Home » Chevies That Haven’t Been Driven To The Levee Much: 1981 Citation vs 1992 Beretta

Chevies That Haven’t Been Driven To The Levee Much: 1981 Citation vs 1992 Beretta

Sbsd 3 11 2024

Good morning, Autopians! It’s an hour later than you feel like it should be, thanks to our old friend Daylight Saving Time. I’m here to help ease your mental jet lag with a couple of nicely preserved, low-mileage Chevrolets.

Friday, we took a trip east, and found slim pickings in the state of Maryland. (Lucky for us, the house-hunting is better than the car-hunting in those parts.) The prevailing opinion seemed to be that the idea of the old Pontiac wagon was pretty cool, but that particular one was just too far gone. Fixing up an old car is one thing, but literally pulling one out of a junkyard is next-level automotive resurrection, and as so often happens when bringing things back from the dead, it came back a little, well, wrong.

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That little wine-colored Mercedes, on the other hand, is a gem. Yes, it can be outrun by a senior citizen on a Rascal, at least for the first twenty yards or so, but it’s in nice shape, and has hundreds of thousands of miles left in it. It was no contest at all, really. But I had to include that Pontiac; how often do you see a Catalina wagon for sale at all?

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Moving on: We have a semi-regular feature here called “GM Hit Or Miss,” which celebrates the automotive juggernaut’s tendency to swing for the fences with a new idea. Sometimes it knocks it out of the park, and sometimes it swings at a stupid curveball and completely whiffs. Far more often, though, it tends to hit good predictable singles, little dribblers that slip past the shortstop for long enough to get on base. But hey, put enough of those little singles together, and you’ve got yourself on the scoreboard. All you have to do is not strike out in the meantime.


So here is a lesson in perseverance, in steadily improving and not messing with something that works. One of today’s cars is an evolution of the other. They both use the same basic powertrain – a 60-degree pushrod V6 coupled to a Turbo-Hydramatic 125C transmission – with eleven years of development and lessons learned between them. Let’s take a look.

1981 Chevrolet Citation – $5,900

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.8-liter overhead valve V6, three-speed automatic, FWD

Location: York, PA

Odometer reading: 43,000 miles


Operational status: Not expressly stated, actually

I can hear it now: “The Citation? A hit? All right; this guy has finally lost it.” But Chevy sold a million and a half of these things, in just five years, and applied lessons learned from it to generations of cars to follow. Yes, it was half-baked, rushed into production, and spawned a ton of recalls. But it sold. Put it this way: Encino Man was considered a hit, too.

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The Citation, and its fellow X-body vehicles, were the first cars to use the 60-degree V6 that saw use in countless GM vehicles, both front- and rear-wheel-drive. Here, it displaces 2.8 liters, is fed by a two-barrel carburetor, and drives the front wheels through a three-speed automatic. This one has only 43,000 miles on it. The ad doesn’t expressly say how well (or even if) it runs, but for this price, at that mileage, it had better purr like a kitten.

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It’s clean inside, but even as nice as this one is, you can see that these were not well-built cars. Fit and finish is all over the place, and the beige plastic is several different shades. The Citation has one feature inside that I always thought would be annoying: the radio is mounted vertically in the dash. The stock radio had the numbers on the dial oriented correctly, but if you installed an aftermarket stereo, you’d have to turn your head sideways to read it.

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The plastic bumper filler panels are gone, of course, but otherwise it’s a time capsule to the early ’80s outside. And yes, that beige-over-red two-tone job was from the factory. You could get red over beige, too. Maybe it’s not just colors that need to come back, but multiple colors. And five-door hatchbacks definitely need to make a comeback.

1992 Chevrolet Beretta GT – $4,999

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Engine/drivetrain: 3.1-liter overhead valve V6, three-speed automatic, FWD


Location: Shoreline, WA

Odometer reading: 41,000 miles

Operational status: “Must drive to appreciate” they say

The X-body was a bit of a fiasco for GM, but its basic layout had legs. The J, A, N, and L platforms were all developments of the basic front-wheel-drive X architecture: McPherson struts in front, beam axle in back, transverse engine, under economy cars, family sedans, wagons, and sporty coupes. It’s the same basic idea as Chrysler’s many K-car variants. But hey, everything on Taco Bell’s menu is made from like eight ingredients combined in different ways, too. It works for them.

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The V6 had gained a little displacement and multi-port fuel injection by the time it found its way under the hood of this Beretta GT. It’s backed by the same three-speed automatic, not sophisticated, but fairly reliable. With only 41,000 miles on it, this one runs beautifully.

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GM interiors were still not exactly luxurious in ’92, but they were a whole lot better put together. And these Berettas were pretty comfortable cars. Obviously, with the low mileage, it’s in beautiful condition. Anyone with any experience of GM cars of this era can look at this photo and know exactly what this car feels, sounds, and smells like inside. They’re all pretty much the same.

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The GT had a few cool touches outside, like a rear spoiler, those fabulous basket-weave wheels, and flashy badges. This one looks like it just rolled out of a showroom in 1992. Even the headlights aren’t cloudy.


Yes, I know; they’re both expensive. I don’t set the prices. And really, if you look at what ’80s and ’90s nostalgia costs these days, these aren’t bad. They’re both clean, low-mileage cars that are sure to start conversations at any gearhead gathering. All you have to do is choose a generation.

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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1 month ago

The Beretta looked great then and still does. The injected 2.8/3.1 motors sound so good with the muffler hacked out and a Pacesetter dual tip resonator taking its place. 5 speed would be better of course. Between the GT, GTU, GTZ and the wild colors available, these are awesome.
In high school I got an 88 with 2.0 throttle body injection, 3 speed auto, pretty good shape. Bought from a girl who was a recent college grad. She got a new Explorer and wanted it gone. Talked her down from $1k to $500!! Kept it from 97-98 then sold for $1100 and got a mint 87 Shelby Z Daytona for $2700. Ahh nostalgia.

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