The Chevrolet Citation is so frustrating mostly because it was such a great opportunity for General Motors to own the 1980s; if it had worked as well in reality as it did on paper, it would have obliterated the competition. A roomy, modern, front-wheel-drive car with fuel economy far superior to the primitive late-70s Chevy Nova it replaced, and it was pretty good-looking in a genuinely American way …
… but it ended up being as much a humiliating disaster for GM as Operation Eagle Claw was for the Jimmy Carter presidency.
Citations aren’t easy to find now, but strangely well-preserved examples keep showing up in the self-service wrecking yards I frequent. Here’s a very clean ’81 I found in Denver a couple of weeks ago. (Read More…)
Remember the misery of the Chevy Citation, which had such outstandingly bad build quality and horrifying public reliability problems that the damage to Chevrolet’s image took decades to repair? Only the staggeringly nasty Pontiac Phoenix (a Pontiac-badged Citation sibling) might have been worse; meanwhile, the Buick Division leaped on board the oil-leaking, prematurely corroding, Iron Duke-powered X-Body bandwagon, and fired a full spread of torpedoes into the once-beloved Skylark name.
Not many of these best-forgotten automobiles remain uncrushed, but I was able to spot this ’85 sedan in a Northern California wrecking yard last winter. (Read More…)
Conventional wisdom says wait until the second model year of a new vehicle since that’s when the automaker will have fixed the glaring flaws decried by the “beta testers” who bought the first model year. Is this always true?
Do automakers fix problems “on the sly” so that, say, a 2016 model year car manufactured in August 2015 could already incorporate some/all fixes slated for 2017 model year?
Ah, the General Motors X-body cars! Always good for some anecdotes from readers about rust-through on two-year-old cars, amazing quantities of warranty repairs, and Stuka-dive-style depreciation graphs. After the Citation, the Chevy Corsica seemed like a fine automobile.
So far in this series, we’ve seen this ’80 Skylark, this ’81 Citation, this ’81 Citation, this frighteningly rusty ’81 Citation, this ’82 Citation, this ’82 Citation, this ’83 Citation, and this ’84 Omega, and (because I just can’t resist shooting these things when I see them, no doubt because I believe this ’84 X-body Pontiac to be rivaled only by this 1986 Plymouth Reliant wagon for the dubious prize of Worst Car I’ve Ever Driven), this late-production ’84 Citation II. (Read More…)
The well-publicized reliability troubles of the GM X-body family caused General Motors plenty of image damage during the 1980s, but the Chevy version sold well (at first). Now, of course, most are gone, but examples turn up in wrecking yards every once in a while these days. So far in this series, we’ve seen this ’80 Skylark, this ’81 Citation, this frighteningly rusty ’81 Citation, this ’82 Citation, this ’82 Citation, this ’83 Citation, and this ’84 Omega. Now I’ve found another ’81, with a very nice interior and no apparent rust, in a Denver yard. (Read More…)
This is the third week in Themed Junkyard Find Week Madness. We started with 21st Century Junkyard Find Week, then had Volkswagen Junkyard Find Week, and now we’ve staggered right into Rusty Junkyard Find Week. Next week, I might return to ordinary jumbled-up Junkyard Finds, or I might subject you to an entire month of Chrysler LH Junkyard Finds.
For now, though, let’s finish up our third Themed Junkyard Find Week with a case of genuinely puzzling rust. (Read More…)
Remember the Oldsmobile version of the Chevy Citation? Maybe not, because they sold poorly and depreciated to near-scrap-value levels within a few years. The Oldsmobile Omega was built for the 1980 through 1984 model years, and I’ve found a very clean example from the final year of production. No rust, pretty straight body, Whorehouse Red interior still in great shape… and getting crushed after 30 years on the planet. (Read More…)
The Chevy Citation (and X-body Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Buick siblings) was built in large quantities during its 1980-1985 run, but disappeared from American streets fairly quickly; by the middle 1990s, an X-body in running condition was a rare sight. Still, I run across them in junkyards now and then. In this series, we’ve seen this ’80 Skylark, this ’81 Citation, this ’82 Citation, and this ’83 Citation, and I’ve declined to photograph many more. I spotted today’s find in a Northern California wrecking yard back in March, and it’s a loaded hatchback with V6, automatic, and refrigerator-white paint. (Read More…)
For every Junkyard Find of, say, a Malaise Era bomb that fired several torpedoes into the already leaky hull of a once-great car company, there will be at least one reader who writes a comment that goes something like “I bought one of these cars new, and it went 300,000 trouble-free miles on logging roads in Trinity County. This car’s bad image was undeserved, folks!” Just as it’s possible to have fun with a rented Corolla (just kidding, there is no way to have fun of any sort in a rented Corolla), it’s possible for a first-gen Excel or Sterling 827 to survive like a Slant-Six Valiant sedan. (Read More…)
We’ve seen an ’81 Citation and an ’82 Citation in this series, so let’s continue down GM’s Bad Memory Lane with a 1983 version of the car that damaged The General’s image even more than the Vega. Somehow, this car stayed on the street— or at least out of the wrecking yard— for 29 years, but now it awaits crushing in a Denver self-serve wrecking yard. (Read More…)
It took just eight years for the Buick Skylark to go from a big, rear-drive, credibly luxurious and status-enhancing machine to front-wheel-drive compact based on the unspeakably terrible Chevy Citation. Nearly all of the X-Platform cars are gone now, but the pimposity of this first-year Buick’s whorehouse-red interior must have kept it away from The Crusher for more than three decades. (Read More…)
Plenty of builders of plastic car models do a pretty good job doing “weathered” kits, but most focus on romantic images of Route 66-drivin’ classics rusting beautifully behind a wholesome-looking 1951 service station. I think what we really need is more super-accurate models of iconic American hoopties, and I don’t just talk the talk! So, it brings joy to my heart to see that a professional modelmaker truly understands proper hooptieness. (Read More…)
By the end of the 1970s, it was clear that GM needed a front-wheel-drive compact that would fit as many passengers as a Nova but sip gas like a Rabbit. The General’s forces labored mightily, and they produced the Citation. (Read More…)
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. (Read More…)