Today’s Bad Idea: 1988 Citroen BX 16 TS

Automotive Francophiles like me are an uncommon group in the United States, as is pretty much anything manufactured by Citroen; they gave up on the American market back in the 1970’s, a good 20 years before its relatively plebeian competitors Renault and Peugeot. Citroen earned its place in the history books with the iconic 2CV, beautiful DS and exotic SM models, which were very sophisticated but characteristically lacking in build quality and reliability. After owner Michelin left Citroen on the brink of death in 1974, Peugeot came to the brand’s rescue, offering a much-needed influx of cash along with a parts bin and platforms Citroen could borrow to slash development costs. By the 1990’s, the quirkiness that once made Citroen so special had all but disappeared, but transitional models like this BX and the later XM managed to wonderfully mix Citroen oddity with Peugeot’s improved build quality and parts support. Basically, these models are perfect for French car enthusiasts who like to drive their vehicles more than work on them. So why is this rather nice 1988 BX 16 TS a Bad Idea?

Let’s start with the $9900 asking price. Sure, this BX is already on U.S. shores, legal, and 100% ready to go. It also looks pretty nice. But these cars were sold in Europe for more than a decade; they are not exactly uncommon, which is evidenced by their typical sub-$1000 resale values with today’s exchange rates.  A whole $2000 would likely find a very nice example, you would just have to get it stateside and legal for less than $7900 at that point…which is not hard to do. Anything 25 years old or greater is legal for entry into the U.S. as long as you fill out the right paperwork and pay a 2.5% duty on the book value of the car (which would not be much on a lowly BX). Shipping from Europe to the U.S. can also be found for about $2000 if you do some searching. Heck, for $7900 you could find somebody to handle the entire purchase/shipping/import process, start to finish, with little more than a phone call and a wire transfer! Long story short, this BX is extraordinarily overpriced; you could take a wonderful European vacation, buy the best BX you could find and ship it back to America for less than this one costs. The seller clearly has a tidy profit margin built into their asking price here. But, the silly asking price isn’t the only reason to skip this Citroen.

A simple analogy helps to explain: say you were going to go through the trouble of bringing back some French wine to the U.S. after a wonderful vacation. Would you walk into a grocery store and buy the most basic, cheapest bottle of wine you could find? Of course not, you’d make it worth the effort by bringing back the best wine possible. Following that same train of thought, it’s rather puzzling that this lowly BX 16 TS was chosen to make the journey stateside. The sporty BX 19 GTi 16v or technologically fascinating BX 19 Digit would have been a much better choice; not just because either model was at some point the nicest BX you could buy, but also because the larger 1.9 engine would be a much better fit for American expressways. I’m not even going into the struggle to find parts for a relatively uninteresting version of a vehicle that was never sold here…suffice to say, whoever brought over this mid-level BX 16 TS must have had a very personal connection to the car, because putting the expense and effort into bringing such a plain-Jane model over doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. And neither does spending $9900 to own the thing. I would love to have a Citroen BX or XM of my own someday, but this BX 16 TS is a pretty bad value and a definite Bad Idea. Original text below:

This unit has just arrived from Europe.  Being the previous owner a Citroen dealer employee, the car has been always properly maintained.  Everything works, and body is in very good shape, showing no rust, with the exception of a minor dent on the rear left side.  Power windows and locks have been retrofitted to manual. 

 
This car is a BX 16 TS
 -Intermediate 8 valve engine (from BX14 1360cc, BX16 1580cc, BX19 1905cc)
 -Intermediate trim (from trims S, TS, TZS offered after 1989) 
 
The car has cleared customs and EPA requirements (as a 25 year old car it is exempt from emissions), and it is legally registered in the State of Connecticut. Connecticut doesn’t issue titles for cars 20 years or older (just the registration) 
 
Seller reserves the right to cancel the listing anytime, as car is also sold locally. 
Would help accommodate delivery up to 50 miles from car location.  Near major airports and transportation. 
Car is sold “As is”, with no warranty from the seller. Please feel free to ask any question.  
Car is located in South-western Connecticut.
 
   —– 
A little bit of history:  The best of both worlds 
 
After years of losing money, Michelin – the owner of Citroen – withdrew in 1974. Citroen fell into the hands of its arch-rival Peugeot. The conservative new owner started rationalizing Citroen, eliminating excessive technologies and sharing components with its own models. This eventually brought Citroen back into black, but it also killed the individual character of Citroen. 
 
BX was launched during this transitional period. However, compare with later Citroens it preserved most of the unique character, while compare with older Citroens it was far more reliable and practical to own. Combining the best of the two worlds, BX was probably the best Citroen since 2CV. 
 
BX was unique in many ways. First of all, its Bertone design, penned by the famous Marcello Gandini (Lamborghini Countach, Lancia Stratos, first gen BMW series 5), looked like no other cars around. It lacked the oddity of traditional Citroen, replaced by a striking angular shape yet achieved a wonderful drag coefficient of 0.34. Best of all, this design remains timeless today, while contemporary family sedans like Ford Sierra, Renault 21 and Peugeot 405 feel far more outdated. 
 
BX brilliantly avoided the two traditional weaknesses of Citroen, namely, overweight and rust problem, by using composite and plastic body panels extensively. The glass-fiber reinforced plastic composites included the bonnet, the tailgate and the roof, while the bumpers and fuel tank were made of plastics, the trasparent quarter panels were polycarbonate. Therefore the BX was very lightweight (e.g. 960 kg for a typical 1.6-litre BX) and quick on its feet. 
 
Its packaging was also worth praising. A compact exterior dimensions enclosed a long wheelbase and a somewhat “cab-forward” proportion to enable vast of headroom and legroom for all passengers. The cockpit had a futuristic digital instrument panel. All controls were concentrated within a finger distance from the steering wheel, very aircraft like. 
 
When the BX launched in 1982, fans of Citroen must be delighted it continued to use the independent hydro-pneumatic suspensions. A sphere containing gas and liquid at each corner provided springing and damping. Their setting was stiffer than Citroens of the past, thus gave better roll resistance to please keener drivers. Low speed ride suffered a little, but at high speed the ride quality still marked it out from other cars. The self-leveling function kept ride height unchanged regardless of load. It also raised or lowered the car automatically in relationship to speed, or adjusted by the driver. Besides, the hydraulic system got simpler and more reliable. These continue improvement made the BX far more livable than previous Citroens.  BX also tackled another traditional weakness of Citroen – engines. It was benefited by the much better SOHC engines from Peugeot. The most popular were the 93hp 1.6-litre. 
 
The lovely BX lived until 1993. Some 2.33 million units were sold in 11 years, bringing Citroen the greatest success since the days of 2CV. It was replaced by Xantia and then C5, both had lost its charm somewhat and failed to match its sales success.
 
 —– 
 
A cold start in the morning, the high pressure pump and the hydraulic suspension start working. The rear goes up first as it is lighter.

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