Citroën BX – A New Restoration Project

7 min read
A cry for help on the BXClub Facebook Group

This was it, the message I had been hoping to see for some time. A project opportunity I couldn’t refuse. Okay, I hadn’t started the year planning for another Citroën BX 16Valve in red, but this would make for an excellent new restoration project.

G553 XPO – The car with a long history

Within minutes of seeing the cry of help from long-time friend and Citroen BX fanatic, Kitch, a deal was struck up. The Citroën BX 16Valve in question was something of a kit car. The original engine had found its way into a Peugeot 205 in 2008. The interior had been put into another BX sometime in the past. But the car came with an alternative engine and most of an interior.

XPO in storage at the back of Southways, awaiting restoration
XPO in storage at the back of Southways, awaiting restoration

The car has something of a long history, which I’ll cover in a separate article. Since 2013 the car had sat in the yard at Southways Automotive, perilously close to becoming a parts car. Fortunately, the body was just too good to pull apart and so it had managed to stay relatively intact awaiting restoration.

Fortunately for me, Kitch had come across another BX 16Valve that he wanted to restore more than this one. Based purely on the picture above, I had the perfect opportunity and excuse for the first project of 2021!

New Restoration Project Suddenly Arrives

While the original agreement was that I would drive down to Southways at the end of lockdown, I put a job on Shiply to get a feeler for transport cost. Well, the quotes that came in were so low it simply wasn’t worth my time and effort to go and get it.

The soul of G-SEG expertly transplanted into XPO
The soul of G-SEG expertly transplanted into XPO

Instead of a leisurely month or so for Kitch to collect up all the parts from the various storage locations and put them with the car, we now had a matter of days! I suspect there was some quite feverous running around down on the south coast throwing both the interior and engine back in. I feel a bit guilty, but I suspect in the long run it works out best for both of us.

XPO loaded and ready for it's next journey
XPO loaded and ready for its next journey

Within ten days of striking up a deal, the pink Citroen BX restoration project was loaded on and ready for the off. In the rush to get everything thrown at the car, there are bound to be some pieces missing. Having previously broken several Citroën BX 16Valve cars, I’m hopeful I have enough bits to put it back together again.

XPO arrives at BXProject head quarters, ready for tear down
XPO arrives at BXProject headquarters, ready for tear down

Starting the Restoration – Teardown and Cleaning

Already aware of some of the welding that needed to go into the A-Pillar, I knew I would have to remove the dash. Rather than try taking just a few pieces of the interior out, and risk fire damage, I opted to remove all the cabin trim. It seems a little excessive saying out loud, but it really doesn’t take too long. The trick will be remembering where it all goes back!

Removal of the interior well underway
Removal of the interior is well underway

Within an hour the bulk of the interior was out. There is amazingly little rust in this body, probably as a result of the car being off the road for so long. The salt on UK roads has a lot to answer for when it comes to classic cars rusting. At about the time of the picture above the rain started coming down so a change of task was made.

Interior trim plastics scrubbed with soap and water
Interior trim plastics scrubbed with soap and water

With much of the plastic trim out of the car, I took the opportunity to give it a good scrub. It was covered in an even layer of grime from storage. A little soap and warm water soon got the worst off. Underneath the filth, the plastics are in very good condition. Once dry they will be wrapped and put into the loft storage until the welding is complete.

Cleaning the interior turns the house into a Citroen laundry
Cleaning the interior turns the house into a Citroen laundry

The interior fabrics received a similar treatment at the hand of my long-suffering wife. A quick vacuum and once over with the Vax sees the stripes return to their original colours. The trick here is not to try to over-clean them and put water into the foams. At 30 years old, these seats are delicate if barely used.

Rust from the inside

Once the weather had cleared and the dash was out, the search for rust could begin. This Citroën BX restoration project will definitely test my fabrication and welding skills. The first thing was to get clear access around the driver’s A-pillar which meant removing some of the firewall sound deadening.

A nice mouse house, fortunately the mice have moved on.
A nice mouse house, fortunately, the mice have moved on.

Having already found evidence that some mice have been living in the car I wasn’t too surprised the find this little mouse house. Fortunately, it looks like the mice have long since moved on, and so far I’ve seen no evidence of them eating the wiring.

Driver A-pillar perhaps not as bad as I had imagined
Driver A-pillar is perhaps not as bad as I had imagined

From the pictures I’d already been sent, I knew most of the rot was in the driver’s A-pillar. Once up close, I had expected to see rot through the normal place of the driver’s door hinge and lower A-pillar. But this wasn’t the case, in fact, rather unexpectedly, all of the rot is in the inner A-pillar panel. The area around the door hinges and check strap is in perfect condition inside and out.

Inside of the drivers A-pillar needing restoration work
Inside of the driver A-pillar needing restoration

I was aware of water running into the cabin from around the driver’s A-pillar, and after a bit of poking the cause was clear. It’s a bit of a strange place for the shell on a Citroën BX to fail. Typically the whole shell is shot by the time they fail here. Still, the rot seems to be contained to a single panel.

Rust from the outside

Inner A-Pilar rot, seen from the outside
Inner A-Pilar rot, seen from the outside

From the outside, it is a little clearer which panel the rot is sat in, and we will see shortly where it’s coming from. The surrounding panels are in generally good condition. Certainly nothing a bit of preventative maintenance can’t solve.

Rust around the windscreen, common for the Citroen BX
Rust around the windscreen, common for the Citroen BX

The starting point for the rot seems to be the bottom of the windscreen. Again the rot is only in one panel which is quite a surprise. It’s quite normal for poor replacement windscreen fitting to result in slow-acting rust here. Normally the rust stretches across the windscreen in the scuttle panel, However, in this case, the surrounding panels are practically free from rust.

Rust in the scuttle under the washer bottle
Rust in the scuttle under the washer bottle

There’s one other point of rust in the front of the car, in the common spot in the scuttle. This normally occurs due to the washer bottle rubbing through the paint and allowing rust to creep in unseen. I’ve been here before and in this case, I think I can catch it before it erupts into other panels.

A restoration project worth pursuing?

With any project like this, I always try to dig into the detail as fast as possible. Right now in the worst case, I have a huge selection of spare parts to keep other Citroën BX 16Valves alive. I’d hate to blindly start at one end and then find terminal rust somewhere else. But in this case, I’m confident that the repair of the shell and rebuilding of the interior is well within my capability.

The plan with this Citroën BX restoration project will be to get it as close to its original condition as possible. That’s not to say it will be concourse and that no expense will be spared. The car has history and is 30 years old, and that will be recognised. It won’t get a paint job, and won’t be put back together with only factory parts. It will however be roadworthy and ready for a good few more years on the road.


NEXT – The History of G553 XPO

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