1985 Chevrolet C20 Suburban Silverado SUV

For Memorial Day 2020, here’s some truly large American iron.

I was working at the local Chevrolet dealership when a special-ordered Suburban Silverado came in with a 454. It was late in 1984—no passenger car was shipping with anything approaching a big block. But this C20 Suburban had a “rat motor” inside, and you could hear a distinct difference.

For 1985, Chevrolet changed little with the Suburban in the 13th model year of its seventh generation (Suburbans go back to 1935). There was a new grille, but that was about it other than minor trim changes.

The standard powertrain for the C20 Suburban was an LT9 160 bhp 5.7 liter/350 ci V8 with a four-barrel carburetor paired with a floor-mounted four-speed manual transmission. Engine options included an LH6 148 bhp 6.2 liter/379 ci diesel V8 and the aforementioned LE8 230 bhp 7.4 liter/454 ci V8 with a four-barrel carburetor (which required power steering and a heavy-duty battery). A three-speed automatic was available for all three engines, while a four-speed automatic was for only the 350 ci engine.

The Suburban was a substantial vehicle for 1985, with an 129.5 inch wheelbase and 219.1 inches of overall length. With a 4,705-pound curb weight, C20 Suburbans had a gross vehicle weight rating of 8,600 pounds—high enough not to receive fuel economy ratings, which was likely a good thing. A standard 27-gallon fuel tank kept the range respectable but filling it was painful to the wallet.

Standard equipment for the base C20 Suburban (which Chevrolet designated the Custom Deluxe) included power front disc/rear drum brakes, 16 x 6.5 inch wheels, a vinyl bench seat, and a heater and defogger. At $10,953, the C20 was approximately $26,700 in today’s dollars or about half of what a base 2020 Suburban costs—SUVs have moved substantially upmarket in the last 35 years. For most of the eighties, Chevrolet offered two upgraded trims:

  • Scottsdale trim (about $425 for gasoline-engined Suburbans) included black body-side moldings, dual horns, two dome lamps, a cigarette lighter, and Scottsdale nameplates on the front fenders and instrument panel.
  • Silverado trim (about $1,200 for gasoline-engined Suburbans) required Custom cloth or Custom vinyl seats. It included a Deluxe molding package, bright body-side moldings, Deluxe front appearance, dual horns, and Silverado nameplates on the front fenders. Inside, a cigarette lighter, a dome lamp, voltmeter, temperature, and oil pressure gages, and a Silverado nameplate on the instrument panel were included.
Options page from the 1985 Suburban brochure

Beyond the trims, the 1985 Suburban’s options list was long and complicated. Suburban buyers first had to choose whether they wanted panel rear doors or a tailgate with manual drop glass. Next came seating choices: front seat only, front seat and folding center seat, or front seat, folding center seat, and removable rear seat.

Other exterior and mechanical options included deep tinted glass in two different configurations, halogen high beam headlamps, two optional gas tank sizes (31 gallon and 41 gallon), and a wide range of wheels and tires. Inside, air conditioning (front or front and rear), an electric rear window defogger, electronic speed control, power door locks, power windows, a quartz electric clock, Custom reclining bucket seats with a console, and a range of radios up to an AM/FM stereo with a cassette player were all available. Chevrolet sold 64,470 Suburbans in the 1985 model year—many of them heavily-optioned.

These seventh-generation Suburbans have their fans. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1985 C20 Suburban Silverado in #1/Concours condition is $28,600, with a more typical #3/Good condition example going for $13,400. Suburbans frequently show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. As I write this post in May 2020, a 1985 Doeskin Tan/Frost White two-tone Scottsdale with a Saddle Tan Custom cloth bench seat, a 5.7 liter/350 ci V8, an automatic, and 42,000 miles is available on Hemmings for $24,900.

Make mine Apple Red, with Saddle Tan Custom cloth reclining bucket seats, please—just like that 454 all those years ago.

The Posts That Attract Interest, Part 3

Typewriter icon

Earlier this week, my write-up on the 1987 Chevrolet Caprice Classic coupe went over 1,000 views. This level of interest is relatively rare on Eighties Cars—the two other posts that have proceeded it to greater than 1,000 views are on the 1986 Chevrolet Camaro Berlinetta hatchback coupe and the 1985 Buick Somerset Regal coupe.

I have many theories about what makes a particular post more popular than others, at least on Eighties Cars. One thought is that the key to the popularity of an individual post is generally the rarity of the other coverage available for that particular vehicle. That theory works for the Berlinetta (all of the attention is on the Z28 and IROC-Z versions of the eighties Camaro) and definitely for the Somerset Regal—though most of the interest in that particular post is probably because of a Jalopnik Meh Car Monday write-up that casually referenced this site.

However, the Caprice Classic coupe doesn’t quite fit into the category of the Berlinetta and the Somerset Regal—aside from being a General Motors product. B platform cars were and are well-respected; only a few years prior to 1987, the Caprice had been on Car and Driver‘s inaugural 10Best Cars list. They also have a current following, though many that remain are at least somewhat modified.

So, the short form is I’m not quite sure why this last of the Caprice coupes has garnered so much interest—but I am grateful for the views.

1982 Porsche 924 Turbo hatchback coupe

“… one of the fastest production two-liter cars in the world.”

1982 was the final model year for both the Porsche 924 Turbo and the base 924. The 924 S would return in 1987 and 1988, but the 944 would take over as the entry-level Porsche from 1983 to 1986, with the 944 Turbo coming in 1986.

The 924 Turbo‘s engine was a 154 bhp 2.0 liter/121 ci inline four with a single turbocharger and Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection. 154 bhp isn’t that impressive almost forty years later, but in the early 1980s, it marked a significant upgrade from the base 924’s 110 bhp—enough to drop 0-60 times by about two seconds. Fuel economy ratings were 20 city/33 highway. With a 17.4-gallon gas tank, a 924 Turbo driver could expect a range of about 415 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

1982 Porsche 924/924 Turbo advertisement

The $21,500 924 Turbo was about $59,000 in today’s dollars or just about exactly what a 2020 718 Caymen costs. Standard exterior and mechanical equipment included tinted glass, a four-wheel independent suspension, rack and pinion steering, power four-wheel ventilated disc brakes, and 185/70VR15 tires (a size still available thanks to Pirelli and Vredestein) on 15-inch light alloy wheels. Inside, air conditioning, power windows, and an electric rear window defroster were included. Upholstery features included reclining bucket seats, full carpeting, and a leather-covered steering wheel.

Options for the 924 Turbo included headlamp washers, a limited slip differential, an electric rear window wiper, an alarm system, leather sport seats, a digital cassette radio, and a power antenna.

There is good club support for the Porsche 924, as there is for all Porsches. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1982 Porsche 924 Turbo in #1/Concours condition is an astounding $36,000, with a more normal #3/Good condition car going for $10,300. Porsche 924s frequently show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. However, when I checked in May 2020, there were no attractive 924 Turbo examples.

Make mine Diamond Silver Metallic, please. The 924 always looked good in silver.

Other eighties Porsches I have written about include the 1982 928 hatchback coupe, the 1986 944 Turbo hatchback coupe, the 1987 911 3.2 Carrera coupe, and the 1988 944 hatchback coupe.

1984 Maserati Biturbo coupe

After over six years of writing, this is the first Maserati to be featured in Eighties Cars.

“Formula One Performance in a Grand Touring Masterpiece”

After two years of European production, 1984 was the first model year that Maserati’s Pierangelo Andreani-styled Biturbo coupe was available in the United States. The Biturbo was a complete change of pace for Maserati, essentially designed to be an Italian-flavored BMW 3 series competitor.

Of course, the Biturbo was famous for—and named for—it’s engine, the first production twin-turbocharged powerplant in the world. For 1984’s move to the US market, displacement of the V6 was increased to 2.5 liters/152 cubic inches, which resulted in 192 bhp. Unsurprisingly for the era, a Weber two-barrel carburetor fed the fuel/air mixture. The only transmission available for 1984 was a five-speed manual.

page from 1984 maserati Biturbo brochure
Page from the 1984 Maserati Biturbo brochure

Maserati’s four-page brochure claimed a top speed of 130 mph and a 0-60 time of 6.9 seconds in the 2,650-pound Biturbo (quick in 1984), and period road tests came reasonably close to those figures. Fuel economy was less impressive—rated at 15 city/25 highway by the standards of the day (12/18 by today’s standards). With a sizeable 21.2-gallon gas tank, a Biturbo owner could expect a range of between 285 and 380 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard equipment on the $26,874 Biturbo (about $68,200 in today’s dollars or about what a 2020 Ghibli sedan costs) included a four-wheel independent suspension, rack and pinion steering, four-wheel power disc brakes, and Pirelli P6 195/60HR14 tires (a size still readily available) on 14 x 5.5 inch magnesium alloy wheels. The luxurious interior design was highly acclaimed at the time and remains attractive even to this day.

Initially, the Biturbo sold reasonably well in North America, aided by positive reviews—Popular Mechanics called it “the Clark Kent of cars.” However, a reputation for both engine unreliability (related to the blow-through carburetor/turbo combination) and spotty build quality quickly took its toll, and by 1985 many coupes sat on dealer lots. Decades later, this notoriety would end up landing the 1984 Biturbo on Time magazine’s The 50 Worst Cars of All Time list, where it joined other notably failed cars such as the 1982 Cadillac Cimarron. As always, as with any vehicle, there are different opinions.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1984 Biturbo coupe in #1/Concours condition is currently $8,400, with a more normal #3/Good condition car going for a mere $3,200. These Biturbos sometimes show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, but are often in at least somewhat sketchy condition. Make mine Bordeaux, please.

1983 Chevrolet Cavalier CS sedan

The inspiration for this blog entry is a loaded 1983 Chevrolet Cavalier CS sedan that one of my frequent readers owned back in the day.

“one of today’s most advanced front-wheel-drive cars”

1983 was the second year model for Chevrolet’s Cavalier compact. The biggest news was likely in the powertrain; a 2.0 liter inline four with throttle-body fuel injection was the new standard engine along with a newly optional five-speed manual transmission. A convertible version of the coupe was a mid-year announcement.

The only engine available was the LQ5 86 bhp 2.0 liter/122 ci inline four with throttle-body fuel injection. The LQ5 had two less horsepower than the previous year’s L46 1.8 liter engine, but notably more grunt—an additional ten lb-ft of torque. The result was a meaningful half-second improvement in 0-60 times, though the Cavalier remained slow (even by 1983 standards). A four-speed manual remained standard, while a five-speed manual ($75) and an automatic ($395) were available. Fuel economy ratings were 25 mpg combined by the measures of the day. With a 13.6-gallon fuel tank, a Cavalier driver could expect a range of about 305 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard equipment on the 1983 Cavalier was far sparer than it had been in 1982, when many had blanched at the sedan’s $7,137 base price. Still, exterior and mechanical features on all Cavalier sedans did include front-wheel-drive, a front stabilizer bar, rack and pinion steering, power front disc/rear drum brakes, and P175/80R13 radial tires on 13 x 5 inch steel wheels. Inside, vinyl reclining front bucket seats and side window defoggers were included. For 1983, the sedan started at $5,999—about $15,800 in today’s dollars and just a little under what a 2020 Chevrolet Sonic sedan goes for.

Page from 1983 Chevrolet Cavalier brochure
CS sedan page from the 1983 Chevrolet Cavalier brochure

Moving up to the $6,484 CS added a glove compartment lock, a colour-keyed instrument panel, a cigarette lighter, an ashtray light, and an AM push-button radio with dual front speakers.

Only available with the CS, the CL package added Sport mirrors, a Custom interior with Custom reclining seats and adjustable head restraints, a three-spoke steering wheel with a black leather rim, and a right-hand visor vanity mirror.

Exterior and mechanical options for the CS sedan included tinted glass ($90), a removable sunroof ($295), Custom two-tone paint with pin striping ($176), halogen headlamps ($10), power steering ($195), and an F41 sport suspension ($49). Inside, power door locks ($170), power windows ($255), automatic speed control ($170), a six-way power driver’s seat ($210), a Comfortilt steering wheel ($99), and air conditioning ($625) were among the many options.

The 1983 Cavalier sold well, with 215,585 exiting Chevrolet showrooms, making it the most popular model in the Chevrolet model line. Of all Cavalier variants in 1983, the CS sedan was the most popular, at almost a quarter of the total—the convertible was, of course, the rarest, with a mere 607 sold. Despite this popularity when new, Cavaliers of this generation have now almost vanished, except for the convertibles and the higher-performance Z24 versions. Amazingly, there is currently a white 1986 CS hatchback with blue cloth bucket seats and 66,000 miles for sale on eBay Motors.

Make mine a Light Briar Brown over Dark Brown two-tone—just like my reader’s car.

The other J platform cars I have written about are the 1982 Cadillac Cimarron sedan, the 1984 Pontiac 2000 Sunbird S/E hatchback coupe, the 1985 Oldsmobile Firenza ES sedan, the 1986 Chevrolet Cavalier Z24 coupe, and the 1988 Cadillac Cimarron sedan. Some day, I will write about the Buick Skyhawk.

1982 Pontiac Phoenix SJ coupe

In this post, we’re once again revisiting interesting versions of mass-market eighties vehicles that just about nobody bought. This one is a sporty version of Pontiac’s X platform entry and means I have now treated every GM marque’s X car entry at least once.

… for people who absolutely love to drive.

For the 1982 model year, the sporty SJ version of Pontiac’s Phoenix compact became its own model, instead of the trim option it had been for the previous two years. Aside from being a specific model, the biggest news was almost certainly that the 2.8 liter High Output V6 was standard for the SJ.

That new standard engine was the GM corporate LH7 135 bhp 2.8 liter/173 ci V6 with a Rochester E2SE two-barrel carburetor. It was paired with either a standard four-speed manual or an optional three-speed automatic. With the manual, 0-60 came in about 9 seconds—respectable for 1982.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on all Phoenix coupes included body-color front and rear bumpers, front-wheel-drive, single rectangular halogen headlamps, rack-and-pinion steering, front disc/rear drum brakes, and 185/80R13 tires on 13-inch wheels with hubcaps. Inside, Pontiac included a full-width front seat, a Deluxe steering wheel, and a Delco-GM AM radio with dual front speakers.

The mid-range LJ coupe included custom wheel covers, additional acoustical insulation, a Luxury cushion steering wheel, and a full-width luxury notchback front seat with center armrest.

1982 SJ pages from the Pontiac Phoenix brochure
SJ pages from the 1982 Pontiac Phoenix brochure

For $8,723 (about $24,100 in today’s dollars), the top-of-the-line SJ coupe added two-tone paint and specific graphics, a front air dam, power brakes, power steering, a special suspension, and 205/70R13 tires (now essentially unavailable) on 13-inch cast-aluminum wheels. Inside, additional standard features for the SJ included gauges (rally cluster, clock, tachometer, and trip odometer), a Formula steering wheel, and bucket seats.

Exterior and mechanical options for the SJ coupe included a removable glass sunroof, tinted glass, and a rear deck spoiler. Inside, Custom air conditioning, an electric rear window defogger, power door locks, power windows, a six-way power driver’s seat, a tilt steering wheel, and a Delco-GM AM/FM stereo with a cassette stereo tape player were among the many options available.

Of course, the SJ designation had been around a long-time and not just for Pontiac. Duesenberg had used SJ in the early 1930s to describe the supercharged versions of their spectacular cars. By 1969, Pontiac had started (shamelessly—no surprise) using SJ for the top-of-the-line version of their Grand Prix coupe. The SJ designation for the top-of-the-line Grand Prix continued through the 1980 model year.

Despite Pontiac’s evident efforts to market the Phoenix SJ, it simply did not sell. With 994 produced, it was less than 6% of Phoenix coupe sales, with the vast majority going to the base version. Obviously, Pontiac has other things going on in 1982, including the introduction of a brand new Firebird and Trans Am. Front-wheel-drive Phoenixes of any sort are now almost completely vanished from the nation’s roads, and they rarely show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds or eBay Motors.

Other X platform cars I have written about include the 1980 Chevrolet Citation hatchback sedan, the 1981 Chevrolet Citation X-11 hatchback coupe, the 1983 Buick Skylark T Type coupe, the 1984 Oldsmobile Omega sedan, and the 1985 Chevrolet Citation II hatchback sedan.

1983: What Cars Are Collectible?

The question often arises: what eighties cars that were available in the United States are considered collectible? One way is to look at the slowly expanding list what Hagerty tracks with their valuation tools. For 1983 vehicles, the current full list is below—as usual, I have added a few comments in parens.

question mark graphic

Alfa Romeo; GTV-6 hatchback coupe, Spyder convertible

Alpine; A310 coupe

Aston Martin; Lagonda sedan, V8 coupe and convertible

Audi; GT hatchback coupe, Quattro hatchback coupe

Avanti; Avanti II coupe

Bentley; Corniche convertible, Mulsanne sedan

Bertone; X1/9 coupe

Bitter; SC coupe

BMW; 320i coupe (why no 633Csi or 733i?)

Bristol; 412 convertible

Buick; Regal T-Type coupe, Riviera coupe and convertible

Cadillac; Cimarron sedan, DeVille coupe and sedan, Eldorado coupe, Fleetwood coupe and sedan, Seville sedan

Chevrolet; C10/K10 pickup truck, C10/K10 Blazer SUV, C10/K10 Suburban SUV, C20/K20 pickup truck, C20/K20 Suburban SUV, C30/K30 pickup truck, Camaro hatchback coupe, El Camino pickup truck, Monte Carlo coupe (no 1983 Corvettes, of course)

Chrysler; Imperial coupe

Clenet; SIII coupe and convertible

Datsun; 280ZX hatchback coupe

Delorean; DMC-12 coupe

DeTomaso; Deauville sedan, Pantera coupe

Dodge; Ramcharger SUV

Excalibur; Series IV convertible

Ferrari; 308 GTBi/GTSi coupe, 400i coupe, 512 BB coupe, Mondial coupe and convertible

Ford; Bronco SUV, F-100 pickup truck, F-150 pickup truck, F-250 pickup truck, F-350 pickup truck, GT40 coupe and convertible, Mustang hatchback coupe and convertible, Thunderbird coupe

GMC; C1500/K1500 pickup truck, C2500/K2500 pickup truck, C3500/K3500 pickup truck, Caballero pickup truck

Jaguar; XJ6 sedan, XJ-S coupe

Jeep; Cherokee SUV, CJ-5 SUV, CJ-7 SUV, CJ-8 Scrambler pickup truck, Wagoneer SUV

Lamborghini; Countach coupe, Jalpa coupe

Lancia; Beta coupe and station wagon, Gamma coupe and sedan

Land Rover; Defender SUV, Range Rover SUV

Lincoln; Continental sedan, Continental Mark VI coupe and sedan, Town Car sedan

Lotus; Esprit coupe

Maserati; Quattroporte III sedan

Matra; Murena coupe

Mazda; RX-7 hatchback coupe

Mercedes-Benz; 230G SUV, 230GE SUV, 240D sedan, 240 GD SUV, 280 GE SUV, 300CD coupe, 300D sedan, 300GD SUV, 300SD sedan, 300TD station wagon, 380SEC coupe, 380SEL sedan, 380SL convertible (so, basically the entire 1983 Mercedes-Benz line)

Morgan; 4/4 convertible, Plus 8 convertible

Oldsmobile; Cutlass Hurst coupe

Panther; DeVille convertible and sedan, Kallista convertible

Peugeot; 504 convertible

Pininfarina; Azzura convertible

Pontiac; Firebird hatchback coupe

Porsche; 911 coupe and convertible, 928 hatchback coupe, 944 hatchback coupe

Puma; GT coupe, GTC coupe and convertible

Renault; Fuego hatchback coupe, R5 hatchback coupe

Rolls-Royce; Camargue coupe, Corniche I convertible, Phantom VI sedan, Silver Spirit sedan, Silver Spur sedan

Stutz; Bearcat convertible, Blackhawk coupe, IV-Porte sedan

Subaru: BRAT pickup truck (why just the BRAT?)

Toyota; Celica Supra hatchback coupe, Land Cruiser SUV

TVR; 280i coupe and convertible

Volkswagen; GTI hatchback coupe

Hagerty casts a wide net with their valuation tools, except when they don’t—the only BMW listed is the 320i. Coupes are dominant; 29% of 129 models listed with an additional 11% being hatchback coupes. Unsurprisingly, the rarest body style is a station wagon, at 2%. I have covered seven of the 1983 vehicles they track.

1987 Ford Thunderbird standard coupe

The inspiration for this blog entry is a 1987 Thunderbird standard coupe one of my frequent readers owned. As I was fairly deep into writing it, the Hemmings blog just happened to re-publish an article that ran in Hemmings Classic Car earlier this year—also about the 1987 Thunderbird (though mostly about the Turbo Coupe). Luckily, I have a slightly different view, in what looks to be a rather long-form entry.

“In step with the times”

For 1987, Ford significantly revised the Thunderbird—even though it didn’t look that different, the late mid-life update of what had been a 1983 model year debut cost approximately 250 million dollars. Few exterior parts carried over from the 1986, with composite headlights, a more pointed nose, flush-fitting side glass, and full-width taillamps being among the notable changes. There were few differences inside—all of the money had been spent on the exterior and mechanical revisions.

The standard engine for the 1987 Thunderbird was an Essex 120 bhp 3.8 liter/231 ci V6 with throttle-body fuel injection. Optional power on the base coupe and LX (and standard on the Sport) was a $638 Windsor 150 bhp 4.9 liter/302 ci V8 with sequential fuel injection. Both engines came with a four-speed automatic transmission. The most powerful engine available on any Thunderbird remained the Turbo Coupe-specific Lima 2.3 liter/140 ci inline four with a turbocharger and fuel injection. With the new for 1987 addition of an intercooler, this engine made an impressive 190 bhp with the five-speed manual, but only 150 bhp with the automatic—something that was common with many Ford performance cars in the 1980s.

1987 Ford Thunderbird brochure page
Standard coupe page from the 1987 Ford Thunderbird brochure

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment for 1987 on every Thunderbird standard coupe included dual aerodynamic halogen headlamps, tinted glass, power rack and pinion steering, power front disc/ rear drum brakes, and P215/70R14 tires (a size still readily available) on 14 x 5.5 inch wheels with Luxury wheel covers. Inside, the standard coupe included a reclining cloth split bench seat with a consolette, a quartz electric clock, and an electronic AM/FM stereo radio with four speakers. All of this cost $12,972—approximately $30,400 in today’s dollars or about what a 2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Premium Hatchback goes for.

Exterior and mechanical options for the standard coupe included two-tone paint ($218), a power moonroof ($841), and cast aluminum wheels ($343). Inside, dual power seats ($302), a digital clock ($61), and a range of audio options including the Premium Sound System were available. There were three different upgrades from the standard version of the Thunderbird, each with a distinctive personality:

  • For an additional $2,411, the luxury-oriented LX included everything in the standard coupe and added dual remote-control electric mirrors, styled road wheels, an electronic digital clock, speed control, interval windshield wipers, power windows, and an electronic AM/FM stereo radio with a cassette player and four speakers. LX upholstery included a Luxury cloth split bench seat in a special sew style and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
  • The Sport included everything in the standard coupe and added a heavy-duty battery, a Traction-Lok axle, styled road wheels, an electronic digital clock, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, speed control, and individual cloth seats with a full console. The Sport came standard with the 4.9 liter/302 ci V8 that was optional in the standard and LX versions, which Ford stated was it’s “driving force.” It cost $2,107 more than the standard coupe.
  • The top-of-the-line Turbo Coupe included everything in the standard coupe and added dual remote-control electric mirrors, Hella fog lamps, four-wheel disk brakes (newly anti-lock for 1987), a Traction-Lok axle, dual exhaust, and P225/60R16 Goodyear performance tires on 16 x 7 inch cast aluminum wheels. Inside, full analog instrumentation, interval windshield wipers, power windows, and adjustable articulated cloth sport bucket seats were standard for Turbo Coupe buyers. The Turbo Coupe cost $16,805—about $39,300 in today’s dollars and almost 30% more than the standard coupe. Ford stated confidently that it was “one of the most complete performance cars on the road today.”

Some in the automotive press were impressed by the Thunderbird’s substantial refresh for 1987, with Motor Trend giving it their Car of the Year award. Popular Mechanics was a little more even-handed; they liked many of the exterior changes but were unimpressed by the acceleration of either the V8 or the turbo four. Whatever the opinions were from the buff books, sales still slid substantially—dropping by almost 22% from 163,965 for 1986 to 128,135 in 1987.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1987 Thunderbird standard coupe in #1/Concours condition is currently $12,700, with a more normal #3/Good condition car going for $4,600. Turbo Coupes are worth a little more, garnering $20,000 for a #1/Concours example.

These 1987 and 1988 Thunderbirds frequently show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. As I write this blog entry in April 2020, there’s a Dark Cinnabar Clearcoat Metallic 1988 coupe with cinnabar cloth bucket seats, the 302 ci V8, and 26,000 miles up for auction. Make mine Medium Canyon Red, please.

Other Thunderbirds I have written about in this blog are the 1980 coupe and the 1983 Turbo Coupe. A sampling of the many other Fords I have written about includes the 1981 Escort hatchback coupe, the 1982 Mustang GT hatchback coupe, and the 1986 Taurus sedan.

1987 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale Brougham coupe

This entry is yet another post inspired by a car one of my frequent readers owned.

“It’s a good feeling, having this Olds around you.”

1987 was the second model year for the ninth generation of Oldsmobile’s Delta 88. New features were relatively few but included composite headlamps, a new grille, new “aero” side-view mirrors, and a revised taillamp design. For coupes, front automatic safety belts were standard throughout the year—they were a mid-year introduction for sedans. Finally, Oldsmobile bailed on even offering the 125 bhp 3.0 liter/181 ci V6 that had been the base engine for 1986.

The only powertrain available for any Delta 88 Royale in the 1987 model year was the LG3 150 bhp 3.8 liter/231 ci V6 with fuel injection mated to a four-speed automatic. 0-60 mph came in a little over 11 seconds in the 3,203-pound car. EPA fuel economy ratings were 18 city/27 highway by the standards of the day (16/25 by today’s standards). With an 18-gallon fuel tank, a Delta 88 owner could expect a range of between 330 and 365 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

1987 Oldsmobile brochure
Delta 88 Royale Brougham pages from the 1987 Oldsmobile brochure

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $13,639 Delta 88 Royale coupe (about $31,900 in today’s dollars) included Soft-Ray tinted glass, power rack-and-pinion steering, power brakes, and P205/75R14 tires on 14-inch wheels with Deluxe wheel discs. Inside, all cars included Lucerne knit velour seats, Four Seasons air conditioning, side window defoggers, and an AM radio with dual front speakers.

Among the many exterior and mechanical options were a tinted glass sunroof, a full vinyl roof ($200), and a Level III (FE3) suspension. Inside, power door locks, power windows, power seats, a tilt steering wheel, leather seats, an electronic instrument panel, an electronic day/night mirror, and a Delco/Bose Music System were all available.

The Delta 88 Royale coupe sold acceptably for a big coupe in 1987—of the 12,943 made, approximately 65% were the Broughams. Oldsmobile would build the coupes through the end of the 1991 model year, by which point sales had declined to a mere 692 examples. The final Delta 88 of any kind came off the production line on January 6, 1999.

Hagerty’s valuation tools do not track any Delta 88 after 1975 convertible, and Delta 88s of this generation rarely show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors. Make mine Dark Garnet Red Metallic, please.

One other H-platform car I have written about is the 1987 Buick LeSabre T Type coupe. Other Oldsmobiles include the 1981 Cutlass Supreme coupe, the 1982 Toronado Brougham coupe, the 1984 Omega sedan, the 1985 Firenza ES sedan, and the 1985 Ninety-Eight Regency sedan.

1985 Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck

One of my frequent readers once owned the Maxi-Cab version of the 1985 Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck. So, here you go.

“America’s ideal pickup.”

For 1985, Chevrolet offered seven distinct versions of the S-10 pickup truck, divided up by cab style (short, Maxi-Cab/extended cab, or chassis cab), engine (gas or diesel), and drive (2WD or 4WD). Beyond that, three of the versions offered a choice of a long or short box, which resulted in a different wheelbase.

Changes for 1985 were few, with the most significant news probably being improved corrosion protection. Also new was an updated version of GM’s “Iron Duke” inline four, which replaced 1984’s LQ2 2.0 liter inline four.

Only the absolute base truck (short cab, short wheelbase, gas, 2WD) came with the smallest engine, which was the Isuzu-built LR1 82 bhp 1.9 liter/119 ci inline four. That engine also was not available in California. Far more common—and standard on all gasoline configurations except the absolute base truck—was the LN8 “Iron Duke” 92 bhp 2.5 liter/151 ci inline four with throttle body fuel injection, which did have 31 more ft-lbs of torque than the smaller four. Optional “power” for all the gasoline trucks was the LR2 110 bhp 2.8 liter/173 ci V6 with a two-barrel carburetor. The single diesel available was the LQ7 62 bhp 2.2 liter/137 ci inline four, which could only be specified with 2WD.

All four engines came standard with a four-speed manual transmission. Every version but the chassis cab could upgrade to a five-speed manual, while all but the two diesel models could option a four-speed automatic.

Maxi-Cab pages from the 1985 Chevrolet S-10 brochure

Standard equipment on the base $5,990 S-10 (about $14,700 in 2020 dollars) was pretty spare. Still, it included P195/75R14 all-season steel-belted radial tires on 14 x 6 inch painted argent wheels with bright metal hub caps, a color-keyed instrument panel, an upshift light, a locking stowage box, a full headliner, and a vinyl bench seat. At $7,167 (about $17,600 in today’s dollars and well under what a base 2020 Chevrolet Colorado costs), all Maxi-Cab S-10s included tinted glass, vacuum power brakes, and a dome lamp. 4WD versions of the Maxi-Cab included a front stabilizer bar and P195/75R15 tires on 15 x 6 inch wheels.

Among the many exterior and mechanical options available for the Maxi-Cab were two different two-tone paint treatments, a sliding rear window, a heavy-duty radiator, and a 20-gallon fuel tank. Inside, a tachometer, power windows, power door locks, electronic speed control, air conditioning, Custom vinyl high-back bucket seats, folding rear jump seats, and an array of stereos were available.

In addition to individual options, there were also three equipment packages for the Maxi-Cab, which definitely made the S-10 ownership experience more comfortable.

  • The Durango package included a black and chromed grille, black and chromed headlight bezels, a Deluxe chromed bumper with rub strip, wheel trim rings, reflecting lettering on the tailgate, and (of course) Durango nameplates on the front fenders. Inside, Durango purchasers received a side window defogger, a Deluxe vent system, a courtesy lamp, stowage box and ashtray lamps, a headlamp warning buzzer, a cigar lighter, and a Durango nameplate on the stowage box door. Upholstery included a Deluxe color-keyed steering wheel, a color-keyed floor mat, a color-keyed jack cover, and either a Custom cloth/vinyl bench seat or a leather-grained Custom vinyl bench seat.
  • The Tahoe package included everything in the Durango package. Additions and changes to the Durango package included a black grille, color-keyed door handle inserts, black body side and bright wheel opening moldings, a chromed taillight molding, and Tahoe nameplates on the front fenders. Inside, the Tahoe added a full instrument cluster with brushed metal trim, a right hand visor mirror, and a Tahoe nameplate on the stowage box door. Upholstery included color-keyed carpeting, two vinyl jump seats, and a choice of either leather-grained Custom vinyl bucket seats or dual-tone woven Custom cloth bucket seats. The Tahoe required either Special Custom or Custom trim.
  • Finally, the top-of-the-line Sport package included everything in the Tahoe package. Additions and changes included a black chrome grille and headlight bezels, two-tone paint, painted argent styled wheels, and Sport nameplates on the front fenders. Inside, the Sport included a color-keyed lockable center console and a Sport nameplate on the stowage box door. Upholstery included a color-keyed Sport steering wheel with a bright shroud, door trim panels with cloth inserts, and high back Sport cloth front bucket seats.

S-10 pickup trucks from the eighties make regular appearances in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, though many have been heavily modified (small block Chevrolet V8s are common).

Make mine Apple Red, please. If it’s got the Sport package, I’d like it with the Silver Metallic secondary color.

Much of the detailed information for this post—including any hope I had of getting the options packages correct—comes courtesy of the GM Heritage Center. I’ve also written about the 1983 Chevrolet S-10 Blazer SUV.