Imagineering a Chevrolet Citation Group B Rally Car
This post is your opportunity to illustrate what you think a Group B rally version of the Chevrolet Citation might have looked like. If you're one of the three people in the world who has the combination of graphical talent and a mentality demented enough to share my curiosity about the subject, please submit your work to email@example.com.
A week or so ago I was sitting in a drive-through, just whiling away the minutes waiting to be served, when I saw a Chevrolet Citation motor slowly by. For most people this would mark the end of what would make a particularly uninteresting story, but as you may have noticed I'm a little different. My name is Chris Hafner, and I'm a confirmed Citation devotee. As a result, I noticed that the gold Citation that drove by was in absolutely immaculate, showroom-fresh condition, and I instantly fell in love.
Things like this happen to me all the time--I see a weird car on the street, I lust madly for it, and I forget about it when the next one rolls by. This time, however, I made the mistake of telling some friends about the absolutely radiant Citation that had captured my heart. The result was a not-inconsiderable amount of ribbing for even daring to think of a Citation in an object of lust. Even this isn't that remarkable, though; I take a lot of abuse for my car tastes, and almost all of it is completely justifiable.
There was one strange comment, though; one friend suggested that if I was so in love with blocky hatchbacks that I should shift my affection to the Lancia Delta Integrale. Now, I have no shortage of lust for the Delta Integrale; it's both one of the great unobtainable performance cars of the 1980s and the basis for one of the most legendary rally cars of all time. But the suggestion that I prefer the Delta to a Citation struck me as odd; it's a bit like telling a friend who is in the mood for Taco Bell that he should fly to San Diego for some gourmet shrimp fajitas, or like telling a Pontiac Fiero owner that he should own a Ferrari GTO instead.
But after considering that comment, I realized that the seeming dissonance hid an interesting point. The Delta, the Renault R5, the MG Metro, and the Peugeot 205 are famous to motorheads today for serving as foundations for the legendary Group B rally cars and street-going homologation specials of the 1980s. Yet despite their unquestioned high-performance cachet, all of those cars were, in their most basic stock form, humble, practical family hatchbacks. These cars weren't naturally exotic. You may in fact remember that the United States actually received the base R5; it was called the Renault Le Car, and it was a miserable little lump.
This fact prompted me to wonder how differently the Citation would be remembered today if it had been made into a Group B rally car--meaning that the automotive world would have been treated both to a flame-spitting competition Citation rally car and a high-strung, limited-edition homologation street car. And that, in turn, led me to consider exactly what form a Citation rally special would take.
To certify, or homologate, a car for competition, Group B rules required each manufacturer produce 200 street cars with the same configuration and basic mechanical underpinnings as the proposed racer. As a result, these homologation specials were pumped-up, strangely altered beasts that differed rather dramatically from their more humble regular-production counterparts. For example, Audi shortened the wheelbase of its ground-breaking Quattro sports coupe and doubled its horsepower to create the Group B homologation Sport Quattro. Lancia and Peugeot took their Delta and 205 front-engine, front-wheel-drive hatchbacks and turned them into mid-engined, all-wheel-drive monsters. And these were the street cars; the race cars were even more extreme.
In an alternate universe in which General Motors was daring enough to make a Group B car out of a Citation, I would expect the homologation Citation to follow a similar pattern. The homologation Citation would certainly need to be lighter and trimmer than the stock family car, so an Audi-like wheelbase trim would be in order. Mounting the engine under the hatchback and connecting it to a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system as Lancia and Peugeot did also seems like a no-brainer. Like the other cars, I'm sure a rally-spec Citation would also bristle with fender flares, wings, spoilers, fog lights, and other no-nonsense but thoroughly exciting accoutrements.
This brings us to the engine. Group B manufacturers tended to start with a familiar corporate engine and to turbocharge it to the point of imminent destruction. The sexiest choice in the early-1980s GM powerplant stable is the turbocharged 3.8-liter V-6, the engine that transformed the staid Buick Regal into the sporty Regal T-Type, the muscle-car Grand National, and the Corvette-eating GNX. In GNX trim the 3.8-liter V-6 cranked out 276 horsepower and 360 pound-feet of torque; most experts agree that those official ratings are incredibly conservative and that the true horsepower output was somewhere north of 300. The GNX debuted in 1987, after Group B's demise, but the turbo 3.8 was a known quantity at GM during the Group B years and I'm sure it could have produced big horsepower in rally trim. It certainly would have given a Citation rally car a uniquely American feel; the Buick V-6 would have provided a much torquier but less peaky power profile than the overhead-cam European engines.
Unfortunately, while a mid-engine, all-wheel-drive Citation powered by a tuned turbo Buick V-6 is a car straight out of my feverish daydreams, I don't think it would have been eligible for Group B. Group B had several classes based on engine displacement, and the biggest class topped out at 4.0 liters for naturally aspirated engines and 2.9 liters for turbocharged/supercharged engines. As a result, the turbocharged 3.8-liter Buick V-6 would have fallen outside the regulations, forcing me to reluctantly give up on this particularly attractive possibility.
This brings us back to the Citation's stock pushrod 2.8-liter V-6. That engine wasn't nearly as exciting as the Buick V-6 and had none of the larger engine's performance pedigree, but it was decently peppy for its time and, most importantly, was small enough to be turbocharged and still be legal within the Group B regulations. To my knowledge the 2.8 was never turbocharged during the mid-1980s period when Group B was active, but turbocharging that engine was certainly technically possible. After all, the 2.8 eventually evolved into the 3.1-liter V-6, and GM worked with McLaren to produce a limited-edition, 205-horsepower version of that engine in 1989 to power a special Pontiac Grand Prix Turbo. Based on that, I'm guessing a high-horsepower turbo 2.8 would have been possible back in 1984, and that could serve as the powerplant of choice for our Group B X-car.
I have no idea how competitive this Frankenstein monster would be in real rallying competition with the likes of Audi and Lancia, but I do know that I'm salivating at the idea of this car. So--if you're an aspiring artist or black-belt Photoshop jockey and find yourself as compelled by the idea of a a rally-spec Citation as I am, please feel free to drop me a line. I'd love to see some artists' interpretations of what a full-tilt rally Citation might look like.
I'm attaching a few non-stock Citation pictures for inspiration. Right below the jump is a montage that I assembled documenting the transformation of the Lancia Delta, Peugeot 205, Renault R5, and MG Metro from mild to wild Group B homologation special. The yellow Citation is a Citation 660 Turbo, an aftermarket turbo interpretation of the Citation that might hint at what a homologation Citation might look like. The rally car pictured here is indeed a boxy GM product of the early 1980s, but it's not a Citation--it's an Opel Ascona which Walter Rohrl drove to the 1982 World Rally Championship title.
There's just something about the idea of a Group B Citation that puts a grin on my face. Hopefully a few of you will find this thought exercise as entertaining as I did.
Edit: I added two images of privately rallied X-cars above, one a Citation and one an Oldsmobile Omega, both submitted in the comments. I also appended a video of a rallycross Citation that was also submitted in the comments.