Thursday November 29, 2018
James Walshe was eight years old at the 1984 Birmingham Motor Show. It was there, on the Citroen stand, that the Deputy Editor of Practical Classics saw the vehicle that helped to shape his future automotive collection. ‘There was a GTi Turbo on a plinth, and I could not be moved; I was transfixed’. His father captured the moment on camera, as the youngster gawped at it.
Not even the paternal limited-edition Visa Drapeau with its blue and red “go-faster” stripes could compare with this vision in silver and so James embarked on a campaign of persuasion/coercion/pestering.
At one point the scheme appeared to have de-railed when Walshe Snr bought an Audi but eventually ‘in 1988 he finally acquired a CX, and my life was complete. He was a design engineer who had worked on Concorde, and he had a great eye for truly ground-breaking machines’.
An XM eventually succeeded the CX, but Father Walshe returned to the older Citroen because ‘he missed its looks, not to mention the CX’s unique steering’. By the time James was aged 23 and a radio journalist ‘I thought a good way to spend my earnings was to buy a GTi Turbo for £3,500. My father had advised me not to do it but, as with many 20-somethings I ignored his wise words. A day later the CX broke down on me. It subsequently did that often’.
Many of us have discovered that a car that is utterly beautiful can also be wholly unreliable and this proved the case with James’s first CX. A further problem was the GTi Turbo model ‘was an enigma to many garages, and it was not yet seen as a classic’.
The Citroen was ‘sold at a horrible loss’ but not before it achieve in the regional press. Its failure to proceed one day meant that James had little time to spare to ‘read the news in Leeds at six in the morning’, but while speeding up the M1, he was gonged near Barnsley. ‘The local paper headline read “Newsreader Escapes Ban for Motorway Madness”’.
After the GTi was sold on James acquired a second CX ‘for £250, and it proved utterly dependable. I gave it to a friend who was without sans after his VW Golf blew up’. Today, his fleet includes two of these formidable Citroens the youngest of the pair being an ultra-reliable 1988 22TRS. ‘I bought it in 2012, and it is my dream CX; the one I’ve always wanted. It is the same type of CX as my father’s with light grey upholstery and silver bodywork. And the mechanical simplicity is refreshing after the GTi’.
The TRS originally hailed from Coventry car and its first owner John Kearsley was recently reunited with the CX. It now lives in splendour in the Walshe motor home while its counterpart is a 1975 2200 – ‘one of the earliest CXs in existence and it was four hours away from being scrapped when I came by it’.
The Citroen had ‘sat in the long grass for quite a few years’ and needed ‘a fair bit of welding’. Furthermore, ‘this was to be a proper restoration with no short cuts’. The result is a prime example of an original and unadorned CX, which features in the new issue of Practical Classics as James’ latest restoration project.
This early 2200 was fitted with electric front windows, but there is no extraneous trim or decoration to mask its exquisite lines. The steering is unassisted which feels ‘very odd – rather like a DS and at times I was reaching for a column gear lever’. James believes that the CX had ‘far better composure’ than its predecessor – ‘the magic carpet qualities without that “roly poly” elements’.
James’ preference is for the later CX though. ‘I prefer the plastic bumper cars – Citroen built them properly and although they lost the rolling drum instruments and a little of the charming exterior chrome, they perfected all the foibles of the early cars. Any CX is a magnificent thing, though.’
James says the driving experience is peerless. ‘Once accustomed to the CX, you wonder why all cars are not like this. Even modern cars feel flabby, bumpy and vague after experiencing the sharpness and composure of a CX. To me, no other car feels as right as this’. James says style details such as the two shoulder-lines down the flanks and the concave rear screen are testament to the purity of its basic concept: To be the most aerodynamic car in the world.
Perhaps one of the greatest - and unconscious - complement paid to these great Citroens is that members of the public often do not look twice it as ‘they think it is another modern car’. The CX really was 40 years ahead of its time. ‘The shaped headlamps, fingertip controls… And that profile was copied by the SD1, the Sierra, Cavalier and hundreds of others since. Just take a look at a modern Audi A7. Nobody copied the DS. It was and still is unique. But the CX influenced everyone.’
WITH THANKS TO:
You can read the full story of James’ Citroën CX project in the current issue of Practical Classics magazine.