There is a lot that can be said about North American motoring in the ‘80s. However, most of it is not very nice. Let’s face it, at least in the first part of the decade, the Big Three were still struggling to even understand how to build a small car, let alone make it both a quality product and exciting to drive. Everywhere you looked, more and more Japanese cars were showing up, and most of those were suited more to basic transportation than exciting driving. Granted, there were exceptions, but what made driving fun for those who grew up in the muscle car era was not the same as what constituted invigorating motoring to the Japanese home market.
Against this backdrop, the Big Three were faced with a two-pronged problem; how could they make a small, modern and competitive car, and still satisfy buyers who wanted something sporty and muscular? The answer to the first question in many cases came from around the world. Ford’s “World Car” Escort and Chevy’s Brazilian-sourced Chevette were some examples, and Chrysler’s association with Mitsubishi helped them out. But those weren’t homegrown solutions. Then came a breakthrough: GM introduced the world to the X-Cars. These were engineered from the ground up to be compact, front wheel drive cars in the European and Japanese moulds, but with American styling and flare.
Sadly, all the promise held by the Citation and its X-Car siblings was not be realized, and the problems with the car overshadowed the initial media hype. The type lasted in production only until 1985, and then was phased out. The X-Cars in general and the Citation in particular, are reviled as some of the worst and most recalled cars in North American history.
This is all hindsight, though. At the time, GM wanted to do whatever it could and use the X-Cars to counter “foreign incursion” on all fronts. To this end, basic transportation was only part of the solution. There was a need to make an “up market” version, a sporty small tourer to fight the BMWs of the world. To this end, Chevy took the basic Citation and created the X-11. With a simple alphanumeric name, the X-11 sounded like it had the right stuff. Initial versions were only appearance packages, but by 1982 the X-11 actually boasted improved suspension and other modifications to make it more “roadable”. There was a lot of excitement about the X-11; was this going to be North America’s trump card? Well, no, it wasn’t. Why? Because underneath the X-11 was still a Citation, and no matter how much Maybelline, Cover Girl or Revlon you apply to a porcine visage, it’s still just putting lipstick on a pig.
Bodystyle, but not necessarily a stylish body:
The Citation was available as both a hatchback and a notchback. The overwhelming majority sold were the hatchbacks; North Americans didn’t seem to view the hatchback the way they do now; back in the early ‘80s, hatchbacks were all the rage, and the sign of a new era of practical styling. Whereas now it basically seems to be taboo (like using the term “Station Wagon”), the Citation hatchbacks were lauded and embraced by the motoring public. Despite the fact that many had grown up with notchback cars, the Citation hatch’s “3-box” brother was much less of a player in the marketplace; it was seen as awkward and somewhat stodgy; a throwback to an older way of doing things. Despite this, the X-11 was offered as both a hatchback and a notchback for most of its run. Just as with the “vanilla” Citations, the hatchbacks outsold the notchbacks handily, and there were years when Chevy just didn’t bother to offer the X-11 notchback at all.
That’s what makes Revell’s Citation X-11 kit so odd; it’s a notchback! Of course, with my love of oddball loser cars, I have always favoured the notchback; I think that it is much more stylish and less econobeater looking than the hatchback. However, why on Earth Revell would kit the very popular Citation in this guise is beyond me. Even more interesting, the Citation kit was never issued properly. The first issue was a “turbo Citation” which had the X-11’s bulged hood and spoilers, but the wrong engine. The second issue was a drastically modified “club racer” (whatever that means in this context) with odd headlights, a turbo hood and the same turbocharged, incorrect engine.
The first time you could actually get a Citation kit with almost all the proper decals, wheels, hood and spoiler was the Lowrider version. Thankfully, I was able to get my hands on this particular kit, and then I had to find out when and how the Citation X-11 notchback was offered.
A Moment in Time:
After doing a lot of research, I found that the X-11 notchbacks were not offered in 1981, the year the kit is supposed to represent. However, they were offered in at least ’83 and ’84, as well as the earlier “appearance only”-types offered in ’80. Since I wanted to do a late one with the blacked-out grille and trim, that didn’t leave me a lot of options for what year I was going to be building. Looking at literature from my brother’s collection, as well as online, I found that in 1984, and only in that year, the X-11 notchback was offered in Light Fern Metallic. Well, not much says “weak” as well as a light metallic green econobeater pretending to be a muscle car or a BMW-fighter, and thus my decision to model this particular version was easy to make.
Finding pictures of a Light Fern Metallic (LFM) X-11 is impossible. There’s not one that I can find on the entire internet; anywhere! Late notchbacks are hard to find record of in their own right, and finding reference on this particular combination of colour and car proved to be a dead end. However, I did find pics of the colour on other GM cars, so I was at least able to extrapolate. Thus, I set out to build what could well be the only record of the LFM Citation X-11 notchback.
For reference on the work done to get the engine, interior and body ready for paint, you can read my earlier updates here:
Painting and Finishing:
To create the elusive LFM paint needed for my X-11, I started with a bit of Testors Model Master Acrylic (MMA) Light Grey, and added a very, very small amount of MMA Olive Drab and Medium Green. These are military colours, so they are both flat and drab. However, the colour is Light Fern METALLIC, so it is clear that there had to be some extra work done to the base paint. Thankfully, Jacquard metallic pigments are perfect for the job! They may be designed for scrapbookers to do stamping, but they are highly metallic and dissolve easily into acrylic paint and Future.
To my base paint I added quite a bit of Future as well as Green and a bit of Yellow pigment. The best part of the pigments is that their metallic flakes are TINY. There’s always a danger when you make a metallic car paint that the flakes will be too big, and the scale effect will be more akin to the paint on a bass boat (as one forum member so rightly pointed out) than a real car. Thankfully, that’s not the case with the Jacquards, and the metallic flakes in the paint are so small that you have to be right on top of it to see them.
Before laying down the metallic, I used a coat of MMA “British Sky Type S”, which, as it turns out, would have been fine for a base coat. This is a greyish green (Is that how the British see the sky?) and made a perfect primer for the LFM. With the Sky down, I airbrushed on three thin coats of the LFM that I’d prepared. Being so heavily metallic, it went on quite rough. This can be a drawback of using the Jacquard pigments; if you use too much to the volume of your paint, you will get a rough, sand-like surface on your paint. It literally is the metallic bits forming the surface. Of course, the other side of this is that if your paint dries like this, you know you’ve got a very highly metallic effect! At this point, I used a sharpened mechanical pencil lead to detail the cowl vents, door trunk and gas door openings as well as the seams between the bumpers and the plastic plates that join them to the body. While it may look odd on the model, rest assured there were large, visible seams on these components!
To make the paint both glossy and smooth, then, a lot of Futuring is required. The key is to put on a fairly thin, uniform layer of Future. I applied just enough to “sink into” the surface, so that when it was dry I could see the matte-ness of the paint turn somewhat shiny. After a day in a dehydrator at 42ºC (about 110ºF), the thin Future was dry enough to re-coat. This coat of Future was put on a bit thicker; an alternative is to put down two thin coats in rapid succession. This “second pass” should leave the car much glossier and smoother, but still quite rough. The idea is to build up enough Future to give you something to sand smooth; you want to bury the metallic in a blanket of Future, so that when you sand, everything gets levelled out without ripping up the paint or metallic components. This also helps to give depth.
A note about Future and Dehydrators:
This model is the first one I’ve ever used a dehydrator on. This kind of device is designed to dry fruits and meat, but with a bit of modification to the trays, it’s a great heater for drying model paints, glues and, above all, Future!
I sanded the Future (once it was dry) and applied a thicker, heavier coating. I did this until the model looked wet, but wasn’t dripping. I then dried this for about 5 days in the Dehydrator, to ensure it was dry enough to sand. I then sanded it down to 4000 grit using my Detail Master sanding cloths, and then dried it again in the dehydrator for 4 days. This sounds like a lot of time, but I always have multiple projects on the go, so I just shifted my focus for a bit. Once I couldn’t smell any Future smell coming off the car, I figured I could decal it.
There aren’t many decals for the Citation. The X-11 script for the doors and trunk are all that’s useful. I was hoping they’d give me the Chevy script for the trunk as well, but this was not provided either as a decal or as moulded detail. The “Citation” badging for the front fenders IS given as a decal, but is only correct for the ’80 X-11. Those that came after have the “Citation medal” emblem on the B-pillar, but not the fenders. Oh well. After applying the decals, I put on one more heavy coat of Future, to seal them in. Another “5-day bake” and “4-day-post-4000-Grit-sanding-rebake” cycle saw the main paintwork completed.
Black and Lights:
I then applied the black to the trim. This was done using MMA Aircraft Interior Black cut with Future to make it semigloss. I hand painted all the window frames and bumper rub strips, as well as the grille and the door handles. The later X-11s had this blackout trim in order to make the car more “European”. I guess it did, except those cars used much more black. To my eye, the Citation actually looks much nicer than its competition; too much black looks cheap and nasty.
The headlights are given as clear transparencies. To give them that “sealed beam” look, I simply applied Bare Metal Foil to the back of the lenses. I also put down foil for the turn signals and corner lights, as well as the tail lights. As you may recall, the tail lights were ALSO moulded in clear. I painted the entire assembly black, and then foiled the light sections. I then painted the lights with Tamiya clear red. The backup lights were done by cutting the correct sized pieces of BMF and putting them in the centre of the inner light. This required some measuring and scaling, but worked out well.
The engine bay is not one of the most impressive parts of the kit. The bracing struts so characteristic of the Citation are present, but they are moulded in, and so “melt” down into the engine bay. To give the illusion of them just “hovering” there, I did what I could; I painted the tops and down the sides a little ways black, and left the rest green. At first look, the struts do seem to be “hovering” over other parts of the bay. The various bottles under the hood also suffer from this “melting” phenomenon; it’s a trait of Revell/Monogram car kits of this era.
Another weirdness is that the fender wells don’t really go anywhere. They just kind of stop, which is disconcerting until you put the tires on. A that point, the black of the wheels adds “shadow” and it looks okay, but overall, it’s not impressive. What does look nice though are the caps of the struts, which I painted MMA Steel and then gave a Citadel Baddab Black wash to highlight the bolts. I did the centers black, for contrast. I did the hood latch in steel (although I likely would have been body colour) and some of the firewall detail black.
Amazingly, when I put the body on the chassis, it fit rather well, and the homemade exhaust setup fit right in without running into the Master Cylinder or firewall detail! This proves it is better to be lucky than good.
With the body decalled and sanded, I used Tamiya Fine and then Finish rubbing compounds, both applied with damp flannel cloths and always in the same direction, to give the paint a very smooth, shiny finish. I wiped the whole car, as well as the windows, down with Novus Step 1 polish, to get any residue out of the door lines, trunk line, etc. I glued the windows in with thick Tacky Glue, but this didn’t hold fast enough for my liking, so I got dangerous and used CA. It held, but I’d rather not do this in the future; the danger of outgassing is extremely high! If you keep the body upside down, the risk is mitigated, but if it fails on you, don’t blame me!
The body fit well over the assembled chassis and interior, and the whole thing was easier to glue together than a lot of car kits I’ve built. At this point, you might notice that there aren’t any wing mirrors. That’s because the kit only came with the small, bullet-shaped ones, and these were only found on the ’80 X-11s. The later X-11s have faired-in aero-type mirrors, and that’s a bit difference. I looked in my spares box, but wing mirrors are not something that you normally get extras of. Therefore, I decided it was better to go without than put on the wrong ones.
Getting the tail lights to fit into the body was a lot more difficult than it was in test fitting; I can only conclude that the extra size due to paint and foil made the fit even tighter than I thought, but after some wheedling and pushing, I got the assembly in place. I was amazed that the dashboard and the front windshield lined up as well as they did; some Revell/Monogram kits have this as a problem area, but on the Citation it was smooth sailing.
The lowrider version of the Citation kit is an odd mix. As a lowrider, it’s a ridiculous choice, and no one with any street cred would likely use a Citation in place of a Caprice. However, I’m really glad that they issued this kit, since now a.) I have lowrider tires for an even more ridiculous project and b.) they finally gave you all the things you need to make a nearly correct X-11. It’s that “near correctness” that is the kit’s greatest weakness.
With the need to have the air intake system totally remade, as well as the exhaust having to be remodeled, this kit is a great starting point for making a largely accurate X-11 notchback, and that is something in and of itself. However, I always hate it when a car’s “custom” features prevent it from being built stock. For anyone, like me, who takes reproducing the “automotive dark ages” seriously, this can be something of a deal breaker. Thankfully, the work needed to get the X-11 to be a fair representation of the real thing isn’t too bad. I do commend the kit for having both the ’80 and the post-’80 style wheels and stripes, as well as the ’80 side scoops; Sadly, there aren’t more colour options for the stripes/decals, and that’s a bit limiting.
As a kit, the Citation is surprisingly good; it is quite detailed, and has a nice interior as well as a crisply tooled body and even the chassis is pretty good, if not boring. The fit of most parts is on par with other kits of the era, and better than some, so even those with only moderate experience or confidence will be able to make something of the kit. The tail lights are a major issue, though; being moulded in clear means they require a lot more work than just the usual red glass plug-ins!
Overall, then, it’s fair to say that this kit of the Citation is a good, but not great, model. It looks good when finished, and it’s nice to have a North American car that’s the same scale as the Tamiya kits of ‘80s Japanese cars. Now you can easily compare the Citation to its competition! I enjoyed building this, and I loved the challenge of “stockifying” the engine, too. Having this car be both a notchback and in such a rare colour makes it one of my favourite models to date.
Would I recommend this kit? Let’s just say it’s going to hold together better than the real car, and it looks good without leaking oil in your driveway. So, yeah, I guess that’s a definite recommendation. If you like oddball losers, you won’t find one that’s more of either than a notchback X-11, trust me!