983 with a £6300 bud­get. At this time an en­try-level 2.0-litre CX was £7200, so I rang up Citroën UK’S head of­fice and said ‘I’m a very happy GSA owner and would like to stay with Citroën but can’t af­ford a new CX – can we do a deal?’ They asked me if I’d have a prob­lem with a 1983 model rather than a 1984, which I didn’t, and I was of­fered a base-model CX in Bri­tish rac­ing green-type Vert Char­treuse for £6200.

‘It re­ally gave me a lik­ing for them, so nearly ten years later I bought this used GTI from Roger Brad­ford’s place on the M1. I had a vi­sion to build a col­lec­tion of Citroëns. Brad­ford threw an old GS in with the sale for free – it was fall­ing to pieces but was still a GS, and ideal for my son to learn to drive in – and I also wanted an SM, a Big 15, a Light 15 and so on. I wanted an ex­am­ple of every sig­nif­i­cant Citroën.

‘I bought a Big 15 that some­one had spent £15k restor­ing, and went look­ing for either an early 2CV or an SM, but then I bought a new house in Nor­folk that didn’t have enough garag­ing space for the planned col­lec­tion, so had to give the Citroëns away to my chil­dren. Not long af­ter I sep­a­rated from my wife and was liv­ing in Lon­don, but the CX re­mained in Nor­folk along with sev­eral other cars in­clud­ing a Fer­rari F355.

‘I sim­ply didn’t have any­where else to keep it. It was ex­pen­sive for a CX, and a con­cours win­ner too, so I couldn’t have used it as an everyday car, but I didn’t get the chance to drive it either so I hardly used it. It was a great car, and very rare too es­pe­cially in GTI form with chrome bumpers, but I laid it up for too long.’

GWX changes own­er­ship in 2003 with­out mov­ing

‘In 2003 I left Nor­folk for good,’ says Whit­ney, ‘and left the CX to my ex-wife along with a Bond Bug – I’d test-driven one of those back at uni­ver­sity and al­ways wanted one but couldn’t af­ford one at the time. I gave my Lo­tus Elan to my daugh­ter, who lives in France and is mar­ried to Gra­ham, a mo­tor me­chanic. My wife sold the house and had a clear-out, and Gra­ham came over to get the CX’S en­gine run­ning again, then went back to France. It’s nice hav­ing all these cars, but you have to use them or they get tired. Al­though it was in con­cours con­di­tion when I bought it, only driv­ing a few miles to warm it up every now and then can’t have done it much good. It ended up with col­lapsed sus­pen­sion and a front wing dented by a builder’s lad­der. Mean­while the F355 was fol­lowed by an As­ton Van­quish and now a Lam­borgh­ini Gal­lardo Spi­der, all of which need ex­er­cis­ing as of­ten as pos­si­ble.’

2016 – Neil Os­bourn is reac­quainted with GWX

‘In the Eight­ies I was newly-mar­ried; my wife Jan­ice and I had a Dyane and a Visa, and were mem­bers of the Citroën Car Club,’ says Neil Os­bourn. ‘My first com­pany car was a Ford Es­cort, but I per­suaded my boss to re­place it with a BX. Jan­ice and I would go to club ral­lies in Har­ro­gate and I as­pired to own the top of the range – the CX GTI. Back then I took pho­tos of cars I liked – that pic­ture I took at Kneb­worth was a happy coin­ci­dence be­cause the GTI was parked next to a Trac­tion road­ster, so for me it was a dou­ble coup.

‘In May 1988 I got a BX GTI, which was writ­ten off two months later by a lorry at a T-junc­tion. I was due a pro­mo­tion as a town plan­ning con­sul­tant in Swin­don, and per­suaded my boss to let me have a £10k rather than an £8k car, “be­fit­ting a level I as­pired to reach,” and so I got a CX 22 Croisette. But I still longed for a Se­ries 1 CX, with the chrome bumpers and re­volv­ing-drum in­stru­ments.

‘I knew Alan Make­peace had sold his GTI in 1991, and Roger Brad­ford had kept it for a year, do­ing 700 miles in it. He had a lot of re­spect for his CXS but was never one to let cars hang around. And then sud­denly in 1992 it seemed to dis­ap­pear off the face of the Earth.

‘I’ve known Rob Moss of Chevron­ics since he was a school­boy sell­ing a col­lec­tion of Ami parts from his bed­room – I was his first cus­tomer! In 2016 Rob bought a GS to re­store from a man who told him “my brother-in-law has a CX, are you in­ter­ested?” We went off on a Satur­day trip into the wilds of Nor­folk planned around a nice pub lunch, ex­pect­ing to find a rusty £100 wreck, and in­stead found a house with a huge brick barn with ten cars in it. I lifted a blan­ket and there it was – the white GTI I’d first seen 28 years ago. It was sat right down on the floor, hadn’t moved in 19 years,

‘Only driv­ing it a few miles here and there didn’t do it any good’

the lead­ing edge of the bon­net had rusted through and damp in the barn’s walls had left the in­te­rior very mildewed – but cru­cially there was hardly any rust in the sills or door bot­toms. I didn’t want a restora­tion project CX, but I men­tioned it to Jan­ice later and she said “you’ll kick your­self if you don’t buy it!”

‘Le­gal own­er­ship had passed to an­other mem­ber of the Whit­ney fam­ily, also based in France, but he was only con­tactable via his English mo­bile phone when he was work­ing in Paris. I ar­ranged sale of the car via this third party in France, who I never met. It took a month, and the sale was fi­nally agreed a week be­fore the Au­gust bank hol­i­day in 2016, with de­liv­ery ar­ranged to Chevron­ics. Rob Moss per­formed a light restora­tion – dur­ing which a rat skele­ton was found in the rot­ting in­te­rior – and I col­lected it on De­cem­ber 1.’

2017 – ‘Does any­one know Alan Make­peace?’

In April 2017 I’d taken my newly ac­quired Peu­geot 405 SRI out for a drive, and was over­taken on the A1 by a suc­ces­sion of French clas­sics, in­clud­ing a white CX GTI. Re­mem­ber­ing that the PSA X-rally was be­ing held at Burleigh House, I fol­lowed the CX into Stam­ford to join the show. ‘That was the CX’S first pub­lic out­ing in more than 20 years!’ Os­bourn tells me. ‘It was the first time we drove it any real dis­tance.

‘I treated the CX gen­tly for the first few months. Dur­ing one early drive Jan­ice found the en­tire ser­vice his­tory in the glove­box, and asked an open ques­tion on the Citroën Car Club’s Face­book page, “Does any­one know Alan Make­peace?” Not long af­ter we had a phone call from Alan out of the blue, which turned into a long chat, and he met us on the CCC North­ern Rally in Wetherby in May to be re­united with it.’

In Novem­ber 2017 the CX re­turned to its early role as a con­cours con­tender. ‘I had my Ami Su­per at the Prac­ti­cal Clas­sics Restora­tion Show in 2016, where I’d men­tioned to the show’s PR An­drea Seed that I’d got a CX I was putting back to­gether. She wanted it for the 2017 Restora­tion Show, but it hadn’t been shaken down quite prop­erly yet. In­stead, it went to the NEC Clas­sic Mo­tor Show, where it joined the Pride of Own­er­ship con­cours dis­play.

‘Alan Make­peace did 49,000 miles in this car. It only has 52,000 on the clock now, but there will be many more to come,’ says Os­bourn as he sur­veys his CX along­side his other clas­sics at his home in Cam­bridgeshire, in­clud­ing DS, BX and 2CV. ‘I won’t be get­ting rid of any of my clas­sics. I won’t be buy­ing any more Citroëns though – I’ve had 22!’

‘The first owner did 49,000 miles in this car. It only has 52,000 on the clock now‘

A fate­ful photo taken in 1984 by an un­be­knownst fu­ture owner of GWX...

Cur­rent CX owner Neil Os­bourn likes his cars prac­ti­cal yet sporty

GWX is now back in a high place af­ter be­ing sym­pa­thet­i­cally recom­mis­sioned

Be­ing judged at the fi­nal of the 1989 B&H con­cours

Os­bourn ap­pre­ci­ates the CX Gti’s many id­iosyn­cra­cies

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