Is the Citroën AX GT facing the chop?

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.

1989 Citroen AX GT

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.

Flat tyre on Citroen AX GTBut 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.

Rusty rear arch on Citroen AX GTI also knew the patch of rust to the right of the offside rear wheel arch would need attention at some point. Nothing urgent, just as and when would be required…

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.

Rear of 1989 Citroen AX GT

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….

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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.

13 comments

  1. May 18, 2013
    Darren Leslie

    I don’t envy the decision on this one. As you know, the Audi sits in my garage, waiting for the day I can put it back on the road. There are two reasons I know this will happen soon, a fully galvanized body and a bit of spare cash. The only change in condition that I can detect is some mold in the engine bay…..
    To be honest, I think you’ll end up chasing the rust around the whole body. If you think you’ll have lots of spare money soon, then keep it. Otherwise, it’ll just get worse as it’s sat there waiting for you to get the required funds. Everything else can be fixed relatively easily. Sorry mate.

    Reply
    • May 19, 2013
      Gavin Big-Surname

      You’re probably right. Still not sure though. I may get an estimate for the repairs and go from there…

      Looking forward to the 80’s resurrection! 😉

      Reply
  2. May 24, 2013
    FailCar

    Tough one, I had this years ago with an old but tidy 306 GTI 6. I knew letting it go would mean throwing it to the dogs who would put horrible bodykits on it or just thrash it to hell and it would end up on the scrapper. Already you can see that getting a tidy, unmolested GTI 6 is tough these days. Problem was it was either flog it or watch it rot and then have to spend £££ to recommission it as had nowhere to store it and not enough time to really use it. I would say sell it but go with the attitude that you won’t just sell it to any old eBayer. List it on specialist forums etc first and I’m sure an enthusiast should pick it up.

    Reply
    • May 29, 2013
      Gavin Big-Surname

      You’re probably right. Still can’t shake the feeling that I’d regret it within a couple of weeks.

      Plus the challenge of resurrecting it is quite appealing…

      Reply
  3. May 30, 2013
    Rupert

    Fix it! Then come take me out in it! I loved that car.

    Reply
    • May 31, 2013
      Gavin Big-Surname

      You’re right, of course.

      Leave it with me. Should I sort it, I’ll bring it over for you to have a play in.

      Reply
      • June 1, 2013
        Rupert

        Awesome! I’ve been looking at ax’s and their related Internet presence again lately as my old friend joe has another- in black, just 57k miles, it stands him in at over £2500 now after some fairly hefty body work and mechanical stuff. It has gone to visit 4star classics and has had a speculative resale valuation of £5995! It is pretty. Check out the ax owners club to find out about panel replacement- they’re quite cheap and I believe the standard rear quarter panel can be modified to accept the GT body kit. The O/S front arch had a weld in my ownership. If its just the arches, bonnet and rear quarter it might not be too bad. http://www.saxperience.com/forum/showthread.php?t=344007&page=6

        Reply
  4. September 25, 2013
    Matt

    Bit of a revival of this thread, hope you don’t mind as I’ve just stumbled across it.

    Did you ever make a decision on this whether to sell or restore?

    Reply
    • September 26, 2013
      Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      I don’t mind at all.

      The decision has been made to keep hold of her and slowly bring her back to life. Current aim: ready for spring 2014.

      Fingers crossed.

      Reply
  5. September 26, 2013
    Matt

    Good plan Gavin, itll definitely be well worth it and very rewarding if you take your time with it and get it to a very nice standard. They are becoming increasingly rare.
    I’m on the lookout for another one myself, I currently have a 25,000 mile Mk1 GT that I’m working towards concours standard with, pop onto AX owners club if you get chance, here’s a link to my progress if you fancy a bit of a read
    http://www.axoc.co.uk/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=32&t=52740

    Rupert, out of interest has your friend had any interest or offers on his 57,000 miler at that price?

    Reply
  6. January 15, 2014
    George

    I hope you still have your AX. I am thinking of selling a clio cup 172 to get one again.. back to the basics I guess with a touch of innocent sunny days (regardless of the weather).
    I ll keep you updated.
    Take care of the zx aswell.

    Reply
    • January 15, 2014
      Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      A shame to give up the Clio, but I can understand your desire to get behind the wheel of another AX. When did you own yours?

      I seriously need to get mine back on the road before you find one.

      Good luck with the search.

      Reply
  7. February 25, 2014
    Rich

    Sell it! To me! I’m looking for a GT to restore to original former glory. A black one would be ideal as it was the colour of my first GT back in 2001. I already have a BX 16v which I’ll keeping until my last breath, and I’ve decided to add an AX GT to that because…..well just because. There’s no logic to it.

    Anyway, if you want to move it on to a loving home and see it restored, drop me a line.

    Cheers

    Reply

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