The white Visa

Read the story of a brave attempt to save a white Visa from demolishing, sent to me by Edwin Thuijs.

"As a replacement car for a 32 year old 2CV4, which was in need of revision, we had already been searching some time for another car. After having phoned after various Dyanes and Amis, and after looking at some of them, it didn't seem feasible to find a reasonable example for a price between 1000 en 2000 . The ones we looked at all needed a considerable amount of work. As we would use the car only as temporary car, which will be sold after the 2CV4 is ready, we wondered if the investment (in time and money) would pay off (even partly) when the car would be sold.
At a certain stage we had to broaden our choice of cars. At that moment, we came across the following advertisement:

"For Sale: CITROEN VISA 1.1 (1988)
Price: Any bid (must be sold this week, to good to be demolished)
YEAR 1988

Someone who wants to get rid of it fast, always good for the price! I phoned the owner and asked about the condition of the vehicle "The exhaust leaks and the doors are rusty, he told me. "For the rest it is a good car. Someone has bid 170,00 and might return on wednesday evening to have a look at the car".
I quickly made an appointment to inspect the Visa Wednesday at the end of the afternoon. It would still be light then (I dislike buying cars in the dark).
Eventually it was dark when I arrived at the site where the car stood, because the route description was not completely accurate. I examined the car as good as possible with a torch and had a short test drive in it. The underbody looked ok and the engine sounded nice (even without the famous ticking sound). But the car hed obvious faults tas well: my first list of things to repair mentioned: front door to be replaced, rear doors to be refurbished, right rear lamp unit to be replaced (glass broken), indicator switch handle to be replaced (broken), arm rear windscreen wiper to be mounted again (broken off) and exhaust leaky near the first bend of the exhaust pipe.
The APK (Dutch MOT) turned out to last only until the end of May instead of the previously stated November.
Due to the low price and the fact that the things to repair were easy to overcome I also offered 170,00, so the deal was made. The next Friday we picked up the car.

Left: the Visa as we bought her. Imagine the sound of a leaky exhaust and the picture is complete. Right: the other side before reconditioning. Only the new rear windscreen wiper arm has already mounted.

By daylight some unnoticed problems showed up. When I started to work at the car, even more faults revealed themselves. Still, all was fairly normal if one bears in mind it is a 14 year old car. We came to the following enumeration:
· all four tires dried out at the sides;
· problems with the rear lights (corroded contacts);
· reversing lights not working (corroded contacts on switch at the gearbox);
· interior light not working on opening the doors (corroded contacts and a badly corroded screw on the switch at the left. The switch had to be removed by force and was replaced;
· left exterior mirror broken off (had been fixed provisionally);
· windscreen washer at the front not working (dirt in the tube);
· rear windscreen wiper did not switch off automatically after it had been switched on. It would only switch off after cutting the ignition (the relay that triggers three times wiping turned out to cause the problem);
· windscreen washer at the back malfunctioning (faulty pump);
· engine slightly tilting during accellerating and decellerating (not solved yet, probably an engine rest);
· water leaking in the boot (it turned out that the rubber along the hatch was running over the wire of the rear screen heater and the support for the wire of the boot cover. Simply bending the rubber towards the outside was sufficient);
· petrol tank leaking at the filling tube (fastening the tube clamps seemed to be the solution, but this has to be checked next time at the petrol station).

Immediately after the purchase I went searching for (preferably white) front doors. I was lucky: at a scrap yard near my work was a white Visa of 1983 with four good doors. Also the bonnet was perfect (the bonnet from our Visa was had rusty corners at the bottom). For 125,00 the four doors and bonnet could be taken home.

Left: old and new doors brotherly next to each other. Right: Visa doors can be as bad as this without falling out (there is not much needed, however, and they will).

There were some rust spots at the joints of the inner underside of the doors. At these spots I removed the lute and treated the rust with Turtle rust solver (looks like Noverox). After that I put on zinc primer, paint, accompleted by a new layer of lute (see picture below left ). It turned out that there are differences between the doors from a '83 car and from a '88 car:
1. The black trim under the windows is much smaller. Because the black paint was partly damaged and because this trim continues under the air outlet beside the rear door I eventually decided to repaint the black trim on the '83 doors like the doors of the '88 car;
2. On a '83 car the keyhole is in the doorknob. On the '88 car it is located in the door panel below the doorknob. As I did not have a key of the '83 car, I had to drill and file a hole for the key cylinder. I transferred the complete lock mechanism from the '88 doors into the '83 doors as well;
3. On the '88 car the left rear view mirror is adjustable from the inside. The inside of the '83 door was not suited for this. I sawed the support for the mirror knob out of the '88 door and mounted this in the '83 door (see picture below right). The adjustable mirror was broken off. The fixed one of the 83 door was ok. I carefully removed both mirror glasses from the plastic rests with a putty knife. After that I was able to remove both the mirror rests. By mounting the mechanism and mirror rest of the 88 one in the cover of the 83 one I rebuilt a good, working rear left mirror, adjustable from the inside.

Left: on the doors of the '83 car there were only small rust spots under the layer of lute. Here zinc primer has already been applied. Right: the rest for the knob from the adjustable left rearview mirror had to be sawn from the 88 door and remounted in the 83 door.

It turned out that simply replacing four doors was a time consuming job. But the result justifies the time spent!

The final result (here shown with the original 11 RE wheels instead of the 11 E wheels that came shortly afterwards).

After replacing the doors, there remained only a few small problems to be dealt with. In the beginning, I thought there was only a leak near the first bend of the exhaust pipe. The resulting sound was that loud, that other, smallerleaks could not be heard. After replacement of the first bow pipe the rear exhaust pot turned out to be leaky as well. I decided to replace the complete exhaust.

In total I visited five scrap yards, and bought parts at three of them. Prices varied from one to another: to give you an idea of the encountered differences: at one scrap yard the indicator light switch handle costed 20,00, while at an other one only € 5,00 was charged.

At one scrap yard I found four almost new Michelins MX. The only drawback was, that they were mounted on wheels from a 11 E. I didn't put much weight on this fact, because otherwise I would have to invest even more to remount the tires on the original wheels and to have these balanced. Because the car looked so beautiful by now, I decided to repaint the wheels as a finishing touch.

Here is a list with the costs we made:

Purchase of the Visa 11RE S6 1988 170,00
Cost for license transfer 9,50
Arm rear windscreen wiper and headrests 15,00
Doors and bonnet 125,00
Right rear light unit and indicator switch handle 20,00
Spark plugs 8,52
Exhaust 118,80
Paint, black, white, silver, rust solver, primer etc. 31,46

Four as good as new tires 60,00
Rear safety belts 12,00
Pump rear windscreen washer 7,50
Total 577,78 (Dfl 1273,00).

In may 2002 I went for the yearly APK (MOT). The only thing they found was a faulty left steering bolt. They complimented me with the excellent state the car was in! I fixed the problem the same day and I didn't have to pay extra for the second APK.Total costs were 75 euro.

Here the story ends for me as the Visa was sold on the 25th of January 2003 to Feike Plukkel, a very enthusiastic student in car technique. He loved the car at first sight. So she is in good hands again. Maybe Feike will add something more to this story…

With Visagreetings from Edwin Thuijs

Story and photos © Edwin Thuijs

Post Scriptum by Okke Groot: the white Visa still lives today (November 2006). Feike sold the car to another enthusiast somewhere around 2004. Just recently the car changed hands again. It still is in very reasonable condition.

Last updated November 2, 2006.