Whatever happened to…the Citroën Visa

The Citroën Visa. In the eighties, they seemed to be everywhere. Today, you’re much more likely to see the diesel van with 200k miles on the clock than the little hatchback.

Launched at the Paris Motor Show in 1978 as a replacement to the Ami, the car enjoyed a decade of success, finally bowing out in 1988 after a massive production run of 1,254,390. In the 10 years, the Visa spawned various petrol and diesel versions, including a GTi and a monster Group B racer, the Trophee. Sales started slowly, but a subtle redesign in 1981 helped Visa sales to take off. The interior design, in particular the dashboard, was typically Citroën and suitably unique.

Oh so Citroen!
Typically Citroen design

The convertible Visa was a real forerunner to the C3 Pluriel, offering the option to fold the roof backwards or completely remove it. How many convertibles are still around today?

In my opinion, time has been kind to the Visa. Although fairly tame in standard form, the sportier versions look synonymous with the eighties, especially in ‘banker’s braces’ red or white. Trying to find one today would appear to be extremely hard.  At the time of writing, there isn’t one single car for sale on eBay, Auto Trader or Pistonheads.  One can only hope that the little car hasn’t been an innocent victim of the scrappage scheme. The GTi version is certainly worth treasuring – it may not necessarily appeal to Gene Hunt, but it beautifully represents the 1980s.

Citroen Visa GTi
Looking very 80s!

If you’ve got a Visa, let Petrolblog know and we’l feature it here. In the meantime, check out this French TV commercial for the Visa GTi. One wonders if a certain Mr Clarkson had seen this when preparing the Renaultsport Twingo ferry-jump during the last series of Top Gear?

Info: http://www.citroenvisa.net/vindex.htm

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ABOUT AUTHOR
Gavin Big-Surname
The chief waffler and founder of PetrolBlog in 2010. Has a rather unhealthy obsession with cars from the 80s and 90s, and is on a one-man mission to collect the cars nobody else wants. Also likes tea and Hobnobs.

14 comments

  1. March 10, 2011
    Simon

    The Visa always reminds me of my starting in the motor trade as an apprentice, in fact these cars were still rolling of the assembly line when I was working in a Citroen dealership. Anyway to cut a long story short the Visa has haunted me ever since. I’ll give you two stories of the haunting.

    In 1987 I started my apprenticeship and was put to work with the garage junior mechanic, the job was an engine replacement in a Visa. We proceeded to remove the engine and place it on the bench beside the secondhand replacement engine which was to go back in. The process of changing parts from the old to the replacement was the next job. But lunch was to happen first. When we came back we had two stripped engines so we built one up with all the cars original manifolds, carbs, leads etc and got to fitting it back in the car. After a long day we finally got to the point of turning the key to hear this baby run. I’m sure at this point you can see where this is going, yes, we had built up and fitted the original engine in all it camshaft rattling glory!

    Story number two happened in the first year I opened my own garage. Again it was a Visa, this time with a snapped clutch cable in very heavy rain. The easiest thing to do at the time was to drive it back to the workshop and fit the cable under some shelter. On the way back to the workshop I encountered some traffic, I slowed to hang back and keep the momentum of the car going. The car in front had different ideas and came to a hard stop. I hit the brakes hard and the car locked up, spun and hit oncoming traffic, writing off the Visa and the Starlet coming the other way. A low moment indeed. Its no fun ringing a customer to let them know their car in no more.

    My relationship with the Visa has never been a good one and with the lack of them on the road its not likely to change. With that said I did have some time for the GTi and the 1.7 Diesels. Thanks for the memories at least I can smile about them now!

    Reply
    • March 10, 2011
      MajorGav

      Ha! I love the engine story. That’s something straight out of a slapstick comedy! Nicely done! I’m guessing there were a few choice words when you realised the mistake?!

      Reply
      • March 10, 2011
        Simon

        Choice words were from the boss, it was in my first month of working there!

        Reply
  2. June 25, 2011
    Ian W

    The van version lasted well, Saw a 54 reg one yesterday.

    Reply
    • June 25, 2011
      MajorGav

      Good point. Still lots of van versions about…

      Reply
  3. June 9, 2012
    Dave Cole

    I still own a saloon car! I bought it about 15 years ago from a now departed elderly relative who hated it. It had spent most of it’s life in Frinton On Sea (an old person’s resort where no-one drives faster than 15 mph) and the only reason I bought it was that it was very low mileage and very cheap. We drove it to Spain as a holiday runabout and it was hacked around the Costa Brava by all the children for a few years without any problems. It now resides in the garage there as it needs a few repairs. A couple of tyres, a battery and an exhaust bandage and it would be a runner. No visible rust! We have been considering it’s fate as we need the garage space. The easiest is to get it to the nearest scrapyard and say goodbye, but I am wondering as it is becoming a bit rare whether it may be worth keeping as a restoration project.
    Any views?

    Reply
    • June 9, 2012
      Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      I love the backstory!

      You mention ‘saloon car’. Are referring to a Citroën Visa or something else?

      Whatever, I’m sure there’s a better option than the scrapyard! 😉

      Reply
  4. June 13, 2012
    Dave Cole

    I meant the hatchback version – I haven’t looked at it for so long I forgot it’s shape. The registration document describes it as a Visa Super E 1124cc. first registered 24/04/81.
    I understand there is an enthusiast group in Holland, but the model seems to have slipped off the radar in UK.

    Reply
  5. July 10, 2012
    Dave Cole

    Just back from Spain. Had a good look at the Visa and may have a go at putting it back on the road, if I can persuade her indoors. No shortage of the van version on the Spanish roads, mainly operated by small builders and generally very battered and neglected, What I did see coming off the car ferry at Dover was a micro motorhome on a visa chassis. Never seen one before, and this has got to be one of the rarest vehicles on the roads.

    Reply
    • July 10, 2012
      Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      Excellent news. Another Visa saved from the scrapyard.

      As for the motorhome, I see quite a few down here in the west country. Quite fancy a go in one!

      Reply
  6. July 29, 2012
    Mikee

    At Jan 1st this year there were 120 Visas left in the UK – 36 on the road and 84 on SORN. As for the Super E there are 7 left.

    The Citroen Car Club has a Visa Group and this Visa forum is worth a read http://visaforum.freeforums.org

    Reply
  7. May 1, 2013
    Dave Cole

    Just back from Spain. Had a go at starting the little beast!! Worked out that it has not been started for 15 years, and only has 37000 miles on the clock. Took a battery from UK, and it cranked over well, but would only start if I put a small amount of petrol in the top of the carburettor. It only ran for a second or so until the drop of petrol was used up. Fuel gauge was registering empty so I put in 15 litres of fresh petrol. Even with lengthy cranking no fuel seemed to reach the carb, so I am now suspecting a blockage in the fuel line or a gummed-up fuel pump,,. Any ideas where i can get service parts?
    By the way all the tyres were flat, but held pressure when inflated. Had a look underneath and all looks ok. Even the exhaust was ok, it looked as if it was stainless steel, is this possible.?? The only problem is the tail-pipe is broken off.

    Reply

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