By on April 23, 2018

citation_1983_x11

Silk purse from a sow’s ear. Lemonade from lemons. The hackneyed clichés are as endless as the bluster from talking heads on television. On occasion, though, these old phrases hold a bit of water (sometimes that water’s in the cylinder head, but whatever).

There are plenty of terrible cars littering America’s past, but a few of them did have interesting variants. I’ll point to a silver lining in one of The General’s darkest clouds: the Chevrolet Citation X-11.

For 1980, the X-11 was upgraded with front and rear stabilizer bars after GM handling boffins fiddled with the suspension tuning. A high-output version of the carbureted 2.8-liter six V6 arrived in 1981, boasting a less restrictive exhaust and a working hood scoop. It made a heady 135 hp and 165 lb-ft of torque. Different final-drive ratios and transmission gearing helped distance the X-11 from its mundane brothers.

Yes, one could get the thing with a manual transmission, but — because ’80s — it was a four-speed. Still, buff books of the day reported the X-11 would scamper to 60 mph just 0.4 seconds adrift of the same model year Corvette.

It even went racing in SCCA Showroom Stock, taking the championship in ’82 before repeating the feat two years later.

What’s your favorite polished turd? Sentra SE-R? MX-3 1.8L V6? Colt Turbo? Fire away below.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

92 Comments on “QOTD: Can You Make Something from Nothing?...”


  • avatar
    brettucks

    Omni GLH (or GLHS)

    from ALLPAR- Hot Rod declared that the little Omni was two full seconds faster than the GT-350 over a side by side lap at Willow Springs, and one second faster in the quarter-mile than a 1966 Shelby Mustang

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Neon SRT-4 and the Cobalt SS (turbocharged) come to mind for big performance in a small (arguably cruddy) car package.

  • avatar
    18726543

    GMC Typhoon! Who’d have thought you could make something so incredibly fast from a 4wd box? I wouldn’t own one because all those parts and systems must require constant maintenance, but I borrowed an ex-coworker’s for the weekend about fifteen years ago and man was it a hoot!

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Buick Grand National. Yeah, I said it.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    For context, the V6 in lesser Citations made 115 HP, so getting to 135 was a significant bump. The base Iron Duke four banger…well, let’s not go there. The 4-speed manual was not, let’s say, Honda-slick. My dad had one, and it was serviceable but the shifting in the Accord 5-speed I got a few years later which was so much nicer.

    I once found a website by a guy who made his own 5-door X-11. I thought it showed a lot of love and dedication to a car with a pretty tarnished legacy. Chevy only made that trim available on the two-doors (notchback and hatch), so it’s a unique one-off.

  • avatar
    e30gator

    The Saturn Ion Redline.

    It was a pretty fun car to beat on if I remember correctly. I only drove one once, but I recall it being a decently quick and engaging little s***box.

  • avatar
    WallMeerkat

    Rover (as in, BL -> Austin Rover -> Rover group -> MG Rover, NOT the current Jaguar-Land Rover) used to be good at making something from nothing.

    From a collaboration on a compact car with Honda they ended up with a range of models in the R8 200/400 that, in the UK at least in the early 90s, really competed against the VW Golf. It spawned the gorgeous 200 “Tomcat” coupe too.

    Replacements for the R8 came from cobbling together 200 parts and Maestro parts for the R3, and taking a Honda Domani – an ugly Japanese model, tidying it up and somehow giving it a bit of class, selling it as a hatchback and saloon. This later spawned the wannabe-Impreza MG ZS (the original not the new CUV).

    The US nearly got the 800 coupe, the 800 was based on the Honda Legend, sold poorly in the states as the Sterling. The facelift improved matters, gave it a more imposing look, the coupe really looked like a mini Bentley.

    Post-BMW ownership they decided to rebody a Qvale supercar as the MG SV, and take their X-type rivalling ’75’ model – developed under BMW ownership as a ‘retro’ model – fit a 4.6 litre Ford Mustang V8 and convert the floorpan from FWD to RWD as the MG ZT 260.

  • avatar
    Shortest Circuit

    V6 Fiero

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    The 3800. The original Buick V6 was a cheap, rough, chop-block V8 with no virtues to speak of. GM finally turned it into something respectable by the ’90s.

    • 0 avatar
      redgolf

      that’s right bumpy ii, like my 97 3.8 gp with 177k miles, still running on original plugs & wires! hey if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! air still works too!

    • 0 avatar
      Mike Beranek

      Yeah, this engine was a turd when GM bought it back from AMC in the 70’s. They evened out the firing order, then over the years added port fuel injection, balance shafts, and put it on a diet. The Series II and Series III’s are probably the most tarted-up pushrod V6s ever made.
      It’s really amazing when you compare the engine bay of the G-platform siblings Deville and Park Avenue. The Caddy’s Northstar is huge, heavy, impossible to work on, and unreliable thanks to the head-bolt issue. The 3800 in the Buick is tiny in that huge engine bay and you can get to everything easily. And it runs and runs and runs, cranking out 25-30 MPG every day.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      May the Lord of Eternal Torque bless ye forever. Amen.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    SE-R doesn’t count, because the B13 wasn’t a turd to begin with.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Agreed, that was a decent little car.

    • 0 avatar
      KevinC

      I owned a ’93 SE-R, and I too initially bristled at it being included as a “turd”. But I think that “polished turd” isn’t far off the mark. The base Sentra was pretty crappy. And that car had the thinnest and most fragile sheet metal of any car I ever owned. But polish it up they did, with the incredible SR20DE motor, limited slip, and other tweaks.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        In ’91 the Sentra was a real standout in the economy class with a powerful 1.6L DOHC GA16DE motor with 110hp (Civic and Corolla made low-90s), and an optional 4spd auto that allowed for comfortable highway cruising. Hardly something to call a turd when things like the 2nd gen J-body Cavalier were around, and the regular Sentra was outgunning its Japanese rivals in power by 20%.

      • 0 avatar
        Tele Vision

        My mechanic friend has a father who’s a mechanic who has a real SE-R. I traded my friend my truck for the Sentra one weekend. Whatta blast that thing is. I loved being able to just flex a toe on the highway to pass another car without changing down.

      • 0 avatar
        seanx37

        I had one as well. Got stolen. I still miss it 25 yrs later.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Try to find a B13 Sentra, let alone an SE-R compared to a Civic or even a Saturn from that era and you will see, they weren’t built to last. I have been shopping for one for some time.

    • 0 avatar
      cdmoore1972

      The SE-R was great, and deserves the same respect that the Civic si variants from that era get.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    1971 AMC Hornet SC/360. Your welcome.

  • avatar
    paxman356

    Mazda 323 GTX. All wheel drive, 132hp turbo engine. It’s not that the 323 was terrible, it was just an economy car, and the GTX made it cool.

    Same could be said for the Galant VR-4.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Pontiac 6000STE.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Interesting call, FreedMike.

      One could argue against the STE in that the A-bodies weren’t fundamentally bad cars (“turds,” to quote Matthew). Yes, I’d rather have had a 2nd or 3rd-gen Accord, but the A-bodies had some positives in terms of being well-packaged and reliable.

      To your point, though, the base A-bodies were tuned to drive like 1970s American sedans. The upgraded suspensions of the STE, T-Type, and Eurosport made a dramatic difference in the handling – much more, IMO, than a typical “base” vs “sport” change in a 2010s car would be.

      Unlike a lot of commenters, I’ve actually ridden in a then-new STE at speed. A family friend had one as a company car. Goofy digital dash aside, they actually were pretty well-executed sedans for the mid-1980s.

    • 0 avatar
      pale ghost

      Had an 84. If only it had FI with more HP and better build quality.

    • 0 avatar
      KevinC

      I remember a letter to the editor in C&D back in the day, right after they’d written a gushing review (what review of theirs wasn’t gushing??) of the STE. Some guy wrote in saying that based on their recommendation he went to his local dealer looking to buy one. But no STE’s in stock, just a ton of LE’s (which he dubbed “Leftover Edition”) which the salesman tried to quickly hustle him over to look at. He was mad (rightly so) that the General had built a good car, then not built enough to satisfy demand, while cranking out tons of the inferior trim model. Those were some dark days for enthusiasts, and that period lasted a LONG time.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh yes, 6000STE.

      Special engines, voodoo AWD system that nobody understands, and pretty different to the other A-body things.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        VERY few of them were AWD.

        My Grandfather intended to buy a 6000STE when he ultimately bought our hideously terrible ’85 Oldsmobarge 98. But when he rolled up in his commuter-mobile ’80 Subaru hatch, the salepeople at the Pontiac dealership ignored him. Peeve’d, he went across the street to the Oldsmobarge store and bought the barge. Sigh. I ended up stuck driving that turd my entire senior year (because he HATED that car), the STE may have been a well-polished turd but at least it was a decently nice to drive well-polished turd.

        I would nominate the Chevy Celebrity Eurosports. They looked the business, especially in dark metallic blue with the red stripe around the middle, but they didn’t really go or drive any better than the rest of the Celebrities.

        • 0 avatar

          The AWD was optional except for the 6000STE of ’89. For that year only, all of them had AWD.

          • 0 avatar
            GS 455

            I actually had an 1990 6000 STE AWD. It had a switch on the console to lock the center differential to use in very low traction conditions and it was an absolute beast in the winter. I had blizzak WS50s on the car and by punching that switch I could mat the accelerator on ice and the car would shoot forward straight as an arrow. On dry pavement the car wasn’t nearly as much to drive, the steering was heavy and slow and the STE AWD didn’t feel nimble at all. The ABS brakes were very effective but stopped working after a couple of years and I didn’t bother trying to get them fixed.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      I linked this a few years ago in another Eurosport/STE thread. It’s interesting: http://autosofinterest.com/2012/10/31/guest-post-chevrolet-celebrity-eurosport/

      Additional thoughts:
      – The Eurosport *did* get an upgraded suspension; it wasn’t just an appearance package.
      – One of the odd things about the Eurosport, to my eye, was how well the anachronistic Oldsmobile-style rallye wheels worked with the rest of the car’s styling. (You also could get alloys.)
      – In ’87, Pontiac released an SE version of the 6000. This basically consisted of the STE’s handling goodies minus the other options that made the STE package pretty expensive. For context, the Eurosport package sold for $320 while the STE package sold for $6,200.
      – Per Wikipedia, the AWD option has an odd history:
      – introduced as an option on the STE in ’88.
      – became standard on the STE (but not the SE) in ’89.
      – got moved to the 6000 SE in ’90 when the 6000 STE trim level was discontinued and the Grand Prix STE trim level was introduced.

      I’m not sure what the production figures were, but the AWDs were very rare. I’d estimate the count of ones I’ve seen in the wild at zero to one, and I was around at the time.

  • avatar
    gtem

    “because ’80s ”

    Can we please leave the “because racecar” and “because ____” to Jalopnik?

  • avatar
    DEVILLE88

    citation x11 hatchback and Monte Carlo ss

  • avatar
    MartyToo

    My friend had a 302 in a 70 or 71 Maverick. He used to have fun at red lights.

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      Eh. The 302 was only good for 140 net hp, and there was no 4-speed, disk brakes (until 1975), handling package, or gauges beyond speedometer and fuel. Your friend must have been aiming low at those lights if his Maverick was stock.

  • avatar
    gtem

    Chevy Sprint Turbo
    Suzuki Swift GT

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Dodge Spirit R/T. I hesitate to mention it or the Ford Tempo GLS because I don’t really consider the basic versions to be so bad. Yes, they were cheap, and not terribly sophisticated, but they got the job done without much worry.

    The Ford Aspire SE would be a great candidate if Ford had dropped in the Mazda 1.8L from the contemporary Escort GT. I’m sure this wasn’t done for a multitude of reasons, one being that it would surely be quicker than the heavier Escort. That’s one reason Ford put the weakest cam of all 3.0L engines in the Tempo. It would have been quicker than cars costing much more (and billed as more sporty) that occupied the same dealer’s floor space.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      “Dodge Spirit R/T. I hesitate to mention it or the Ford Tempo GLS because I don’t really consider the basic versions to be so bad. Yes, they were cheap, and not terribly sophisticated, but they got the job done without much worry”

      I’d say they definitely qualify per the question, I don’t think too many of the cars being posted are truly terrible, just particularly pedestrian and non-performance oriented in base trim.

      There’s a buy/drive/burn right there, a 1990 Domestic sedan comparison:
      Chevy Celebrity, Ford Tempo, or Dodge Spirit

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        Why? Every one would say “burn all three and buy a Camcord/ride the bus/work at home”.

        Corsica would be the direct competition, not Celebrity. Corsica did have some advantages, notably a 4 speed auto instead of the Tempo’s 3 speed. However, you could get (and was somewhat often sold with) a manual in the Tempo, and I much prefer the way the Tempo drives. A manual was available in some years of the Corsica from my understanding, however it became a special order item. You could get a manual Spirit, but it is far less common than a manual Tempo.

        • 0 avatar

          It’s annoying lately when people don’t even attempt to play the game.

          “Hueheuehe 2.0 Accord insted.”

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          Good point on the Corsica. I guess GM had a bit of a confusing landscape with Celebrity/Corsica, were they both midsize competitors to the likes of the Taurus? Was the celebrity nominally larger (or the opposite)?

          Our family friends had a very rare (as I understand it) late 80s Corsica Sedan with a 2.8L+Getrag, driven by a stereotypical old college professor (astrophysics). I remember being quite impressed by the acceleration from the back seat. Mind you my reference point was 1.5L Honda Civics at that time. Nice red velour seats and metal belt buckles.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            Corsica/Beretta were in the compact space, A-Bodies were intermediates.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            Celebrity was a larger midsize, so it was equivalent to the Taurus. Same goes for the Lumina that replaced it.

            Corsica was an extended J body, like Tempo was on an extended version of the Escort platform. Tempo was intended to be the Jetta to the Escort’s Rabbit/Golf, so-to-speak, until Escort gained 5 passenger capabilities in the early 90s as well as a sedan version, and Tempo was effectively replaced at that point, except it continued to sell very well. Even in its last year, which was cut very short to retool the plants that built it for Contour and Windstar, it still sold over 100k units. It was considered by Ford and others to be a compact. I believe Corsica was a bit larger, but still considered direct competition.

            I do like the Corsica far more than I do a Cavalier. I’ve just always found it to be better, even after the Cavalier was significantly redesigned in 1995. Its funny, in drivers ed in the late 90s, we had a new or nearly new Cavalier. It had several mechanical issues, including a parking brake that wouldn’t relwase. When that happened, we walked the 5 or 6 blocks back to the school and grabbed a 1994 Corsica. I liked driving it a lot more, and we never had an issue with it. The Cavalier was so troublesome that the next year, it was replaced by a 1999 Taurus. The Corsica(s) remained as they just kept working.

            When I worked at a GM dealer later on, I still preferred a decent Corsica over even a brand new Cavalier. I specifically requested to drive a 1996 that came in on trade when the used car manager wanted me to take a under-warranty program Cavalier. The general manager overruled him and let me take the Corsica, saying “I don’t blame you.” lol. I liked the Corsica so much, after the trip I took it to my brother’s in-laws and they ended up buying it to replace their wrecked early 90s Delta 88,

          • 0 avatar
            DweezilSFV

            Corsica was an L Body based on the N body, not the J.

      • 0 avatar
        spookiness

        Buy the Spirit, drive the Tempo, burn the Celebrity.

    • 0 avatar
      geo

      Or because the torque steer made it unsafe or the transmission couldn’t handle the extra torque?

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        Torque steer was a b!tch on my 1992 LX. That is a fair point. Overall, I’d say the ATX in the Tempo was more reliable than the AXOD in the Taurus, later versions notwithstanding of course (as in my AX4N).

        The manual used in the V-6 Tempo was the exact same unit (with a Tempo-specific flywheel) as used in the 1989-1995 Taurus SHO. Although not known for its buttery smooth shifting, it could have easily handled 145ish hp (225 in the SHO for comparison sake).

    • 0 avatar
      delerium75

      Excellent call on the R/T and it came to my mind as well. They were stupid fast for their time and can still smoke a good number of cars today. The handful I’ve seen for sale aren’t cheap either.

  • avatar
    scott25

    Surprised no one’s mentioned the all-time champions of this category, the Evo and WRX (to a lesser extent, since the Impreza was always better and more interesting than the Lancer)

    • 0 avatar
      Advance_92

      The original Impreza was pretty good in any guise except maybe the lowliest 1.8L cars. By the late 90s the 2.2 was standard and they were all very nippy and well sprung.

  • avatar
    PJPT

    It was nice to see an old car from my era. I ordered a Buick Skylark with the HO V6. It was the sleeper version of the Chevy Citation X11. I remember reading and hearing that the Buick Skylark with the HO V6 was faster than the Buick Regal T-type back in 1982. These cars were still real dogs. Fast was not fast at all. I could burn just a little bit of rubber on take-off. That was about it.

  • avatar
    ShoogyBee

    It’s not a turd by any stretch of the imagination, but adding height and body cladding to the Subaru Legacy Wagon and renaming it the (Legacy) Outback transformed an ordinary station wagon into a ridiculous marketing force for many years to follow.

  • avatar
    pale ghost

    Had a 94 Olds 88 LSS – loved it but it had a severe drivability issue that they couldn’t fix. Would randomly bog down and stall. It was before ODBCII and wouldn’t throw a code. My state (DE) had a useless from the standpoint of the consumer lemon law. Traded it at a huge loss at 2 years old.

    Lot of ex GM workers in my neck of the woods asking why I Japanese – way too much bad luck with GM though there are times when I am tempted.

  • avatar
    tonyola

    1969 Rambler American SC/Rambler with a 315-hp 390 engine. Grandpa’s car gets a huge testosterone shot.

  • avatar

    GMC Jimmy

    DIAMOND EDITION

    Olds Calais

    442

    Olds Achieva

    SCX

    Saab 9-7x

    V8 whatever Aero

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Chevrolet Cavalier Z-24. It had the 2.8 MPI or 3.1 V6 with depending on the year 125- 150 hp and a 5 speed. Plus the F-41 suspension package.
    It’s J-body cousin the Buick Skyhawk was offered in T-type trim with the Brazilian 1.8 OHC turbo.
    Both were nice improvements upon the plebeian J-car.

  • avatar
    geo

    The Ford Explorer took an old, crappy Bronco II, extended it, fancied it up, and sold millions.

    The “Classic/Heritage/etc” lines of cars (i.e. the previous generations sold alongside the new design) is an example of something for nothing:

    Volkswagen City Golf
    Ford F150 Heritage Edition
    Malibu Classic
    Chevrolet Captiva

    Or cars that they just keep building past their expiry date:
    Impala W-Body
    Ford Crown Vic
    Ford Econoline Van

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      What does the Explorer have to do with this question? It isn’t a special version of the Bronco II. Its that vehicle’s replacement.

      By the way, they also gave it a larger, far more reliable and more powerful engine, and widened the body as well as lengthened it.

      Sounds like when Jack says the first gen Explorer is a 1983 Ranger with a canopy on it, just forget about the completely different body, interior, powertrain, suspension, etc. Because it shares some basic frame components, its *exactly* the same. Just ask EcoBoostFlex about the “rebadged Fusion” Continental. Ignorance knows no bounds, so it would seem.

  • avatar
    redapple

    I owned 2 of the cars mentioned.

    Sentra SE-R: Good handling & outward visibility. No balls. Acceleration was not good. Build quality was GM level for a Japanese brand. HVAC switches gave out. Trunk torsion bar springs got twisted and bent and really f —ed up the truck.
    LET DOWN OF A CAR

    X-11. 4 speed with the ‘feel’ of stirring a bowl of cookie mix. Threw a/c belts. Overheated and blew steam at Random. (before the 402, a nice gent brought me water in Strathroy ONT.) Bear in mind, this was a new car. Brutal depreciation. Sold this POS in 18 months.
    THIS WAS THE LAST STRAW (and I worked for GM at the time.) ((really p—ed my co workers off. Got a Civic SI ))

  • avatar
    Grenade

    Pontiac 6000 Turbo

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Dissenting view on X-11. My B-I-L owned one, which he bought new. The issue with this car was terrible front/rear brake bias. The car was front heavy, and lacking ABS, would swap ends readily.
    Still a turd.

  • avatar
    Chi-One

    Omni GLH Turbo

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Cosworth Vega.

    To a lesser extent, the original US-spec GTI. I had a Rabbit of that vintage, folks…it wasn’t quite a turd, but it wasn’t all that far off, either.

  • avatar
    whynotaztec

    1991 Lumina Z34

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    The Chevrolet Nova Twin Cam.

    Though I guess a mid-late 80s Corolla wasn’t really that bad.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Duster 340

  • avatar
    JREwing

    The X-body, as a car, was not a horrible design. It was quite intelligently designed, and was the basis for the A-body and other descendants. The biggest issue, by far, with them was the horrible quality control.

    The ’88 Fiero with the V6, 5-speed, and the redesigned suspension should get more love. But it had the crummy ’84-87 models for its reputation, and GM mothballed it. It would’ve been a great platform for their Quad 4 and/or the DOHC 3.4 V6. It screams for a 3.6L V6 swap out of the new Impalas.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Excuse me but rather than a QOTD wasn’t this the job description for any AMC designers/engineers?

  • avatar
    bobmaxed

    Late 70’s Turbo Saab and its baby brother the Saab 99 EMS

  • avatar
    Forty2

    I’ll never not feel a little guilty about talking my mom into trading her dull-as-dust 1977 Toyota Corona for a 1980 X11. It cornered fast and flat and would light up the front tires but had a column shift 3-spd auto. It was a terrible car that spent 25% time at the shop. She unloaded it as soon as the warranty was up for a 1985 Camry.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • SCE to AUX: I was shocked to see an SSR in the wild the other day. The Hummer EV will do better, but I wouldn’t...
  • SCE to AUX: Yeah, I’ll bet the engineers didn’t think of that. Have you seen the armor plate under the...
  • CaddyDaddy: Ya, but when Dalton got to Missouri and the Roadhouse, the Riv was the one to go with for the Dirty Work.
  • Corey Lewis: You do British condescension so well!
  • Old_WRX: If they don’t offer that interior in magenta crushed velour fabric it would be such a shame.

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Matthew Guy
  • Timothy Cain
  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Chris Tonn
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber