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Imagineering a Chevrolet Citation Group B Rally Car

X11car 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 carlustinfo@amazon.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 RedX11radiant 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.

Citation Group B 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.

Citation Rally 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 Omega Rally3.8-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.

 Citation660TurboThis 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.

800px-Opel_Ascona_Rallye_RothmansI'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.

--Chris H.

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for dirt-kicking inspiration, here's Guy Light's rally Oldsmobile Omega. With enough effort I suppose the second picture could have the Citation rear grafted on.

http://forums.pelicanparts.com/uploads14/Omega+011235754241.jpg
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2110/2156381579_c40196db25_o.jpg

You don't have to imagine a Citation X-11 rally car.
There is such a thing. See http://www.webstratum.com/rcm/yo/splash3.jpg

Oh, wow - rally-car pictures of an Oldsmobile Omega and Citation X-11. That's just fantastic. I don't think there's anything that sums up Car Lust more than somebody rallying his Citation X-11. Hopefully you guys don't mind if I pop those images and videos up into the body of the post so nobody misses them.

Now, take the awesomeness of these privateer-fielded amateur rally cars and imagine what this would be like as a Group B car--as a factory-developed AWD, turbocharged, mid-engine rally special designed to accelerate faster than any Ferrari on the road at the time.

To borrow a routine from my friend John (introduced in the Fiero-arri post) if I was a billionaire I'd buy a Citation, pay an ungodly amount of money to have the AWD system from an A-body Pontiac 6000 STE AWD grafted on (the A-cars were closely related to the X-cars), and drop a tuned Buick 3.8 turbo into the middle of the car. Then I'd go Porsche hunting.

One other question - what would you name a Group B Citation?

I have two ideas that I'm mulling:
- Chevrolet Citation X-11 Spec-B Evo
- Chevrolet Citation Turbo X

Huh... it's like a Dodge Spirit R/T with an extra dose of irony. That's... utterly fantastic! I love it!

Group B rallying was the closest that motorsports have ever gotten to gasoline-powered assisted suicide. The Citation had a well-known propensity to lock its rear wheels, leading to what David so colorfully called the "Spirograph of death." Since this is GM in the 1980s that we're talking about, they either wouldn't solve the brake issues in the homologation special, or they'd fix that and create two other problems. Either way, a Group B Citation would be such a high-risk proposition that you'd void your life insurance just by putting the key in the ignition.

You would think that if GM went through the trouble of creating a Group B X-car that they'd fix the brake locking issue. Of course, you'd also think that they'd bother to identify and fix that issue before selling millions of X-cars to Americans, so there's that.

If memory serves, the X-Car's rear wheel braking problems were caused by the early models having rear brakes from the heavier Nova. The proposed rear brakes for the Citation and others weren't ready yet, so GM threw on the car what they had.

The design was corrected a year or two after the cars were introduced. Too late for my friend, whose new Phoenix lost control and wiped out, luckily, just a mailbox.

This was another "campaign" which made the X-Cars the most-recalled cars in history, at least at that time.

I always loved the after thought... a radio "sideways" in the dash board.
This type of design does bring to question "what else was an after thought in designing this car"?

No way. The X bodies were junk from stem to stern -- turning one into a rally car, let alone a Group B, would take replacing every suspension and powertrain part, not to mention welding all the seams and probably 200 lbs of structural reinforcements. At that point, shortening the wheelbase would just be (maybe) balancing out the added weight. And then imagine Vega-style technical problems with any engine upgrades. Turbo? Hah.

It's just too far from here to there.

DUDES!!! Check what I found!! It's not a Chevy Citation, but it's still an X-body:

http://deansgarage.com/2009/1980-buick-80x/

It ain't so hard to imagine those body panels on a Group B Citation homologation special, wouldn't they?

I don't know much about CAD, but I love the Ascona 400. If anyone has one they're getting ready to scrap, give me a heads up. That goes for the Manta 400 too. Hell, I'd be glad to rid you of a Group A Manta 200 as well.

Can anyone help me jump start my turbo-chevette?

A good friend pointed me to this thread. Very funny. That is formerly MY rally Citation you have there in the picture (taken at the Lake Superior ProRally in 2000) and video. It is a Guy Light prepped car, just like the Omega that you also have there. I bought it from Gail Truess who raced it from 1987 to the mid-90's. We raced the car in 2000 and 2001. It was a beast, built with the 3800 and a GM Powertrain Motorsports-built automatic transmission with a B&M racheting shifter. It was a poor man's dog box. We sold the car a few years back and it is now being rallycrossed out on Missouri.

After the 2001 season, I prepped a former road-racing Citation to take its place. Its story is here www.cogenttooling.com/racing.html

Good to see others who appreciate the virtues of ugliness.

I owned a Citation X-11, the first year they came out, 1980 I think. Had to wait 6 months for delivery. V6 with 4 speed manual. Sure it was a piece of junk. Rust issues on the body and the air pump pollution system (pipes would rust away at the exhaust manifold). However, it was hands down, the best front wheel drive car in the snow that I have ever driven. This is based on 5 years in Syracuse, N.Y., on Goodyear Polyglass radials....regular street tires....no snows. Never got stuck and plowed through anything. Plus with the back seat down the cargo hold was enormous. You could fit almost anything through that wide hatch.

All I remember about Citations is the torque steer. If you look up torque steer in the dictionary, there should be a picture of a Citation at some unintended angle, the wide-eyed driver hunched over the steering wheel in a vain attempt to retain control. I rented a couple of them back in the day, the second time trusting they all couldn't possibly be that bad. It was. Interestingly, if you stabbed the throttle (hey, it was a rental!) your Citation could lurch in either direction. Randomly. How did GM "engineering" manage that?

I had a citation x11, it was my first car. Even a looking at a picture of one now 25 years later makes me want to go out and kick a puppy.

Hrm. Interesting post Chris. However.... I think that even if it happened, GM would have totally screwed it up, like they do with most things. Think Catera. Think the new Regal. Think any time they try to build something that an enthusiast would want. What do they do?

First off, the suspension would be much softer than anything else it's competing against. This would be okay for snow and gravel courses, where you don't want stiff springs, but it would be godawful on tarmac stages.

Secondly, it would have an automatic. FOR SURE. Any time GM made something kind of interesting, they usually shoved a slushbox in it. Or, they would allow a manual, but only with the small engine, or FWD. The AWD version would be coupled with an automatic though. So there's another fail.

Thirdly, it would probably weigh more than everything else, despite having a horrid plastic interior that falls apart when the wind is blowing right.

Basically, they'd take what everyone likes about all the group B cars, NOT do that, but market it as a group b car. Because that's what they do. The white haired old people in charge would water the thing down to nothing, and the ass kissing business/marketing people would hear them make an offhand comment about how much their boss likes gadget "x", so of course they would push the designers/engineers to include gadget "x" on the car, without any supporting evidence or research that consumers want it.

Did I mention I basically hate GM, and think of them as the worst car company on earth? Excluding the CTS-V, Cobalt SS, and Vette... they have produced complete garbage for the past 3.5 decades. They sucked so bad that people quit buying their garbage, and since there's so many losers working for that stupid company, if they went bankrupt it would hurt the economy. So now they have BILLIONS of dollars from the taxpayers, and they run some commercials showing that they paid back their loans, when in reality they took out another loan to pay off the loans they already took out, in hopes that advertising such a simple "idea" would somehow convince the general public that they don't still owe millions upon millions of dollars.

I hope GM burns. Have a nice day! :)

Rob, you buy VW products...I don't think anyone has to take your automotive preferences seriously. :P

Rob, in case you missed the message the 17th time it was posted: this is a no politics zone. But thanks for playing anyways!

PS Mr. Hafner, I hink you've converted me on the X-11 with that pic of the Citation 660...

That looks pretty sweet.

I got an idea for you though - the 2.8 v6 family is related to that jewel of a motor, the 3.4 Z34 engine, which is also available mated to a 5 speed...not only that, but if the crank from the 2.8 can be used, you can destroke the 3.4 with it to achieve a 3.03L DOHC GM V6.

A discussion of the GM bailout is *not* in scope - it's a politically divisive issue and is not relevant to the goofy fairy-tale idea of a Group B Citation. There's just nothing to be gained by having that conversation here.

To respond to the rest of what you say, Rob, I both agree and disagree. I agree that GM management was myopic and didn't really understand cars in the 1980s. That's one of the reasons the Citation was a bad car to start with, and it's probably at least part of the reason GM didn't play in Group B in the first place (whereas Ford - albeit Ford of Europe - had the awesome RS200 and a bunch of Escort specials). If you're arguing that it's unlikely that GM would have built a real Group B car, well, you're right. They didn't.

But this scenario is a *what if* - assuming we lived in a world in which GM did create a Group B Citation, what would it be like? Not, if GM created a half-hearted performance version of the Citation, what would that be like? We already know the answer to that question and it's the X-11.

Also, I would argue that GM actually did produce some interesting hard-core performance cars in the 1980s; there were pockets of enthusiast engineers who turned out hard-core cars and managed to get them approved for production. The 1984 Corvette was, if anything, too biased towards track performance. The GNX, Turbo T/A, Syclone, and Typhoon were all completely wacky cars that were hugely entertaining and at least a little bit weird. To write off GM of the 1980s as incapable of producing a real performance car is painting with too broad a brush.

Obviously GM *didn't* produce a Group B car. But if GM could produce a limited-edition GNX, or a hot-rod turbo pickup truck, I don't think it's a complete fairy tale to think that they could have produced 200 Group B homologation specials and to have done it right. Put the Corvette or Buick turbo guys in charge of the project, and let them run with it.

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