Junkyard Find: 1981 Chevrolet Citation

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1981 chevrolet citation

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.

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  • Grandprix Grandprix on Jul 15, 2011

    Had a 6 cyl Fairmont wagon that looked sharp but ran rough because of carburetor problems. On the other hand, I had a '88 Celebrity with the 4 cyl Iron Duke that ran flawlessly and had adequate power. But it was fuel injected.

  • 1981X-11 1981X-11 on Apr 03, 2015

    There is actually a GM X-Body – Citation X-11 Facebook page. Almost 500 members, over 1000 new and vintage pics, and every-year X-car dealer brochure in the Photo Albums section. Ha! https://www.facebook.com/groups/chevycitations/

  • Tassos And all 3 were ordered by Fisker's mother. Seriously, given Fisker's terrible record of Failure in the past, only an utter loser, (for example, VGhost or Art Vandelay?), looking for a BEV terrible enough to be a proper replacement of his 11 mile range Fiat 500E, would order one of these. (apart from Fisker's mother)
  • Tassos And all 3 of them were ordered by Fisker's mother.Seriously, after Fisker's DISMAL record of UTTER FAILURE in the past, only a GOD DAMNED MORON would order this one.
  • RHD Any truth to the unconfirmed rumor that the new, larger model will be called the bZ6X? We could surmise that with a generous back seat it certainly should be!
  • Damon Thomas Adding to the POSITIVES... It's a pretty fun car to mod
  • GregLocock Two adjacent states in Australia have different attitudes to roadworthy inspections. In NSW they are annual. In Victoria they only occur at change of ownership. As you'd expect this leads to many people in Vic keeping their old car.So if the worrywarts are correct Victoria's roads would be full of beaten up cars and so have a high accident rate compared with NSW. Oh well, the stats don't agree.https://www.lhd.com.au/lhd-insights/australian-road-death-statistics/