Variations on a Theme

Presenting three lesser known varieties of Citroën’s svelte autoroute express

Image via the author.

CX Haute Protection

When thinking about an armoured passenger car, the picture that comes to mind for most Europeans is likely a large black car with the famous three-pointed star on its bonnet and for those across the Atlantic, one bearing the Cadillac crest. However, in the long wheelbase CX Prestige, Citroën was of the opinion that they could offer a suitable platform for such a vehicle as well, and not without reason.

The CX did not have an engine nearly as powerful as that in any S-Class, granted, but if the weight of the extra protection could be kept low enough this should not necessarily be an insurmountable problem. The hydropneumatic suspension that offered the same ride comfort regardless of payload was a unique bonus for the French firm, and room for rear-seated VIPs was at least as generous as what a Sonderklasse could provide.

Citroen CX Haute Protection.
Image via the author.

Thus from the beginning of the 1980’s Citroën offered (discreetly) the CX Haute Protection. Through the use of special chromium-molybdenum-vanadium steel alloy and several layers of aramide fibres and kevlar; not to mention bulletproof windows (28mm thick on the side and 40mm for the windshield and backlight), the CX Haute Protection offered what it said on the tin at a weight increase of a quite reasonable 445kg.

Citroen CX Haute Protection.
Image via the author

This meant that the performance figures of the CX Haute Protection, although lower than the standard CX Prestige and probably also any armoured Mercedes-Benz S-Class, remained more than acceptable for its application.

Special care was taken to protect vital organs such as the hydraulic high-pressure pump, fuel reservoir and alternator with armoured casings. Brakes, transmission, wheels and suspension were also reinforced to be able to cope with the extra weight. Outwardly it was not immediately obvious that it was anything other than a normal CX Prestige; this discreetness coupled to the a-typical base car were a plus for any prospective customer.

Due to the fact that for security reasons Citroën never disclosed any information on the subject, it is not known how many Haute Protections were ordered; very likely at least some made their way into the Elysée’s vehicle pool. One known example is former East Germany’s leader Erich Honecker’s CX Haute Protection which is on display at the Verkehrsmuseum Dresden.

CX Concorde. Image: citrocollection.com

CX Concorde

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the first commercial passenger flight of the Concorde, Air France planned to organise an elaborate special event in January 1986. One of the ideas was to have the Concorde flight crews use custom-made Citroën CXs to ferry them and corporate bigwigs around during the celebrations.

Air France ordered twelve CX 25 GTi Turbo’s with a few unique details: Blanc nacré (pearl white) paint plus upholstery and carpets of the same materials as used inside the Concorde itself. Unfortunately Citroën encountered problems in getting the special pearl white shade right and experienced quality issues in the paintwork as well; this resulted in such delays that Air France cancelled the order fearing that the cars would not be ready in time.

Nevertheless, six cars were completed; three were used by Citroën executives and later destroyed, the remaining three were given to dealers in Rennes and Reims. Two of those have survived making the CX Concorde a very rare specimen indeed.

CX Regamo. Image: citromuseum.com

CX Regamo

At first sight this would seem to be just a normal CX GTi series 2 but it is in fact a testbed for the then upcoming XM. One of the big novelties of the XM was of course the hydractive suspension; in order to get as much real-world data as they could, Citroën produced twelve special CX 25GTis in 1987 that were equipped with this newest suspension development.

These were known within the corporation as the CX Regamo- reg for regulation and amo for amortisseurs (the French term for suspension dampers). Six were used for testing by factory drivers, but the others were leased to long-time Citroën customers that were known to rack up high yearly mileages.

Externally, nothing could alert onlookers that this was anything other than a normal CX, but open the bonnet and anyone who knows their hydropneumatic Citroëns would immediately spot the extra hydaulic spheres. A unique switch to the right of the steering wheel allowed the driver to select the preferred suspension mode; the control unit for the hydractive system was stored under the passenger’s footwell.

Image: citromuseum.com

After the leased Regamos had covered 30,000 kilometres, they were returned to the dealerships who then had the choice between removing the hydractive bits and selling the cars as regular used vehicles or have them destroyed.

Most were indeed reconverted or sent to the breaker’s yard but as is the way with these things not everybody complied – there are at least two CX Regamo’s known to survive; one can be viewed in the CitroMuseum in Castellane (Alpes de Haute Provence).

Should you be in France sometime in the future for a well deserved post-pandemic vacation and encounter a silver metallic, second series CX GTi offered for sale, take a quick peek under the bonnet; you never know…

Author: brrrruno

Car brochure collector, Thai food lover, not a morning person before my first cup of coffee

17 thoughts on “Variations on a Theme”

  1. Hi Bruno, excellent post. I enjoy discovering these kinds of quirky limited editions and of the ones described in this post my favourite is the CX Concorde, too bad it failed because of the paint quality. I also wish they had been bolder with the paint scheme as I’m sure the three-colour Air France motif would have worked really well here. But my favourite feature of the CX Concorde has to be the seats upholstered in the same material as the Concorde’s seats. Also, this being the beginning of 1986, rear seat belts were just about to be required equipment in Europe, but probably still weren’t, so Citroën was able to offer airliner type seat belts instead of proper, homologated car seatbelts, thus adding an extra touch of glamour.

    1. Good morning Bruno and Cesar. I have to agree, the CX Concorde is very appealing, especially that plush dark red interior. The Haute Protection version is very subtle, none of the usual telltale signs to indicate it is armoured.

    2. Early SMs had aircraft type seat belt buckles with a double chevron on them

      Rear seat belts were mandatory in the EU from 1979 (two point belts) or 1988 (three point belts), so the CX Concorde seat belts would have been type approved car belts.

    3. Does anyone know why aircraft and car buckles are different? It’s apparently something of a safety issue in aviation, as we’ve all (even aircrew!) released car buckles more often than we have aircraft type ones, and thus are apt to forget how to release aircraft seatbelts in moments of extreme stress, such as emergency evacuations…

    4. Hi Michael. I would guess that there’s simply a reluctance to change aircraft seatbelt buckle design from the single universal standard that has prevailed for decades. The attraction of the design is that it’s really simple, intuitive and robust.

      Of course, if aircraft seat belts were to be meaningfully improved, they would be of a lap and diagonal design with inertia reels and pre-tensioners, not the static lap design that was outlawed decades ago for cars!

    5. I think the ‘clasp’ type used on aircraft have the advantage of being easy to check that they are fastened by air crew.

      The automotive ones have had to be able to be fastened one-handed, to encourage usage, since the early 70s – hence the buckle you plug in to. They were like aircraft belts before then, with the large buckle attached to a piece of belt.. I always thought the inertia reel, 3-point belts with an aircraft type lap buckle were odd – every section of the belt was adjustable, if that makes sense, including where it fastened.

      You do get 3 or 4-point belts in aircraft, now – in first class, I understand.

  2. Amazing – thank you Bruno. I know that Citroën considered putting the SM’s 6-cylinder in the CX, but it was too tight a fit for regular production models. I wonder if they thought about it for the lower volume, more bespoke, Prestige Haute Protection. Alternatively, a turbo diesel would have made sense, from a torque point of view, at least.

    I love the CX Concorde. There was a DS Concorde by Chapron – I guess that’s a reference to the plane? Not all of them had wire wheels…

    https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/25221/lot/186/?category=list

    1. Charles: From my reading on the subject, (Marc Sonnery’s tome on the Maserati-Citroen years) Maserati engineers (with the approval of the Bureau d’Etudes one assumes) did fit a 114-Series Maserati unit into a CX. According to those who were involved, it not only fitted, but performed very well. From memory, I believe a number of experimental cars were thus equipped. It’s stated that Maserati engineers managed an installation which would require no additional tooling, so it was viable. However (and this is probably significant), Peugeot refused to sanction it, largely because they wanted shut of Maserati. Ingegnere Alfieri and his cohorts also built and ran a four-cylinder version of this engine, which was also fitted to an experimental CX, but it too went into the waste paper basket.

    2. That’s interesting – and a great shame they didn’t do it.

    3. The naming of the Chapron DS Concorde was a reference to the Place de la Concorde in Paris.

      And Eóin: I never heard of the Maserati V6 fitting to the CX. In fact, I really doubt it. From the start, the CX was supposed to carry its engine hung out in front of the wheels – to fix what was the single flaw the DS/SM had in comfort: engine noise, as the mid-front engine configuration means it is almost in the driver’s lap. Plus, the CX was designed around the very compact Wankel engine. The engine bay is so tight, even the old TA/DS units hardly fit.

  3. One of the two remaining Concorde CXs was auctioned last year at $80,000 with 558,000 kms on the clock.
    That’s a testimony to old Citroens’ robustness…

  4. Yes, the Maserati V6 was prototyped in the CX and so was the PRV V6. The cross beam across the top of the engine compartment needed amendment, as did engine inlet manifolding, so that everything could fit in, but fit in it all did. The cars were built and tested. The decision not to proceed was due to the need to focus engineering resources on developing new models such as XM.

    The details are to be revealed in Julian Marsh’s book on the CX…

    1. Thanks for that JT. Marc Sonnery interviewed a number of Giulio Alfieri’s former engineering colleagues from Maserati who confirmed the existence of these experimental cars. The idea was to build a case for the continuance of the 114-Series engine, given that SM production was being run down. This took place around 1974/5, prior to Maserati’s bankruptcy. It’s believed that Citroen/Peugeot management tried and liked the CXs thus equipped, but a most likely a confluence of factors saw it being stillborn.

      Those factors included cost (which would include cost to the owner in servicing and repair), the known issues with the 114 engine (fixed at Maserati, but the taint was noted at Sochaux), the existence of the PRV engine and the marked reluctance of Peugeot management to allow Citroen to offer a powerful rival when they were readying their own flagship 604 model.

      According to Car magazine’s French correspondent (back in the day), Citroen resisted the use of the PRV6 unit, preferring to enlarge and develop its own four cylinder unit. However, SM author and chronicler, Stuart Ager agued that Peugeot actively prevented Citroen from employing the V6 unit.

      CX.GTi: I agree that the CX’s engine bay is “snug”. I recall how tightly packed everything was in there. However, the story does appear to have credibility. It’s also worth bearing in mind just how compact a package the 114-Series engine was.

    2. They reputedly also built a tri-rotor CX with a one off engine hand built by NSU.
      Performance data were about the same as the later KKM871 twin rotor with around 180 PS.
      Must have been pretty nice but very thirsty.

  5. ….and did you know that Peugeot was also to experiment with “foreign” engines? They prototyped the 505 with the Lamborghini V8 and then considered a Lamborghini V12 505 as well. Now that would have been a nice car!

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