Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1
In order to contain the threat General Motors
invested the unprecedented sum of 2.7 billion dollars in their 'X-Car' project. It was rated a worthwhile investment as it was estimated the new-generation cars would ultimately represent 60 per cent of the US market.
GM, characteristically, carried out an in-depth analysis of the opposition and decided upon a design which incorporated front-wheel drive, transverse engine, and a length of 14.76ft (4.5 metres).
After 20 years there was hardly a world manufacturer who hadn't adopted Issigonis's
outlook! For the first time four GM marques were participating in the same programme (Chevrolet
, and Pontiac
), the resulting cars offering several variations on a theme.
The 'two-box' sedans like the Chevrolet Citation were remarkably European looking, and with the e-box' (or 'notchback') Buick Skylark a bewildering number of door permutations were offered, with two, three, four, or five at choice. There were also two-door coupes.
Overall they varied from 14.69 ft (4.48 metres) to 9 ft (4.6 metres). Widths vared from 5.61 ft 1 metres) to 5.67 ft (1.73 metres), and GM even got weights down to European norms, ranging from 2462 Ib (1117 kg) to 2568 Ib (1165 kg) according to model. The aerodynamic
co-efficient of the best streamlined model was a reasonable 0.417. Despite of the dramatic 'down-sizing' and trimming the X-Cars conformed to American standards of interior comfort and spaciousness.
The Citation was GM's first essay into large-scale production front-drive vehicles, and to gain interior space the Corporation had sensibly opted for a transverse engine mounting. The gearbox units mounted on the end of the crankshafts, not with gears in the engine a la Issigonis.
The first cars (developed in the early 1970's) used a Pontiac-derived four-cylinder cast iron block or with crossflow head, developing 90 bhp (67 kW) from a cubic capacity of 2471 cc. However, once the 1973
oil crisis receded GM devloped a new 60-degree V6, also with pushrod ohv, a capacity of 2838 cc, and a maximum output of 115 bhp (85.75 kW). The X cars had unequal length drive-shafts (no mediate shafts) and four-speed manual transmissions
were standard with a geared-up top to allow quiet cruising and minimal fuel consumption.
There was a three-speed Hydramatic available as an option, something most important to ensure the cars success in the American market. GM adopted a rack-and-pinion steering
layout, but at 26: 1 it was very low geared.
There was a powered alternative but when it was fitted the turning circle increased to a whopping 38.38 ft (11.7 metres). A classic suspension
layout was chosen: Macherson coil struts at the front, and 'dead' at rear suspended on coil springs, positively located by trailing arms and a Pan hard rod. The brakes
were power assisted with ventilated front discs, rear drums, and independent circuits.
Top-end performance tended to take second place (105 mph/170 km/h for four-cylinder models, 113 mph/182 km/h for V6s), and GM were proud of their fuel consumption figures.
The four-cylinder manual models were claimed to consume fuel at the rate of 24 mpg around town (9.80 lit/100 km), and at 38 mpg (US) when cruising (6.19 lit/1 00 km). The overall average was therefore 29 mpg /8.11 lit/100 km. Under similar conditions GM claimed the V6 automatic
was good for 23 mpg /10.23 lit/100 km.