I’ve had this one in the can for over a year now and after holding out to try and find a first-year example am finally giving up and giving this one the glory instead. You’d think with over 800,000 sold the first model year, someone would drag a carcass out from behind the barn and junk it but no, perhaps that ship sailed a few decades ago already. But there were still some 400,000 or so Citations sold in this, the second year, so that’s what we have today.
While everyone loves an underdog, by the time this one hit the showroom the car was already considered just a dog. With fleas. Can it really have been over forty years now since these were released? And everyone still remembers that this was GM’s Deadliest Sin. However due to some confluence of events this particular one made it farther than most.
It’s not objectively ugly or anything, the size was right for the times, the shape was modern and fit into the lineup, and while the Beige over Maroon two-tone paint option isn’t today’s cup of tea for anyone, at the time I could see wearing a tan terrycloth sweater-shirt over a pair of rust brown corduroys so even that probably fit in.
The 2.8liter V6 installed transversely was GM’s first attempt at the layout and produced 110hp (down 5 from the introductory year), in this case paired with a 3-speed automatic transmission. This car even features extra bracing for more chassis rigidity, did all of them have this or just the V6? There are Delco parts labels visible here, so either a strict OEM replacement regimen at the local Mr. Goodwrench was observed or it was just a good ‘un from the start.
I’d not really noticed it prior to last week but the older Chevette after its ’79 refresh and this Citation have a lot of styling elements in common, of course the front grille, but even the rear fascia is similar and there is a definite family resemblance from most other angles as well. I do love an offset license plate, it’s a very “American” thing although Alfa do it as well due to their grille shape. There’s no real reason for it here though, it could just as well be centered.
This looks like the “Custom Cloth” interior with the bucket seats in beige and the two spoke wheel familiar to anyone who’s ever been in a 1980’s Chevy. The center console has a bin with a lid and padded top and the newish door lock sliders make an appearance here as well, although it’s too early for power windows and locks to be standard, they’re still an option here along with a rear window defroster and even reclining seats. Of course the highlight here has to be the crotch vent, a brilliant feature that I believe is now sadly extinct in all of automobile-dom.
No clock of course, that’d cost too much to include for someone who paid for the V6 upgrade already. This early car still features the weird vertical radio although the climate controls weren’t nearly as controversial when placed vertically as well.
94207 miles on the odometer and even though it’s forty years old I’m kind of inclined to not place a large wager on that being its second time around the dial. It’s too clean and unfaded to have been parked outside all these years, not dusty enough to have sat in a barn for a long time, and not damaged and pitted about the front to have seen much inclement weather driving so I’m more inclined to think it was regularly driven to church and the grocery store, in that order and once a week. And then back into the garage, a two-car at that but with only one car in it dead center, otherwise there’d be scrapes on one side or the other.
An ashtray in the driver’s seatback and at least the rear windows roll down too for some ventilation when everybody’s puffing away in here. I rode in a backseat of one of these a few times when I caught a ride to junior high school with a neighbor friend, this must have been around 1983, I can’t remember any issues and we made it to school on time.
I do remember how proud they were of the Citation, then again their other car was an orange Hornet Sportabout which my friend was a bit embarrassed about at the time but would be a car I’d love to find now. The Citation replaced a Cutlass Salon as I recall which was a real turd. They had bad luck with cars until they finally replaced the Hornet with their best GM car ever, a new 1985 Chevy Nova!
The five-door hatchback opening was quite large, although that’s one high liftover ledge. Saab did this much better with smaller corner mounted taillights and then a very low opening on the 900. But that wasn’t invented here, so lift over we must!
This one was built in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in honor of my 11th birthday, apparently. They were also built in New York as well as in Mexico. Does anybody have a CarFax account, I’d love to look up these VINs and get a fuller history but the CC editorial budget doesn’t allow for such an extravagance.
I’m glad I finally got this one out of my stash, from what I recall not much was taken off this one in the few months that it sat here. For a forty-year old car it looked to have been kept in pretty good shape overall, there are vehicles in far worse condition both inside and out and only a few years old that end up in these places. Whatever did this one in, at least it took its time doing so.
This commercial from the early summer of 1981 was already touting discounts good through July 18, a little early for incentives for a two year old model. But of course the Citation’s trajectory was a little different than most by this time in the run…