It has been quite an adventure bringing this car back from France. I went a weekend ago in my Xantia Activa to look at two BX Sports which were on Leboncoin. I'd had trouble with one of the French sellers who ignored my messages and the other one only wanted to speak on the phone… This was where I enlisted the help of KevR who contacted both and on Saturday a week ago I took the Eurotunnel train and went first to see this car At Criquiers, not too far from Dieppe. I was impressed as it looked very original. The car had spent most of its life in Paris where it had been serviced by a Citroen main dealer and had plenty of money spent on it back in 2009 – new spheres, drop-link, clutch, one rear arm bearing and four new Dunlop tyres. It had only done about 600km since and had a CT. The seller collected Renaults – he had a couple of Juvaquatre vans, a 4CV convertible and an early 4 all beautifully restored. He also had lift so I could take a good look at the underside of the car which seemed remarkably rust free. It seemed like a good one and was one of the first series built and registered on the 1st April 1985.
But the pics of the other Sport over near Reims had looked great on Leboncoin so I wanted to see that one before I made a decision… About 10km from Fismes which was where the second Sport was, I was going slowly through a French village when was there was quite a loud bang, it sounded like something had hit the underside of the Xantia. A minute later the red light came on. I topped up the hydraulics and managed to get down to Fiske stopping to top up several times – it was certainly pissing out quite hard as fluid was coming through the wheel and pooling on the outside of the rim! The Sport was a disappointment; it had fresh paint everywhere and I could not really tell what was beneath and it did not drive nicely – it felt loose and wandered and the engine had a distinct miss in the middle of the rev range… Whilst it had been fitted with quite a few new parts the maintenance looked really hit and miss with the handbrake lever coming up higher than I've ever seen on a BX!
I returned to the Xantia and rang the AA – I had taken out Continental Cover for the day – I almost never do this for short trips to the continent but had luckily done so this time… The car was recovered to Soissons and I returned by train to London and onto Bristol on Sunday. On Tuesday I was told a high pressure hose to the front Activa ram had failed and was of course NFA. Searching round on the web produced several sources claiming to have them in stock – Irene rang a Dutch supplier who listed it on his website but could not get one… And then she found on a Dutch Xantia forum a Danish company who had remanufactured the hoses. Thursday morning I sent an email and within half an hour had paid for the hose and they had sent me a pic of the package going out to the Citroen garage in Soissons… A result.
Back to the BX Sport – I had decided to go for the first car I had seen at Criquiers near Dieppe. Booked a Dieppe–Newhaven ferry for Saturday evening, an early Eurostar train to Paris and train onto the nearest station to Criquiers. Friday morning I had text from DFDS telling me the ferry was cancelled… The Eurotunnel seemed the best bet if the weather was going to be bad so booked that for Saturday evening. The train to Paddington was cancelled Friday afternoon but eventually I got to my friends in Acton. Left just before 5.00am and was in Paris Nord by 9.45. It turned out that at least on a Saturday it was a train and then a bus to the nearest station to Criquiers… By just after 3.00 I was on the road in the Sport – I had decided to take N roads up to Calais. It proved to be delightful to drive with lovely tight precise steering and apart from erratic idling drove really well. The ignition switch proved to need replacing – there's no return spring in it… The seller had not been able to scan the Carte Grise so I could not get specific insurance to drive it to the port but I had arranged insurance on the VIN number once I was in the UK. But I definitely did not want to get stopped by the French Police. The journey up to Calais was delightful until the last ten miles when the heavens opened. The electric drivers door window came down easily for Passport control but then was very reluctant to go fully back up. However the gods were on my side at the tunnel – and I was on the first train back. I was in Acton just after 8.00 and feeling pretty pleased. The interior is in beautiful condition with another set of carpets covering the originals. Just the door mirrors need sorting and being a Paris car there are a few scratches, one door has been repainted and is not the best match…
Sunday, I needed to collect a bike from Haslemere on my way home. Leaving there it took several attempts before the starter clicked into action and when I refilled with petrol it fired instantly much to my relief. Doing the calculations – 357km and 34l of petrol equivalent to just over 34mpg. I was very pleased with this – the only road test I had seen, from a 1986 Autocar, they had achieved just 22mpg…
By the time I was in Wales again it rained again – it always seems to rain when I return to Wales somehow. I was trundling easily along when suddenly the red light came on – I was only about three miles from home by this time so drove gingerly on. The steering went heavy a mile or so later but the brakes continued to work all the way to my front door much to my relief though I did have a couple of litres of LHM with me. Opening the bonnet and with the engine running a trickle of LHM could be seen coming from the metal outlet pipe of the hydraulic pump … however the Sport had got me home.
Some more pics:
The hydraulic pump with a trickle of LHM from the outlet high pressure pipe – I don't know it could be the seal gone – I think its more likely a cracked pipe but Andrew and Tony will sort this out before the MOT which is essential for me to register it. it may have been leaking for a little time – there was fluid all over the belt and the engine had developed a chirpy sound whilst getting back from London.
Period bikes, frames and parts
1985 Citroen CX Ambulance, 2 x 1989 Citroen BX 16V, 1996 Citroen Xantia Activa, 1990 Citroen BX GTI 4x4, 1987 Citroen Visa GTI, 2004 Citroen C8 2.2hdi, Citroen BX Van 16V, Clan Crusader, 1970 Lotus Elan, Citroen Xsara VTS phase 2