Sunday, May 20, 2012

Car Of The Day: May 20, 2012

Today's car of the day is Johnny Lightning's 1981 Chevrolet Citation.

The Chevrolet Citation was a compact car sold by the Chevrolet brand of American automaker General Motors (GM) for model years 1980-1985. The Citation (originally to be named the "Condor") and its X-body siblings (Buick Skylark, Oldsmobile Omega, and Pontiac Phoenix) were among GM's first front wheel drive compact cars, following the trend of front drive compacts such as the Honda Accord and Volkswagen Dasher. 1,642,587 were produced.

For more information and pictures of the real car please visit: Chevrolet Citation

Every once in awhile a casting comes along that completely takes you by surprise.  When this casting was announced I was flabbergasted (especially because the picture showed a five door, which would have been even cooler than this three door model!).  While I'm not surprised we ended up with the three door instead, I was pleasantly surprised to see how good this casting is, and as an added bonus it has an opening hood with engine detail (I really didn't expect that since this isn't a model known for performance engine by a long shot!  Oh, and this one's blue!  So you know I'm loving it!  It doesn't hurt that I've got a soft spot for the Citation.

In anticipating consumer demand for smaller cars, GM switched from V8 engines to smaller, more economical V6 and 4-cylinder engines. The X-body cars were some 800 lb (360 kg) lighter than the rear-drive compacts they replaced. The Citation was Motor Trend magazine's Car of the Year for 1980, a decision later criticized by the staff of Car and Driver in 2009, citing that the poor build quality and mechanical reliability were not deserving of such an award in hindsight. 1980 model sales were brisk and the production lines were unable to keep up with the demand, causing significant delays in delivery to customers; some had to wait nine months to receive their vehicle. The Citation was also Chevrolet's first front-wheel drive car. Planning for this family of vehicles started in April 1974. The first prototypes were created in mid-summer 1976, with the intent of releasing it as a 1978 model. This did not happen, largely due to problems with supply of parts that up to that point, had never before been produced. Thus, the Citation was released in April 1979 as an early 1980 model. The Citation's initial retail price was under US$6,000. Three body styles were available, a 2-door coupe, also known as a notchback, 3-door hatchback and a 5-door hatchback. The front wheel drive design and hatchback bodies were a radical departure for the American industry, and GM was widely praised for the X-body's efficient packaging and smaller engines. Helped by an April 1979 release, the 1980 Citation sold around 800,000 units.

The X-body cars were the target of an unsuccessful lawsuit by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which cited a tendency to lose control under heavy braking and power steering problems. The X-body cars were, however, recalled many times and the Citation's reputation took a beating, resulting in decreasing sales every year. The 1984 and 1985 models were badged Citation II in a halfhearted attempt to convince consumers that the vehicle's problems had been overcome to the extent that the car deserved a new name. The introduction of Chrysler's similarly packaged, but more conventionally styled K-cars (the Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant) for 1981, along with the GM J platform models (introduced in 1982) also ate into sales of the Citation. The slow selling 2-door coupe was dropped for 1981. However, it was reintroduced for 1982.

In addition to the X platform, GM also created a new line of engines for the Citation and its sisters. The 2.8 L LE2 V6 was the first of the 60°Family of engines. The X platform was used in 1982 as the basis for the new front-wheel drive A-body cars. The X platform was also the basis for the future L-body and N-body cars.

Car and Driver and several other car magazines at the time were duped when GM lent them specially modified versions of the x-body vehicles in which the often noted torque steer (for which they became famous) had been engineered out. Patrick Bedard of Car and Driver later admitted that they were completely surprised when they later drove a production version.

The Citation was dropped after the 1985 model year, ultimately replaced by the L-body Beretta coupe and Corsica sedan in 1987.

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