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.
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.
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.
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.
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