Classic Cars Wiki
Classic Cars Wiki

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.


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.


With the performance-enhanced Citation X-11, Chevrolet wanted to remind the car buying public that this front wheel drive newcomer was made by the same people as the Corvette and Camaro. The SCCA classified the X-11 in Showroom Stock B class. Bob McConnell drove a 1981 X-11 to SSB National Championships in 1982 and 1984.

The 1980 Citation X-11 had front and back stabilizer bars, standard 4 speed overdrive manual or the optional 3 speed automatic, sport type suspension, Goodyear P205/70R-13 white lettered tires with rallye rim trim, a rear spoiler, side striping, black grill and body accents, sport steering wheel, body-color dual sport mirrors, Special full Instrumentation with a 6000 rpm tach, standard Pontiac 2.5-liter 4 cyl Iron duke or the optional Chevrolet 2-bbl LE2 2.8-liter V6 engine that produced 115 hp (86 kW).The 1980 Citation X-11 transmissions had special gearing to allow 60 mph (97 km/h) in second and a move up of first to help fill the stretch. The 1980 Citation X-11 was available only on the 2-Door Hatchback Coupe and Club Coupe (Notchback).

The 1981 to 1985 Citation X-11 models had legitimate performance upgrades such as a 2-bbl 2.8 V6 High Output engine, including F41 sport suspension, rear spoiler, special axle ratios, special full instrumentation with a 7000 rpm tach, front and back stabilizer bars, 14" specific alloy wheels with the word "Citation" cast in, Goodyear Eagle GT P215/60 R14 radial tires, functional fiberglass cowl induction hood with "High Output V6" logo and also on the air filter housing on the 81-84 X-11 models, dual sport mirrors, "strobe" style X-11 graphics on the lower side doors and rear spoiler, standard 4-speed overdrive manual or the optional 3-speed automatic, both with special gearing. The 1985 Citation X-11 had a MPFI version of the 2.8 L V6 LB6 and a nonfunctional fiberglass cowl induction with 2.8 F.I. Multiport Logo. The 4-speed manual overdrive was listed available on the 1985 Chevrolet Citation brochure, but it was mentioned that it wasn't available, and the 3-speed automatic was the only transmission available for 1985.

Handling in the 1982 model was improved by relocating the steering rack from the firewall to the engine/front suspension subframe. This prevented subframe movement from affecting steering.

The 2.8 V6 H.O. LH7 engine was more powerful in the 1981 version of the X-11. It produced 135 hp (101 kW) and 165 lb·ft (224 N·m) of torque. The car accelerated from 0-60 MPH in 8.5 seconds. The 1982 through 1984 versions of the 2.8 V6 H.O. LH7 produced 135 hp (101 kW) but the torque was down to 145 lb·ft (197 N·m), due to emission regulations. These cars accelerated to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 9.2 sec. The 1985 Citation X-11 had a multi-port fuel injected 2.8 V6 LB6 engine which produced 130 hp (97 kW) and 155 lb·ft (210 N·m) of torque. The 1981 Citation X-11 is also faster than the 1985 model.

X-11 production

  • 1981: 11,631
  • 1982: 3,864
  • 1983: 1,934
  • 1984: 1,458
  • 1985: 1,687