Citroën plans the ultimate garage sale

Citroën is having a clear-out – so 64 cars, prototypes and concepts are up for auction on 10 December

Citroën has sold off its old production site in Aulnay-sous-Bois, meaning the famous Conservatoire and the reserve collection will have to relocate.

'When we move to the new location in Poissy, we will be able to finally open up a real museum. The Conservatoire was just intended as a place to keep our cars,' says Denis Huille, for Citroën heritage manager. 'In total, we would have some 400 cars to move. So before this operation starts in 2018, we decided to clean up the reserve collection.'

The reserve collection is stacked away in an old warehouse, with only half of the neon lights still functioning and dripping rainwater clearly audible. There is treasure here, hidden under dust covers and plastic. We see line after line of CX, SM, Berlingo, Mehari, rally cars, rallycross cars.

'The 64 cars we put up for sale are cars we no longer see a purpose for in the new museum we have in mind. Doubles, cars planned for spares, cars, concepts and mock-ups,' explains Huille. On 10 December, all of them are offered through an online sale organised by auction house Leclere. You can find the catalogue here and follow the auction here. But first, follow us on a small treasure hunt with a selection of what’s up for sale.

Citroën Berlingo Taxi Sbarro (2000)

Because he's Swiss-based, constructor Franco Sbarro had discounted access to the Geneva motor show. With a mutual understanding that this was also a cheap podium for a big manufacturer, Citroën agreed to supply cars on which Sbarro and his design students could let their creativity roam free.

'We have many Sbarro concepts and decided to only keep the most important ones,' says Huille. One that failed to make that selection is this 2000 concept for a French-based London cab. Built around a Berlingo, this actually makes a lot of sense. The one sliding door pavement-side – a standard feature on the Berlingo – allows for the easiest of entries.

The seat, offering space for three passengers, has been moved entirely to the back of the car allowing for maximum leg space. Luggage goes in the front, where the passenger seat used to be. The driver is protected by a screeen, just as he would be in the London cab. And with OZ racing wheels, all his driving ambitions are displayed to the outside world. As a cheap alternative to the London cab, this actually still makes a lot of sense. Or it could even be a sensible business opportunity, come auction day.

Estimate: €4000-6000 (£3500-5200).

Citroën Méhari 4x4 (1979)

'This one’s led a bit of a rough life,' our Conservatoire guide for the day shrugs as he manoeuvres the yellow Méhari to the front for the pictures. Its wheels depict varied states of tiredness, all pointing in different directions, and its yellow plastic bodywork has the look of a rubber duck that went the length of the Amazon-river.

'It was used by a garage to dispatch parts, it did not get a lot of love.' No kidding, as is testified by the broken steel bumper bar at the rear. It was used as a ‘lorry’ for Rue Félix Faure-based Citroën agent in Paris to push and pull new cars from the nearby Javel-factory up the ramps.

It may be missing a fuel filler cap, but it has a more important ace up its sleeve. 'This one was registered, it has the "carte grise". These 4x4 Méharis are hard to find.'

In fact, only 1213 4x4 Méharis were produced, so don’t be surprised to see good examples offered for €20,000-30,000 (£17,600-26,500). Three of those are offered for sale now, and may seem like a bit of a steal at one tenth of that price. Assuming you are willing to do a bit of work…

Estimate: €2000-4000 (£1700-3500).

Citroën 5HP (1924)

A nice example of Citroën’s second model offering, the 5HP was actually a more democratic offering of André Citroën’s first car, the 10HP. It has an 11bhp four-cylinder engine, allowing this 600kg two-seater to reach 60kph (37mph). This one actually comes from Citroën’s Spanish division, who collected some vehicles on their own. The lovely 1930 C4 Plateau truck in the sale also has Spanish origins.

One of the problems this 5HP has: it may still carry a number plate, but the car’s documents have been mislaid somewhere, though Citroën will dispatch new documents with the vehicle.
The combination of the red body and the green (citron) wheels are charming. On the right, a spare is attached to the side.

It only has one access door, on the passenger side on the left. Compared to an original 5HP this one however has a modified body. According to Citroën’s own expert, the body is too wide at the front and too high at the back. Also, the windows are missing. But the convertible top still looks in very decent shape, given its age. This is the oldest car in the sale.

Estimate: €3000-6000 (£2600-5200).

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Citroën GS Phase 2 (1977)

With hardly 2000km on the clock, this lovely orange GS with the so-French yellow headlights could have been the hidden pearl. Unfortunately, it does not carry any chassis number. 'This is one of the pre-production cars,' our guide says. 'Later on, it was used for mechanics training.' After that, it was put away in the reserve collection, standing still for over 25 years.

This GSpécial was the first of the updated model, entering production after seven years in the GS-lifecycle. Production of the GS Phase 2 went on for nine more years. In total, Citroën had a GS for sale for 16 consecutive years.

This one has a still brand new appearance, with the interior still looking showroom fresh. You will not be able to get it road registered, but it is a very good candidate for parts. Even so, some parts are missing, including the left rear light cluster and the outside mirrors. Also, it carries a dent on the front fender. 'People were not always that careful when some of the reserve cars had to be moved. It got hit when manoeuvring another car.'

Estimate: €2000-4000 euro (£1700-3500).

Citroën FAF (1980)

FAF stands for ‘Facile à faire, facile à financer’ (easy to make, easy to finance). It was Citroën's take on a very low-cost car for developing countries and Africa in the middle of the 1970s. All the body panels were straight, so no bending would be needed, just plying in some areas.

'You would not need much mechanical skills to run it,' our guide shows. The car however turned out to be unsuccessful, basically because the Méhari did the job just as well. Only some 1700 cars were produced in the end.

This one is not one of them. 'When the French army went looking for a service vehicle, Citroën made a proposition based on the FAF.'

It has a transformer offering 24v electricity for radio equipment. It also offers the same 4WD-system as the Méhari 4x4, only some levers are missing on this car, a pre-production model. In the end, the army opted for Peugeot’s P4 proposal, meaning this particular FAF was led to a final parking spot in the reserve collection, where it remained ever since. Just 6000km is showing on the Jaeger-clocks. Rust however is letting through more daylight then was intended between the door gaps.

Estimate: €1500-3500 (£1300-3000).

Citroën Xénia (1980)

In 1981, this concept was Citroën’s take on a sporty estate. The Xénia design study was displayed on the 1981 Frankfurt motor show. Even though not a single Citroën-badge is showing on the car, it has a BX-chassis underneath. The BX itself wasn’t launched until 1982.

The car Citroën is putting up for sale is not the exact show car that was shown in Frankfurt, that one remains in the treasure vault. This is the real size clay model Trevor Fiore used. He had gullwing doors in mind and an MPV-style interior.

What Xénia most of all displays, is PSA’s difficulty to embrace the MPV-concept. Earlier on, Matra had developed an MPV-concept with Peugeot in mind, but Sochaux remained unconvinced. Renault jumped right in with the first generation Espace produced by Matra. It wasn’t until the Evasion in the beginning of the 1990s that Citroën had an MPV in the product line-up. The Picasso on a Xsara-platform (the descendent of the BX) only showed up in 2000.
The wheel covers of the Xénia concept are delivered with the car, but prove to be a difficult fit.

Estimate: €15,000-25,000 (£13,000-22,000).

Citroën BX GTi (1990)

Quick and discreet, the elegantly styled BX GTi would hit a very respectable 136mph (220kph) in its most powerful version (160bhp). The BX was a proposal Bertone had in mind for Volvo, but was ultimately adapted for Citroën in 1982. With 2.3 million sold vehicles, nobody at Citroën complained about the BX. A spectacular Group B rally version of the BX was proposed, just as the FIA was in the process of killing the rally monsters. A sporty BX for the road had to wait a little bit longer.

The one we are looking at here is car that was always used internally and 'somehow never was sold'. It has racked up 121,000km (75,000 miles), but looks brand new on the inside. Outside, the rear bumper has some scratches but it is otherwise pristine. This one has the 1.9 8-valve engine with 125bhp.

On the basis of the BX GTi, a Group A touring car racer was distilled. It favoured a classic MacPherson suspension setup to the famous hydraulic suspension. It was used in the 2-litre class in the Spanish touring car championship. One of those is also up for auction.

Estimate: €6000-10,000 (£5200-8800).

Citroën CX Pallas (1981)

Amazingly not one single SM or DS is topping this sale, so the CX and XM are the ‘second best’ luxury offerings. Actually, just this one CX is on the listing, and just as with many other cars on offer here, we are talking about a pre-production car. So it's without a chassis number and with no legal possibilities to get it on the road. That does not mean it hasn’t served in the meantime.

'This is a 2-litre injection engine, the same one we used in the CX GTi. It also has an automatic transmission. It was also used for mechanical training.' It now shows 20,000 kilometres on its beautifully styled clocks. The spectacular blue-clothed interior looks like new, but the ceiling cloth is starting to fall down. The seats on this CX still feel more comfortable then any new offering in today’s listings.

A prime example of French luxury in a time that still used to impress buyers… and of ‘je m’en fou-tism’ as well, since the ashtray in the back still has some Gauloises-stubs thrown in for free. Could be Gitanes too, we didn’t check that thoroughly. This car has not been started in over 25 years, so some work on the hydraulics is likely to be needed.

Estimate: €6000-10,000 (£5200-8800).

Traction Avant 11B ‘Laboratoire’ (1953)

The original Traction Avant would have been André Citroën’s stroke of genius, which would have saved his company at the end of the 1920s. In the end, the Traction Avant was presented in 1934. Citroën’s future was safe – for some time – but André Citroën was no longer the owner of the company.

This first mass-produced front-wheel driven car was a testimony to Citroën’s avant-garde philosophy. It was only fitting that the Traction Avant was used as a testbed to develop the hydraulic suspension which was later introduced on the DS.

This particular Traction Avant was built in 1953 – the production ran until 1957 – and was delivered to the ‘Laboratoire’ research department. 'It is difficult to know how it was used, if it was merely a car used by personnel, or whether it was a real test car. It served its purpose within Citroën until it was parked. It has been dry-stored ever since.'

It racked up 65,000 kilometres (40,000 miles) during its service. Surprising as it may seem, but this is currently the only one of the Tractions Citroën has in its reserve collection that it is willing to let go.

Estimate: €5000-7000 euro (£4400-6100).

And the rest

Most of the cars Citroën are selling are pre-production models, concepts and mock-ups. Since most cars have been kept in the dry, their condition is reasonable to outstanding, even though in some cases of lot of TLC will be needed.

Emphasis lies on the more recent models, with plenty of Xsara, Xantia and C4-models. For Citroën-collectors, this auction brings the opportunity to become owner of the Pluriel and Tubik concept cars. As stated earlier, Citroën is not letting go of anything really special, just a lot of nice Citroëns.

Also included in the auction is the sale of memorabilia items, including a racing overall Jacky Ickx used in the 1991 Dakar rally, the overalls of Timo Salonen and Hubert Auriol, Citroën signs, the door of a ZX Rally Raid Evo 5 (1996) and a bonnet for the Xsara WRC ‘Kenya Rally’-style, along with books, manuals and other left-overs. If you are a Citroën-fan, this is your garage sale.

Photography by Dirk de Jager

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