Friday, September 5, 2008

Friday Fun: Back to the '80s, Motorhead Style...

Okay. Time to take a break from the heavy political stuff for a moment, if we may. Time for a trip down memory lane...

Set your chronometers for the 1980s. What comes to mind? Ronald Reagan, Cold War, John Hughes teen angst movies, etc. But what about the cars?

Ah, the cars of the 1980s. For the most part, the cars of the 1980s sucked. Big time. The 1970s saw, with the advance of high (!!!) gas prices and ever-increasing pollution control, the death of the muscle car. The 1980s started with some truly awful cars: The Ford Escort, Chevy Chevette (yes, I know, it debuted in the late '70s. Grant me license), and the Chrysler K-cars, just to name a few.

We saw the Ford Mustang, bloated to obscene proportions in the early '70s, then micro-sized in the late '70s to near clown-car status, turn into an amorphous blob with a four-banger. The T-bird, which started out the 1970s as a behemoth and only got larger, was made smaller and uglier in the '80s. Chrysler phased out their muscle cars entirely in the 1980s, offering no rear-wheel drive coupes at all. GM downsized to the Camaro/Firebird and Corvette.

In short, there wasn't a lot of fun stuff in the 1980s. Or was there?

Let me present my choices for the top ten coolest American cars of the 1980s.

1. Delorean DMC-12. Yes, it had an anemic French four-banger. Yes, the founder was hauled off to jail on drug charges. But is there any automobile more iconic of a decade than the car immortalized in the "Back to the Future" trilogy?

2. Buick Grand National. I'm partial to the 1986/1987 variant, as that had the intercooler as well as the supercharger. What's not to love about a big honkin' six passenger monstrosity with only a six-cylinder engine that could take on pretty much all comers? 245 horsepower in an age where the 350 cubic inch V-8 only made 200 HP is pretty respectable...

3. Ford Mustang GT. The 1985-1988 versions are the most enduring of my teenaged years, as it was the car to have for cruising the beach. The 5.0 liter engine in the LX trim launched the 'Stang from 0-60 in a very respectable 6 seconds flat, which in today's day and age doesn't sound like much, but at the time it was attainable only by the Corvette for cars made in North America.

4. Dodge Dakota Sport Convertible. Yes, Virginia, there actually a factory-offered convertible pick-up truck, and it was Chrysler Motor Corporation who offered it. The Chevy S-10 has probably seen more shade-tree sawzall conversions, but only the Dakota came straight from the factory with no roof.

5. Dodge Omni GLHS. What's not to like about a four-door hatchback with a quarter mile time of 13 seconds. From the factory? The Omni was designed with the energy crises of the 1970s in mind, a small, four-cylinder econobox designed to get decent gas mileage while slowly falling apart. Enter the benevolent madman known as Carroll Shelby...

6. 1984 Chevrolet Corvette. The first redesign of the body in 14 years and only the fourth generation 'Vette overall, the styling of the C4 was the beginning of GM's refining of the Corvette from road-rippin' brute to euro-compatible sports car. Sure, the engine was anemic by the standards set in the late '60s and early '70s, but given that the 'Vette initally started with a 6-cylinder, not too bad considering the time period.

7. AMC CJ7. Considered by many to be the last of the "true" jeeps, this was the last Jeep not owned by the Chrysler Corporation. The 1986 variant would be the last of the "round eye" Jeeps for a while, as Chrysler re-styled the body to the Wrangler in 1987 with square headlights, which continued until they came to their senses in 1997...

8. 1987 Chevrolet El Camino SS. The very last year of the El Camino, 1987 ended a run that started in 1959 with GM playing catch-up to Ford's Ranchero in the half-car, half-truck wars. The SS package, far more common on the Monte Carlo, was a limited run with numbers in the low thousands.

9. Chevy Camaro IROC. No list of the 1980s would be complete without at least some variant of GM's F-body pony-basher. Being nostalgic, I had to include the IROC variant - the International Race of Champions version came with extra body cladding, styling cues, and, in the Z-configuration, had a modified L-98 Corvette engine. There are no truth to the rumors that IROC also stood for "Italian Retard Out Cruising"...

10. This spot left open for reader choice. What American car from the 1980s have I missed in my list?

That is all.

15 comments:

Weer'd Beard said...

"Set your chronometers for the 1980s. What comes to mind? Ronald Reagan, Cold War, John Hughes teen angst movies, etc."

How about Shitting in my pants, and trying to figure out what could fit in my mouth and what couldn't ; ] Just had to make you feel old, dude!

My folks in those days drove a red AMC Pacer
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/8a/Amc_pacer_x.jpg/800px-Amc_pacer_x.jpg

Also one thing from the 80s I sorely miss is the Trans Am with the gold firebird on the hood. Those just Screamed "Kickass Car" to me.

Jay G said...

Freakin' kid...

The "Trans Am with the gold firebird on the hood" is the "Bandit" Trans Am, immortalized in that paean to reckless driving, "Smoky and the Bandit".

From 1977.

Hence the lack of inclusion...

Dern whippersnappers...

Countertop said...

Now don't laugh, but I'm going out on a limb here and saying the Ford Taurus.

Sure, the standard models sucked . . . and where pretty much plain jane fleet cars . . .

but the Ford Taurus SHO was one of the more powerful cars on the market over the entire decade and could take down a corvette (or most European sportscars) off the line.

Ted said...

'Considered by many to be the last of the "true" jeeps...'

Dunno. I LOVE my Wrangler. Most fun to drive of any car I've owned.

And I have to admit to a BIG crush on the 85 Mercury Cougar. Sure, you couldn't see behind you, but why would you want to watch where you'd already been?

;-)

Andrew said...

Holy crap. You're the other dude still around that knows about the "Shelby" Omni GLHS. Now THAT was a sleeper pocket rocket.(for those that prefer performance to appearance)
If you were gonna get into bikes the brief appearance of the street legal Yamaha RZ350 was paramount.
Great blog. Sorry you have to live in MA. When I lived in VT I hated even driving through.

red said...

I had an 86 CJ7. It was a tank! It loved to pop out of 4wd but I never got it stuck.

What about the AMC Eagle 4wd wagon? I think it's worthy to be on the list.

Mulligan said...

the conquest 87-89 was pretty hot after they worked out the bugs in the turbo.

it was essentially an americanized version of the mitsubishi starion though so it may not qualify.

SCI-FI said...

Not coolest, but I'd argue iconic: the original Ford Taurus.

Progenitor of a zillion "aerodynamic" cars, probably the core inspiration for the original Dodge Intrepid 7-ish years later, and used as the cop cars in the movie RoboCop. Originally included a stick model (MT-5), and later included the Yamaha-designed SHO (aka "SHOGUN") engine.

Artstudio Sri Lanka said...

The greatest collection of Car Wallpapers

Adam said...

I know this is late in coming, but the 87 Buick Grand National was turbo charged, not super charged.

I've always wanted one, but anything that I can find is either a $4K rat trap or a $40K collectible.

Rod H said...

Sorry, Jay, but the Delaoean was "powered" by a somewhat anemic Volvo-sourced V6, which had been developed between Volvo, Renault, and Fiat, I believe. Still slow.

But how about the "other" semi-Shelby of the 80s, the Shelby Dodge Daytona, a 2.2 Turboed dohc rocket? Went like stink.

Rod H said...

Sorry, Jay, but the Delaoean was "powered" by a somewhat anemic Volvo-sourced V6, which had been developed between Volvo, Renault, and Fiat, I believe. Still slow.

But how about the "other" semi-Shelby of the 80s, the Shelby Dodge Daytona, a 2.2 Turboed dohc rocket? Went like stink.

Rod H said...

Sorry for the double hit...

Larry said...

The GLHS was actually a 2 door model, based on the Charger. The four door version was the GLH. Both turbocharged 2.2's, one was intercooled.
I think you are speaking of the Daytona R/T when you mention the T3 (DOHC 2.2 turbo).

Larry said...

BTW, my nomination for #10 is the 1982 Dodge Rampage, another Omni based car with a 2.2 normally aspirated motor that could out-accelerate the Z-28 and out-slalom one of the Porch models of the same year (intentionally mis-spelled, get over it). Can't remember which one, but I know it wasn't the 911. Carol Shelby thought about a Shelby-ized version of the Rampage, but production ceased in 1984.