Tuesday, August 18, 2009

So, what's an X-11?

Back in 1974, GM decided they were going to need to make smaller cars. To replace the aging Nova (which didn't change much stylistically from 1973 to 1979), they came up with a front-engine, front-wheel-drive platform called the X-Body (the Nova and its GM sisters were called X-Bodies, too, but they're not the same platform).

Four of the five GM companies would get this new car:
Chevrolet: Citation
Buick: Skylark
Pontiac: Phoenix
Oldsmobile: Omega

Funny that Cadillac didn't get an X-car; instead, they re-badged the smaller Cavalier, gave it some tacky fake chrome and wood, and called it the Cimmaron. Bleah.

The X-cars debuted in 1979 for the 1980 model year. The Citation came in a notchback coupe, hatchback coupe, and hatchback four-door. For engines, there was the 2.5-liter (151 cubic inches) "Iron Duke" inline four or the 2.8-liter (173 cubes) V6. For transaxles, you got either a 4-speed stick or 3-speed automatic. They were built to give pretty good interior room and good gas mileage for the day.

Then there was the X-11. These little monsters had a warmed-up version of the 2.8 V-6--a more aggressive cam, bigger valves, larger exhaust, a double-height air filter, and functional cowl-induction hood. Underneath, the car got lowered a couple of inches, got a stiffer suspension, and got some bracing at the back corners of the engine cradle that made a grocery-getter into a race-winner.

Chevy's engineers built the X-11 as a race car first and foremost, competing in SSB/SCCA ("Showroom Stock 'B' "class, Sports Car Club of America) races. The rules required that the cars had to be available for sale, so Chevy made it happen with the 1981 model year (the 1980 version was just a stock Citation with some decals and other trim items, but without the higher-output engine). Essentially, the car as built and sold--and now in my parking spot--is the racer. With some safety modifications, I could theoretically take my little silver monster out to an SCCA SSB event and race it.

Nope. Not this one. I've wanted an X-11 since the late 1990s, and even if the resale's only a couple grand, the car means a lot to me. Especially this car, since the County code bastards made me get rid of its predecessor, a plain-jane 1983 Citation. More about that one later.

John Heinrichy's the man to thank for X-11's; here's a Hot Rod Magazine writeup about him, with a few pics of a racing X. The man's an auto engineer, race driver, and all-around cool guy who (as of the writing of the article) is GM's director of high-perf vehicle operations. He's also third in the SCCA's all-time winners list. I can respect that!

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