High Performance Hatch: 1982 Chevy Citation X-11

The Chevrolet Citation X-11 is one of those models I’m always surprised still pops up for sale considering the limited numbers they were produced in to begin with. The X-11 came in a few different flavors, with some of them being barely warmed over standard models and others being transformed into a genuine hot hatch given the range of options. This 1982 Citation X-11 is definitely a case of the latter, as it features the desirable combination of a manual gearbox and the factory high output V6 engine – along with all the other goodies the X11s got. Find the Citation here on craigslist in Spokane for $5,750.

The X-11 was a bold move by Chevy to make its humble Citation seem like a far more competitive offering than it was right out of the box. Sport-tuned suspensions, bigger engines, manual gearboxes, spoilers and cowls – there was very little GM didn’t throw at this car to make it a formidable performer. To me, cars like this make me smile thinking about some bean counter at Chevy trying to wrap his head around a high-performance Citation and asking just why the hell did we need this? In the case of this X-11, the second owners have owned it since 1987 and clearly saw the potential this mildly hot-rodded commuter car had.

That’s also a big detail that gets lost in the listing: a genuine two-owner Citation. That doesn’t happen often, especially when both owners seem equally committed to keeping the X-11 in excellent shape. Even with the higher-output engine and sportier suspension, the Citation retained its bargain basement interior, with bucket seats featuring next to no bolstering and a grandma-friendly instrument cluster. The seats in 1980s GM cars will forever leave me scratching my head: the Japanese were cranking out commuter and mildly sporty cars with seats featuring deep bolsters and plenty of support, yet in their premier hot hatch offering, you got the same seats as in a base model Citation. Shameful!

Regardless, this is the one to buy if you’re collecting X11s. It has the rare manual gearbox paired to the optional “big” engine, that being the six-cylinder offering. Throw in the “cowl induction” hood and you have a car that certainly looks the part, but can also get out of its own way – a rare find in the domestic sport compact segment in 1982. The X-11 would gradually become more neutered as time wore on, so finding a preserved early model like this with all the trimmings if the way to go if you have to own one of these. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Tom P. for the find.

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Comments

  1. Bakyrdhero Bakyrdhero Member

    Nice write up. To me the X-11 is a sort of precursor the the “mini muscle car” Cavalier Z24 that was a little bit awesome for an 80’s/90’s econo car. I loved mine.

    Like 23
    • Brandon

      I do miss my 1994 Z24 Cavy 3.1 V6 auto!

      Like 6
      • JoeNYWF64

        Since 2011, i waited for a 2 door successor to the Cobalt(Chevy Cruze for single people – never to be) & in 2019 the 4 door only Cruze was gone, with no successor. Just shaking my head left to right repeatedly.
        I used to see 2 dr Cavaliers & Cobalts all OVER the place
        Guess they rusted out too? Or are replacement electronics no longer being made for them?

    • DSteele

      I had a 1987 Z 24. With the 3800 V6 2.8 L I believe. it was it was a fast little car it was fun to drive the problem was GM manufacturef the main bearing wrong and it caused the engine to explode lucky for me the day my engine exploded I got the recall issue in the mail that night boy was I lucky I drove that car for a long time until I got T-boned at the corner of Outer Dr., and Schaffer In Detroit

      Like 8
      • nycbjr Member

        Slight correction, the 2.8 was not a 3800 series v6 those were 3.8l..

        Like 7
      • Terry J

        As already said the 3.8 was GMs 90 degree V6 developed from the Buick 215 aluminum V8. The 2.8 V6 was a 60 degree engine developed for the anticipated change over to front wheel drive vehicles. The Citation unveiled this engine that soldiered on for 25 years in the US. :-) Terry J

        Like 2
      • Dave

        I thought Oldsmobile had the 215 V8 while Buick had a V6?

        Like 1
    • MICHAEL J WOODRUFF

      Yeah.. The z24 (mine was a hatchback) was probably the most FUN to drive car I’ve ever owned. I paid $500 for it with 125,000 miles on it, put in a new clutch and drove it until it had 200,000 miles on it…. Quick, turned like it was on rails, but didn’t have much top end over 85 mph

      • Bakyrdhero Bakyrdhero Member

        This is an accurate description of a Z24. My 91 Z24 with the 3.1 went like a bat out of hell off the line and handled like a go cart. I had the speedometer pegged at 120mph as I remember it anyway. The car shook a lot and didn’t feel very stable at that speed however. I had a ton of in that car, it was that early 90’s bright blue with blue interior.

  2. Motorcityman Member

    I had a friend in the 80s when I lived in Detroit that had one of these……there was NOTHING “High Performance” about it, even for the 80s!

    Like 27
    • Motorcityman Member

      Notice all the comments saying what a fine specimen of auto ingenuity it was? 😄

      Like 4
      • Psychofish2

        On paper it was. Quite revolutionary especially for a US manufacturer.
        People forget they were quiet, economical, roomy, rode like much bigger cars and helped assuage the “sticker shock” to someone downsizing from a Detroit mid or full size car at the time.
        In reality all that money spent on these [the largest industrial expenditure in US history at the time] served to send that generation to imports forevermore.
        Easy to mock today but that’s not how they were perceived at the time.

        Like 4
    • Terrry

      Looks like Hemmings has finally jumped the shark. I knew two people who had them, and they couldn’t wait to get rid of them.

      Like 6
      • Bick Banter

        Actually, Hemmings jumped to shark when they stopped writing about 1970s and ’80s performance cars in their muscle car magazine due to the uproar from their Boomer readers, who apparentently wanted more articles on ’69 Camaros, Mustang, and Chargers.

        I cancelled my subscription after they did that :-)

        Like 9
      • Howard A Member

        What happened at Hemmings, was a couple of their long time editors and staff either died or quit, and a new guy, a millennial, I believe, certainly younger and took things in a different direction. Even the site was revamped to look like a cell phone app deal. I too lost interest, and rarely visit the site. I think old Ernie is spinning in his grave if he saw what happened to his beloved Hemmings, which he began as a Model T and Model A parts supplier and a 4 page newsletter with classified ads in the back.
        In an ironic twist, BF’s is a dirty word at Hemmings, not sure why, even though I originally found out about BF’s on a pop-up ad in Hemmings.

        Like 13
      • Rick

        A guy I worked with in the mid 1980s had an X-11 and he called it his torque steering, nickel and diming POS.

        Like 3
  3. Stephen

    It’s mind boggling how ugly American cars were in general from the mid 70’s well into the 90’s

    30’s to late 40’s and late 50’s to early 70’s saw some beautiful machines, then…🤮

    Even now, Lincolns are awful compared to the 60’s and 70’s

    Like 4
  4. That Guy

    My first and only brand-new car until buying my wife’s Chrysler Pacifica three years ago. For its era it was fun to drive. Quality was lousy, and the notorious Citation rear-brake lockup was ever-present for any semi-urgent slowdown action. I don’t miss it. Great Radwood material but I’ll leave it for others.

    Like 8
  5. nlpnt

    As a kid my dad brought home the ’81 or ’82 Citation brochure. I wondered why there was no 5-door X-11. I’d like to claim precociousness that 6-year-old me knew more about the coming sport-sedan trend than GM’s product planners but it was really a matter of simple pattern recognition. Dad didn’t buy a car that year, bullet dodged.

    Like 6
  6. Hemistroker

    Buddy had an X-11 in 1983, it couldn’t outrun my Ford EXP, my wife’s first car was a base Citation her dad bought her from a rental car company that was pathetic. These cars were horrible like all the 80’s cars

    Like 5
    • Motorcityman Member

      I actually had a New 84 Ford EXP, 5 Speed manual that I moved from Detroit to So Cal in 1986….was a good car!

      Like 3
    • prreith

      I worked with a guy who owned one of these circa ’93. Will never forget him telling me he raced a Dodge Omni containing 4 passengers with luggage piled in the back and lost…

      Like 3
      • Brent

        Must have been a GLH or GLHS Omni.

  7. Jerry

    These started rusting out being transported from the factory to the dealer. Poor quality build.

    Like 6
  8. MoragaPulsar

    BarnFinds I think is now my favorite site, I love the comments most AND it reminds me of all the cars we (readers) have had over the years. I too had a 1984 Ford EXP, and hadn’t thought about that interesting car in many years (but sold it and moved into a MkII Supra – one of my all time favorites). The X-11 always seemed interesting as well.

    Like 5
  9. M_Wolf85

    Actually, the instrument cluster *is* slightly different than in a base Citation, in that it has round guages, a tach, etc. It ain’t fancy, but it has more. Seats are ever-so-slightly different, too. The base had a weird split-bench with an open, divided cubby for storage, the divider positioned so the front served as a cup holder. My parents had a base Citation when I was growing up. It was a beige-ish 4- door with the V6. The AC died on a trip to western South Dakota. The horn was repaired and died several times.

    One day, dad picked me up from school. It acted funky, broke down a few hundred feet from a shop ownec by a guy he knew. Guy told him what broke, and how much. Dad said “F*** that thing. I got a truck, wife just got another car. Call a wrecker and sell it for scrap. I’m fed up.” We got a ride home in the wrecker that took it to its resting place.

    Like 5
  10. Terrry

    The X11 was little more than a graphics package. Even that “high output” 60-degree (like that makes a difference) 2.8 could barely get out of its own way. And these cars were notorious for simply falling apart.

    Like 3
    • Larry D

      @Terrry
      The 60 degree V6 was made that way to allow for more room in the engine compartment compared to the width of the 90 degree engines.

      Like 3
  11. Mike D

    I had an 81 X-11 with the 4-speed. I seem to be one of the few people who had a good experience. Quick, (for the time), handled well, extremely roomy. Had no problems with it.

    Like 12
    • TR

      Also had an 81 X-11, ran it up to 160k miles before it became a parts car for an ice racing buddy. It was quite a rust bucket and the throwout bearing was noisy for years before the clutch failed. It had the typical chronic GM problems of the time. Indifferent build quality, cheap components prone to failure.

      Like 1
  12. Duke

    One of my favorites was a Dodge Daytona hatchback 4 cylinder Turbo charge 5 speed

    Like 2
  13. Paul

    As the saying goes “YOU CANT MAKE A RACEHORSE OUT OF A PIG…..BUT YOU CAN MAKE A REALLY FAST PIG” I know everyone laughs at them because they are Citations, but 1981-82 X-11’s were SCCA race specials. A 1981 X-11’s won the SCCA group B runoffs in 1982 and again in 1984. The list of X-11 specific performance parts is actually quite long including 14-inch wheels with Goodyear Eagle GT P215/60 R14 radial tires, stiffer springs, shocks, and a free flow exhaust.
    To upgrade handlind the steering rack was relocated from the firewall to the subframe. holding the engine and front suspension. The design change was intended to prevent subframe movement from affecting steering behavior. The steering box was a quick ratio with a X-11 specific proportioning valve for better feedback. The H.O. V6 had different heads, cam and 2v carburador than the base V6. Even the water pump on was an X-11 only part with teflon coated bearings to free up parasitic drag. The transmission gear ratios for X-11’s manual 4sp were unique along with the final drive ratio. R&T tested a 1981 X-11 manual car and got a 0-60 run of 8.5s, skidpad was .82. The cowl induction hood was functional on the early cars but was deactivated on later models by removing the rubber seal between the hood and carburetor (this was to meet emmision standards). The H.O. motor was discontinued when the 2.8L got fuel inflection in later years.

    Like 11
  14. Rick Brown

    This same car was on the turntable at the Chicago Auto show back in the day. I wanted one bad but out of my price range at the time.

    Like 2
  15. Shawn

    Man, what the swan song for the GM X-body. To go from the Nova nameplate to this. Sure, the X-11 checked some boxes and was a lot better than a base, but when you start so low, it isn’t great. I think one commenter here said it best, that it was a prelude to the substantially better Z24 in the Cavalier, which I can totally see.

    Like 3
  16. mds47588

    Lots of mixed comments within, but compared to what else was available at the time, at least it was a good looking car…in my opinion only.

    Like 10
    • Psychofish2

      I had the 84 II notchback. Two tone, mags. Pretty car. My favorite of the X crew.
      It’s still missed, but was traded for a 21,000 mile 86 Olds Calais that’s still in the driveway 25 years later.

      Like 4
    • FireAxeGXP

      Definitely not just your opinion. The illiterati everywhere trash what they don’t know anything about. The X-11 was a good looking nice car. Was it a overwrought 427 Stang?? No because those no longer existed! It was what it was and this one looks better than many of the glorified pigs all car makers were pumping out in this period.

      Like 6
  17. md

    It says cowl-induction, but I don’t see any plumbing b/t the hood and intake…am I missing something???

  18. Joe

    Because of poor quality, many recalls, a class action law suit, I don’t another car that died so quickly from it’s first 2 year sale. The public must have been paying attention and complaining a ton. Chevrolet Citation production[2]
    Year Sales
    1980 811,540
    1981 413,379
    1982 165,557
    1983 92,184
    1984 97,205
    1985 62,722

    Like 3
    • Psychofish2

      Nice work.
      I would suggest:
      Pacer
      and Edsel.
      Ironically “Citation” was an Edsel sub-model as well as Pacer.

      Like 2
      • Joe

        The Pacer and Edsel were considered flops, but both never has the intial sales success of the Citation and fall from grace so soon.

      • Rick

        Edsel’s models also included Ranger (a well known name to Ford aficionados) and Corsair (familiar to the British Ford crowd).

        Like 1
    • S

      This is partially accurate – but another reason sales dropped off is because in 1982, the new slightly larger A body cars (Celebrity) and slightly smaller J body cars (Cavalier) came out – and both of those sold very well. They undoubtedly took sales away that the Citation might have had. That has to be taken into consideration as to why sales dropped off. GM was acquitted in the lawsuit involving he rear brakes – which was not a class action lawsuit – it was initiated by the NHTSA. The NHTSA didn’t feel GM acted quickly enough to address the rear brake lockup situation – but they actually had voluntarily recalled the cars prior to the lawsuit to replace the proportioning valves and rear brake linings. The NHTSA didn’t feel enough cars were recalled to address these issues. They felt GM did not respond quickly enough, so they reacted quickly and sued them. During the lawsuit, it was determined the NHTSA was using anecdotal evidence rather than hard data to prove the cars (which were from the 1980 model year – and early in the production run – not the later model years) had a problem. GM was acquitted, but the damage was done as the media had a field day reporting on this in about 1983. These were not wonderful cars, but the bad press over this issue wasn’t fair or even accurate. This was in the wake of the Ford Pinto fire debacle of 1978. I remember Bob Schieffer of CBS saying the NHTSA was trying to determine if GM knew there was a problem before they released the cars and then covered it up or disregarded it, like Ford did with the Pinto fires. It was determined GM did not do this. What Ford did with the Pinto fires was far worse and unethical.

      Like 11
      • joe

        I think owners got tired of the poor quality and word of mouth killed the sales more than any other models. 9 recalls in all. 1980 to 1982 General Motors X-Cars
        Year of Recall: Various

        When GM introduced its 1980 front-drive “X-Cars”–the Buick Skylark, Chevrolet Citation, Oldsmobile Omega and Pontiac Phoenix–it seemed that finally the company had produced truly contemporary small cars that could compete with the best from around the world. But it turned out that what GM had built were cars destined to be some of the most recalled in history.

        According to the NHTSA database, the 1980 Chevrolet Citation, for example, has been recalled an amazing nine times. Maladies on that car included everything from faulty fuel lines to steering gear that detached from its mounts to coil springs in the front suspension that could slip out of their seats. Many buyers of early X-Cars felt that their cars were spending more time in the shop than on the road. Every announcement of another X-Car recall helped seal GM’s reputation for building its cars shoddily.

        Of course the X-Cars had quality problems that ranged well beyond safety recalls too. But it was those early recalls, in the beginning of the X-Cars’ model run, that first called them out as terrible products to the buying public.

        Like 3
      • Bick Banter

        And don’t forget the new for 1981 K-Car and Escort and the new for 1982 J-bodies. Those too ate into X-body sales.

      • DayDreamBeliever Member

        joe,

        The middle two paragraphs read like something from a pro magazine article or an automotive historian’s account.

        Either you’re really good at writing, or you should give attribution for the copy/paste.

        If the words are yours, I’d vote for you to be the next staff writer on BF.

    • S

      The introduction of the A body Celebrity and J body Cavalier in 1982 also took away significant sales from these. Also the lawsuit against GM over the Citation’s rear brakes was initiated by the NHTSA. It was also thrown out of court and GM was acquitted because the NHTSA was basing their lawsuit on anecdotal evidence instead of hard data. The problem was with early production 1980 models, and GM had already recalled then to install new rear brake linings and proportioning valves. The NHTSA wanted to prove GM had known there was a problem and released the cars anyway – like Ford did with the Pinto fires. This was proven to not be true. So really, the lawsuit wasn’t fair.

      Like 1
    • S

      Sorry didn’t mean to post twice. Slow internet connection

      Like 2
  19. Dave Member

    I bought a X-11 from the original owner in 1986. He had spent some money on the suspension and exhaust. I loved the car. It was a great car to drive at speed on the highway and with the mods it handled very well. It developed an issue with cold starts. Long story short it took the dealer 2months to figure it out and it turned out to be a bad ground connection to the engine. But during that process they were swapping out components that they had to source from wrecking yards because Chevy had stopped producing them. That’s when I sold it.

    Like 4
  20. Terry J

    I bought a new 1980 (not X-11) 2 door in this same color. I had it until the lease ran out at 36,000 miles and it was a GREAT little car. People don’t remember that this was the Generals revolutionary first compact front wheel drive car and every front driver GM builds today can trace it’s lineage to the Citation. :-) Terry J

    Like 2
  21. Mickey

    I was working in the Dallas Oregon went to the dealer to get apart for a truck I had come down to work on and they were just unloading abase coupe four cylinder,stick shift kink of a coppery gold color. I like the style and there weren’t any in Yakima. Had the wife call her sister to sell her our chevette four door stick. She said yes, I called the dealer and said I wanted it and got it for sticker. Rear brakes could give you problems. Pontiac iron duke motor would sometimes have a lifter rattle then quiet back down, and the thermactor air injection tubes would rattle. Sold it to wife’s sisters husband for daily driver in Seattle to Boeing he had to have the carb rebuilt that was all. I really wanted a n X11 coupe thought they were good looking not so much the hatch. If this was a coupe I’d have to go take a look as I’m only 3.5 hours away

    Like 3
  22. freakinutz Member

    I had an 82 that was Root Beer Metallic, HO engine, 4 speed, air conditioning and a sunroof. I actually liked that car, but at a point, it began to nickel and dime me to death. The death knell was when my mechanic told me he could no longer in good conscience work on the car and take my money. LOL. I can honestly say I really liked the looks of the car…and still do.

    By the way, this was my first American built car that used metric bolts….and almost always in some goofy size. I had a Toyota Carina that I could work on knowing I only needed 10, 12, 14 and 17 metric wrenches/sockets.

    Like 3
  23. Nah

    I guess this would be the one to get, if you simply must re-live how bad GM small cars were back then. The V6 manual might approach being fun in a crappy way. But what a disaster these must have been if you had to depend on them for hauling family or commuting to work.

    Like 1
  24. S

    This is not the base interior. That would have been a bench seat without the center console. This is an optional interior with the console and buckets.

  25. Mark

    I had an 82 Citation, one of the best cars I ever owned… Beat the snot out of it and it never left me stranded… Sold it to a friend who totalled it with 290k miles on it.

    Like 5
  26. Tony Primo

    A high school buddy of mine ordered a 1st year X-11 in Toronto. It was a total stripper except for the V-6 and 4 speed. After waiting six months and being giving delay after delay, he walked away from the deal.

    Like 2
  27. Frank

    This car hit the BarnFinders Jack pot on comments. Just because it has an X on the door does not make it a Rocket ship. High Performance HaH!

    Like 1
  28. Blaine

    I had 2 X-11s. A red 82 and a blue 85. Where to start? The 82 rack replaced. Trans blew. Water pump. Finally motor blew when water leaked into the oil. The 85 paint cracked right off. Couldn’t get it to idle and lost all spark whenever it felt like it. Terrible torque steer. Could never get front end aligned so tires wore terrible. Since I owned 2 most of the time one might be useable. Live and learn.

    Like 1
  29. Richard D Propper

    I bought a brand new `81 X-11 in the summer of `81. Burnt Orange with a 4-Speed. It had a nice growl and handled decent for its day. These were the days when there were few performance cars to buy under $9k. I drove it about 10 years and lived in hot climates like Las Vegas and Phoenix. Towards the end, like everyone else who commented here, it seemed everything broke and I just had enough. The worst problem was the clutch pedal sinking to the floor when the plastic return gear came misaligned. Yikes!

  30. Robert Hulka

    81 4 speed x-11 was fun fast. Had a 82 x11 auto that we drove to Midwest at Christmas 81. Oklahoma plant manager called me when he saw it was a dealer demo for me. He said could not get the four speed car but a 2.99 geared ca legal right away. Told him to go ahead. Drove the car at 100mph with the cruise on across Nebraska all day and early night. 20mpg at 100. Big inside.

    Like 2
  31. Keith

    Surprised no one commented on the Citation commercial where the Citation without rear wheels was towing a boat on a trailer. Don’t recall what the point was (front wheel drive?) but how many ads do you remember 40 years later. In an era when the Renault Alliance was the Motor Trend Car of the Year, the Citation was formidable competition. And just a few years down the road, the Yugo was waiting in the wings.

    Like 3
  32. Bill

    Brought a white 1984 x-11 for auto crossing. Set the cowl induction so it
    worked had the heads worked and a
    Cam with a bit more lift . Was a fun car
    hard to keep steering racks in them, ran
    It out to 225 thousand and second owner
    ran it a couple more years so I guess
    that one was a good one.

    Like 3
  33. Terry J

    to DAVE: “I thought Oldsmobile had the 215 V8 while Buick had a V6?”

    Buick’s engine plant was GMs engineering lab and developed the 215 aluminum V8 used in the Olds Cutlass. :-) Terry J

  34. Gary Raymond Member

    They must have been ‘reasonably’ quick, Seattle PD used them as ‘traffic cars’, in other words painted like a regular patrol car minus the light bar, easier to catch DWI’s and speeders that way. I never got to drive one, I distinctly remember the big ol X11 call-out on both sides of the cars. We didn’t have them very long…switched to V8 Mustangs…

  35. Motorcityman Member

    No, they weren’t “reasonably quick” that’s why u switched to V8 Mustangs! 😄

    Like 1
  36. Chris P

    Das had an 82, white over tan. Bought in 86 from a young lady whose parents bought it for her – she tired of the manual.

    Dad promptly put 280k on it, original clutch and the motor was never opened. There was some tinworm around the sunroof and rear dog legs when I bought it from him and put another 40k on it.

    Like 2
  37. Larry D

    @JoeNYWF64 said –
    You wrote: “Or are replacement electronics no longer being made for them?”

    Replacements may not be made anymore but the electronics can be rebuilt. I found this out on a 1985 Cavalier Type 10 that I ordered and bought new. I thought it would be great to have the electronic dash they offered as an option.

    Big mistake! I kept that car for 20 years and it had 125,000 miles on it when I sold it. During that time, I had to have the electronic dash rebuilt four times. The first two times, I had it done by the original selling dealer. And it was EXPENSIVE. I thought they were replacing the old dash with a new one. Then I found out they were having it rebuilt at a place about 50 miles from me. So the next two times, I took it directly to the rebuilder and saved a lot of money.

    But my point is that this place can rebuild or repair just about any of the electronic items that so many of the 1980s or 90s cars had. I highly recommend them.

    This is a link to their business. https://www.downtownradioinc.com/

    Like 2
  38. Stevieg Member

    I had a base model 1980 Citation 4 door hatch back at one point. It was decent enough of a car. I actually liked it. Never a problem from it that I didn’t cause.
    I also had a Chevy Celebrity with this 2.8 liter engine, although mine was fuel injected. So, I like this car, but I heard that the carbs on these weren’t real efficient. Never having owned one, I wouldn’t know first hand. But I was told that the cars weren’t the quickest with carburetor style intake, that fuel injection was way more efficient. I also heard that when the carbs got to be a bit old, they would load up with gas, and it would drip down into the engine & wash out the bearings.
    This is a decent looking car, and I love the odd-ball cars, which this now is. I’m not sure I would buy it, but I would love to see it at a car show and I am glad it exists.

  39. KI HUNSBERGER

    I had a 1982 x-11, and i had a friend who had a 1990 Z24 we raced for fun, he could lose me and i could lose him even though he supposedly had more horsepower. the x-11 could out handle a Audi. My father thought i was nuts to buy it until he drove it and changed his opinion.
    It was a quality nightmare, but fun to drive and was great in the snow even with the eagle GTs.

  40. karl

    only 9 Recalls .. do you know how many recalls Subarus have out ?

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