Citroën CX

James ex­plains why fix­ing his CX means so much to him

Practical Classics (UK) - - CONTENTS - James Walshe AS­SIS­TANT ED james.walshe@prac­ti­cal­clas­

Our love for the car would be noth­ing with­out the in­volve­ment of other hu­mans. From the de­signer to the new car buyer who orig­i­nally drove your clas­sic out of the show­room… to the suc­ces­sive own­ers, me­chan­ics and re­stor­ers re­spon­si­ble for its sur­vival over the years. Cars need peo­ple to cre­ate a story for the rest of us – and for the next gen­er­a­tion of en­thu­si­asts to en­joy.

The story of my favourite car on the planet – the Citroën CX – be­gan with Robert Opron. A French de­signer re­spon­si­ble for the fa­mous shark-like nose of the post-1967 DS, he later penned the GS, SM and among other mas­ter­pieces, the 1974 CX. When it was given a facelift nine years later, it fell to English­man Ge­off Matthews to up­date the de­sign.

This is the chap who, among other things, came up with the con­cept of the Re­nault Es­pace. Having helped to set the tem­plate for the mod­ern fam­ily car, aged 35, Ge­off landed the top de­sign­ers job at Citroën and ad­mit­ted he wasn’t very pop­u­lar with the team of mostly older de­sign­ers in an of­fice of now Peu­geot-led con­ser­vatism. ‘I was a long-haired English­man telling 64 French­men what to do!’

Ge­off owned a black GTI Turbo and, on one oc­ca­sion, bor­rowed a price­less con­cept ve­hi­cle he also de­signed. He took his fam­ily for a spin in the Cx-based ‘Eole’ – a move prob­a­bly frowned upon by PSA man­age­ment. Ge­off wasn’t known for do­ing things by the book. I be­came aware of his work when I fell in love with the CX at a mid-eight­ies mo­tor show and fi­nally bought my dream car – a late sil­ver 22 model – in 2013.

The next hu­man in the his­tory of my CX ar­rived in the form of an email from one John Kears­ley who – re­mark­ably – was the orig­i­nal owner of my car. He had spot­ted it in the pages of PC and felt com­pelled to write to tell me some­thing of its his­tory. ‘I walked into my lo­cal Citroën agent in Ox­ford in 1989 and fell in love with this ex-demo model’. John cher­ished the car un­til 2004 when

‘I now have fam­ily pho­tos of the CX to go in the ex­ten­sive his­tory file’

he had to part with it. ‘I wanted to keep it for­ever but cir­cum­stances change. I have missed the car and have reg­u­larly checked with the DVLA to see if it’s still taxed!’

Talk about a full ser­vice his­tory. Having vis­ited John’s home near Rugby, I now have fam­ily pho­tos of the CX that slot in per­fectly with ev­ery bill, tax disc and MOT cer­tifi­cate. I even have the orig­i­nal bill of sale, signed of course by John when he bought the car in 1989.

Me­chan­i­cal man

The for­tu­itous meet­ing with John took place ear­lier this sum­mer, just as I was com­ing to the end of my DS restora­tion. I used the CX to re­trieve parts for her older sis­ter and it was on the re­turn leg, with a boot­ful of com­po­nents, she suf­fered a cat­a­strophic en­gine fail­ure re­sult­ing in lots of steam and a sump full of a sub­stance not un­like chicken soup. We poured about twelve litres of wa­ter into the ex­pan­sion tank be­fore re­al­is­ing it was prob­a­bly find­ing its way into places where wa­ter re­ally shouldn’t be. So, on the very morn­ing my DS passed her MOT, her space in­side the work­shop was im­me­di­ately filled with the bro­ken hulk of my CX. As I write this, we have be­gun fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Citroën spe­cial­ist Barry An­nells will be an­other im­por­tant link in the hu­man chain of those re­spon­si­ble for the con­tin­ued ex­is­tence of the car – we’ll be work­ing to­gether to fix it. With such a hu­man el­e­ment of main­te­nance (and de­sign) be­ing slowly di­alled out of the new car equa­tion, you have to won­der if clas­sic car own­er­ship is about to change for­ever. Fu­ture clas­sics will need less span­ner­ing. Which brings me neatly back to Citroën de­signer Ge­off Matthews, who saw this all com­ing all the way back in 1990. ‘There is less room for visionary in­di­vid­u­als than there used to be: less room for the very peo­ple who gave us the car in­dus­try in the first place. The great old men of the car in­dus­try – the ones with the vi­sion and power to get things done – have gone. The Fer­di­nand Porsches, Enzo Fer­raris, Wil­liam Lioness, Henry Royces. Those men stamped their per­son­al­i­ties on their cars.’ Gone too, is Ge­off. He passed away re­cently and leaves be­hind an ex­tra­or­di­nary legacy. For me and you to be a part of the story of men like him is a priv­i­lege. By pre­serv­ing clas­sic cars, what­ever the make, model or era, we’re en­sur­ing they ex­ist for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. So with that, I’m off to the work­shop to get my car back on the road. There’s a prospec­tive buyer in 2067 just wait­ing to buy an im­mac­u­lately main­tained CX.

Citroën spe­cial­ist Barry An­nells probes James’ stricken CX

James and John with a car dear to both of them.

John Kears­ley back in the driv­ing seat of his old Citroën.

Ge­off Matthews with kids Mor­gan and Mi­randa in his Eole con­cept.

Young Howard Kears­ley in the late Eight­ies with James’ CX.

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