Project Car Hell: Citroen CX Prestige or Mercedes-Benz 190 Wagon?

Illustration for article titled Project Car Hell: Citroen CX Prestige or Mercedes-Benz 190 Wagon?

The jaw-droppingly steep price tag, automatic transmission, and ARBOUR GREEN paint of the '56 Jag made it an unassailable Hell Project fortress, giving the XK140 an easy win over the '58 Mercedes-Benz 190 in our last Choose Your Eternity poll. Was it fair to force a Benz to go toe-to-toe with the product of a PCH Superpower? Maybe not... so today we're going to give Germany another shot at unseating a Superpower. And not just any PCH Superpower- we're having another Franco-Prussian rematch!

You've got your Simcas and your Peugeots, your Renaults and even your Matras... but when you're talking serious French Project Car Hell, you're talking Citröen. When you're Citröen shopping in North America, you need to ask yourself: Do I want a car that was imported by Citröen, or do I want a crazy gray-market car with zero parts availability and questionable street-legality? Do I even need to answer that question? What any Project Car Hell masochist aficionado worth his or her salt yearns for is a nice long-wheelbase Citröen CX, suitable for use as a chauffeur-driven limousine. Better run to your bank for $8,500 in cash and catch the next flight to Denver, because we've found this '87 Citröen CX2500 Prestige (go here if the ad disappears) for you. Gadzooks! I know you're still staggering back from the magnitude of this find, so you'd better grab onto something solid before you read this statement from the seller: "This stealth body design is virtually invisible to radar." Yes, it's a stealth Citröen! No word about the running condition, other than the tiny fly-in-ointment of "Unresolved intermittent ignition circuit problem." Hey, that won't be hard to fix, right? Walk in the park, Billy! Thanks to Davey G for the tip!

We love that CX Prestige, of course, but doesn't the truer, more pure Hell come from a German car? Built with relentlessly excellent engineering and quality control, a Mercedes-Benz gives you no excuses for not finishing the project... which means you'll have the character-building experience of weeping hopelessly over a nightmare of unobtainable parts and maddeningly complicated leading-edge technology, while all your friends think you're just inept. And how about a Mercedes-Benz Ponton? They built 'em in huge quantities, and most of the W121s are still around... easy, right? Then you should have no problem getting this 1960 Mercedes-Benz 190 station wagon back in top shape, ja? The asking price is a bit higher than that of the Citröen, sure, and it's been sitting for a seal-shrinking, fuel-system-corroding, upholstery-ossifying 15 years, but don't let that scare you. Only 65,000 miles on the clock! One owner for the last 25 years! No mention of rust, but such mention really isn't necessary when you're talking about a 48-year-old New York car. We're sure body parts will be no sweat to obtain, and you'll be able to put off a complete fuel system rebuild during the weeks decades you spend trying to find correct 190 wagon interior parts. Thanks to Teargas for the tip- and that reminds me: those of you who have sent me tips used in two separate PCH episodes need to remind me when you've earned the PCH Tipster T-shirt.


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I would like to point out that this result - at the present moment, sixty-six percent to thirty-four - underscores the complete supremacy of French Motor Hell.

Consider. On the one hand we are offered this '60 MB 190; a truly beautiful car, a perfectly proportioned practical machine, a milestone of automotive excellence. And a senior, mature genuine classic, too, forty-eight years of age and getting more special with each passing year. Atop all that a wagon! I've never ever seen a Ponton wagon in person, and I've been a goggle-eyed car nut since before that thing was even built. What car nut wouldn't want to rebuild and drive such a rare beauty?

And on the other hand: that Citroën is only twenty-one years old. Barely old enough to buy a beer, if she were a young French woman visiting Madeira Beach. I myself have known quite a few people driving dull old 21-year-old cars. These cars aren't Hell, they're extra-cheap, halfway-reliable daily transportation. Imagine calling a twenty-one year old Datsun or Chevrolet a "Hell Project Car." You can drive most twenty-one year old cars into the nearest Sears or Midas or Firestone shop and get regular service done.

And yet as you see, in the grave and wise judgment of Jalopniks en conclave, this nearly-contemporary Citroën triumphs over the old, rare, utterly classic MB by two-to-one. Just because. Because it's a Citroën, the Sublime Queen Persephone of Project Car Hell. La France surtout!