1980 Chevrolet Citation

Ah yes, you knew it was only a matter of time until a Chevy Citation graced these pages, right?  Late and unloved, the Citation was Chevrolet’s answer to the rising tide of much better cars coming from Japan (and honestly, damn near every other car manufacturer in the world).  The Citation was front-drive, available in several different body styles and aimed to compete head-on with the best.

It didn’t.

Square, square and more square - the clean, simple lines of early 80s GM products

Despite being named Motor Trend’s Car of the Year in 1980, the Citation and its X-body cousins (one each from Buick, Oldsmobile and Pontiac, and really not worth mention beyond that), failed miserably to capture market share and were replaced by the 1986 model year.

Why?  Mostly because of abysmal quality.  The X-body cars were actually pretty innovative for their time – they were in fact General Motors’ first front-wheel-drive vehicles and were generally well packaged, neatly styled and appointed similarly to the standards of the day.  The Citation was available as a 2-door, 3-door and 5-door, with the GM cousins available in other layouts.

But problems with braking, steering and general quality-control issues doomed the X-bodies in the marketplace.  Even in the days before the internet and instant information dissemination, word of mouth spread quickly – the Citation had no chance against vastly superior competition such as the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, which at this time, were available as hatchbacks and sedans as well.

GM replaced the X-bodies with the L-bodied cars (Chevrolet Corsica for one) in 1986.  While the Corsica was available as a slow-selling hatchback along side the wildly more popular 4-door for a while, the Citation was Chevrolet’s last car to be available as a 5-door hatchback, but not a 4-door sedan.

GM did move a pretty good number of these cars before the public discovered their flaws – and a very few are still around in decent shape today.  On ebay is one of those examples.  A 1980 3-door model, finished in its factory red color, this example is probably one of the nicest left on the road.

The little bit of extra stretch to the wheelbase gives a greater slant to the hatch than others of the day like the Rabbit.

As befitting a car with only 53,000 miles on the clock, most everything looks shiny and new.  Body panels appear to align properly, the carpets are clean and the upholstery looks nice and mousey-fur perfect.  The seller claims to have replaced a few parts recently and says the car runs great.  Other than the horrid aftermarket wheels (perhaps some Chevy Rallye wheels would be a better fit – though I’m not sure of the 4-bolt pattern), this car looks ready to roll.

But Hatchtopia, after all you’ve relayed regarding the terribleness of this car line, you’re still posting one for sale here?  How great can it be?  I haven’t seen one on the road since 1989!

Exactly.  Let’s face it, no matter the reason, this is a rare car in nearly showroom condition.  You won’t see one cruising around for probably another 5 years.  And if you do, chances are pretty good it’s a complete beater.  Anyone with a checkbook or decent credit can go buy a Yaris or Versa or Focus or whatever other hatchback that’s available now, and they’re all nice enough.  Why not pick up something a little out of the ordinary?

One final draw for this car over the others listed above: does any one of those cars have a front bench seat?

Bam! And that's why you want it: unbroken acres of hantavirus-free mouse fur upholstery.

Oh, and my grandfather used to have one.  But that’s a Hatch History post for another day.


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