A​ car that Citroen needed to buy back, meet the BX 4TC

T​he worst, the most obscure and the weirdest homologation model in existence

1y ago

I​f you lived in Europe, the Citroen BX should be something in familiar with you. It was a rather common but quirky (the nature of Citroen) large family car which had an engine option of a supermini (1.1 litre). Sold over 2 million examples in its 12-year-old run, it was quite a success. Designed to be as lightweight as possible and as service-free as possible, the BX tried to diminish the biggest short-coming of the generally complex Citroen, while keeping all of the uniqueness. It could be a fast car as well. The BX 19 GTI got a similar engine with the 205 GTI. The cylinder head and inlet manifold were different. The BX 19 GTI accelerated from nought to 100 in 8.5 seconds, a remarkable time 34 years ago. As a whole speaking, the BX was a very all-rounded model. It got serious performer version and economical version at the same time, except for one particular variant. This variant was the fastest among all, but it was kind of an underdeveloped flop. Welcome the BX 4TC.

I​n the modern days of WRC, Citroen was one of the major players in the game in the 21st century. Its Xsara WRC started conquering the drivers' championships title for three consecutive years from 2004 to 2006. The predecessor, C4 WRC won 4 straight Drivers' Championships from 2007 to 2010. The C4's successor, the DS3 WRC continued both victories for two more years from 2011 to 2012. All in all, the Citroen dominated the Drivers' Championships title for nine freaking years. Similar case in the Constructor's Championships, with only a break in 2006 and 2007, Citroen managed to get eight out of ten. However, the glory was not always the case. There was a time when Citroen was actually an underdog. A somewhat underdeveloped and underpowered car arrived late to a race which was on its edge of demise. This was the exact situation faced by Citroen in 1986. The race was Group B rally, and the car was the BX4TC.

S​tarting from the very beginning, the new rally car doomed to be a disaster. In the early 80s, Citroen was competing Group B rally racing in the smaller displacement B9 segment with the front-wheel-drive (later four-wheel-drive) Vista. However, Citroen wanted an upgrade to promote the brand. It wanted to participate in the B12 "top-dog" segment. As a result, starting in 1983, Citroen, alongside with several engineering firms, they began to construct various rally prototypes based on Citroen's BX model. Five prototypes were produced in total. Each one was almost entirely different from the other. Among the five prototypes, three of them fully understood the rulebook of Group B, which was having basically no technical limitations. They were something rather bespoke. One of the three even used a spaceframe chassis. The similarity between the production car and the rally prototype was more or less the same as the current days Nascar Ford Mustang and a production Mustang. The remaining two though, were not that standout. The fourth one featured a classic monocoque chassis with a longitudinal engine, and a very short rear overhang versus a long front overhang. Overall, making the car looked awkwardly unbalanced. The fifth one was basically a narrowed, road car version of the fourth prototype. This was the point when things started taking a turn to the worst.

W​ith all five prototypes on table, Citroen weirdly picked the least competitive fourth prototype and the fifth prototype as the finalised version of its new Group B machine and its related homologation model. Many might think the Citroen was dumb in making this decision. However, Citroen had its reason to choose this. Unlike other manufacturers at the time which had almost unlimited resources to create the ultimate rally car, budget at Citroen was tight. Making a purposely built race car which had to use the maximum amount of shared components with the production car seemed nonsense but this was the status Citroen was trying to achieve. After all, they were poor. As a result, Chrysler 180 engine and Citroen SM gearbox made their ways to the new car. Keep in mind, not only the budget was tight, but the time was also running out. When all the stuff got settled down, and production of the two variants started, it was already early 1986. Citroen missed the race for four seasons. It had to speed up in order to enter the '86 season.

Although the new race car looked like a proper Group B machine, it wasn't. First, it was heavy. The minimum weight requirement for the segment was 960kg. Usually constructors would try their best to achieve the minimum weight to maximise the competitiveness, except for Citroen. The BX 4TC Evolution weighted 1150kg, Almost 200kg heavier than its competitors. Neither the engine nor the gearbox helped cure the overweight problem. The engine came from Chrysler 180, which mainly was an outdated 1970 Simca engine. Despite the fact that Citroen tried its freaking best to fuel-injected and turbocharged it, it was still underpowered. It was pumping "only" 380bhp. In comparison, the much lighter Lancia Delta S4 produced over 500hp. The gearbox could trace its root back to the DS. Not to mention the car didn't even get a centre differential and a transfer box —a massive struggle for drivers who already was under-competitive. Every single critical part of the car was just not competitive at all. All of these required an aggressive driving style to get full control of the car. However, this pushed the hydropneumatic suspension far out of limits and damaged it. Despite all the flaws and short-comings, two cars entered the first race on the WRC calendar, Monte Carlo Rally. They recorded the seventh and the eighth fastest lap times before one of them crashed out on stage six and the other retired due to suspension failure. Quite a bad start for Citroen.

F​ollowing Monte Carlo Rally was Swedish Rally. Jean-Claude Andruet managed to finish in sixth overall. The other car was sidelined by a frozen oil pipe at stage 25 and was forced to retire. Turnout, the sixth at Swedish Rally, was also the best result of the BX 4TC Evolution. After a three-week break came the Acropolis Rally. Citroen entered three cars this time. At the early stage of the race, Andruet had a good start. He was only five seconds behind the leading Ford RS200 and was even ahead of the eventual winner, Juha Kankkunen's Peugeot 205 T16. Sadly though, accident arrived when he made to stage three. The other two car couldn't even pass through stage 1 as suspension failure and were forced to retire. After all the humiliation encountered at the race, Citroen decided to pull the plug of its BX 4TC Evolution. With only three runs in total, it remained one of the most short-lived WRC cars of all time.

W​ith all the shameful results happened to its sibling, sales of the homologation model was as worse as you could imagine. Even though only 200 examples would need to be sold, Citroen got difficulties in finding buyers. Citroen ended the Evolution project in 1986, but by 1988, fewer than a half of the homologation model found buyers. The 4TC road car was actually quite a performer in comparison with its rally sibling. 200hp might be a lot less than the race car. However, 0-100 in 7.1 seconds was truly epic for a road car. The second fastest BX you could buy was almost 1.5 seconds slower than it. By 1989, Citroen wanted to bury down the final chapter of this piece of shameful history and ended this sales nightmare. Citroen decided to kill the whole thing off. It bought back as many of the 86 examples it had already sold and sabotaged them. From the price Citroen paid back to the owner, almost twice as the original price tag, Citroen was desperate and determined to do this. Speaking of sabotaging, Citroen did the exact thing to the Evolution rally version as well. 20 Evolutions were built before the 1986 season. After the whole fiasco, Citroen destroyed almost all of the 20 cars in order to express the anger and humiliation it faced with. Only six cars managed to escape, two entered the hands of privateers and made their ways to French Rallycross series.

F​or the homologation model, only 40 cars were known to survive. Thanks to the actions that Citroen had done, prices of the 4TCs in the classic car market pulled up a lot. They became highly sought-after with a rare chance of seeing one for sale. This has to be the most mysterious homologation cars. No car in the whole Group B history had a better story to tell than the Citroen. It was, and still is, weird in every single measurable way. Citroen did try its best in that limited budget. Based on the actual performance result, it wasn't that bad as on paper. It was more an ill-fated car than an engineering disaster. If Citroen could enter the competition a few years earlier, things might be different for them. 1986 was the toughest season in Group B history. Ford also made its debut in Group B in 1986 with the incredible Escort RS200. The Citroen immediately became an underdog as a result.

S​o, here you are. This is the full story of Citroen's short-lived BX 4TC aka the car that Citroen dared to buyback. Such a painful experience for Citroen. What do you think of the 4TC? Have you heard of it or are you a fan of it? I am a fan of it, and the homologation model is actually one of my dream cars. Hope you like this article. Thanks for reading. See you next time.

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Comments (1)

  • It’s a mystery to me, that such a progressive manufacturer as Citroën encoutered such disaster. But your article brought a lot of informations for me - thank you!

      1 year ago