When GM finally decided to muster its vast resources and engineering talent and build a front-wheel-drive compact car… well, things didn’t go so well. The sclerotic GM bureaucracy described a few years earlier by John DeLorean in On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors produced a car that looked like a fat Chevette, got its power— if that’s the word for it— from the rough-as-a-crab’s-backside Iron Duke pushrod four, and suffered from very public reliability problems from day one. GM sold quite a few Citations, but the “First Chevy of the 80s” is a rare find indeed today. Here’s one that I spotted in a Denver yard a few days ago.
Can you feel the optimism?
Bob Lutz, in his recent book, goes on a lengthy tirade about GM’s frantic rush into front-wheel-drive during the Malaise Era, making the case that a bunch of tree-huggers put a gun to The General’s head and forced him to build half-baked front-wheel-drive designs. Maybe so, but was the Iron Duke (and the later 60-degree pushrod V6 family) the best that the company that (barely 20 years before) R&D’d their way to the groundbreaking small-block Chevy V8 could do?
The Citation did fit as many passengers as the old Nova and got much better fuel economy, and it wasn’t unpleasant to drive (when it was running). It would probably be remembered fondly today, if not for the terrible reliability and build-quality record.