Every year well over forty Citroen CXs make the trip to Saratoga Springs, invading the sleepy upstate New York town with their strange looks and pushing the locals’ French pronunciation skills to their limits. That’s right, one weekend a year upstate New York plays host to the largest French car gathering in North America, as Sittrons and Pew-joes gather there from all over the right half of the country as well as Canada.
Odds are, if you’re reading this website, the sight of a Citroen CX in North America doesn’t surprise you. But it may surprise you to learn just how much these cost when they were brought into the country during the heyday of gray imports. CXA Automotive in Middlesex, New Jersey was one of the unofficial importers of Citroens in the 1970s and 1980s, and converted many a CX to federal standards. And not too long ago I had the opportunity to look at the original invoice sheet for one CX federalized by CXA Automotive in 1989, and was somewhat surprised to learn that the price of entry was around $47,000. But that’s in 1989 dollars.
Converted into 2013 dollars, that’s right around $86,000, give or take a few Francs (remember those?) That’s, ahem, a pretty sobering amount, given that a Mercedes-Benz 560SEL cost around $55,000 in 1989 dollars. Which is not to say that the Citroen CX really competed with the W126 560SEL or its privately imported versions. You either bought a normal car in the US, or you spent an amount that almost overlapped with a nicely equipped S-class to have the only Citroen within a hundred miles.
Taking a further look at the typical dealer invoice sheet for a federalized CX Prestige (not the exact car pictured here), and it’s nice to see that these came fully loaded with very few boxes to tick. An electric sunroof came standard on the Prestige model, as did cruise control and leather seats. That’s pretty nice. Halogen driving lights were also standard. Anti-lock brakes were a $1,800 option, one of the more expensive things that one could add to the CX. Rear air conditioning came in at an extra $1,280. And the little green grenades underhood also came standard. Once again, that is in 1989 dollars, so feel free to pretty much multiply these numbers by two. To top it all off, the car came with a 5 year 50,000 mile warranty, which certainly made the prospect of owning one of these a lot easier to sell to your loved ones, or to justify it to yourself. Though justifying owning a Citroen CX in the US in the 1980s was a much different proposition than justifying a Chevrolet Sprint as a commuter car, or picking a Buick over a Ford sedan.
The CX Prestige model came with a 2.5 liter inline-four engine, and a 3-speed automatic transmission. Not bad, but that’s a lot of Citroen that that 2.5 liter had to lug around. Even so, the Prestige managed respectable 18/21 city/highway mileage figures. So how did that stack up against the competition over here? It didn’t. Not in terms of price, versus a BMW 5-series or 7-series, and not in terms of interior room, which put all other European saloons on the US market to shame. Truth be told, buying a CX in the US required throwing any kind of head to head comparisons straight out the window, especially given the costs of federalization. And that’s why its such a treat to see one of these today, more than 25 years after just a few hundred of these were brought into the country.
So here’s my question: if you could bring in a Citroen C6 for the price of a new S-class, would you?
Full gallery from Citroen Rendezvous 2012 below:
[Images: Copyright 2013 Hooniverse/Jay Ramey]