Team Adventure James takes his finished 1985 Citroën CX 25 GTi Turbo back to its old haunts
Project complete, James takes his CX back to the place it was discovered. But after 24 years dormant, will the car make it?
The return to Scotland
While other car magazines offer you several hundred pages a month about market values and tips on investment, you and I know all too well the commitment involved in putting your money where your mouth is. Few writers or online YouTubers dedicate themselves to deep restorations, let alone then embark on a 2000-mile road test immediately afterwards. We must be mad, really. Devotion and meticulous attention to detail is what gets you there and back, along with the belief that these humble machines are more than just lumps of metal, rubber and plastic to be mercilessly traded or bodged. But when you add a human to the formula, that old car is elevated to a whole new level.
Why Bob Rosie chose to keep his aged, rusting Citroën does indeed completely defy logic. The only explanation he can offer is that he simply couldn’t let it go. The car meant too much to him. Year after year, it sat gathering dust in the garage at his home in Aberdeen. ‘I should have scrapped it years ago, but I just didn’t have the heart to,’ he told me back in 2018. ‘I had neither the funds nor skills to restore it, but I just couldn’t see it crushed.’
And now, here I am… at the wheel, turning the ignition key and preparing to point the car north again for the first time since it was trailered back to the Practical Classics workshop in Lincolnshire. It arrived a rotten wreck, but it returns as good as new. Well, almost. I’ve done all I can afford to do but, crucially, the important bits have been replaced, repaired or restored thoroughly and comprehensively enough to endow me with the confidence that the car will waft me back to Scotland under its own steam.
The first stop will be Falkirk, to locate the very dealership where the car was sold new in 1985, and then on to Bob’s place near Aberdeen where, as I promised him in 2018, I would take him for a spin and some fish and chips. After that, there’ll be a quick stopover in Inverness to meet some fellow car nuts, a blast south through Glencoe, Glasgow, the Yorkshire Dales and then home. Surely a breeze for an aged Seventies era French car that hasn’t moved in 24 years. Hmm.
Since it passed an MOT amid a 2020 winter and spring lockdown, I’ve driven the car on regular short circuits around the local countryside, just to make sure it works properly. The subsequent glitches and required adjustments (which you can read about on p98) are behind me now, as I hit the northbound A1. Saturday morning traffic is light and I’m able to settle into a gentle cruise up to Scotch Corner.
No drama. No strange noises. Just the distant drone of that 2.5-litre four-pot and pleasing turbo whistle as I whoosh past the occasional ditherer. The rest of the day is uneventful, with just one stop (for fuel) proving the CX is still an exceptionally comfortable, soothing long-distance cruiser. Nerves slowly fade, giving way to quiet satisfaction.
My first target is North Queensferry for a customary bridge picture and soon after, I’m standing in a Falkirk backstreet with my Scottish pal Paul Cruickshanks who, to my surprise, has tracked down somebody rather special. At the very spot where my car was sold new, a site now occupied by flats, Paul introduces me to Lenny Thomson – the very salesman who sold my car new in the autumn of 1985. He circles the CX and stops to laugh.
‘I recall the car well, as it’s the only one we sold!’
Back to the showroom
A now retired Lenny explains how Munro Cars was founded in the Fifties by businessman Bill Munro. ‘He’d been working for the local Ford dealership, but he was an ambitious man and started his own car hire business, hiring out Cortina MkIIs. Bill had a Lada franchise in the Seventies and did well out of that, later taking on Citroën.’ Munro then built a showroom on Thornbridge Road in Falkirk, which is where Lenny started working as a salesman in 1982. ‘The BX launched in that year and we couldn’t sell enough of them – especially the diesel version! But then one day in 1985, your car arrived…’
Evidently, at first the big CX attracted a lot of attention, but it proved difficult to sell. ‘It was quite something – I remember the car having so much power. I took it down an empty M9 to Edinburgh one day and I saw well over 130mph. Don’t tell anyone though! We registered it at Munro Cars, but it was shared between dealerships in Central Scotland to see if we could find a buyer. In the end, after quite a while, I sold it to a local businessman at a discounted price!’ For his efforts, Lenny was rewarded with a Salesman of the Month badge.
After that, the car’s history suggests it was bought by one Robert Rosie – the very gentleman I’m off to see next. Dusk falls and I head for my overnight stop, a stone’s throw from the magical Falkirk Wheel and I awaken next morning to sunlight streaming through the window. The trip north begins and, encountering traffic near Perth, I head for a deserted A94.
The road loops far over the top of Dundee, passing through lush green farmland, rows of small trees and rolling hills that, in the bright midday sunshine, reminds of Tuscany. The car is in its element. Its agility surprises, high pressure hydraulics giving power to the sharp steering and brakes, but the big Citroën is at its best on long sweeping bends where it effortlessly glides across the tarmac. I pick up the A90 at Forfar and arrive at Bob’s place, near Aberdeen, some hours later.
A happy Bob
On arrival, I toot the CX’s air horns and Bob sweeps out of his home with the biggest grin. He was unashamedly a little tearful when the car departed on the back of a trailer almost three years ago, but the look on his face has made the whole affair worthwhile. We head out for a drive and there’s very little conversation to be had from Bob. I turn to him and he’s still grinning. We grab some fish and chips on the way back to his home, joining partner Margaret in the garden where we all sit chatting and laughing until late into the evening.
I can still see Bob’s grin in my head next morning, as I discover that winter has returned to Scotland during the night. The drizzle on the A96 to Inverness lifts as I reach Nairn. The skies have cleared again and I’m rewarded with a superb, crystal-clear view of the Sutherland and Caithness coastline to the north. Soon after, I pull into the car park of Inverness College, where a hundred or so classics have gathered.
It’s an evening event organised by the Highland Classic Motor Club, with added members coming from far and wide from (deep breath!) the Highland Car Club, Highland MG Owners Club, Inverness Mini Owners Group, Highland VW Club (highlandubbers), Cars & Coffee Inverness and the Highland Drivers Club. From three Avenger Tigers (yes, three) to a gorgeous early Jaguar XJ-S, organiser Miles Vincent is beaming. ‘Well, we couldn’t let you come to Inverness without experiencing one of our warm welcomes!’ We stand around nattering until the midsummer sky finally begins to darken at 10pm and, very aware that most classics pass straight through here on their way to the well-documented roads of the far north, I vow to return to Inverness with the rest of the Practical Classics team soon.
As tempting as it is to bunk off work and take on the NC500, I begin my journey south next morning. Up until now, the car has behaved impeccably. Alas, the engine dies every time I brake at junctions or roundabouts. I cruise along carefully until reaching a suitably scenic lay-by on the shores of Loch Ness, where I scurry around under the bonnet, checking electrical connections. I wonder if an engine mount has given up, perhaps pulling on the wiring loom under braking, but all seems fine. Diagnosis comes soon after. A jubilee clip has failed, causing a tiny gap to open up in the pipework from the turbo to the Bosch airflow meter.
Evidently, movement under braking is causing the gap to widen. It’s a simple air leak. Phew! I dig out a suitably thick cable tie from my bootful of spares.
There follows a memorable drive to Glenn Nevis and Glencoe and, as the scenery gently flattens, a waft south to Duck Bay, near Balloch, where I meet a couple of local Citroën Car Club pals. David Hallworth has come up from Port Glasgow in his stunning C6 and Ally Getty is in his immaculate, but highly raucous diesel CX, which fills the loch-side air with the sounds of Eighties Paris.
Taxi, monsieur! I’m sad to depart after such a brief meet, leaving good friends behind in what has been a year pitifully devoid of socialising. I hop on the motorway for a three-hour blast south to the Fat Lamb, on the Cumbria-North Yorkshire border, where proprietor and friend, Paul, treats me to a fine trout dinner. Next morning, I take the long way home through the Yorkshire Dales. Passing the highest pub in England, Tan Hill, I then thread my way down through beautiful sun-soaked moorland to the A1 and I’m home in Northamptonshire by dusk, the CX proving itself predictably soothing, but far more dependable than I could have believed it would be after so many years off the road.
I forgive it for every single second and penny it has taken off me. The trip is proof that dedication and conscientious toil matters, especially when it’s inspired and driven by the spirit of the individuals at the heart of the car’s story.
Ally and David join James at Balloch for a nerd-fest. The tranquil Glen Etive – otherwise known as Skyfall. A final blast over the epic Yorkshire Dales via Tan Hill. Last stop before home – at the Fat Lamb, with owner Paul Bonsall. CX stable, composed and surprisingly fast. Original interior came up an absolute treat in the end. Former salesman Lenny sold this very Citroën brand new. Car club members from numerous Highland clubs turn up to meet James in Inverness. CX completed the first 320 mile leg non-stop and without drama.
‘It is so effortless to drive, it’s hard to believe the CX is almost fifty’
Matt T says ‘This project was a big deal for James. To see the car emerge looking this good was truly a great moment. To see it complete a trip like this is even better.’
‘Power delivery is as smooth as its ride, but the GTi never gets floaty’
- 1985 Citroën CX 25 GTi Turbo
- Engine 2500cc/4-cyl/OHV
- Max Power 168bhp @ 5000rpm
- Max Torque 217lb ft @ 3250rpm
- Gearbox 5-speed manual
- 0-60mph 7.8sec
- Top speed 137mph
- Weight 1370kg