1985 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

Every year I do a retro CD for the holidays that goes to friends and family. Whatever expertise in popular music that I do have is from the eighties, so I go forward one year in that decade—that means that this year I’m doing 1988. There’s a story behind every year’s CD, and this one involved a 1985 Trans Am. So, I decided I would draw a 1985 Trans Am dashboard and thus this blog post.

“The most serious piece of machinery we put on the road.”

Updates for the 1985 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am included a restyled nose with built-in fog lamps, new taillights, fake hood louvers replacing the traditional power bulge, and full rocker and quarter panel extensions. A new WS6 suspension package was made available for the Trans Am, which included gas pressurized shocks and 16-inch wheels with P245/50VR16 Goodyear “Gatorback” tires for a $664 price tag. Inside, all gages now had graph patterned backgrounds, and a new UT4 “Touch-Control” optional stereo was available.

1985 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am dashboard.

For 1985, the standard Trans Am powertrain was a 165 bhp 5.0 liter/305 cubic inch V8 with a Rochester four-barrel carburetor paired with a five-speed manual transmission. The top of the line engine was the $695 LB9 fuel injected 5.0 liter/305 cubic inch V8, with 205 bhp—but that was only available with a four-speed automatic transmission, yielding a zero to sixty time of about 7.5 seconds. If you wanted the five-speed manual transmission, the best engine choice available on the Trans Am was the 190 bhp H.O. V8 with a four-barrel carburetor.

Mileage with the standard powertrain was 15 city/24 highway by the standards of the day (14/22 by 2017 standards). With a 15.9-gallon fuel tank, a Trans Am owner could expect a range of between 255 and 280 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $11,113 Trans Am (about $26,000 in today’s dollars and close to what a base 2018 Camaro costs) included power brakes (front disc/rear drum), hidden electronically-controlled halogen headlamps, dual sport mirrors, an all-glass rear hatch, a rear deck lid spoiler, and P215/65R15 steel-belted radial tires (still an easily available size) on “deep-dish” 15 x 7 wheels. Inside, reclining front bucket seats and side window defoggers were included.

Options included T-tops ($825), a louvered rear sunshield ($210), air conditioning ($630), Recaro bucket seats ($636), and cruise control ($175).

Trans Am page from the 1985 Pontiac brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

The 1985 Trans Am sold reasonably well, with 44,028 sold—about 46% of total Firebird sales. Third-generation Firebirds have a strong following, and 1985 Trans Ams make regular appearances in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds. As I write this in December 2017, there’s a dark blue LB9-equipped car for sale for $5,850. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1985 Trans Am in #1/Concours condition is $21,000, with a far more typical #3/Good car going for $8,000.

Please make mine black, please—I think.

1989 Cadillac Sedan deVille

For unclear reasons, one, but only one, of the supermarkets in my area often has interesting eighties cars parked outside. Today, despite the snow on the ground, there was a 1989 Cadillac Sedan deVille on “display” with classic car tags—good enough reason for this blog entry.

“… the definitive full-size luxury car”

Cadillac’s Sedan deVille was substantially revised for 1989, marking the first time that it had been “up-sized” for almost two decades. Overall length increased by nearly nine inches, while the wheelbase increased by three inches. The styling of this C-body was more in the traditional Cadillac vein than the 1985-1988 cars, with vertical blades in the rear that somewhat resembled the fins of previous decades. Changes extended to the interior, with more comfortable seats and more room in the rear compartment. New options included a heated windshield defogger ($250) and a Delco-Bose stereo with compact disc player ($872).

Standard power for the front-wheel-drive Sedan deVille continued to be the transverse-mounted HT-4500 155 bhp 4.5 liter/273 cubic inch V8 with throttle-body fuel injection paired with a Turbo Hydramatic 4T60 four-speed automatic transmission. 0-60 mph took about 10 seconds in the 3,470-pound car. Mileage was 17 city/25 highway by the standards of the day (15/23 by today’s standards)—with an 18-gallon gas tank, a deVille owner could expect a range of about 310 to 340 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $25,760 Sedan deVille (about $52,900 in today’s dollars) included tungsten-halogen headlamps, power rack-and-pinion steering, power brakes, four-wheel independent suspension, and P205/7oR15 tires on 15-inch wheels. Inside, a Sedan deVille was well equipped: air conditioning, six-way power driver’s seat, tilt and telescope steering wheel, cruise control, power side mirrors, power windows (including an express-down driver’s side window), power door locks, and an AM/FM stereo with cassette player were all standard.

Exterior and mechanical options for the 1989 Sedan deVille included anti-lock brakes ($749), aluminum alloy wheels ($480), Astroroof ($1,355), and rear window defogger ($270). Inside a theft deterrent system ($225), leather seating areas ($560), and digital information cluster ($250) were available.

Sedan deVille pages from the 1989 Cadillac brochure

Reviews of the revised Sedan deVille were generally good, and it sold well. Cadillac shipped 122,693, making it by far Cadillac’s most successful model for the year—the rear-wheel-drive D-body Brougham was a distant second place with 28,926.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1989 Sedan deVille in #1/Concours condition is $5,400, with a far more typical #3/Good car going for a mere $2,800 (only the top-of-the-line Allantés do well among late eighties Cadillacs). This generation of deVilles does maintain a presence in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. As I write this in December 2017, there’s a black 1991 with 89,000 miles for sale, asking $10,300.

Make mine Medium Garnet Red Metallic, please. Another C-body I have covered in this blog is the 1985 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency sedan.

Eighties Cars at the 2017 Mecum Kansas City

Mecum’s late November/early December auction in Kansas City marks what I see as the end of the North American auto action season. I’ll concentrate on the reasonably stock 1980s cars (and a few trucks) that sold (remember that Mecum auctions are not “no reserve” auctions—a white 1987 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe with burgundy cloth seats and 29,000 miles was a no sale bid up to $14,500) and add some of my opinions. Eighties vehicles were about 9% of the 260 vehicle lots sold in this auction.

Thursday, November 30th:

  • 1986 radient silver/crimson red two-tone Chrysler Fifth Avenue sedan with red velvet cloth seats, a 140 bhp 5.2 liter/318 cubic inch V8 with Carter two-barrel carburetor, an automatic, and 12,000 miles—$7,o00 hammer price for this car that was somewhat of a relic even when it was new.
1986 Chrysler Fifth Avenue sedan, linked from Mecum’s website.
  • 1980 black MG MGB convertible with a black top, tan seats, a 63 bhp 1.8 liter/110 cubic inch inline four with Zenith 175CD5T carburetor, a four-speed manual, and 17,000 miles—$9,000. Suddenly, late MGBs are coming up for auction.
  • 1986 red TVR 280i convertible with a black top, beige seats, a Cologne 160 bhp 2.8 liter/170 cubic inch V6 with Bosch fuel injection, a four-speed manual, and 45,000 miles—$6,750
  • 1986 white GMC C1500 High Sierra pickup truck with a beige cloth bench seat, a 5.0 liter/305 cubic inch V8, and an automatic—$5,750
  • 1986 white Ford Mustang GT convertible with black top, red cloth seats, a Windsor 225 bhp 4.9 liter/302 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection, an automatic, and 64,000 miles—$7,250
  • 1987 dark gray metallic/titanium two-tone Ford Mustang GT coupe with gray cloth seats, a Windsor 225 bhp 4.9 liter/302 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection, a five-speed manual, and 33,000 miles. At $16,000 the first vehicle in this auction to meet my criteria for 1980s collectability of original cars or trucks: selling for equal to or above its original base list price. I’ll mark these vehicles in bold green.
  • 1980 orange Chevrolet Camaro Z28 coupe with black vinyl seats, an LM1 190 bhp 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8 with a Rochester four-barrel carburetor, and an automatic—$20,000
  • 1980 le mans blue Chevrolet Corvette mild custom (color is not original) coupe with doeskin leather seats, an L48 190 bhp 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8 with Rochester Quadrajet four-barrel carburetor, and a four-speed manual—$10,000
  • 1981 silver metallic Chevrolet Corvette coupe with blue cloth seats, an L81 190 bhp 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8 with Rochester Quadrajet four-barrel carburetor, an automatic, and 51,000 miles—$12,000

Friday, December 1st:

  • 1980 ivory Mercedes-Benz 450SL convertible with camel leather seats, a 180 bhp 4.5 liter/276 cubic inch V8 with Bosch Jetronic fuel injection, an automatic, and Epsilon aftermarket wheels—$6,250
  • 1987 rosewood (I think it is medium rosewood—Cadillac offered light, medium, and dark rosewood in 1987) Cadillac Eldorado coupe with rosewood leather seats, an HT-4100 170 bhp 4.1 liter/249 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection, an automatic, and 35,000 miles—$9,500 is all the money for a 1987 Eldorado according to Hagerty’s valuation tools.
1987 Cadillac Eldorado coupe, linked from Mecum’s website.
  • 1988 red Pontiac Fiero GT coupe with gray cloth seats, an L44 135 bhp 2.8 liter/173 cubic inch V6 with fuel injection, and 500 miles—$19,500 is evidently the price of a brand new Fiero GT in 2017.
  • 1988 black Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z hatchback coupe with gray cloth seats, an LB9 215 bhp 5.0 liter/305 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection, and an automatic—$10,000
  • 1980 red Chevrolet Camaro Z28 custom coupe with tan seats, a 6.3 liter/383 cubic inch V8, and a five-speed manual—$17,000
  • 1986 red Chevrolet Corvette hatchback coupe with red leather seats, an L98 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch with fuel injection, an automatic, and 65,000—$6,000
  • 1987 red Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z hatchback coupe with red leather seats, an L98 230 bhp 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection, an automatic, and 23,000 miles—$19,500
  • 1986 red Nissan 300ZX hatchback coupe with black leather seats, a VG30E 160 bhp 3.0 liter/181 cubic inch V6 with fuel injection, a five-speed manual, and 81,000 miles—$6,000. 300ZXs are starting to show up at auction but aren’t exactly selling for big money.

Saturday, December 2nd:

  • 1989 red Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z hatchback coupe with gray cloth seats, an LB9 215 bhp 5.0 liter/305 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection, an automatic, and 39,000 miles—$15,000
  • 1988 red Chevrolet Silverado mild custom pickup truck with a red cloth bench seat, a 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection, and an automatic—$9,000
  • 1987 rosso corsa Ferrari Testarossa coupe with beige leather seats, a 380 bhp 4.9 liter/302 cubic inch V12 with Bosch fuel injection, a five-speed manual, and 36,000 miles—$87,000 for this Ferrari in the most wanted color combination.
1987 Ferrari Testarossa coupe, linked from Mecum’s website.
  • 1982 silver beige Chevrolet Corvette Collector Edition hatchback coupe with silver beige leather seats, a 200 bhp L83 Cross-Fire 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8 with throttle body fuel injection, an automatic, and 64,000 miles—$12,000
  • 1981 solar gold Pontiac Firebird Trans Am coupe with camel tan cloth seats, an unidentified V8 (could be a Pontiac 4.9 or a Chevrolet 5.0) with a four-barrel carburetor, and an automatic—$15,500
  • 1985 silver Ferrari 308 GTS Quattrovalvole coupe with black leather seats, a 230 bhp 2.9 liter/179 cubic inch V8 with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection, and a five-speed manual—$48,000
  • 1985 black Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS custom coupe with maroon cloth seats, a 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8, and a five-speed manual—$12,500

Eighties Chevrolets were heavily represented in this auction—almost 45% of the lots from that decade. What do you think of these results?

1980 Ford Thunderbird

“New Thunderbird elegance in a new size …”

To me, the 1980 Ford Thunderbird was one of those “why?” cars, though the competitive drivers were obvious. The third Ford based on the “Fox” platform (the Fairmont and the Mustang had come first), the eighth generation ‘bird was of one of the most radically downsized automobiles in the North American auto industry. In comparison to its 1979 predecessor, the base 1980 Thunderbird was 17 inches shorter and 900 pounds lighter.

Standard power for 1980 was a Windsor 118 bhp 4.2 liter/255 cubic inch V8 with a Motorcraft two-barrel carburetor paired with a SelectShift three-speed automatic transmission. Powertrain upgrades were available: buyers could specify a $150 131 bhp 4.9 liter/302 cubic inch V8 with a two-barrel carburetor and could then add a $133 automatic overdrive transmission (with that engine only).

With the standard powertrain, 0-60 took about 15 seconds in the 3,100-pound car—the best powertrain combination dropped that time to a far more respectable 12 seconds. Mileage was 18 city/26 highway by the standards of the day—with a 17.5-gallon gas tank, a Thunderbird owner could expect a range of about 345 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $6,816 base Thunderbird (about $22,400 in today’s dollars) included variable ratio power rack-and-pinion steering, power brakes, Thunderbird hood ornament with color-coordinated insert, full wheel covers, and P185/75R x 14 black sidewall tires. Inside, a tweed cloth-and-vinyl Flight Bench seat, a day/night inside mirror, an electric clock, and an AM radio were all standard.

Moving up to the $10,424 Town Landau (approximately $34,200 now) added a lot of equipment, including cast aluminum wheels, dual remote control mirrors, interval windshield wipers, velour cloth split front bench seat, six-way power driver’s seat, SelectAire air conditioning, power windows, power lock group, tilt steering wheel, and an AM/FM stereo radio.

The top of the line Silver Anniversary edition ($12,172 then, $39,900 now) added the 4.9 liter engine, the automatic overdrive transmission, Keyless Entry System, a patterned luxury cloth split front bench seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, fingertip speed control, a power antenna, and turbine-spoke cast aluminum wheels.

Options included a power-operated moonroof ($219), electronic information cluster ($275-$313), and leather upholstery ($349).

Two pages from the 1980 Ford Thunderbird brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

To say the market was not ready for the 1980 Thunderbird is a distinct understatement. Despite a much better level of standard equipment, the Thunderbird was only five inches longer than the plebian Fairmont. Sales of Ford’s halo model collapsed: dropping from 284,141 in 1979 to 156,803 in 1979, and losing almost a full percentage point of sales during a year when none of the main General Motors competitors in the personal luxury coupe market had more than a facelift.

It would get worse in the following two years: 86,693 in 1981 and 45,142 in 1982. By 1982, the Thunderbird was being handily outsold by all four of the mid-size GM coupes: Buick Regal, Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Oldsmobile Cutlass, and Pontiac Grand Prix. It would take the next Thunderbird design in 1983 to redress this balance.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1980 Thunderbird Silver Anniversary in #1/Concours condition is $13,400, with a far more typical #3/Good car going for $5,000. This generation of Thunderbirds maintains some presence in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. As I write this in November 2017, there’s a black/silver two-tone 1980 with 85,000 miles for sale in Germany. The price: $12,800.

1983 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe

A recent query about whether I had done a write-up on a Thunderbird Turbo Coupe compelled me to update this post written a few years ago, changing it enough to consider it a new entry.

“Ford presents a dramatic new balance of form and function.”

The aerodynamic styling of Ford’s 1983 Thunderbird was a breath of fresh air and a substantial change from the boxy and unloved eighth-generation 1980-1982 models, though the underlying components remained the Fox platform. For 1983, the Thunderbird came in base, Heritage, and Turbo Coupe models.

The Turbo Coupe featured Ford’s Lima 142 bhp 2.3 liter/140 cubic inch inline four with Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection and a Garrett turbocharger and came with a standard five-speed manual transmission. Road & Track recorded a 0-60 time of 9.7 seconds in a Turbo Coupe that weighed 3,420 pounds as tested. Ford’s new coupe didn’t just look aerodynamic—the drag coefficient was a very competitive 0.35. Fuel economy ratings for the Turbo Coupe were 21 city/33 highway by the standards of the day (17/24 by today’s standards). With an 18.0-gallon fuel tank, a Turbo Coupe owner could expect a range of between 330 and 435 miles with a 10% reserve—decent for a mid-size performance coupe in the early to mid-1980s.

The $11,790 Turbo Coupe is about $29,700 in today’s dollars and about what a 2018 Mustang EcoBoost Premium Fastback (also with a turbocharged 2.3 liter inline four) costs. Standard exterior and mechanical features on the Turbo Coupe included variable ratio power rack-and-pinion steering, power brakes, power mirrors, a Traction-Lok limited-slip differential, Marchal foglamps, and Goodyear Eagle HR 205/70R-14 tires (a size still readily available) on 14-inch x 5.5-inch cast aluminum wheels. Inside, all Turbo Coupe buyers got a leather-wrapped steering wheel, articulated seats, and an AM/FM stereo radio. Options included front cornering lamps ($68), tilt steering ($105), power door locks ($172), and a premium sound system ($179).

Two pages from the 1983 Ford Thunderbird brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

Reviews were quite good—Road & Track‘s tagline was “An enthusiast’s Bird comes soaring back”—and the newly aerodynamic Thunderbird sold well. After dropping down below 50,000 sales for the 1982 model year with the last of the eighth-generation ‘birds, the ninth generation would not see sales of less than 120,000 per year.

EightiesFordThunderbirdSales

For unclear reasons, Hagerty’s valuation tools do not track any Thunderbird after 1982 (they do track the related Lincoln Continental Mark VII). Thunderbird Turbo Coupes only occasionally show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds—you do see them more often on eBay Motors. Make mine Silver, please.

Eighties Vehicles at the 2017 Mecum Las Vegas

Mecum’s November auction in Las Vegas provided some fodder for commentary. I’ll concentrate on the reasonably stock 1980s cars (and a few trucks) that sold (remember that Mecum auctions are not “no reserve” auctions—a black 1989 Ferrari Testarossa coupe with a tan interior and 4,000 miles was a no sale bid up to $147,500) and add some of my opinions. Eighties vehicles were about 8% of the 450 vehicle lots sold in this auction.

Thursday, November 16th:

  • 1985 red, black, and gold Chevrolet Corvette custom hatchback coupe with gray cloth seats, a 440 bhp 6.3 liter/383 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection, and a five-speed manual—$8,500 hammer price
  • 1985 black Mercedes-Benz 380SL convertible with black leather seats, a 155 bhp 3.8 liter/234 cubic inch V8 with Bosch Jetronic fuel injection, and an automatic—$6,000
  • 1984 red Chevrolet Corvette hatchback coupe with black leather seats, a Cross-Fire 205 bhp 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8 with throttle-body fuel injection, an automatic, and 64,000 miles—$7,500
  • 1989 red Cadillac Allanté convertible with beige leather seats, an HT-4500 200 bhp 4.5 liter/273 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection, an automatic, and 47,000 miles—$5,500
  • 1983 silver Chevrolet mild custom pickup truck with a blue cloth bench seat, a 7.4 liter/454 cubic inch V8, and an automatic—$18,000
  • 1983 tan Chevrolet El Camino custom pickup truck with a tan interior, a 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8, and an automatic—$7,500
  • 1982 blue Rolls-Royce Silver Spur sedan with tan leather seats, a 6.75 liter/412 cubic inch V8 with Bosch Jetronic fuel injection, an automatic, and 16,000 miles—$17,000
  • 1984 gold Mercedes-Benz 380SL convertible with a hard top, tan leather seats, a 155 bhp 3.8 liter/234 cubic inch V8 with Bosch Jetronic fuel injection, and an automatic—$4,000
  • 1988 midnight blue/aspen blue two-tone GMC Suburban Classic SUV with blue vinyl seats, an L19 230 bhp 7.4 liter/454 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection, an automatic, and 42,000 miles—$8,500
  • 1981 white Chevrolet Corvette coupe with black leather seats, an L81 190 bhp 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8 with Rochester Quadrajet four-barrel carburetor, and an automatic—$6,500 for one of the last of the St. Louis-built cars
  • 1988 maroon Chevrolet custom van with tan seats, a 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection, and an automatic—$20,000
  • 1984 orange Dodge custom van with orange and black seats, a 3.7 liter six, and an automatic—$8,500
  • 1986 blue Ford Econoline custom van with blue cloth seats, a 4.9 liter/302 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection, and an automatic—$11,000
  • 1989 red Cadillac Allanté convertible with beige leather seats, an HT-4500 200 bhp 4.5 liter/273 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection, and an automatic—$4,000
  • 1985 white Oldsmobile Toronado Brougham coupe with burgundy cloth seats, a 140 bhp 5.0 liter/307 cubic inch V8 with Rochester four-barrel carburetor, and an automatic—$4,000
  • 1987 silver Cadillac Allanté convertible with a black convertible top, red leather seats, an HT-4100 170 bhp 4.1 liter/249 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection, and an automatic—$4,000
  • 1988 red Chevrolet S-10 Blazer very custom SUV with red velour seats, a V6 with fuel injection, and an automatic—$3,250
  • 1980 black Dodge custom van with tan seats, a 5.8 liter/360 cubic inch V8, and an automatic—$30,000
  • 1985 burgundy Chevrolet custom pickup truck with a tan cloth bench seat, a 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8, and a four-speed manual—$8,600
  • 1989 red Jaguar XJS coupe with tan leather seats, an HE 262 bhp 5.3 liter/326 cubic inch V12 with fuel injection, an automatic, and 92,000 miles—an ouch! at $3,000
  • 1980 yellow MG MGB convertible with a black interior, a black top, a 63 bhp 1.8 liter/110 cubic inch inline four with Zenith 175CD5T carburetor, a four-speed manual, and 30,000 miles—$4,500
  • 1989 pearl white Toyota Soarer Aerocabin hardtop convertible with gray leather seats, a 7M-GTE 240 bhp 3.0 liter inline six with a turbocharger, and an automatic—$13,500 for perhaps the most interesting eighties vehicle in this auction
1989 Toyota Soarer, linked from Mecum’s website.
  • 1980 burgundy Cadillac Coupe de Ville with a tan interior, a 150 bhp 6.0 liter/368 cubic inch V8 with Rochester 4-barrel carburetor, and an automatic—at $500, this big coupe has lost at least 96% of its original value

Friday, November 17th:

  • 1988 cassis red Porsche 911 Carrera convertible with a black interior, a 217 bhp 3.2 liter/193 cubic inch flat six with fuel injection, and a five-speed manual—$30,000
  • 1981 dark bronze Chevrolet Corvette coupe with camel leather seats, an L81 190 bhp 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8 with Rochester Quadrajet 4-barrel carburetor, and an automatic—at $16,500 the first vehicle in this auction to meet my criteria for serious 1980s collectability of original cars or trucks: selling for equal to or above its original base list price. I’ll mark these vehicles in bold green.
1981 Chevrolet Corvette, linked from Mecum’s website.
  • 1986 rosso corsa Ferrari 328 GTS coupe with tan leather seats, an F105B 260 bhp 3.2 liter/195 cubic inch V8 with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection, a five-speed manual, and 27,000 miles—$72,000
  • 1984 beige Toyota FJ45 Land Cruiser pickup truck with gray seats and a manual transmission—$40,000
  • 1984 beige Cadillac Eldorado coupe with beige leather seats, an HT-4100 135 bhp 4.1 liter/249 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection, and an automatic—$14,000
  • 1985 white Cadillac Seville sedan with white tufted leather seats, an HT-4100 135 bhp 4.1 liter/249 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection, an automatic, and 20,000 miles—$13,000

Saturday, November 18th:

  • 1981 black and gold Pontiac Firebird Trans Am SE custom coupe with tan cloth seats, a 7.5 liter/455 cubic inch V8 (that’s why it’s custom) with a four-barrel carburetor a four-speed manual, and 53,000 miles—$27,000
  • 1984 brown Land Rover Defender 110 custom SUV with a black interior, an 85 bhp 2.5-liter diesel inline four with a turbocharger, and a five-speed manual—$67,000
  • 1987 red Land Rover Defender 110 custom SUV with a black interior, a 3.9 liter V8, and a five-speed manual—$71,000
  • 1987 black Buick Regal GNX coupe with black/gray cloth seats, an LC2 276 bhp 3.8 liter/231 cubic inch V6 with turbocharging and fuel injection, an automatic, and 820 miles—$90,000 is between #2/Excellent and #3/Good money according to Hagerty’s valuation tools.
  • 1985 prugna Ferrari 308 GTS Quattrovalvole coupe with beige leather seats, a 230 bhp 2.9 liter/179 cubic inch V8 with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection, a five-speed manual, and 45,000 miles—$43,000 is not much of a deficit for this very unusual color
1985 Ferrari 308 GTS, linked from Mecum’s website.

Eighties Chevrolets were heavily represented in this auction—almost 30% of the lots from that decade, with Cadillacs a distant but unusual second place. What do you think of these results?

1983 Mercury Grand Marquis Sedan

As I walked to the train earlier the week, I saw an eighties Mercury Grand Marquis sedan idling on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. It stood out because of its size (at 214 inches these cars are more than a foot longer than a 2018 Lincoln Continental) and its new for 1979 squareness. Reason enough to write a (rare) Mercury blog entry (my only other one so far is about the 1986 Mercury Capri).

“A Lesson In Luxury”

For 1983, Mercury renamed all versions of the full-size Marquis to Grand Marquis and moved the Marquis name to the mid-size Fox platform. Other than the name change, changes for the Grand Marquis were relatively modest: there were new full-width wraparound tail lamps and a modified grille. New options included a remote locking fuel filler door ($24), locking wire wheel covers ($168), and a Tripminder trip computer ($261) which showed month/day/time, elapsed time, average speed, average MPG, instantaneous MPG, and gallons of fuel used. In their annual “Charting the Changes” roundup, Car and Driver once again made the ritual complaint that there was still no de Sad package.

The standard engine in 1983 was Ford’s 130 bhp 4.9 liter/302 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection paired to a four-speed automatic. Somewhat strangely to our modern eyes, the optional power upgrade was a carburetted version of the same motor with 145 bhp. These were not fast cars—with an almost 3,800-pound curb weight, 0-60 came in about 12 seconds. Mileage with the standard powertrain was 17 city/27 highway by the standards of the day (14/20 by today’s standards). With the 18-gallon fuel tank, Grand Marquis drivers could expect a range of 275 to 355 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $1o,718 Grand Marquis (about $26,900 in today’s dollars) included a coach vinyl roof, coach lamps, halogen headlamps, power brakes (front disc and rear drum), power steering, and P215/75R14 steel-belted white sidewall radial tires on 14-inch wheels with deluxe wheel covers. Inside, cloth/vinyl Twin Comfort Lounge seats with dual front seat recliners, a four-spoke luxury (the Grand Marquis brochure mentioned luxury a lot) steering wheel, an analog quartz clock, and an AM/FM stereo radio with four speakers were included. Standard items that Mercury proudly listed that do not impress in 2017 included a front stabilizer bar, seat belt warning chimes, and carpeted lower door trim panels.

Upgrading to the $11,273 LS added tinted glass, luxury cloth Twin Comfort Lounge seats, cloth-trimmed headrests, right-hand visor vanity mirror, map pockets in front seatback, luxury door trim with armrest woodtone inserts and courtesy lights, dual beam dome/map light, dual fold-down front center armrests, rear-seat folding center armrest, and the all-important LS badge on the rear decklid.

Exterior and mechanical options included the Traction-Lok differential ($95) and cast aluminum turbine spoke wheels ($361) which required P205/75R15 tires ($17). Interior options included manual air conditioning ($724), automatic air conditioning ($802), 6-way power driver’s seat ($210) or driver’s and passenger’s seats ($420), power door locks ($123), fingertip speed control ($170), and tilt steering wheel ($105). Audio options included a host of optional radios with 8-track or cassette player, a power antenna ($60), and Premium Sound System with two additional speakers in the front doors, upgraded rear speakers, and an extra power amplifier ($175 base/$145 LS). Leather seating surfaces ($418) were only available on the LS. All these options meant that a loaded Grand Marquis LS could quickly get close to the Lincoln Town Car’s pricing territory—I quickly priced one to $14,584 (about $36,700 in 2017 dollars).

The rear cover of the 1983 Mercury Grand Marquis brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

The Grand Marquis sold well for Mercury in 1983—72,207 sedans, 11,117 coupes, and 12,394 Colony Park wagons made it one of the division’s best sellers—23% of sales in a year when Mercury also offered the Capri, Cougar, LN7 (remember the LN7?), Lynx, Marquis, and Zephyr.

The first-generation Grand Marquis sometimes shows up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. Make mine Midnight Blue Metallic, I think.

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