1981 Chevrolet Citation Sedan hatchback

The increased interior space and weight-saving benefits of front-wheel drive had become impossible to ignore by the automotive manufacturing world by the mid-1970s, and so General Motors made the decision to replace the Chevy aging rear-wheel drive. Nova with a spacious and economical family car using an all-new chassis. It ended up being the Chevrolet Quote (and his Oldsmobile Omega, Pontiac Phoenixand Buick Skylark siblings), introduced to the world in 1979 as a 1980 model. While over 1.6 million Citations have been sold, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one today; today Junkyard Jewel is the only one (no-X11) 1980-1985 GM X-Body I have never seen with the optional V6 engine and the base four-stage manual transmission.

On paper, the quote looked like the car to put GM back on top of the world, giving Ford and Chrysler a beating on the kidneys with a tire iron while fending off those pesky Japanese and European invaders. It offered far better fuel economy, interior space and ride comfort than the vintage 1960s Nova it replaced, while looking like a real slab of Detroit iron. On top of that, the ’80 Citation is only a few hundred dollars more than the ’79 Nova and far less than cramped imported front drivers such as the VW Rabbit and Datsun 310. This car should have been the biggest success of General Motors since the Chevrolet ’55.

Unfortunately, all of this great engineering and marketing work has been undermined by a series of manufacturing defects and high profile recalls during the first model years. Over 1.2 million Citations were sold during the 1980 and 1981 model years…then sales fell off a cliff and never recovered. From 1983 to 1985, Citation sales never exceeded 100,000 units per year. Meanwhile, Lee Iacocca at Chrysler had orchestrated the creation of a wide range of modern and stylish front-wheel-drive cars based on the K-platform, which hit showrooms beginning in the late 1980s and quickly attracted countless potential Citation buyers; an all-new front-drive Toyota Camry appeared soon after. By 1986 the Citation was gone, replaced by the Corsica/Beretta the following year.

I know a little about the history of this car. It was one of the most 250 old vehicles (including 38 Classic Mustangs) auctioned near Denver last fall, and some winning bids were placed by LKQ Pick Your Part. A salvageable 1966 Mustang coupe cost $540and that quote got the auctioneer’s hammer at $500.

It’s quite rusty (by Front Range Colorado standards) in the usual places, so it was unlikely that any Citation restorers wanted to save it. They are looking for cut and X-11anyway.

The base engine of the Citation was the Iron Duke 2.5-liter inline-four, essentially a bank of cylinders from the Pontiac 301 V8. In 1981, the Duke made 84 horsepower, which wasn’t much in a car weighing nearly 2,500 pounds, but got the job done. This car has the optional 2.8-liter V6, rated at 110 horsepower and costs $125 more on a $6,523 car (or about $410 and $21,270 in 2022 dollars).

Almost all Citation buyers who opted for the big engine also paid the extra $349 ($1,140 now) for the three-speed automatic, but this one has the base four-speed manual. Americans could buy new cars with four floor-mounted shifters throughout 1996 and a Three-the manual gear was still available on the new Malibus and Camaros in 1981 …but that was still considered quite an outdated transmission going into the 1980s. No five-speed manual was ever offered from the factory on a Citation.

Even most late-1970s Novas buyers got the automatic with a split-bench, but the cabin in this car was old-school by 1981 standards.

It lacks air conditioning, but it Is sport the beautiful Delco AM/FM stereo radio with its unusual vertical orientation. It was a $100 option, which works out to about $325 after inflation.

It was a nightmare to get a spare radio in that vertical dash slot, plus thieves targeted cassette players with great effectiveness in the 1980s. That’s why the owner of this car installed an Audiovox cassette deck in the glove compartment. I did the same with my 1968 Mercury Cyclone in the mid 1980sbut the radio still got ripped off.

The upholstery seems to be the “Sport Cloth” option in the GM color called Camel. This stuff is rough but long lasting.

This back seat would have been comfortable in a 1961 Biscayne.

Excitement, yeah! Transportation, huh! Leisure, yeah!

Citation’s Working Woman was a superhero with thick glasses who dropped everything to flirt with her charming office manager.

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Kevin A. Perras