Bargain Bowtie? 1985 Chevrolet Citation II

The Citation, introduced in 1980, was Chevrolet’s first front-wheel-drive automobile. It was the successor to the Nova and was slotted between the Monza and Malibu. The car would be subject to several recalls during its six-year run. This ’85 edition from the auto’s last model year is said to be a good runner, located in Jeannette, Pennsylvania, and available here on Facebook Marketplace for $2,000.

GM chose to use the X-platform for the Citation and its corporate cousins, the Buick Skylark, Oldsmobile Omega, and Pontiac Phoenix. The vehicles were assembled in both the U.S. and Mexico and more than 1.6 million copies would see the light of day. One of the Citation’s claims to fame was its use of passenger and luggage space, with a similar interior room as the larger Malibu and truck space comparable to that of the bigger Impala. Yet it was shorter and lighter than its Nova predecessor.

Just as the Vega caused GM some PR and safety problems, the Citation was not immune. For example, earlier editions were recalled to fix a transmission hose related to underhood fires, and the NHTSA unsuccessfully targeted the cars for losing control under heavy braking. By 1984, the car’s name had been modified to Citation II in an attempt to move forward from any negative press.

We’re told this Citation II is a good runner with just under 60,000 miles. It’s powered by a fuel-injected 2.8-liter V6 engine paired with an automatic transmission. There are a few rust issues to sort out, such as in one of the rear wheel wells, and the red paint has faded over time. Also, the tupperware that surrounds the rear bumper is broken away, not uncommon for the 1970s and 1980s GM cars.

On the other hand, the interior looks pretty good although the windshield is cracked and should be replaced. While it’s in the shop, the buyer should have the steering checked out as it’s been known to leak fluid. The Chevy Citation isn’t likely to be a collectible car any time soon, but for $2,000 this one could turn out to be some cheap wheels for someone needing a second car to run around town.




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  1. Bakyrdhero Bakyrdhero Member

    I can’t believe I’m going to say this but by the final year, the interior’s of these cars looked pretty good, modern even. This one looks downright schnazzy.

    Like 10
    • Psychofish2

      No longer had the vertical radio in the Citation version of the X for ’85. Finally.
      My ’84 II notchback still had it

      Like 3
      • Chuck Fortenberry

        I had a 1980 citation. What i hated about mine was the emergency brake handle and it also had a problem with the master cylender. I hated the vertical radio. And every time it rained water would get into the passenger floorboard

        Like 1
  2. nycbjr Member

    Slight nit pick, 2.8 l v6 not 2.6 :-)

    Not a bad car, but 2k seems high, darn this covid market!

    Like 9
    • Russ Dixon Russ Dixon Staff

      Fixed. Thanks!

      Like 7
      • JB

        You really want to FIX IT RUSS? Stop doing these lame cars! Pathetic.

        Like 3
      • Bakyrdhero Bakyrdhero Member

        I know it’s hard to believe, but there are plenty of us that enjoy reading about these lame, seldom seen on the roads vehicles. Lighten up and read something else.

        Like 30
      • Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

        @Bakyrdhero – Amen!

        Like 14
      • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

        45 posts later……

        Yep, us BFers really love our “lame” cars.
        Keep them coming!

        Like 7
    • Jost

      T hats a good find. I like seeing cars like this because they have been forgotten. As other’s said, these were not bad cars. This is barn finds, not hot rod finds. Keep these coming.

      Like 15
      • JB

        JOST, they need to be forgotten. They were garbage cars utilized for basic transportation and nothing more! Its a box with a motor. I’m guessing in your infinite wisdom you’d take this shi# box over a 70 Cuda’? Sounds about your speed!

        Like 2
      • Stevieg Member

        Jost, I agree with you.
        I like the ’70 Cuda, but it has become WAY to overpriced of a car, no matter what drivetrain or condition.
        Cars like these are cars most of us can relate to. Sure I like the fancier and flashier, but for most of us this hobby is about the cars and the nostalgia. I am man enough to admit I like these, along with the more “popular” cars. Hell, I want that orange Pinto cruising wagon! I doubt anyone would say much to me about that to my face. Only a wimp would insult others while hiding behind a computer. Some people on this website need to lighten up, be less judgmental, and maybe appreciate the fact that we all have different taste. I skip the cars I’m not interested in. I don’t comment about them and insult the writers or those that like them.

        Like 4
  3. Moparman Member

    Slight nit pick: “truck space?!” :-)

    Like 4
  4. Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

    Gee, Russ, you’re really on a Bowtie econo-box roll lately. Growing up in the late 70′ – early 80’s, I can relate to a lot of these entry level GM cars. The kids that I hung out with drove these as hand-me-downs from their parents. My friends and I would beat the crap out of them, and believe it or not, they seemed to hold up to the abuse fairly well.

    Like 17
    • Jonathan Q Higgins

      Ha! I had an ‘80 Skylark as my first car. A hand me down from my father. It was NOT what I wanted. I abused the car with great vigor hoping it would break. I don’t recall if it was unibody but it held up to several jumps during my ownership. Finally had an engine fire at 175k. The replacement car was worse.

      Like 4
  5. nlpnt

    I’m mixed on this, On the one hand it doesn’t deserve the crusher and is a late model with all the infamous bugs worked out, on the other it’s not only FWD but automatic and two classes heavier than the Fiesta and Chevette seen tonight so I can’t see it being much of a fun car, and as serious family transportation even in this market you should be able to get something newer with more modern safety features (like 3-point seatbelts in back rather than lap-only spine snappers) than this offers.

    All I can think to do is give the paint a good polish, cobble up some replacement bumper fillers and put it in the movies. If the Duffer Brothers don’t read Barn Finds, they should.

    On the *other* other hand, that red velour interior along with the revised dash with the pale-gray trim is sooooooooooo ’80s, so if what you want from a car is a personal time machine and the mid-80s is the destination you have in mind, here’s your ride.

    Like 4
  6. NHDave

    Practically tattooed on my brain from the sheer repetition at the time is the jingle used in the launch advertising in 1979: “It’s the first Chevy of the eighties, the first Chevy of its kind…” Gotta wonder how many customers GM lost forever because of the design/engineering and build quality shortcomings during the first few years of these X-cars.

    Like 13
  7. CJinSD

    The Simca is more interesting. I suspect that this car was meant to replace it in the 24 Hours of LeMons arena, but the power steering rack issues were insurmountable.

    Like 3
    • Derek

      I agree; we had one in the mid-70s. Black plastic seats, hot weather and shorts…
      It was reasonably brisk.

      Like 1
    • JB

      You really want to FIX IT RUSS? Stop doing these lame cars! Pathetic.

      Like 1
  8. Scott S

    My mom had one of these, and it was one of the worst cars we ever owned. Just a total POS. No power, no performance, crappy handling, hard to work on, and just overall the worst.

    Like 10
  9. Boatman Member

    Worked on 100’s of these as a used car mechanic at a Chevy dealer. My manager would go to Manheim auto auction every Friday and buy every one of them. Got to know them (and like them) quite well.

    Like 11
  10. Rob

    My boss had one and a made-for-TV movie wouldn’t be enough time to cover the failings of this GM debacle. The engine always sounded like it was about to blow up, the automatic transmission shifted like a 2 x 4 across the side of the head, the fixed rear windows on the back doors was a typical GM antic to shave a few bucks off production costs ($252 would get you windows that rolled down about half way), ride quality was the equivalent of a roller coaster on gravel, and the red interior turned pink and purple within two years. I wouldn’t get within a country mile of one of these roaches.

    Like 7
    • nlpnt

      I wasn’t aware any 4-door Citiations had fixed rear windows. The A/G bodies yes, and without an upgrade away from them, but the only FWD Xs I ever encountered with fixed rear windows were the 2-doors.

      Like 5
      • Psychofish2

        They didn’t have fixed rear windows in the Citations or any of the other Xs except for the two doors, which could be optioned with pop out rear windows.

        The fixed windows in the sedans were the down sized GM mid sized models from ’78.

        Like 4
  11. Terrry

    In typical GM fashion, the Citation II was the perfected version of the Citation, the earlier ones having been mostly unreliable headaches. So GM fixed the bugs, renamed it the Citation II then promptly dropped the model. Also, there was a ‘hotter” version called the X11 with a 2.8 multi-port injection (the others were TBI), that was quite popular too.

    Like 5
  12. Raymond

    I cant believe there is even a discussion onna chevy citation, and at 2000?….i lost a lot of respect for you people for even entertaining this abortion….i feel dirty

    Like 4
  13. Dave

    Funny they didn’t mention these in Bowling for Soup’s “1985”…

    Like 3
  14. Howard A Member

    Sadly, this has as much chance of being saved as old coffee grounds. Shame, really, they weren’t bad cars, and as always, there will be good and bad experiences. We must remember, FWD was still in it’s infancy, and I knew plenty of Citations, properly maintained,( I read, the V6 required oil changes every 2,000 miles) did just as well as their RWD counterparts, better, in some cases. Company fleets included Citations, and kind of like electric cars of today, people like my old man were slow to buy one, but it was clear, like electric cars, FWD was here to stay.
    Again, for any interest, they have to be nicer than this, and I’m sure, tucked away in some garage, is a like new Citation Aunt Hattie never used after Uncle Phil died. Monster Jam prop here..

    Like 7
  15. Gerald

    I believe they started rusting on the trip from the factory to the dealer.

    Like 2
  16. Jim

    The biggest issue I see is the rust. If a car is rusting that’s a serious problem.

    Like 1
  17. Kenneth Carney

    They made ’em in Canada too. I bought an ’80 model from a regular customer at
    the Taco Bell I worked at. Turned out
    that her car was made and sold new in
    Quebec. And what a stout little car it was too! We could load it down with 515 Sunday papers with no trouble at
    all. We drove the tires off it on paper
    routes and it still came back for more.
    Finally wound up scrapping the body
    after the tin worm made it unsafe to
    drive. Wound up putting the V-6 into
    another Citation but it wasn’t the same.
    Sold it to a young couple who really
    needed a car. Both my wife and the
    car are long, but I still have fond
    memories of both of them.

    Like 9
  18. Mike Adams

    Crusher food.

  19. Troy

    In about 1987 I purchased the sister to this turd a Pontiac Phoenix for $100 bucks from a abandoned car auction it had the manual transmission in it and when you drove it around it sounded like someone was slapping the transmission with a chain. Took it home changed the fluid in the transmission adjusted the clutch and sold it for $1000 bucks.

    Like 5
  20. S

    Although I personally wouldn’t want this, if you wanted a Citation, this would be one to get. By 85 all the bugs had been worked out, the dashboard was redesigned to not have the vertical orientation of the radio, but a more conventional horizontal one, it has the 2.8 V6 which is the better engine, the interior is really nice cloth instead of cheap vinyl, and it’s burgundy red which is a very nice color. I can see the appeal of a hatchback car like this for carrying things around. Not as big as a wagon or a truck but still able to carry large things. Hopefully the right buyer gets it. I’ve always thought that I wished GM did a better job on these cars from the start. They could have been as successful has the downsized 1977 Chevy Impalas, and they would have had marketshare on smaller cars for years. They got many things right on these cars, but not everything.

    Like 3
  21. Bunky

    So this is the “Cheap Transportation Car” website? My in-laws bought a new 1980 Citation right off the showroom floor. I never could understand why. They could have afforded any vehicle on the lot. They soon started asking the same question. It was cheaply built all around. After awhile their Son in Law bought it for a work car-it soldiered on for years. I bought one in about 2000 for $100 as punishment for my oldest son who wouldn’t repair his car. Drove it 10 miles each way to school. After a month or so he casually mentioned that the temperature light came on occasionally. Upon inspection there was virtually no coolant present. Filled it up and he continued to drive it. No perceivable damage. Go figure. 2.5 and 2.8 engines were both durable, long lasting engines. The Citation was basic transportation, nothing more.

    Like 3
  22. Hot Rod Lincoln

    Had an ’80 model 2 door V6 and Manuel transmission. It ran great but don’t try to brake hard because the rear tires would lock up and try to pass you. It leaked oil like a seeve and one day I let it get to low and spun a rod bearing. I pulled the engine out in a gravel driveway, tore it down only to find out that there was no timing cover gasket or Silicon sealer. Oh well that’s quality control for you. I also pulled the headliner out, scraped off the foam that was supposed to hold the fabric in place and painted it so that it would look decent. Faded Silver paint and clear coat. What else could you expect?

    Like 2
    • Steve Wertman

      Wow! Speaking of the headliner issue! I still own my late Aunt and uncle’s 1990 Buick century four door sedan. I did the same thing with the headliner! It was falling apart. I pulled it down. Scraped the fiber board clean and applied at least three coats of industrial dark navy blue paint to match the interior! It still looks good to this day and the car and it’s 3.3 liter v6 runs great!

      Like 1
  23. John Womer

    My first job after college was in industrial sales and my first two company cars were both Citations.
    The first one was a 1980 base model— 4 cylinder, manual transmission, manual steering, manual brakes, aftermarket AC, and a Radio Shack AM/FM radio (replacing the factory AM only unit) playing through a single speaker in the dash. It was a miserable car and an *absolute death trap*. If you braked hard or if the road was wet or icy, the right rear wheel would lock up and the car would start to spin. The dealer couldn’t fix it and, after driving the car and confirming the problem, a Chevy zone manager admitted “off the record” that it was a known issue and that Chevy had decided not to do anything about it until enough owners complained to the NHTSA to force a recall. I complained to my boss, but he said he was too busy to deal with it. So I solved the problem my own way. I was married to my bosses daughter, so at Sunday dinner I told him I wasn’t going to drive the Citation anymore and that I was going to use the Jetta that we had bought as our “family car” and his daughter could drive the Citation. I got a new company car two days later… a 1982 Citation with a V6, power steering, automatic transmission, AC, and an AM/FM radio… a decent car that I drove for 80,000 miles in the next couple of years.

    Like 4
  24. Frank Bullit

    1980 model had thirteen recalls. Brake pads, rotors, brake cables, spare tire hit front brake caliper. PS rack pinion leaked. No PS when cold and so on. Besides being first compact with front wheel drive it was also the first year for OBD. I hated them when working at the dealer.

  25. Dave

    If my memory is correct, these came out of the then-new GM Lordstown, Ohio assembly plant. The last cars to come from there are Chevy Cruizes. To quote Indiana Jones’ father, “our situation has not improved”.

    Like 2
    • Phil D

      Only your point about the Cruize is correct, Dave.

      Lordstown was about fifteen years or so old by the time the FWD X-body went into production and was still building H-specials on the car side at the time. Oklahoma City was the brand new plant built for the purpose of assembling X-bodies, along with Willow Run and Tarrytown.

      Like 1
  26. Telcotech53

    That interior color really brought back a memory for me.. I owned a 1981 Citation X-11 Silver Metallic clear coat.. with the X-11 graphics and cast aluminum wheels it looked great… 2.8 liter HO V-6 , 4 speed manual, tuned sport suspension it was a fun and fairly quick 2 door… took it to 115 mph several times and it had a bit more 😮 bought it used with 5k miles on it and drove it to 95k before trading. Only issue came at 72k with a constant check engine light… turned out to be a carb issue that the local dealer replaced and because it was part of the 100k emission warranty.. no charge to me… always enjoyed driving it on curvey blacktop country roads because of the great handling & power.. it was a good car for me.

    Like 3
  27. VT Dan

    The Citation was quite a change agent for GM. Intentions were good, but execution was terrible. My father had a ’80 with the anemic 4 cylinder engine. It was hands-down the worst car he ever had. The interior was acres of cheap creaky plastic. The engine was gutless and rough, but rather economical. I remember seeing MIG welding wires sticking out from the roof channels. I finally totalled it when a car bolted out from a gas station right in front of me. I stepped on the brakes as hard as I could, but the OEM Firestone tires barely left marks on the road. I sailed right into the back of the Volvo. The Citation was totalled, but the Volvo barely showed a scratch on the bumper. The Volvo drove off, but the Citation had to be towed on a flatbed. Thankfully the insurance paid and we never looked back…

    Like 3
  28. Erik

    Loved reading all the comments above, and there are dozens of them about a simpleton vehicle by the time I type mine. The dichotomy between the commenters simply adds to the joy of reading them and why I love BF daily. Thank you BF and thanks to all the authors and subsequent commenters.

    So many forget that old cars mean different things to different people and thankfully so as that is what helps keep them around for future generations to look at and then know what cars were like during a previous time or era.

    To some an old car is a thing of beauty or masculinity that one desires after to be proud to show to others. A curvy classic car or muscle car with a powerful drivetrain would slot into this category.

    To others an old car is a time machine that transports them back to their youth or to a time long before they were born. A pedestrian car like the Citation would definitely slot into this category.

    I will join the chorus of what others above said and that is that the Citations when new were junk. But Chevrolet sold a lot of them and the buyer was usually one who was loyal to the bowtie marque, or wanted to still “buy American” in an era of ever increasing factory and mill shutdowns in this country, or simply bought one because a GM dealer was close to their home and that made purchase and service (an inevitable event) convenient.

    For the dozens of Citation buyers back then, there were however the one smart buyer who instead did a little research (by reading among other resources the magazine Consumer Reports) then travelled a little further and instead bought a Honda Civic or Accord or a Toyota Corolla or Camry and got the most for their money and ended up with a car that rarely if ever had to go back to the dealer for service and with some basic maintenance and care for the interior and exterior (as a way of nurturing their investment) lasted them a lot longer than if they would have bought the Citation.

    We still see this today even though more people today than ever buy the more reliable Asian marque vehicles (some lured by long warranties easily offered by these manufacturers), including those who once only bought American. The higher quality, reliability, and longevity of those Asian brands over the past 4 decades forced the American brands to try to keep up with reliability with limited success while instead switching focus to their ever popular truck lines.

    But we are still in an era when buyers still do not do their research and end up buying one of new or used offerings from the American marques without realizing those offerings are not intended to longevity but rather for recycling within 10 years from their initial purchase. A simple observation of vehicles 10 years or older still on the road will prove conclusive this strategy used by American marques as opposed to the longevity strategy used by the Asian marques.

    Although at age 51 now I will likely be dead in 36 years, who knows maybe a 2015 Chevrolet Cruze (an direct “ancestor” of the Citation) will be for sale on Barn Finds in 2057 and just as with this 1985 Citation either commenters will be complaining that such a vehicle is posted (possibly the same people who would have once owned one or one of the car’s “ancestors”) whereas others will be reminding everyone that they were junk or will be waxing nostalgic of how they remember them.

    Lastly, I am perplexed that some fool will pay the $2k for this less than perfect heap rather than investing that money elsewhere. But then again I see people foolishly spending their earned money elsewhere such as $350 for a giant skeleton helloween decoration for their lawn or on scratch off lottery tickets in which the not the player but “house” (aka the state that prints and distributes the tickets) always wins in the end”. And so as the old adage goes, “a fool and their money soon part ways”.

    Like 5
    • Stevieg Member

      Erik, you have many valid points sir! We are about the same age, so I have similar automotive memories as you.
      I wouldn’t pay $2,000 for this car either. If it were cleaner, maybe. I had one way back when. Actually, I have been finding a lot of cars here that I had owned at one time or another. Anyhow, my Citation was a first year “lemon” edition, although I loved mine. I have great memories of it, in fact. So I would buy this one for a bit of nostalgia. Is it practical? Nope, but neither are my Harleys or my hearse. Well, I can get some uses outta my hearse lol. Never mind
      By the way, I bought one of those Asian cars you are referring to. It is comfortable when driving cross country (even for my fat, 6 foot tall frame), and gets 42 mpg doing so. It has a 10 year, 100,000 mile warranty, and it was made right here in the USA (Alabama maybe?).

  29. Bo

    Such a great find! The car is crap but reading about it is so much fun.
    I learned how to drive when I was 13 in a new 1980 manual transmission Citation. I’ve always had a soft spot for the styling of these cars.
    My dad bought one new in 1980. It was the first new car he ever bought and it was the last American car he ever bought. It was scrapped 4 years later with major rust and if I remember correctly a blown head.
    I love seeing these quirky cars here. Keep them coming.

    Like 7
  30. Bakyrdhero Bakyrdhero Member

    Brace yourselves fellow car lovers, Jeff Lavery has a great write up on an 82 Citation X-11 in the on deck circle!

    Like 1
  31. jnard90 jnard90 Member

    This site isn’t just about classics and exotics that leave you breathless. Its also about nostalgia and reminiscing, when life was more simple and technology didn’t own us. I really enjoy these write-ups that take me back to my teens, when we all drove cars that were probably crap-boxes, even back then. We were just happy to have four wheels and a seat at the time! Those junkers also taught us basic car repair and the importance of maintenance; lost skills the average person today does not possess. Keep ‘em coming Russ!

    Like 6
  32. Jost

    you know nothing about me so the personal attack of me saying it sounds more your speed is a reflection on you. Yes, I like these cars and I like seeing them, as I said because they are forgotten. We’re they junk? They were no worse then any other cars of the day…worse then some, better then others. As far as interesting to see? Go to cars and coffee, there are more BBC today then were made.i am tired of them. It’s nice to see somethi g different and something not fast. You don’t have to like it but you also don’t have to be nasty to those who do. My speed? I’ve been around a long time and I’ve built and owned some pretty quick cars, also some pretty slow ones. Living in the northeast some of my winter beaters were my favorites. So don’t knock people you don’t know, not nice to knock someone you do know. Because of your wise guy statement I think I’m finished commenting here, 7th grade was 53 years ago.

    Like 6
    • Stevieg Member

      Here Here Jost. JB is a bit of a bully. I’ve seen him be a real schmuck to others, but he isn’t all bad. He likes what he likes. Lets all be open minded.
      Have a great night!

      Like 3
      • Jost

        Thanks Stevieg, I am calm…yesterday was a long day. I sat down to relax and saw that nonsence.. I am good . I just don’t understand the anger in people. Like you, there is a lot here I don’t like, so I don’t comment. There are posts I don’t agree with, but its not my job to tell them so.. and heck.. they can be right and I can be wrong!!

        Like 3
  33. CVPanther Member

    Still light years better than the crapbox Chevette from the other day.

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