That Time Citroen Tried To Buy Back And Destroy All Its Group B Specials

After failing in WRC with the disastrous BX 4TC, Citroen wanted to rid itself of the aftersales burden of the road-going version...
That Time Citroen Tried To Buy Back And Destroy All Its Group B Specials

While the last few years haven’t been spectacular, the modern era of the World Rally Championship remains a massive success for Citroen. Since being formed in 1998, the Citroen World Rally Team has clocked up an astonishing eight constructors’ championships, nine drivers’ titles and 86 wins.

But back in the Group B era? Well, Citroen’s efforts left much to be desired. Actually, that’s probably a little too diplomatic: the French firm’s Group B programme was an unmitigated disaster.

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The whole project was a steaming pile of nope from the off. Rather than follow the competition and go with a mid-engined layout, Citroen’s ‘BX 4TC Evolution’ Group B challenger had its powerplant installed in the front. The standard BX featured a transversely-mount engine, so Citroen had to convert the car to a longitudinal arrangement, with the engine sitting extremely far forward to accommodate the four-wheel drive system. As you can imagine, this didn’t do wonders for weight distribution.

The engine living in that long snout was a disarmingly simple 2.2-litre Simca-Chrysler inline-four turbo engine with all of eight valves and an output 380bhp. This was a lot less than rival cars; not ideal considering the BX 4TC was considerably heavier than the minimum permitted Group B weight.

The point of Group B was it let engineers imaginations run wild, resulting in mad machines that had pretty much nothing to do with the road cars on which they were supposedly based. But Citroen simply didn’t make the most of the creative freedom it had been given, perhaps as a consequence of the modest budget of the rally venture. The result was the BX 4TC: an overweight, nose-heavy car which - thanks to the lack of centre differential - was extremely tricky to drive.

That Time Citroen Tried To Buy Back And Destroy All Its Group B Specials

The Group B BX made its debut at the beginning of the 1986 season, quickly proving to be very far off the pace. After a sixth-place finish at the second round in Sweden - which turned out to be the car’s best ever result - Citroen benched the 4TC car for three rounds to develop it further.

The team returned for the Acropolis Rally, where the BX 4TC actually showed some promising pace. It looked like the car might actually be able to keep the Group B legends honest. And then both cars retired with suspension failure.

That Time Citroen Tried To Buy Back And Destroy All Its Group B Specials

It seems Citroen was done with being humiliated on the world stage, and the programme was canned with immediate effect, with the BX 4TC having competed in just three rallies. The fact that Group B had been banned from 1987 onwards during Citroen’s development break - following the deaths of three spectators plus Henri Toivonen and his co-driver Sergio Cresto - no doubt made the decision easier.

Not the rosiest chapter in Citroen’s history, is it? And that’s before we get to the road car.

It certainly looked the part with its blistered arches and angry wings, and while it didn’t have a power output nudging 400bhp, it wasn’t slow either. With 200bhp it would do 0-62mph in 7.1 seconds, topping out at 138mph.

This unregistered example sold for €62,332 last year (Image via Artcurial)
This unregistered example sold for €62,332 last year (Image via Artcurial)

Coachbuilder Heuliez was given the responsibility of developing and building the 200 homologation specials, but by 1988, Citroen hadn’t even sold half of them. It’s at this point that the firm went into damage limitation mode.

Did it really want to be burdened by the after-sales nightmare of a highly bespoke car like that? A car which was a hangover of its ill-fated Group B debacle? The answer was a bit fat no, so Citroen pulled the plug, and set about trying to buy back as many of the 86 sold by that point. Allegedly for as much as double the original purchase price.

That Time Citroen Tried To Buy Back And Destroy All Its Group B Specials

Those that made their way back to the company were either cannibalised for parts or destroyed, but the car wasn’t killed off entirely: around 40 are thought to have survived. Ironically, Citroen’s actions merely made the remaining cars more sought after, not to mention more intriguing - it may not be a legend like the Lancia Delta S4 or Peugeot 205 T16, but neither car has a back-story to rival the BX 4TC.

Some consider it to be the worst Group B homologation special of them all, but that doesn’t stop me from lusting after one. After all, who doesn’t love an underdog?


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