Chevrolet Citation

Chevrolet Citation II
Chevrolet Citation
Chevrolet, like many other American car manufacturers, was facing a real battle during the 1970s. Car manufacturers were facing the very real gas shortage problem, new and more-strict pollution and safety regulations, and an increased challenge amongst foreign imports because of these issues. These pressures, as well as excitement concerning new innovations and technologies, led Chevrolet to introduce its Citation.

Throughout the 1970s, foreign car companies were sending small and efficient cars to America. With them came technical evolutions that would still be employed by cars produced today. American car companies had fallen behind. One of them, at least amongst the American companies, took the lead in changing its car line to meet the demands of the public, and that company was General Motors.

By the late 1970s, and early '80s, GM had introduced a whole new line of cars that were both small and efficient, at least compared to what American companies had been producing up to that point in time. Its X-car was, however, to be the company's most important and forward-thinking of all the new lines.

Gas shortages led many people to abandon designs with V-8s in favor of more efficient six and four-cylinder engines. GM's X-cars were over 800 pounds lighter. They were more compact, but were just as spacious as some of its larger brethren.

Up until the late 1970s, most American manufacturers had been still using cars with rear-wheel drive. The transverse mounted, front-wheel drive car had just been released and became wildly popular as it was more efficient and offered more space. American companies were sent scrambling to catch up. Then, in 1980, Chevrolet introduced what was originally to be called the 'Condor', but ended up being named the 'Citation'.

Originally offered with a wide-range of body styles, the Citation enjoyed great sales success its first year of production. No doubt helped in part by such sources as Motor Trend naming it its 'Car of the Year' in 1980. Chevrolet offered the Citation in three different body styles: 2-door notchback coupe, 3-door hatchback and a 5-door hatchback. The wide variety of unibody constructed body styles, its interior space and the rather impressive straight-line performance led GM to sell over 800,000 Citations in the first year alone. Sales were good enough for the car to claim the honors of 'best selling car in America'.

At the time of its introduction, the Citation was a revolutionary car for GM. Its transverse engine layout and front-wheel drive were relatively unknown territories for American car manufacturers. Despite the unknowns, Chevrolet wanted to push the advantages the front-wheel drive offered. The front wheel drive already enabled an interior offering as much space as some larger rear-wheel driven cars. Therefore, since the efficient car was able to offer more room, albeit with a smaller, lighter chassis, Chevrolet focused on making it a performer; one that would be better than the competition.

The X-car was lighter and more compact. This enabled Chevrolet to produce a sportier version of the Citation. The intention was to provide a car with greater performance, all while offering improved efficiency. This led to the X-11. In its day, the X-11 was a simple but nicely styled performer. The car came with either the standard Iron Duke 2.5 liter four-cylinder engine or the 115 hp 2.8-liter V-6.

Later models of the X-11 included such features as a high-output V-6 engine, fiberglass induction cowl hood, rear spoiler, special axle ratios and front and rear stabilizer bars. The car was capable of reaching zero to 60 in the nine second range.

Despite its performance and technological innovations, Chevrolet's Citation had more than its share of problems. In many cases, the engineering employed in the car had not been thoroughly tested and solidified. Chevrolet had been in a rush to counter the demand the import market had been getting.

Being a front-wheel drive car, the torque-steering problems were never really solved before the car went into production. The cars were known for their instability, especially under braking. In many cases, the rear brakes would lock up and cause the car to enter into spins. This fact led to a lawsuit from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Another of the car's many issues was its build quality. The car's finish was often poor. After only short periods of ownership people started complaining about electrical problems, locking rear brakes, engine-bay fires due to leaking transmission fluid, power-steering problems and a litany of other mechanical and aesthetic problems.

The troubles led to Citations being recalled as early as its second and third year of production. By 1984, the Citation's reputation had been almost completely marred by the extensive number of recalls. In fact, by the end of manufacturing in 1985, the Citation and its brethren, had become one of the most recalled model of cars ever.

The Citation's numerous engineering troubles and incessant recalls ended up branding the car one of the worst cars ever made by Car & Driver magazine in 2009. Its never-ending list of problems and recalls led to Chevrolet ceasing model production by 1985. Outdone by many imports for quality and performance, very little of the Citation's innovative technology was kept alive but it did serve as a first for GM into the transverse engine layout and front-wheel drive.

'Chevrolet Citation', ( Car Lust: Interesting Cars Meets Irrational Emotion. Retrieved 17 January 2011.

'Chevrolet Citation', ( How Stuff Works?. Retrieved 17 January 2011.

Wikipedia contributors, 'Chevrolet Citation', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 30 December 2010, 03:14 UTC, accessed 17 January 2011

By Jeremy McMullenAt one point in time, it was one of America's best-selling cars. The Chevrolet Citation was a groundbreaking vehicle when it was introduced in 1979 as a 1980 model and the first modern front-wheel drive car from General Motors that shared its basic mechanical layout with Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Buick models. The replacement for the Nova, the Citation was Chevrolet's version of GM's X-car and was followed by the advertising slogan 'You'll like the space it doesn't take up in your garage'.

Fully up to date for 1980, the Citation featured a transverse engine layout and an efficient uni-body design. This vehicle had the broadest arrangement of body styles, all offered four- and six-cylinder engines, but with a two-door coupe and two- and four-door hatchbacks. Originally to be named the 'Condor', the Citation was a compact car sold by the Chevrolet brand of American automaker General motors for model years 1980-1985. Since it was Chevrolet's first front-wheel drive car, the planning for the Citation began in April of 1974 with the first prototypes created in mid-summer 1976. The original retail price was under $6,000.

GM anticipated consumer demand for smaller vehicles, so they switched from V8 engines to smaller and more economical V6 and 4-cylinder engines. Much lighter now, the X-body cars were about 800 lbs lighter than the rear-drive compacts that they replaced. For 1980 the Citation was named Motor Trend magazine's Car of the Year. The sales were excellent for the year, but unfortunately production lines were unable to keep up with the demand, and some customers had to wait nine months for their vehicle.
First year sales for the Citation reached more than 800,000, and demand remained strong for 1982. By 1983, the Citation's growing list of recalls was beginning to take its toll on the car, mostly due to faulty rear brakes. Sales declined considerable. In 1984, Chevrolet renamed the line the Citation II in the attempts of beginning a fresh start. Unfortunately this had little effect, and after the 1985 model year the Citation taken off the market. Taking with it a poor reputation as a black eye for GM engineering instead of as the landmark vehicle it was.

Proving to be the most influential, model year 1980 sales totaled an amazing 1.39 million between the four divisions, and Chevrolet's version laid claim to the nation's best-selling vehicle its first year out. The Citation held an advantage over other GM X-cars since it offered more body styles; it came in three versions; a notchback coupe, three-door hatchback and a five-door hatchback.

The Citation had two available powerplants; Pontiac's 'Iron Due' 2.5-liter four which made 90 horsepower, while a new 2.8-liter Chevrolet build V6 with 115 horsepower, which was optional. With either engine, four-speed manual and three-speed automatic transmission were available. Chevrolet went after the younger generation with the sport-oriented X-11 package, which was available on either the two-door coupe or three-door hatchback and featured an up-rated suspension and bold exterior graphics. With the V-6/ four-speed combination it was pretty fast, but not any more powerful than any other Citations.

Many considered the timing of the Citation to be well planned, coinciding with a second gas crisis. But unfortunately, others considered the Citation to have not been well thought of with many kinks that needed to be worked out. Various problems were found early on including a leak-prone transmission hose that was linked to a number of under the hood fires that prompted a recall of 225,000 cars. This unfortunately ranked the Citation and its GM counterparts among the most recalled cars in history. The Citation was ultimately replaced by the L-body Beretta coupe and the Corsica sedan in 1987.

By Jessica Donaldson

Vehicle information, history, and specifications from concept to production.