1976 Citicar Restoration by Ron Green

By diyauto
( 2 )

1976 Citicar Restoration

Compliments of Ron Green @ http://forums.aaca.org


Here are a few pictures of the ongoing restoration. It has turned into a much harder project than I anticipated, and allotted time for. Figured it would be a piece of cake considering the other vehicles that I restored...............wrong! Currently at a little over 1,000 hours plus way to many $ (as is always the case). It is entered in the Gettysburg spring meet however it may not make it.

It had to be painted twice as for some strange reason it fish-eyed real bad from the last coat of clear.

Never ending ongoing assembly and detail.

And more. hopefully wiring will be all but complete this weekend.


Dash before, during and after. Or as I like to say:

One wire hook up , 2 wire screw up, 3 wire *%#@ up, 4 wire drag up

Fresh juice. Eight 6 volt batteries for 12 / 24 / 48 volt speeds at 38 MPH max. A neck wrenching 3.5 HP. Also a picture of the main forward /reverse contactor, speed contactor and solenoid, or as the wife say "that clicky thing".

In trim mode. It is somewhat unusual to find one of these with the correct bumpers which were made from the previous owner, however they had to be completely redone as they were in bad shape. 

Re-popped correct decals and carpet were also installed over the past weekend. Hopefully vinyl top and head-liner this evening. Hoping to throw the juice to it next weekend however I need to rebuild the contactor as I broke a 3 cent part cleaning the points. Purchased a new electrical rated fire extinguisher this morning.


I do have a new 650 amp Altrax controller along with a variable speed pot for the accelerator pedal. This will eliminate the troublesome relays, reduce controller heat, eliminate blown fuses, along with making for smooth driving ability. The jerking between the 3 existing miro speed switches (18/24/48 volt) connected to the accelerator pedal will be eliminated. The existing forward / reverse contactor, speed contactor and solenoid will reused. 

These Altrax controllers are rather expensive, almost the same cost as they were back in the day they were a new factory release for these vehicles. I want to get this thing up and running again, do some tweaking and troubleshooting (always have something amiss), then install the new controller. My wife plans on taking this car when finished and the Altrax will make it much easier for her to drive. She never did like the or jerking action or sound of the "clicky thing" when we drove it.


Ron, when she said she doesn't like the jerk are you sure she meant the car? 

You know the more I think about it, I'm not sure! 

I'll post some more pictures next week. Carpet, head-liner, vinyl top and most of the decals are now on. Having issues with re-popping the hubcap decals as it is a 4 color done on chrome backing which is chipping somewhat. Scheduled for the weekend are installation of the roll bar padding, completion of the rear wiring (motor / contactor), 48 volt battery charger, battery wiring, etc.


Hi Richard, We bought this critter almost a year ago out of Pittsburgh from a friend from the Amphicar club. Though it was running and looked ok it needed a good going over, which made my wife, bother and many friends shake their heads, as they knew what was ahead for the Citicar. I just can’t seem to leave my fingers off something I buy; it needs to come apart. I am currently trying to get this together for the Gettysburg meet. 

Have more photos to post when I get time. Playing hooky from work tomorrow to install the windows. Projects today include installing the onboard battery charger, connecting the batteries up, wiping down the undercarriage and adjusting / bleeding the brakes. Saturday was spent installing the roll cage padding (what a pain), finishing up the contactor (clicky thing as wife says) wiring and installing the accelerator pedal.


I try my best.

Photo of contactor wires (for motor terminals / relays / solenoid) and rebuilt contactor installed. Looking for someone that can make and install new points onto an existing heavy copper point plate. New ones are unobtainable and existing ones will need attention one day. Sixteen points total between the forward / reverse and speed contactor. When switching over to the Altrax controller (someday) you still need to utilize the points.

Also picture of onboard 48-volt Lester battery charger. Wife name cor "Lester" go figure. You can also see the new black artificial grass carpet just like the factory original. To the left of the charger is the accelerator pedal which is connected to the 3 miro switches (pot box) via a rod. These switches control the voltage allowed to the contactor thus the vehicle speed.

Pictures of the new vinyl roof (less the molding clips, tonight's project), buffed out original rear window and new custom made front windshield. Was lucky to find the correct and exact window mounting rubber. This pictures also shows the re-popped factory decals. They are made or reflective material so the flash bounced off the decal unfortunately.


I did sand, file and clean all of them however a few are to the point they are close to being even with the plate, so they are all but gone. A few are like new. 

This car has a little over 9K miles as it was used at Bucknell Collage by the security department so it has a lot of stop & go cycles. I shifted point sets around where possible keeping them grouped since the forward contacts are used more than the reverse ones. I will try and take a picture of the points this weekend.

Here is a picture of a well used contactor that I downloaded from the internet. 

On the tall tower to the right, on the top, you will see 2 ribbed shaped points (left one is easier to see). This has a point attached to it along with a point attached to a plate directly above it. Unsure how I would attach a new point to these different style mating surfaces? Possibly drill a hole smaller than the new point and braze it in from the back side?

Thanks for the input. You are correct silver solder would be better than brazing. This is good to know as I can't weld or braze worth a $#%. I may have some silver dimes here somewhere. There is rumor that 2 of these critters are sitting in a junkyard an hour from here so I may make a trip and buy up their contactors if there in ok shape. I may also shake down some electrical friends that are hoarding some silver contacts.


Barry, the tall contactor is forward / reverse (up reverse & down forward). Factory originally had them operating the other way but found there was less wear going forward if coil pulled down. The other contactor in called the speed controller (SP-1). The 8 batteries are wired in parallel and in series and divided into two packs of four, providing 24 volts in each pack. The car uses 24 volts from each pack in parallel for the first two speeds and 48 volts in series for the top speed. The speeds are changed by changing the voltage through the use of an accelerator's three micro switches. 

As the accelerator is depressed, current will flow from the two packs of batteries wired in parallel which produce 24 volts. In the first speed the current passes through a nichrome ribbon resister (under the car in rear) which cuts the amperage load and permits a fairly smooth take off. The first position has a top speed of 11 mph. Depressing the accelerator further will activate a solenoid in the contactor box which bypasses the resistor and increases the speed 23 mph. The car remains in a parallel circuit mode using 24 volts from each pack of batteries. The third speed changes the current from 24 volts in a parallel circuit to 48 volts in a series circuit. To reverse the car a toggle switch on the dash is used to change the current flow to the opposite direction.

Here is a picture of the point set up I pulled from the internet.

Larry there are no dumb questions. The entire body including the top is made out of a material called "Cycolac", which is an extremely thin type of plastic (not fiberglass). It will crack simply by looking at the Citicar the wrong way. They have also been known to crack at the windshield pillars if loading onto a trailer. S

Since the vehicle is riveted together stress cracks tend to show up. I countered this by drilling the rivet holes a whisker larger to allow for a tiny amount of play and expansion (not loose though). Riveting this vehicle together was like building an experimental airplane. Even the taillight chrome housing, rocker moldings, etc were riveted. I had to buy a pneumatic rivet gun as my right hand was starting to look like Hulk Hogans. I beefed up the areas prone to cracking with fiberglass underneath prior to painting.

No range between speeds and it is jerky at best, even though the owners manual says you will become an expert at controlling these miro switches. 

At the end of production they came out with a different style of controller that eliminated these switches and provided for a variable type speed control. I have this set up but requires a total rewire of everything that controls the motor. I will wait to work the bugs out of everything than tear this portion apart and redo. This will drive the wife nuts as she is ready to drive this thing.


Picture of the roll bar padding. What a royal pain in the a$$ this was to find, custom cut, figure out the right glue to use, etc. Used pictures of the original installation to install the new. Also a picture of the seat. The bottom had to be custom made and matches the original and the seat backs were in decent shape and reused.

Picture of the refinished steering wheel which was in good condition. Only needed scuffed and painted. Also a picture of the contactor (clickly thing) cover which are fairly rare as many times they got tossed.

Picture of the side molding which the rubber took months to finally fiqure out what to use to replicate the original. You can also see the receptacle for charging and the hubcap which has the custom made decals installed. The decals arrived Friday afternoon. Also a picture of the finished Citicar's side view. One thing learned is that no matter how much boarding you do to a Citicar you cannot remove all the waves. It just isn't possible as it is way to thin.

Finished with the exception of some tweaking as is typical. Off to the Gettysburg meet Thursday early AM.

Thanks all for the nice compliments. I just finished yesterday. The wife is somewhat miffed that it is restored and I am entering it for an AACA junior as she wants to drive it to work. She can use it after Gettysburg however I have some things to finish up and check out. I just ran out of time.

Here are some Citicar facts:

The manufacture Sebring Vanguard was formed in 1974 due in part to the mid 70’s fuel crisis. A factory was set up in Florida and approximately 2500 vehicles were built from 1974 to 1976. The selling price in 1975 was about $4500. This was considerably more than the average gas powered car at that time.

In 1977 the company went bankrupt and was sold piecemeal at auction. The principal buyer at the auction was a mobile home manufacturer from New Jersey named Frank Flowers. Frank purchased most of the company in-tact, but not the trade names “Sebring Vanguard or Citicar". In 1978 he proceeded to build a new version of the car using both new and existing parts from the Citicar, as well as incorporating a number of electrical improvements. The overall shape of the new car looked very much like the Citicar and many of the parts are interchangeable. Since Frank did not have the copyright for the original name he called the new car the “ComutaCar”. As luck would have it in 1978 America would have the second major oil shortage of the decade, which resulted in an immediate desire to have more efficient cars. The ComutaCar was an instant success and sold over 4,000 vehicles. The average price for the ComutaCar was $6,500, rather expensive. 

By 1980, several things had changed and people were no longer as interested in fuel economy. Perhaps more importantly, the National Transportation Safety Board had increased the requirements for vehicle certification. Even though the ComutaCar would have probably passed the higher standards that all cars in America must pass, the cost for testing and certifying the vehicle line, plus the cost of insuring the manufacturer (from $150,000 to $300,000), proved to be the final death blow. 

A speed of 38 MPH is achievable with a range of 30 to 45 miles depending on the terrain (hills, etc), battery condition and the number of stop and go’s. There is an on board charger to replenish the eight 6 volt batteries that are located under the seat. The Citicar has large relays to configure three different voltages and therefore three different speeds for the vehicle. The motor is mounted directly to the differential and there is no transmission. The low speed is about 18 volts, middle speed is 24 volts and high speed is 48 volts. The vehicle is made of ABS plastic, has an aluminum frame with roll cage, weighs a total of 1,250 pounds (less passengers) and seats 2 adults comfortably.


It is loaded up in the trailer (with the Amphicar) and ready to leave early AM tomorrow. The odd couple I call them. I am using both these vehicles along with my 55 for the youth activity Val & I are doing. 

These Citicars seem to be fairly plentiful and reasonable. Though mine is probably somewhat over restored (if that is possible), it still has all the factory "what were they thinking" finishes and parts. 

See you in a few!


Final picture from the Gettysburg meet to wrap up this thread. 

It was nice seeing and talking to many who have followed this thread. It was a busy week for us since we were helping with the show. Thanks for all the positive comments. Wife finally had a chance to drive it, unfortunately she drove it through a muddy field at 25 MPH after it was judged (1st junior). She has offered to help clean the undercarriage which should prove interesting.


Thanks for the tip Robin. I will call them next week. I am taking a break from the Citicar however in the near future I will be converting it over to the electronic controller. Using the new style controller still requires the use of the original forward / reverse contactor so I would like to redo those contacts. Will let you know what they say. These type forms are extremely helpful when pooling all our information together. Thanks again.

Wow, the Kewet looks like a Citicar that has progressed through design for a few decades. I attached a picture however haven't had the time to look up production numbers, etc. I wonder where you would get parts for them? Even the engine mounting, appearance, size, etc are extremely similar.


Thanks for the info Kim, very interesting. It appears that the original company went out of business due to bankruptcy in almost the same time frame (years wise)as Sebring Vanguard (Citicar). Citicar also made a van in limited production just like the Kewet Eljet. I recently spoke to an Amphicar friend who said he had a Citicar postal van years ago and ended up destroying it. 

There has to be a connection somewhere even if only in the thought process, there are just to many similarities. I would definitely ask him if the opportunity arose. Please keep us posted on your progress


Thanks for the links. The Sprit of DC looks like it carries a lot of batteries but at 101 miles per gallon something is working ok. 

This gathering was only a few hours from my house but unfortunately I found out about it a week late. They were hoping for a 2010 meet on the far west coast USA but there has been no talk of it lately. I spoke to two people that have right hand drive Citicars which I never knew existed!

The wife is getting the itch to drive it and she made me a deal last week: take the Citicar to the New Bern AACA Grand National meet then she takes the keys win or lose.