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#1 of 130 Sports and Sporty Cars of the '80s
Jan 01, 2008 (8:51 am)
We may tend to think of the '80s as recent, but the first models of this decade rolled off the assembly lines in 1979. While many of the cars from this period were plagued with the same design and quality issues of the preceding decade, the '80s also saw a turnaround in these areas. Also notable was the fact that the Japanese manufacturers went from having a foothold in the U.S. market to a rapidly growing market share. Models such as Celica and Supra, 280Z and 300 Z, Prelude and others became widely recognized.
This discussion is intended to be a sequel to the Sports Cars of the '60s and Sports Cars of the '70s topics, only broader, to include sporty cars.
Happy New Year to all!
#2 of 130 Sports and Sporty Cars of the '80s
Jan 03, 2008 (3:15 am)
While serious quality problems continued to plague many cars in the '80s, as they had in the '70s, there were some interesting attempts (from a historical perspective, at least) to tap into the desire for sharply styled, fun-to-drive, yet economical cars. For example...
GM introduced a slightly smaller Camaro and Firebird for '82. To satisfy the demand for fuel economy, the base engine was the ill suited OHV Iron Duke 4, which make these sleek looking pony cars real slugs. Balancing those off, however, were hot performing Z28s, IROCs, and Trans-Ams. For '84, Pontiac introduced the half baked Fiero, a sharp looking commuter car featuring much more show than go. A slightly trimmer C4 Corvette was also introduced for the '84 model year. The new-for-'85 N-Bodies was arguably GM's answer to the BMW 3 Series. For '88, GM redownsized its luxury coupes, the Toronado, Riviera, and Eldorado. The first downsizing of these cars, in the late '70s, was successful in its day, but the second downsizing, wasn't. Although credible in concept, these cars seemed to satisfy almost no one, and sales tanked.
Meanwhile, at Ford, the first two seater since the '55 T-Bird was introduced, the Escort based EXP, and its Mercury counterpart, the LN7. Unfortunately, performance suffered because they weighed 200 more than the Escort/Lynx, yet had the same 1.6 engine. Also from Ford was the aerodynamically styled '83 T-Bird, available with a turbo-4, 5 speed manual and sport suspension. The T-Bird was restyled again for the '89 model year. The performance model, the SC. featured a supercharged V6. This last generation four passenger T-Bird, and its Mercury counterpart, was a nice looking car, which kind of/sort of resembled the larger BMW coupe, but unfortunately, like the EXP/LN7, it was porky. Meanwhile, the Mustang, which converted from the Pinto based economy coupe to a more credible Fox based pony car for '79, continued to regain its mojo in the '80s. At Lincoln, the Mark VII (or VIII?) luxury coupe got more rounded styling in the mid-'80s, with notable improvements in V8 performance and greatly improved handling.
A couple of other performance models from Ford were the LTD LX, with a modified 302 V8, special trim, and firmer suspension, and the Taurus SHO.
Chrysler leveraged its K-car bodies with convertible derivatives, and for '84 introduced the sharply styled Chrysler Laser/Dodge Daytona four passenger coupes. The turbo versions of these were good performers in their day.
Some notable European models were the '83 VW GTI. At BMW, the 3-Series became the undisputed model sport sedan. And, for a few years, beginning in the mid '80s, the Saab 900, especially the turbo, was a hot yuppymobile.
Some of these cars were successful, and, looking back, others were almost laughable, but the '80s were significant because it was the period when Detroit realized that it was being seriously challenged, and reacted.
#3 of 130 Re: Sports and Sporty Cars of the '80s [hpmctorque]
Jan 03, 2008 (8:46 am)
I find it pretty easy to ignore everything out of Detroit in the '80s. The only cars that interest me had good intentions but were ultimately pretty bad cars - C4 Vettes and Fieros. Cars that made a momentary splash, like the Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, the Mustang SVO, and the Taurus SHO were quickly forgotten. Daytonas and EXPs were roundly trashed when they came out. Mustangs and Camaros were OK at the time. Grand Nationals are still popular amongst the Larry the Cable Guy types, but they weren't particularly good cars.
#4 of 130 Re: Sports and Sporty Cars of the '80s (lemmer)
Jan 03, 2008 (9:39 am)
Yeah, most of Detroit's entries weren't good or memorable, but I think we have to consider them within the context of the time, when the vaunted European cars also had their own design and reliability issues, and the Japanese cars, while comparatively reliable and fuel efficient, had serious rust problems.
#5 of 130 Re: Sports and Sporty Cars of the '80s [lemmer]
by Mr_Shiftright HOST
Jan 03, 2008 (9:43 am)
The major problem with the 1980s, with a very few exceptions, was that 80s "sports" or "sporty" cars (you almost HAVE to put them in parenthesis---why? See the following) ===>
They were 95% style attempts and 5% substance attempts.
The Fiero is a good example of course, giving us a reasonably attractive mid-engined two-seater that a) drove like it weighed 5 tons and b) couldn't get out of its own way.
The Allante was another. Again, reasonably attractive exterior but with a morbid V8 until 1993, and what had to be one of the world's cheesiest interiors for a supposed "luxury sports roadster" competing with the MB SL.
There is just so little "meat" in most 1980s sporty cars, they are difficult to like from real enthusiasts point of view. It's like they have a sign on them that says "Look but don't drive".
#6 of 130 Re: Sports and Sporty Cars of the '80s [Mr_Shiftright]
Jan 03, 2008 (10:25 am)
At least the '80s saw the return of speed. 0-60 times in the '70s averaged about 12 sec, by '89 it was down to about 8 sec in the magazines. For the '80 to '85 cars, the only two that immediately come to mind are the RX-7 and the GTI. Of course, by '85 one could get reasonably powerful Camaros/Firebirds/Mustangs.
#7 of 130 Re: Sports and Sporty Cars of the '80s [texases]
by Mr_Shiftright HOST
Jan 03, 2008 (10:49 am)
yeah there were a few cars worth driving. A Camaro/Mustang was fun as long as you didn't attempt to steer it. The Mustang convertibles had a very flexible chassis. You really needed to weld 'em up to feel safe.
#8 of 130 Re: Sports and Sporty Cars of the '80s
Jan 03, 2008 (11:09 am)
Other failed attempts at appealing sporty cars include the '82 Renault Fuego (how can anyone forget that one, or should I say, remember that one?); Buick's first two seater, the '88 Reatta; and the '89 Chrysler TC. A more successful model, though expensive to maintain, was the Audi Quattro coupe.
#9 of 130 Re: Sports and Sporty Cars of the '80s [hpmctorque]
by Mr_Shiftright HOST
Jan 03, 2008 (11:22 am)
I was reading in an Auto Salvage trade magazine where a lot of recyclers don't even WANT 80s cars, since they just take up space. There's not a high demand for parts. So they crush 'em pretty quick and don't pay very much, if anything at all, for them.
Some of the book values on 80s cars barely break $1,000.
#10 of 130 Sporty..
by kyfdx HOST
Jan 03, 2008 (12:09 pm)
E21 320i '80-'83 (much maligned)
E30 325i (starting in '87.. not the 325e)
The mid-80s Celicas... the last rear-wheel drive ones..
Mark VII LSC
Porsche 944 Turbo
I'm probably missing a bunch of cars that I liked then, being in my 20s for most of the decade.. but, wouldn't consider now...