Hopes were high for the Chevrolet Citation when sales began in 1979 for the 1980 model year. After all, the Citation was a modern front-wheel-drive compact that offered far more interior space than the primitive Nova it replaced, while getting the kind of fuel economy that only cramped imports had managed up to that point (and all this while retaining a proper Detroit look and feel). Sadly, a series of highly publicized recalls and lawsuits hit Citation sales like a tire iron to the kidneys, and then the 1981-model-year debut of the massive-selling Chrysler K-Car family added a few whacks of the ol' bumper jack to the liver. What could have been a huge hit for The General became a big disappointment, and the Citation was gone after 1985. Here's a gleaming gold '80 hatchback, built during the optimistic part of the Citation story and now finally retired in a Denver-area self-service wrecking yard.
Looking at this car, which arrived in the junkyard in very nice condition (I’m guessing it was an original-owner car that ended up as a dealership trade-in and then failed to sell at auction), makes me think about an alternative history in which these cars were as solid and reliable as the crude old Novas they replaced. Had that been the case, the Camry and its ilk might never have grabbed a foothold in the United States. When the Citation worked right, it was a decent enough car for its time, with plenty of room and the big-car feel that Americans raised on Chevelles and Satellites had come to expect from Detroit.
This car has the optional 2.8-liter V6 engine, rated at 115 horsepower. The base engine was the harsh and clattery Iron Duke 2.5-liter four-cylinder, a sturdy-but-misery-inducing 90-horse unit that would have been more at home in a 1954 Bulgarian tractor than in a modern American family sedan. You could get a four-speed manual transmission with either engine, but I've never seen a three-pedal Citation that wasn't an X-11.
Because the Citation is such an important piece of Detroit automotive history, I have documented quite a few discarded examples during my junkyard travels over the years. This one is the only ’80 of the bunch, though, which is strange considering that nearly half of all Citations ever sold were 1980 models.
Source: Read Full Article