A New Reference Arrives

American Light Trucks book cover
Cover of American Light Trucks & Utility Vehicles

Eighties Cars has been somewhat weak when it comes to the trucks, vans, and SUVs of the decade. Sure, there have been a few posts, including a recent one about the 1985 Chevrolet Suburban, but there certainly isn’t a representative amount.

There are a few reasons for this. One is that I simply don’t feel as familiar with trucks and SUVs as I am with automobiles. Another is that references are sparer for trucks and SUVs than for cars—at least American ones.

That second reason was at least partially ameliorated today with the arrival of J. “Kelly” Flory, Jr.’s latest opus. American Light Trucks & Utility Vehicles, 1967–1989 is exactly what it says—every model of truck, van, and sport utility vehicle, year by year. It’s a weighty tome, running 1,461 pages. I sourced it from Powell’s Books, and it arrived quickly.

Kelly Flory is familiar to folks who use automobile references. I already have his three American Cars volumes—1946 to 1959, 1960 to 1972, and 1973 to 1980, which combine for 2,950 pages. These books give a different view of any particular car model by placing it within the context of the overall marque and the rest of the American automotive industry for each model year. American Light Trucks & Utility Vehicles follows the same format.

For Eighties Cars, this new resource will mean two things. First, there will be more posts about trucks, vans, and SUVs. Second, I will revise previous truck and SUV posts where data was spare or imprecise.

Eighties Vehicles at Two Online Auctions in May 2020

The first completely online auctions from Barrett-Jackson and RM-Sotheby’s in May 2020 included a few vehicles from the 1980s—6% of the (85+193=278) lots offered between the two events. I’ll concentrate on the at least reasonably stock 1980s cars and trucks and add some of my opinions—I’ll leave the automobilia, boats, motorcycles, and tractors to others. Where I have covered the specific year and model of a car in this blog, I link to it.

Barrett-Jackson

  • 1984 Oxford White Ford Mustang GT350 convertible with a white top, canyon red cloth bucket seats, a Windsor 175 bhp 4.9 liter/302 ci V8 with a Holley 4180 four-barrel carburetor, a five-speed manual, and 4,800 miles—did not meet reserve.
  • 1986 Victory Red Chevrolet C10 custom (engine, wheels/suspension, exterior, interior) pickup truck with a black bench seat, a Vortec 4.8 liter/293 ci V8 with fuel injection, and an automatic—did not meet reserve.
  • 1985 Guards Red Porsche 911 Carrera Targa with black leather bucket seats, a 207 bhp 3.2 liter/193 ci flat six with Bosch Motronic fuel injection, a five-speed manual, and 9,900 miles—$45,000 hammer price. That price makes this the first vehicle in this auction review to meet my criteria for serious collectability of 1980s cars or trucks in stock condition: selling for equal to or above its original base list price. I’ll mark these vehicles in bold green.
  • 1984 Blue Gunmetal Dodge Daytona Turbo hatchback coupe with checkered cloth bucket seats, a Turbo I 142 bhp 2.2 liter/135 ci inline four with fuel injection and a turbocharger, a five-speed manual, and 5,200 miles—$18,500. Almost certainly the most unusual eighties vehicle at this auction—who saves these cars?
1984 Dodge Daytona Turbo
1984 Dodge Daytona Turbo, courtesy of Barrett-Jackson
  • 1985 Black Porsche 911 Carrera custom (cabriolet and slant nose conversions) with black bucket seats, a 207 bhp 3.2 liter/193 ci flat six with fuel injection, a five-speed manual, and 35,000 miles—$30,500

RM-Sotheby’s

  • 1985 Midnight Blue Mercedes-Benz 380SL convertible with royal blue leather bucket seats, a 155 bhp 3.8 liter/234 ci V8 with Bosch Jetronic fuel injection, an automatic, and 44,000 miles—$13,500 hammer price.
  • 1986 black Rolls-Royce Silver Spur limousine with gray leather seats, a 6.75 liter/412 ci V8, an automatic, and 40,000 miles—did not meet reserve.
  • 1988 Midnight Blue Metallic Porsche 928 S4 with marine blue leather bucket seats, a 320 bhp 5.0 liter/302 ci V8 with fuel injection, and an automatic—$16,500
  • 1981 Silver Metallic Pontiac Firebird Trans Am coupe with gray cloth bucket seats, a 145 bhp 5.0 liter/305 ci V8, an automatic transmission, and 10,000 miles—$21,000
  • 1985 camouflage AM General Humvee M998 SUV with tan bucket seats, a 6.2 liter diesel V8, and an automatic—$12,000
  • 1987 Signal Red Mercedes-Benz 560SL convertible with a black convertible top, black leather bucket seats, a 227 bhp 5.5 liter/338 ci V8 with Bosch KE-Jetronic fuel injection, an automatic, and 36,000 miles—$33,000
  • 1980 Sky Blue Toyota FJ43 Land Cruiser SUV with gray vinyl bucket seats, a 2F 4.2 liter/258 ci inline six, and a five-speed manual—$26,000
  • 1989 Astral Silver Metallic Mercedes-Benz 560SL convertible with a black convertible top, black leather bucket seats, a 227 bhp 5.5 liter/338 ci V8 with Bosch KE-Jetronic fuel injection, an automatic, and 31,000 miles—$42,000
  • 1989 Guards Red Porsche 911 Speedster convertible with a black top, black leather bucket seats, a 217 bhp 3.2 liter/193 ci flat six with fuel injection, a five-speed manual, and 41 miles—$200,000
  • 1980 beige Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser custom (mechanical, exterior, interior) SUV with beige leather bucket seats and a five-speed manual—did not meet reserve.
  • 1981 Grigio Alfa-Romeo GTV6 2.5 hatchback coupe with tan bucket seats, a 154 bhp 2.5 liter/152 ci V6 with Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection, a five-speed manual, and 35,000 miles. This Alfa originally owned by Mario Andretti did not meet reserve.
  • 1985 Rosso Ferrari 288 GTO coupe with black leather bucket seats, a 394 bhp 2.9 liter/175 ci V8 with fuel injection and twin turbochargers, a five-speed manual, and 15,000 miles—$2,100,000
1985 Ferrari 288 GTO, courtesy of RM-Sotheby’s
  • 1989 Grand Prix White Porsche 911 Carrera coupe with blue leather bucket seats, a 207 bhp 3.2 liter/193 ci flat six with Bosch Motronic fuel injection, a five-speed manual, and 47,000 miles—did not meet reserve.

What do you think of these auction results?

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 and was a $700 option). 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 ($459 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 ($1,259 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 (standard) or a tailgate with manual drop glass ($36). 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.