By on October 14, 2015

00 - 1984 Chevrolet Citation in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

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.
11 - 1984 Chevrolet Citation in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

The Citation II name was part of The General’s attempt to show that the reliability problems that plagued the 1980-83 Citations were over, forever. Car shoppers were skeptical, and 1985 was the final year for the Citation.

04 - 1984 Chevrolet Citation in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

A vertically-oriented cassette deck. It’s not quite a telescreen, but as a member of the Class of 1984, I belonged to the future and understood that vertical orientation was the only way to play my mix tapes.

13 - 1984 Chevrolet Citation in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

This is the kind of rust you get in California, where I shot this car. Paint flakes off in the harsh sun, rainwater gets under the trim (back when it used to rain in California), and this happens.

05 - 1984 Chevrolet Citation in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

Remember the signature blue AlmostVelour™ of 1980s GM cars? Turns out it survives pretty well.

“After making so many engineering refinements, we made one more change: the name!”

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64 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1984 Chevy Citation II 5-Door Hatchback...”


  • avatar
    cwallace

    It must have been a real treat to use a manual-tuned radio mounted sideways in a six inch deep box while you were driving.

    • 0 avatar
      cbrworm

      Are the radio knobs swapped? I remember volume being on the top.

      Those symbols would probably appear to be cryptic to the youth of today.

      And yes, the Corsica seemed to be a much better car – I never realized it was the replacement for the Citation (II). I guess the cavalier was quite good compared to the Chevette. It’s all about perspective.

      • 0 avatar
        Syke

        That’s an aftermarket stereo, designed for the usual horizontal mounting with the power switch/volume knob on the left, tuning knob on the right.

        • 0 avatar
          a1veedubber

          That is actually the factory cassette deck for a Citation. Very hard to find today. In fact, if anyone wants to go to the yard and snag this one I will buy it. (Citation owner here…..)

      • 0 avatar
        Hank

        I always thought off the Celebrity as the Citation replacement, and the Corsica and Lumina as Celebrity offspring.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I would agree with this assessment. The Celebrity was stodgy, slow, and conservative – just like the Citations. The Corsica was entirely too modern and “Euro.”

      • 0 avatar
        Hank

        I always thought of the Celebrity as the Citation replacement, and the Corsica and Lumina as Celebrity offspring.

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          The Celebrity replaced the Citation in that the A-body owed much of its architecture to the X-body, but because of GM’s continuous downsizing in the ’80s, it was meant as a replacement for the RWD A-body. The Citation would be supplanted by the even smaller Cavalier. The W-body eventually replaced the A- and G-bodies, but at a much greater cost and much later than GM would have liked.

          The N-body (on which the L-body Corsica and Beretta were heavily based) was a little fuzzier. It was bigger than the J, but smaller than the A–a “premium sport compact” made primarily so that Olds and Buick wouldn’t have to embarrass themselves anymore selling Firenzas and Skyhawks.

          • 0 avatar
            a1veedubber

            Under the skin a FWD A-body is a Citation. They even shared service manuals for several years and each model had either a large X or A stamped in each front apron panel since they were built together on the same lines.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            Look at the sideview mirrors on the IIs — probably swappable with a Ciera or Century.

            I thought that the vertically-oriented radio and HVAC was replaced with the Delco 2000-series sort-of-double-DIN radios (including ETRs) and conventionally-situated HVAC controls when they renamed the Citation to the II. What year was that? Obviously not 1984!

          • 0 avatar
            a1veedubber

            I am pretty sure they are the same mirrors. Citations started using them in 82 or 83 I believe. I have an 81 X11 and two Celebrity coupes (85 & 86), I think I used a Citation mirror from my old 85 X11 on my 86 Celeb as a replacement when I hit the edge of the garage door!

            Citations switched to the 1.5DIN radio in 85 for their final year, the 85 X11 has quite the 80’s interior!

      • 0 avatar

        I assume that’s the international symbol for shooting a bullet into a patch of grass.

      • 0 avatar
        sfvarholy

        The L-Bodies (Corsica/Beretta) were much much worse in many ways. Had a Beretta GT. I longed for my X-11 back with that car. The Beretta drove me to Hondas.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Lol, I was thinking that. Surely it does not matter how long you must take your eyes off the road.

    • 0 avatar
      sfvarholy

      It was easy to use.

      You put your pinky and next two fingers on the top of the dash and turned the the top knob with thumb and forefinger.

      Far easier to use on rough roads than the then-new digital radios with up/down buttons.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      I bet it’s still easier to use than CUE.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    My parents had one of the early Citations, and one thing I remember most vividly was the fact that when you put the driver’s sun visor down, it hit the rear view mirror. Chevrolet, to their great credit, eventually saw the problem and added a crease to the visor so that it would readily bend and allow the visor to pass the mirror. Symbolically at least, this half-assed way of operating stood for the beginning of the end of the General making good cars. It took decades to reverse this downward slide and so easy for Japan to gain its foothold.

  • avatar
    jfm

    The GM X-bodies: Xperimental at the customer’s Xpense.

  • avatar
    deanst

    My parents had the “fancy” version of the X-car – the Olds Omega (1980). It was surprisingly reliable, lasting over a dozen years without any unusual repairs. However, I do remember that the doors sounded like they would fall apart everytime you closed them. I was shocked when I first closed the door on a Honda (somewhat rare at the time!); even a Ford Fairmont seemed built like a bank vault compared to these things.

    • 0 avatar
      pbxtech

      The exhaust manifold and the starter were at the front of the car. The ice and snow hitting those hot parts was not helpful for longevity. I had to replace both on mine. The frame ground rusted off too, but who need headlights, brake lights and wipers?

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    These were everywhere in the Michigan suburb I grew up in… when I was doing warehouse work as a teenager, one of co-workers loved to brag about his 2.8L powered (non X-11 I believe) Citation and how fast it was.

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      Ah yes, the GM “hair-trigger” throttle. Where light throttle seemed to open the throttle 50%, but crush it to the floor and the response was nearly the same. Fooled everyone into thinking their 2.8, 3.1 3.3 3.4, 3.8 V6 GM car was a rocket.

      Granted, some of those engines did make it into some qucker vehicles, and some were fairly quick for their time.But those hair trigger cars were meant to feel much faster than they were.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        I guess I’m not sure why that’s a terrible thing.

        I have a new car with 370hp but its throttle response is so restricted that it drives me crazy. I have to spend $600 on a tuner to make it react the way I want.

        I’ll take “hair-trigger” over the throttle lag of today.

        • 0 avatar
          gearhead77

          It bothered me because it’s not linear. A tip of the throttle should be just that,. These cars had a very abrupt response to slightly opening the throttle. It was for the illusion of power too, which made everyone think their 10 seconds to 60 2.8 V6 powered car was a rocket ( yes, I know 10 seconds wasn’t awful in the mid 80’s)

        • 0 avatar
          joeaverage

          That hair trigger throttle is hell to drive in heavy traffic.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        They fixed this later in vehicles like the late 90’s Century, where there was only one acceleration option with the pedal: slow. No matter how you press down, the engine will not respond with anything more than a yawn and a “Oh, I don’t think so.” response.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        A lot of carmakers do this be it Toyota (Scion Xb in paticular) or Dodge (our Dodge Neon has a very loose gas pedal), it makes city driving a little easier but parking and snowy driving can be a bit trickier.

        I personally prefer linear response, it helps save gas and pedal modulation, its an absolute must in RWD cars for slippery surfaces.

        That being said todays cars should let you adjust the responsive-ness yourself.

      • 0 avatar
        dtremit

        The damn thing is, it worked. Ford would routinely hold focus groups pitting faster Fords with linear throttles against slower GM products with rigged ones, and consumers would rate the GM car as “faster.” I think they eventually ended up copying it.

  • avatar
    Joss

    The Citation always struck me as a GM belated attempt at Passat or Renault 16. Given the larger powertrain it should have been better. Every Skylark I saw seem to come in metallic blue with wheel rings & whitewalls. Those were the days of front drive avoidance. We went for a rear drive LeMan’s with that blue velour interior.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    It could have been a contender .

    I had one , a base model yellow four door , it died , we got hosed on it .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I remember my grandmothers Citation II, same style as this one. Powder blue with that awful AlmostVelour interior. Even as a kid, it felt weird and the sideways radio was just strange to young me. I don’t remember much, I know I rode in it a few times but not often (Grandma was not a good driver). I don’t know why grandma got rid of it, but she traded it on an 88 Tempo that was a dealer demo. We had that Tempo in our family for a long time, my sister drove it to college in Ohio for 4 years. She traded on a 2002 Acura RSX. It was a pretty solid car for us.

    These X-bodies were everywhere in my youth in blue collar Pittsburgh. They were replaced it seems with Corisica/Beretta ( or whatever GM brand you were loyal to) by the diehard “Buy American” folks and nearly any import by those who the X-body caused them to swear off domestics forever.

    Every once in awhile, I will see one that has survived.

    • 0 avatar
      JCraig

      My grandmother had one just like that, powder blue with dark blue velourish interior. I was very young then, but I remember it seemed old for being brand new. It would be her last American car. She replaced it with an ’86 Accord and never looked back. I remember riding in the Accord and it looking like a futuristic space ship by comparison.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        My mother had one and it confused me. It SEEMED like a nice car but the door panels were (as I recall) a single piece of molded plastic. That AM only radio which we upgraded to AM/FM from a junkyard car. Was not an exciting car but it showed me how much utility a car with five doors and a rear folding seat could have. Am not sure if the rear seat even folded. Mom had a weird mix of a/c, vinyl interior, four cylinder/auto, manual windows and AM radio. Maybe one notch up from the bottom trim package?

        It was a good car for my parents for something like 140K miles. No major repairs. Was Mom’s commuter car.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    OK the X-cars stunk. We largely agree.

    Our family with the exception of the Old Man who stayed true to Cadillac, all eventually migrated to Hondas in the early 80’s and stayed there for a decade. Never had any regrets regarding the Hondas.

    Remember my neighbour bringing home his Celebrity Eurosport (not an X-car but still relevant?) and comparing it to my Accord. The Chev seemed Ok for the first 12 months. Within 3 years it was long gone.

    However regarding the X-cars 1) at least that dashboard had real information gauges (yes, I know optional) and 2) darn that GM ‘velour’ holds up well. I wish that material was still available in ‘base’ or lower trim autos.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    I may be in the minority but I had an ’80 Citation 4-door with the Iron Duke and it was reliable and half way competent at 12-15 years old. It was no barn burner but surprisingly peppy and got good mileage. It could also haul a lot of stuff. Got the job done.

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      I also had an 80 Skylark and other from the fact that the cooling fan would constantly fail and cause overheating, it was fine by me. That consistent problem is what lead me to get rid of it.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        Was it the fan or switch? Sometimes it is aftermarket parts quality. I’ve had that problem with radiators for my CR-V. The OEM lasted 160K miles, the aftermarket versions range from 13 months to 6 years.

    • 0 avatar
      CobraJet

      My wife and I shopped all the X bodies in 1980 and settled on the Omega. I still have in my collection the sales brochures for the Omega, Skylark, Phoenix, and Citation.

  • avatar
    a1veedubber

    Damn. I need to take a trip to CA one of these days specifically for yarding. If this were local to me half of it would be coming home in the back of my S10. Hatch,bumpers,tailights,grille,bumper fillers,dash,ETC…..this stuff is IMPOSSIBLE to find in IA.

    Yes, there are those of us that like these cars!

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Thanks a lot for this. Seeing that awful piece of garbage ruined my visit here this morning.

  • avatar
    kmars2009

    Citation came out early in ’79 and was “The first Chevy of the 80’s” and was an ’80 model. The J-Cars Cavalier came out in early ’81 as an ’82 model. The A-Cars Celebrity came out in ’81 as ’82 models.
    With that being said…Citation replaced the aging RWD NOVA. The CAVALIER replaced the MONZA. The CELEBRITY replaced the MALIBU. Notice all old models were RWD, the new FWD.
    GM was on a FWD roll as it was the way to package cars eficiently…and reduce weight, yeilding better mileage.
    Gas had gone up considerably in the late ’70s. People wanted more efficient cars.
    Unfortunately, they didn’t know when to quit when the Park Ave/ 98 Regency/ de Ville came out. As well as other B-bodies being replaced. Leaving the Caprice/de Ville Brougham as the only original B-bodies.
    Realizing their mistake on some level. Other B-bodies came out. Pariseianne, then Roadmaster, then a Fleetwood and Caprice…all updated…of course.
    The Citation seemed like a better car than Nova…and in some ways it was…but like they say, the grass is NOT ALWAYS greener, on the other side.

  • avatar
    wantahertzdonut

    Was there a contest in the 80’s to make the worst dashboard possible? Vertically oriented radio: is this a kit car? And why is it so recessed?

  • avatar
    s_a_p

    I cannot believe that car made it into production with a vertical radio and AC control panel. That is egregious!!!

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    I had an 82 Omega. I got rid of it when I realized it was dieing the death of a thousand cuts. It always ran, just poorly. Nothing major broke, but constantly needed minor things checked, adjusted, replaced. I never did find all the sources for its phantom fluid leaks, just checked, adjusted, replaced again.
    The paint job was atrocious, the plastic interior faded at different rates, yet the fabric (deeper blue than this example) always looked new.
    Somehow, probably by sheer numbers produced, they were still fairly common on the road several years after production stopped.

  • avatar
    CAMeyer

    A full set of gauges, a vertically mounted radio, and even four on the floor. Driving this car must have been like piloting a Corvette, I mean except for the car being slow and ugly.

  • avatar
    Brumus

    Dad had one of these when I was a kid.

    Rust it certainly did, and the interior was rather decrepit, but I recall the thing logged some hard miles on it for many years as car No. 3 in the household without any major mechanical issues. I also recall driving worse things in this era.

    Has my memory deceived me?

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      Not necessarily. A buddy of mine’s girlfriend owned a Citation II and loved it, never let her down. I guess it’s one of those many instances of GM getting something right just before it has to kill it.

  • avatar
    jimbob457

    Fascinating history.

    Sure, GM started its decline with a minor (but significant) error on an otherwise OK Chevy Corvair. Then came the Lordsburg Chevy Vega with a semi-aluminum meltdown engine. The ensuing X-body Citation came next.

    Subsequently, GM spiraled slowly into bankruptcy in the early 21st century. Do you think there is any writer around who can tell this story?

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Well, let’s start with the Cimarron. And then….

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      Just point out that GM has always released a product, fine tuned it while people were buying them, and just as they get it “right” they kill it off and restart the whole process.

      They basically poison a model/brand at the start with a half-baked product. Microsoft often does the very same thing.

      Wait until late in a model cycle and you could have a quality purchase.

  • avatar
    Civarlo

    The large public university in Oregon that employed my father in the 1980’s started using these in the university motor pool in 1984. All 4-door hatchbacks, and all light blue. According to Dad, they were a huge improvement over the prior fleet: a choice between white 1980 Chevy Chevettes and beige 1980 AMC Concords. Maybe the state was able to get an incredible fleet deal on the “II’s” because the Citation’s rep among regular retail buyers was all but shot by that time. The fleet got even better and more varied when the man in charge of the motor pool started buying better, more assorted stuff from rental car companies at auction: 1-year old red Buick here, 1-year-old tan Olds there, and so on.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    CC ect ! .

    I was at Valley Mercedes Thursday evening and the same old Oldsmobile of this platform was still sitting there all dusty with it’s original paint…

    Being a four door I imagine it’s worthless .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    -Nate

    CC effect ! .

    I was at Valley Mercedes Thursday evening and the same old Oldsmobile of this platform was still sitting there all dusty with it’s original paint…

    Being a four door I imagine it’s worthless .

    Wait ~ it has a hatchback so it’s a five door ? .

    -Nate

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