Rare Rides: The Chevrolet Citation Story, Part II

We continue our Chevrolet Citation coverage today, just after the economy car’s 1980 introduction to critical acclaim and huge sales figures. Unfortunately for GM, the Citation’s true personality was quickly exposed, and things were entirely downhill from there.

After it won a COTY award from Motor Trend, the Citation’s qualities became apparent to the press, NHTSA, and the general public. Citation was almost immediately derided for its poor quality, panels that loved to rust, dangerous handling characteristics, and how it would occasionally catch fire. Said fires caused a recall of 225,000 cars from 1980 to fix a transmission hose that tended to spill its contents all over red-hot metal.

The NHTSA even took GM to court given the Citation’s braking issues: Under heavy braking, the lightly loaded rear end of the Citation was prone to break traction cause a loss of control. There were also power steering issues. NHTSA was not successful in its legal challenge to GM, and the case was dismissed.

All of the above added up to a considerable loss in consumer confidence toward the Citation. Sales halved in 1981 to 413,000 cars, and more than halved again in 1982, to 165,000. Each year from 1983 through 1985, Citation couldn’t manage 100,000 sales.

GM continued fiddling with the very damaged Citation and renamed it in 1984 to Citation II. The name edit was meant to reflect a newer, better Citation (it wasn’t) and bring in new buyers. It worked very marginally, as 1984 sales increased around 3,000 over the prior year’s 92,000. The Citation was discontinued after 1985 and replaced jointly by the Corsica and Beretta. Almost nobody missed it, and Citations were largely off the roads by the early Nineties.

But there was a bright(er) spot among all the Citation’s problems, the X-11. The X-11 stood aside from the two standard trims at introduction in 1980. Visually different from standard Citations, the X-11 wore large badging to denote its specialness alongside different color schemes. There were also upgrades to the chassis and engine (eventually). X-11 trim was offered only on the two- and three-door Citations – sorry five-door. By 1981 the X-11 offered a different engine: the high-output version of the 2.8, good for 135 horses. This exclusivity lasted only through 1982, as for ’83, that engine was granted as an option on all Citations.

Today’s Citation example is of course an X-11. The three-door is presently for sale on eBay out of Illinois. Black over tan with a four-speed manual, it looks in great condition. Yours for a not-so-reasonable $10,950.

[Images: GM]

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