Well now we have a problem. After a series of false dawns, last weekend saw the first proper attempt to get the Citroën AX GT rolling again. It’s been laid up for the best part of two years – time and money constantly getting in the way of its resurrection.
Like a really repetitive platform game its life has been reduced to a monotonous existence consisting solely of warming the engine and occasionally poking its nose out to sniff the air. Now and again it’s treated to some fresh air in its tyres. Quite honestly, it’s not much of an existence for a little car well used to skipping and dancing merrily on country roads.
This couldn’t go on – a fact I’m often reminded about by PetrolBlog’s resident Dutch correspondent, Ton Dumans. But it was a tweet by Matt Biggs of Project924 fame that finally resulted in some action – with Matt even questioning the AX GT’s existence.
Enough was enough. The battery was immediately plugged into the life support machine and a few days later I’d be warming her up for a rare glimpse of sunshine and a meticulous look at what would be required to get the Citroën playing again.
It’s not good news…
As always, like an enthusiastic terrier catching sight of his master grabbing its lead from the sideboard, the AX GT instantly burst into life. This was immediately followed by the unmistakable sound of an unhealthy engine. As my observant seven-year old son pointed out at the time, “That doesn’t sound good, Daddy”. Well, quite.
But with the engine firing I was at least able to plug the tyre compressor into the cigarette lighter socket and begin filling three of the four tyres with air. The 13-inch wheels have seen better days. Although nicely polished and finished on the outside, they seem to have lost the ability to retain air for anything more than a couple of days.
I knew this already and had already started searching for a set of steel wheels. Partly to solve the problem but also because I reckon the AX would look quite brilliant on steelies…
With tyres pumped and the engine warmed up, the next step was to prize the AX from its winter hibernation hideaway. Both children looked on with grim faces as the car chugged out of the garage. Even they knew the AX wasn’t well. But hey, it’s nothing that can’t be fixed, right?
The AX was then reunited with its ZX sibling as the totting up process began. Just what would be required to get the AX moving again and just as importantly, could I afford it?
A full service was a given and I knew from last time I drove her that a new carburettor would be required. I’d also need to factor in the cost of four new wheels or the refurbishment of the existing alloys. Tax, insurance and MOT were also obvious requirements.
But I hadn’t banked on the car’s ageing body being an issue. For sure, the bonnet is in dire need of attention. It had been re sprayed in a former life, but judging by the results it was either done on the cheap or by someone with no spraying abilities whatsoever. Maybe a combination of the two.
It was also beginning to rust from the inside, especially on the leading edge. Sadly things have got much worse. So frail is the bonnet’s structure that its barely possible to lift it without flexing it like a wobble board. Closing it requires nerves of steel as you pray it doesn’t disintegrate upon impact with the catch.
But no – rust has seemingly taken control of the AX GT’s entire skeleton structure. The offside rear wheel arch is crumbling beneath the plastic cover. The same is true of the nearside, along with a huge part of one of the front inner arches.
My heart was sinking – this was a great deal worse than I expected. I didn’t have the heart to explore further, but clearly two years of non-use coupled with the AX GT’s less than brilliant rigidity had culminated in it becoming a restoration project.
It was never perfect – but its honesty and authenticity always shone through. Suddenly it was looking tired and neglected. Any sane person would take a quick look at it and immediately declare it to be beyond economically viable repair.
And of course, they would have a point. The car is worth little more than £700 with a fresh MOT. The cost to make it roadworthy again will easily exceed that. And the fact is, I don’t have the means to sort it at the moment.
So what do I do? Return it to its slumber and wait for a time when I can return it to its former glory? How long will that be? And who’s to say what kind of state it will be in by then.
The sensible thing would be to move it on. Bite the bullet and concentrate on bringing the ZX 16v up to standard. The risk is that it will end up being ravaged for spares. A sad end for one of the last unmodified AX GTs left on the road. I can’t and won’t let that happen.
And despite my conscience feeling as rotten as the Citroën’s underbody, I don’t want to let it go.
As I write this my head is ruling my heart. I’ve even started preparing an eBay ad in readiness for the inevitable conclusion.
What would you do? Embark on a long term effort to rescue what is a truly great drivers’ car or move it on and free up the garage space for its French sister?
Answers on a postcard, etc, etc….