Citroen CX Buyers Guide
The following buyers guides are based on Rudy Heilig's experience in 25 years
of buying, selling, inspecting and repairing Citroens. The values listed
are based on his sales experience in Southern California - automobile
prices can be very regional and therefor these values should only be used
as a guide.
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if you feel we overlooked something that should be added to our buyers'
Above: A steel-bumpered 1981 CX Pallas
The Citroen CX was introduced with much fanfare at the August 1974 Paris
Motor Show. Its shape inspired by the SM and GS, the aerodynamic and futuristic
CX had a tough act to follow: the venerable Citroen DS. The CX was the last
car to be entirely designed in-house, before Peugeot bought the company
in 1975 and started taking the company mainstream. Although it's introduction
didn't shake up the motoring world like the 1955 unveiling of the DS, the
CX was futuristic and idiosyncratic enough to distinguish it as a Citroen.
The European Automotive Press was impressed enough to award the CX "Car
of the Year." The handling, ride, and styling quickly made it the car
of choice for business executives and politicians. Citroen further expanded
that market niche by introducing the extended wheelbase CX Prestige in 1975.
Due to its large size by European standards and healthy thirst for fuel,
the CX was also offered in several diesel versions including the DTR Turbo
2, the quickest production diesel in the world: top speed of 120 mph and
0-60 mph in 10.1 seconds.
The choice of CXs falls into two distinct categories: Series I (1975
- 1985) and Series II (1985 - 1991). The Series I cars were imported into
the USA by several gray market importers including Trend Imports and Jareb
Hydraulics in California. To ease EPA compliance, almost all of the imported
Series I CXs were of the diesel variety. The Series II cars were imported
by either CINA (Citroen Importers of North America) from Georgia or CX Automotive
from New Jersey. Both of these importers opted to bring in the fuel-injected
2.5L CXs. These were easier to comply than the carbureted gas version and
made it unnecessary to import the less popular (for the USA market) diesel
It is estimated that there were slightly under 1,000 CXs sold in the USA.
Probably at least half of those are still on the road and most of those
are the later Series II cars. These cars were pretty advanced for their time, so
well maintained ones can be a dream to drive but if proper maintenance hasn't
been done, you could eat up your retirement fund and still not have it on the road. There are benefits and drawbacks on both Series
cars and these should be considered carefully before buying. To help on
an exchange basis. I would therefore suggest you avoid any cars with suspect
transmissions unless it can be bought for a very attractive price.
- Check that the hydraulic fluid is the
correct LHM (Liquide Hydraulique Minerale - a clearish green in color) as
required. If the hydraulic fluid is reddish or brownish in color, it may
be contaminated with Dextron II or worse: brake fluid. In either case, the
hydraulic system needs to be flushed immediately. If it can be verified
that the hydraulics are contaminated with brake fluid (or another non-mineral-based
fluid), the car should probably be avoided unless it can be purchased dirt
- Check the suspension: Idle the car in normal
suspension height. Push down on the front and rear bumpers. If there is
no give in the suspension, the spheres (shocks) need to be replaced. Be
aware that you won't get the same floating ride from the GTi and Turbo CXs
as a DS, or even an SM. The ride was made noticably stiffer to handle cornering
and might feel a little harsh to a DS or SM driver.
- Check the hydraulic recycling time: With
the car idling in the normal suspension height, the hydraulic pump should
activate every 30 seconds or more. The pump makes a short burping sound
when it activates. If this sound is continuous or occurs every few seconds,
there is either an internal leak in the hydraulics or the pressure regulator
and/or accumulator needs to be replaced.
- The steering is virtually troublefree. Almost
all CXs sold in the USA have the self-centring Vari-Power-Assisted steering
as first introduced on the Citroen SM. Heavy steering at slow speeds is
not necessarily a steering problem but more likely a flat main accumulator.
1. The CX has a voracious appetite for front
brake pads. Fortunately they are easy to change and relatively affordable.
However, if there has been a lackadaisical attitude in replacing the pads,
ie change them when they grind, there is a good chance the front brake rotors
will be scored and in need of replacing.
2. Later cars with ABS are wonderful to
drive but can develop related electrical problems, although usually of a
minor nature (ie flashing ABS light on dash).
If you are planning to reside your CX on the East Coast or in the "Rust"
belt, opt for a Series II CX over a pre-1981 model. The early cars had virtually
zilch in the way of rustproofing whereas later cars had state-of-the-art
rust protection. Post-1981 cars were also redesigned in critical areas to
inhibit rust and were painted with a much superior finish. If you are interested
in a early CX, inspect the car carefully for any signs of rust. Cars with
rusty body panels can be fixed but unless you have deep pockets of cash
or a degree in metal working avoid any car with rust in the floorboards
On pre-1981 CXs:
1. Inspect the inside of the wheelarches carefully. Mud tends to
get trapped there and the fenders will rust from the inside out.
2. The drain holes in the bottom of the
frequently plug causing rust to start there. Carefully inspect the bottom
of each door.
3. Check around the bottom of the windshield.
Again, water gets trapped there and they tend to rust from the inside out.
4. Check underneath the car especially the
frame rails which are frequently damaged due to incorrect jacking.
On All Cars:
- Check for rust in the hood and trunk area, especially around the
lower rear edge of the trunk where water frequently collects.
On All Wagons:
- Check the tailgate for rust. Replacing one will be costly as there
are very few used body panels available for the CX in the USA and new ones
- Check where the tailgate hinges are mounted
to the body. Serious rust can set in there.
- If the car has European headlamps, check the
silvering for rust. To either replace or repair them would cost $225+ each.
- The electrical system is a weak point on
the Series II cars. Electrical glitches are not uncommon but, unless they
hamper driving, are better left alone. It is a rare Series II CX that doesn't
have a jumpy temperature guage or oil-level guage, or intermittently flashing
dash warning light. Un-fortunately, some of these problems are wiring related
(difficult to trace and expensive to fix) or caused by a faulty computer
(the CX GTi Turbo with ABS has four separate computers).
Note: to check the following four items, raise the wheels off the ground
(one side at a time - as if you were changing a flat).
- Check the front wheel
bearings. Spin the
front wheels and listen for any excessive bearing noise. Also, grab and
shake the front wheels thereby checking for any play in the bearing. The
bearings are $150.00 each plus installation and seem to last about 60-80,000
- Check the CV joints. Apply the parking brake.
Using a visegrip clamped to the axle, move the axle and check for play in
the CV joints.
- Check the triax for play. As per #3, grab
the wheel and carefully watch for play at the triax (at the end of the axle
by the transmission).
- Check the rear suspension arm bearings as
these cannot be greased. If any water gets by the seals, the bearings will
quickly deteriorate and wear into the aluminum arms. Check for creaks as
the suspension moves up and down. Also look at the rear tire wear and if
the rear wheel camber is correct (they should be perfectly vertical). Excessive
arm bearing wear can also be found by grabbing the rear wheel and shaking
Now that you have a pretty good idea what to look for, let's try to determine
your CX's worth. Keep in mind that this is not a complete guide for the
CX as only the most common CXs for North America are listed. We tried to
make the following chart as accurate as possible, however prices should
only be used as a general guide.
We use the following rating system to figure out in which category your
'Parts Car' Not running,
incomplete, and unrestorable due to rust.
doesn't run but car is complete and can be restored.
'Fair' Car is
complete and runnable but needs a lot of work.
'Good' Car is
regularly maintained but could use some upgrading.
is in near-showroom condition.
| '78-'82 CX
| $100 to
| $1,000 to
| $3,000 to
| $5,500 to
| $8,000 to |
| '85-'90 CX
Pallas & GTi
| $500 to
| $2,000 to
| $4,000 to
| $7,000 to
| $9,500 to|
| '85-'90 CX
| $500 to
| $2,500 to
| $4,500 to
| $7,500 to
| $10,000 to|
| '85-'90 CX
Turbo GTi & Prestige
| $500 to
| $2,500 to
| $5,000 to
| $8,000 to
| $10,500 to|
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