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Concept Car of the Week: Citroën Zabrus (1986)

Fri, 15 Feb 2013 00:00:00 -0800

Designed by Marcello Gandini for Bertone, the quirky BX proved to be a big success for Citroën. Eager to improve its brand image and to boost its already healthy sales figures, the brand put the popular BX on steroids and entered the World Rally Championship.

Unfortunately the beefed-up BX 4TC didn't shine on the rally stage and despite a powerful engine, the road-going version didn't sell well either. After only 85 orders, Citroën had to pull the plug. Thrilled by the performance but unimpressed by the plasticky looks, Bertone used the road-going 4TC as a base to create a deliciously eighties BX-based GT coupé for the 1986 Turin Motorshow, the Zabrus.

Bertone believed that roominess and comfort did not have to be sacrificed for performance, and that performance should not be penalized by a banal, anonymous design. Compared to the original BX, the cabin was shifted much further backwards, shifting its proportions closer to a shooting brake.

The reversed A-pillar base had also been stretched forwards, ending just above the front axle for increased interior space and futuristic looks.

The bold linear construction was reminiscent of the seventies wedge era, while details such as the black strip mask with integrated headlamps and the two-tone paint job added an '80s twist. The slim face announced the forthcoming XM, which was the last collaboration between the French manufacturer and the Italian carrozzeria.

At the back, the horizontal construction visually widens the car while the tail lamps stretch from the bumper all the way onto the roof. This was the first time tail lamps were mounted so high up on a car, way before the Fiat Punto or the Ford Focus.

Opening the typical Bertone scissor doors would reveal an airy and comfortable four-seater interior. The front seats rotated outwards to ease ingress/egress while the driver seat is automatically adjusted by a system of infra-red sensors in order to give the driver maximum visibility.

The onboard electronics offered a futuristic level of controls and displays without invading the IP. It also featured a horizontally-sliding GPS screen, which sounds very advanced for the time, but was positioned just above the gearstick, meaning the driver would need to choose either the GPS or changing gear... Not sure how that would work.

Finally, the single spoke steering wheel was reminiscent of classic Citroën models such as the DS, Ami, SM and others. Grab the yellow handle bar to close the door and start the engine.

Taken from the BX TC, the 2141cc 4 cylinder developed 200bhp thanks to fuel injection and a turbocharger, reaching a top speed of 137.5 mph. Named after a type of beetle, the Zabrus was designed to combine a versatile interior with high-class performance and attractive styling.

Length 4,300mm
Width 1,880mm
Height 1,370mm
Wheelbase 2,650mm
Number of cylinders 4
Fuel system Fuel injection and turbocharger
Cubic capacity 2,141cc
Maximum power 200bhp
Top speed 137.5mph/220kph

By Flavien Dachet