Interesting Eighties Vehicles at the 2022 Mecum Kissimmee

Mecum’s huge Kissimmee auction recently completed. In the middle of 2021, I gave up trying to chronicle every eighties vehicle sold at any particular auction—there’s often an endless sameness to them. So, I now only write about the cars and trucks that are less seen at auction—and those that sold (a black 1982 Mercedes-Benz SL race car was a no-sale at $200,000). Here are ten that attracted my eye, described in a little more detail than usual.

1983 Lincoln Mark VI Bill Blass Edition, linked from Mecum’s website

[Lot E140] 1983 Lincoln Mark VI Bill Blass Edition coupe. Light French Vanilla/Midnight Black two-tone with black cambria carriage roof and leather/cloth french vanilla Twin Comfort Lounge front seats. Windsor 130 bhp 4.9 liter/302 ci V8 with throttle-body fuel injection, a four-speed automatic, and 16,000 miles. A $22,500 hammer price shows that even these remarkably unsuccessful cars now have a following.

1985 Dodge Shelby Charger interior, linked from Mecum’s website

[E142] 1985 Dodge Shelby Charger hatchback coupe. Santa Fe Blue Metallic with silver stripe with blue/silver cloth front bucket seats. Turbo I 146 bhp 2.2 liter/135 ci inline four with fuel injection and a turbocharger paired with a five-speed manual, with the turbo being in its first year for the Shelby Charger. With unstated mileage, this good-looking example went for $12,000—I likely should write a blog post soon about these interesting cars.

1989 Buick Regal, linked from Mecum’s website

[E222] 1989 Buick Regal Custom coupe. Sparkling Black Metallic with red notchback cloth front bench seat. LH0 140 bhp 3.1 liter/191 ci V6 with fuel injection, a four-speed automatic, and 54,000 miles. Sometimes the first few days of Mecum Kissimmee look like a used car sale, but I do wonder how many 1989 Regals remain in this kind of shape—and how many will likely be saved. At $4,000, the eternal question—what are the new owner’s intentions for this car?

1985 AMC Eagle, linked from Mecum’s website

[J51] 1985 AMC Eagle station wagon. Autumn Brown Metallic (I believe) with honey Highland Check individual front seats. 115 bhp 4.2 liter/258 ci inline six with a two-barrel carburetor, a three-speed automatic, and 67,000 miles. Someone paid $9,000 for a well-preserved later example of this segment-creating wagon.

1988 Cadillac Coupe de Ville, linked from Mecum’s website

[J235] 1988 Cadillac Coupe de Ville. Copper Beige with a dark brown full cabriolet roof top and tan Dual Comfort leather front seats. 155 bhp 4.5 liter/274 ci V8 with fuel injection, a four-speed automatic, and 29,000 miles. You see far more eighties Eldorados and Allantes at auction than Coupe de Villes. $8,000

1984 Mercedes-Benz 300 CD, linked from Mecum’s website

[J286] 1984 Mercedes-Benz 300 CD coupe. Signal Red with blue leather front bucket seats. OM617 3.0 liter/183 ci diesel inline five with fuel injection and a four-speed automatic. Coupes are the least seen of the three W123 models Mercedes sold in the United States—though I saw a 1985 version at a local supermarket a few years ago. $6,000

1985 Pontiac Parisienne, linked from Mecum’s website

[K146.1] 1985 Pontiac Parisienne Brougham sedan. Black with a black vinyl top and a tan velour 55/45 split front seat. LG4 165 bhp 5.0 liter/305 ci V8 with a four-barrel carburetor, a four-speed automatic, and 5,900 miles. $26,000 bought a nice example of Pontiac’s badge-engineered version (dig those taillights!) of Chevrolet’s Caprice Classic.

1980 Pontiac Firebird Esprit Yellow Bird, linked from Mecum’s website

[L116] 1980 Pontiac Firebird Esprit Yellow Bird coupe. Yellow Bird Yellow (natch!) over yellow accent with camel tan Hobnail Cloth front bucket seats. LD5 115 bhp 3.8 liter/231 ci V6 with a two-barrel carburetor paired with a three-speed automatic. Trans Ams are all over the place at most auctions, but Esprits are now rarely seen—and this final “color bird” is even rarer. $15,000

1985 Cadillac Eldorado Touring Coupe, courtesy of Mecum

[G115] 1985 Cadillac Eldorado Touring Coupe. Bordeaux Red with sandlewood leather front bucket seats. HT-4100 135 bhp 4.1 liter/249 ci V8 with throttle-body fuel injection mated to a four-speed automatic. Eighties Eldorados aren’t uncommon at auction, but Eldorado Touring Coupes sure are—and Bordeaux Red is a stunning (and rare) color. $18,000

1985 Ford Thunderbird, linked from Mecum’s website

[W144.1] 1985 Ford Thunderbird coupe. Black with Oxford Gray cloth front bucket seats. Windsor 140 bhp 4.9 liter/302 ci V8 with fuel injection, a four-speed automatic, and 6,200 miles. You sometimes see both Turbo Coupes of this generation and the later Super Coupes for sale, but you don’t see many of these base coupes anymore—especially with such low miles. $16,000

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1980 Pontiac Grand Prix SJ coupe

Bring a Trailer offered an almost unique 1979 Grand Prix for auction recently. It had a four-speed manual transmission—quite rare in 1979 and no longer available in 1980. With only 858 miles on the odometer, this Grand Prix sold for $35,000.

… carries Grand Prix sportiness to the max

1980 was the final year for the SJ designation on Pontiac’s Grand Prix. SJ had been a Grand Prix equipment level since the first year of the second generation Grand Prix in 1969. By 1980, SJ indicated something like “moderately sporty.”

The 1980 Grand Prix returned to a vertical bar grille and featured new taillight lenses with “GP” logos. A three-speed automatic transmission became standard equipment on all Grand Prix models, and the two-barrel 4.9 liter/301 ci Pontiac V8 was replaced by a new 4.3 liter/265 ci V8 rated at 125 hp.

The SJ’s powertrain choices were slightly loftier. The standard non-California powertrain was a W72 170 bhp 4.9 liter/301 ci V8 with a four-barrel carburetor mated with a three-speed automatic transmission. California cars swapped in the LG4 150 bhp 5.0 liter/305 ci V8 with a four-barrel carburetor. 0-60 came in a little under 10 seconds in a car with a 3,291-pound curb weight—spritely for a personal luxury coupe in 1980. EPA fuel economy ratings for the non-California cars were 17 city/25 highway by the day’s standards. With an 18.1-gallon gas tank, an SJ‘s owner could expect a range of 310 to 340 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

With a base price of $6,219, standard exterior and mechanical equipment on all Grand Prix’s included dual rectangular headlamps, power steering, power front disc/rear drum brakes, and P195/75R14 tires (a size still readily available) on 14-inch wheels with hubcaps. Interior features included door pull straps, an inside hood release, and an electric quartz clock.

Grand Prix SJ page from the 1980 Pontiac brochure

For $7,295, the SJ added Custom finned wheel covers, body-color Sport mirrors, wide rocker panel moldings with extensions, accent stripes, and, of course, SJ identification to the exterior. Inside, SJ buyers got rally gages with clock and trip odometer, Lamp Group, and added acoustical insulation. SJ trim and upholstery included a Custom Sport steering wheel, a simulated brushed aluminum instrument panel, a Custom stitched-appearance instrument panel pad, Custom pedal trim plates, and SJ-specific front vinyl bucket seats.

Options and Production Numbers

Options were many—exterior options included two-tone paint in two different styles, cornering lamps, Soft Ray glass, a removable hatch roof, and a power sunroof (either glass or metal). Air conditioning (Custom or climate control), power door locks, and power windows were among the available interior options. Trim and upholstery options included Viscount leather front bucket seats with vinyl bolsters, a power driver’s seat, a tilt steering wheel, and a litter container.

Audio options included dual rear extended range speakers, two power antenna options, and six different stereo radios, including two 8-track tape choices, one cassette tape choice, one CB radio choice, and an ETR radio choice. A buyer looking to make their SJ as sporting as possible would have ordered 205/75R14 tires (which included the Rally Handling Package), Rally II wheels, and rally gages with an instrument panel tachometer (which required either the digital clock or the ETR radio).

Though the Grand Prix sold pretty well overall, the SJ did not—only 7,087 left dealer lots in the 1980 model year. This total meant that the SJ was a mere 6% of Grand Prix sales and hints strongly at why it was gone for the 1981 model year, with the new Grand Prix submodel being the Brougham. Pontiac would use the SJ designation on the sportiest versions of the compact Phoenix until the end of the 1984 model year.

The View From 2022

Grand Prix’s of this generation are not generally considered collector cars—Hagerty does not track any Grand Prix newer than 1977. These cars are sometimes available in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. As we have seen, these Grand Prix’s also show up at auction.

Make mine Bordeaux Red, please.

Other Grand Prix models I have written about include the 1987 coupe and the 1988 coupe. I seem to like Pontiacs—have covered twelve other models over the last seven years.

End of the Year Review: 2021

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2021 was another positive year for Eighties Cars. Though I had a major medical issue in the spring that involved surgery and meant no posts for four months, we still managed 16 new or substantially revised blog entries—one every 23 days on the average. Posts counts were divided into nine featuring a specific car, three covering auctions, and four miscellaneous posts.

Just one marque made its first appearance in a specific post in 2021, and that was Bentley. 2021 was by far the best year for page views since I started the blog—we were up a frankly astounding 144% over 2020.

Every year, I look at the end of the year results for the blog’s most viewed posts. For 2021, it once again looked like the key to an individual post’s popularity was often in the rarity of the other coverage available for that particular vehicle. It also didn’t hurt to be a Buick, a Chevrolet, or a Mercury. This year, there was one more obvious pattern—fully half of the top ten posts were for vehicles that had not previously been present in the top ten. In reverse order, we’ll discuss the top ten most viewed posts of this year.

10) 1987 Chevrolet Caprice Classic coupe—this elderly (April 2014) but evergreen post is about the last of the big Caprice coupes. For the eight years Eighties Cars has been around, it’s the fifth most viewed post overall, but it slid down four spots in 2021. Chevrolet sold a mere 3,110 coupes in the 1987 model year.

9) 1985 Buick Somerset Regal coupe—this post has been picked up by other websites a few times, including a couple of years ago by Jalopnik. Hilariously, I don’t think I would have ever gotten around to writing about the Somerset Regal if I hadn’t seen one on the streets of Philadelphia back in 2014. Sharply down from its #1 spot in 2020, but still the second most popular entry all-time.

8) 1987 Mercury Lynx XR3 hatchback coupe—this post dropped from #2 in 2020 and is now the fourth most popular all-time. Mercury is, of course, an orphan make, but this blog entry has been viewed almost five times more than my write-up on the related 1981 Ford Escort hatchback coupe.

7) 1980 Chevrolet Camaro Rally Sport coupeRally Sports are given short shrift by most late second-generation Camaros followers, with the Z28 getting far more attention. Despite this, Hagerty does track them—seeing them as worth $17,600 in #1/Concours condition and $10,600 in #3/Good condition with the best available LG4 V8. Up from #10 in 2020.

6) 1987 Mercury Cougar XR-7 coupe—the first new entry for this year is another Mercury and another car that Hagerty does not track (though they do track eighties Thunderbirds).

5) 1989 Buick Electra Park Avenue Ultra sedan—another new entry, the Ultra replaces two other Buicks that were in last year’s top 10.

4) 1984 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz convertible—the most expensive Eldorado since the early 1960s was the only post written this year that made the 2021 top ten. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, values are sliding up—a 1984 Eldorado convertible in #1/Concours condition is $34,400, with a far more normal #3/Good condition version going for $9,500.

3) 1986 Chevrolet Camaro Berlinetta hatchback coupe—the Berlinetta is rarely written about, with almost all the attention to eighties Camaros going to the Z28 and the IROC-Z. Nevertheless, Hagerty tracks these cars, currently at $19,900 in #1/Concours condition, $12,000 in #3/Good condition for the version with the optional V8. This post held at #3 in 2021 and remains the all-time most popular entry.

2) 1985 Chevrolet C20 Suburban Silverado SUV—this is the first eighties SUV to make any year’s top 10. According to Hagerty, 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.

1) 1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme coupe—a new entry in the yearly top ten and the new top dog, this post is already #3 all-time. It kind of makes sense—Cutlass Supremes were hugely popular in their day. Popularity evidently does not equal collectability, as Hagerty has yet to track eighties Cutlass Supreme values.

Five posts that did not make it into the top ten in 2021, after doing so in 2020 were those on the 1987 Buick LeSabre T Type coupe, the 1980 Buick Riviera S Type coupe, the 1989 Chevrolet Celebrity sedan, the 1980 Pontiac Grand Am coupe, and the 1980 Pontiac Sunbird Sport Hatch. The best performing Chrysler product post was on the 1980 Plymouth Horizon hatchback coupe (17th), while the best performing foreign car was the 1985 Volkswagen Cabriolet (14th). The highest-ranking Japanese car post was on the 1986 Honda Accord sedan (37th).

A post on the rise in the final quarter of 2021 was written about the 1980 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 coupe. Finally, eight vehicles cleared the all-time 1,000 Views count in 2021: 1980 Plymouth Horizon hatchback sedan, 1989 Buick Electra Park Avenue Ultra sedan, 1980 Chevrolet Camaro Rally Sport coupe, 1985 Chevrolet C20 Suburban Silverado SUV, 1987 Buick LeSabre T Type coupe, 1989 Chevrolet Celebrity sedan, 1980 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 coupe, and 1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme coupe. Once rare, exceeding 1,000 views is now common enough that I no longer write a post about it when it happens.

Thanks to all who viewed this blog in 2021!

1981 Volkswagen Scirocco S hatchback coupe

I’ve liked the styling of the first-generation Scirocco since it was new. It was, of course, designed by one of the all-time masters.

“For the most discriminating and demanding sports car enthusiasts”

1981 was the final model year for the first-generation Scirocco, which was first available in North America in 1975. Though the Scirocco used the same platform as the Golf, it was actually released about six months before the Golf.

With its basic form penned by Giorgetto Giugiaro—who seemed to have a hand in nearly every 1970s Volkswagen design—the Scirocco debuted at the 1973 Geneva Motor Show. Like the Karmann Ghia that it putatively replaced, the Scirocco was assembled by Karmann.

Classified as sub-compact by the EPA, the Scirocco was not a large car—its 155.7-inch length is more than a foot shorter than the 2022 Golf GTI. For 1981, the configuration of the Scirocco sold in North America moved to a slightly large 1.7 liter engine, transitioned the standard transmission from a four-speed manual to a five-speed manual, and offered a new Scirocco S package.

The Scirocco’s standard powertrain was the EA827 74 bhp 1.7 liter/105 ci inline four with fuel injection mated with a five-speed manual. A three-speed automatic was optional. With a curb weight of 1,892 pounds, 0-60 came in a little over 12 seconds. Fuel economy was rated at 25 city/40 highway by the day’s standards. With a 10.6-gallon gas tank, a Scirocco owner could expect a range of 280 to 310 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Scirocco S pages from the 1981 brochure

Standard mechanical features on the $8,495 Scirocco (about $27,800 in today’s dollars) included front-wheel-drive, rack-and-pinion steering, power-assisted front disc/rear drum brakes, and 175/70SR13 steel-belted radial tires (a size still readily available) on 13-inch wheels. Inside, a tachometer, a trip odometer, and front bucket seats were standard.

A new package for 1981 was the S, which included black trim, a red VW radiator badge and belt-line moulding, a larger front spoiler, light alloy wheels, and specially designed striped cloth sport seats. The S package was available in three of the eight standard Scirocco colors and cost $520.

Options for the Scirocco were few—a sunroof, a rear window wiper/washer, the aforementioned three-speed automatic transmission, and air conditioning.

The View From 2021

First-generation Sciroccos attract collector interest, and there is club support. They are sometimes available in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds, on eBay Motors, and at online auctions such as Bring a Trailer that cater to the eighties car market.

Make mine Cirrus Gray Metallic, please.

Other Volkswagens I have written about include the 1983 Rabbit GTI hatchback coupe and the 1985 Cabriolet.

1984 Mercury Grand Marquis Colony Park LS station wagon

At Mecum Kansas City 2021, a Light Desert Tan Mercury Grand Marquis Colony Park LS station wagon with bodyside and tailgate rosewood woodtone appliques sold for $8,500. For Boxing Day 2021, here’s a big American station wagon.

“luxurious working cars”

For 1984, Mercury’s Grand Marquis Colony Park station wagon was little changed. The Colony Park name had been around since 1957 as a signifier of Mercury’s top-of-the-line station wagon.

The Colony Park’s only powertrain—indeed the only powertrain available for any Grand Marquis—was a Windsor 140 bhp 4.9 liter/302ci V8 with fuel injection paired with a four-speed automatic. Fuel economy was 17 city/27 highway by 1984 standards (14/20 by current measures). With an 18.5-gallon fuel tank, a Colony Park owner could expect a range of between 285 and 365 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

The Colony Park was a large car, with a 114.1-inch wheelbase and 218-inch length. It had changed little since 1979, when Ford downsized its full-size cars to the Panther platform. Changes over the next five years were mostly confined to trim and color variations, along with powertrain changes.

Colony Park pages from the 1984 Grand Marquis brochure
Colony Park pages from the 1984 Grand Marquis brochure

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $11,816 Grand Marquis Colony Park (about $32,500 in today’s dollars or about what a base 2022 Ford Explorer goes for) included the distinctive “bodyside and tailgate rosewood woodtone applique,” a three-way tailgate, a power tailgate window, power steering, power front disc/rear drum brakes, and P215/75R14 white sidewall tires (a size still available thanks to Hankook) on 14-inch wheels with Deluxe wheel covers. Inside, reclining Twin Comfort Lounge front seats in vinyl, a fold-down rear seatback, and AM/FM stereo radio with two rear speakers were included.

At $12,437, the Colony Park LS added tinted glass, Luxury cloth seat trim for the Twin Comfort Lounge front seats, seatback map pockets, and 18-ounce color-keyed cut-pile carpeting.

Packages, Options, and Production Numbers

Packages available for the Colony Park included Convenience Group, Lock Group, Light Group, and the Trailer Towing Package.

Since there were no Lincoln station wagons, the Colony Park LS was the top-of-the-line wagon available from Ford Motor Company in the mid-1980s. Despite all the luxury Mercury implied the Colony Park LS had, it still didn’t include standard air conditioning, though the take rate on the two air conditioning options—one manual ($743) and one automatic ($809)—must have been high.

Other options available included “glamour” paint ($77), a luggage rack ($104), a Traction-Lok axle ($95), fingertip speed control ($176), a leather-wrapped steering wheel ($59), a tilt steering wheel ($110) and the Premium Sound System. Optional P205/75R15 tires ($17/$178 if puncture sealant) required the optional turbine spoke cast aluminum wheels ($361). A well-equipped Colony Park could easily get to $14,600—not that many thousand dollars from Lincoln money.

Mercury sold 17,421 Colony Park wagons in 1984, but the split for the base versus the LS versions is unknown.

Make mine Medium Canyon Red Metallic, please.

Two other Panther-based cars I have written about are the 1980 Lincoln Continental Mark VII coupe and the 1983 Mercury Grand Marquis sedan.

1987 Chrysler Fifth Avenue sedan

I still occasionally see M-body Fifth Avenues on the road. They’re always well-kept, but also actually being driven. How much longer will they last?

“Fifth Avenue remembers what fine car buyers demand!”

Little changed for 1987, Chrysler’s rear-wheel-drive Fifth Avenue sedan did receive an updated steering wheel. Otherwise, things continued along virtually the same as they had been since the M-body Chrysler went from the New Yorker Fifth Avenue name to the Fifth Avenue name in 1984.

The only powertrain available was an LA 140 bhp 5.2 liter/318 ci V8 with a Carter two-barrel carburetor paired with a TorqueFlite three-speed automatic transmission—the slant six had departed from the M-body after 1983. 0-60 came in about 12 seconds in a car with a 3,741-pound curb weight. Mileage ratings were 16 city/21 highway by 1987 standards—which equals 15 city/20 highway today. With an 18-gallon gas tank, a Fifth Avenue owner could expect a range of 285 to 300 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Pages from the 1987 Chrysler Fifth Avenue brochure

Standard exterior features on the $15,422 Fifth Avenue (about $38,900 in today’s dollars or about what a 2021 Chrysler 300S V6 sedan goes for) included a color-keyed padded vinyl Landau roof and tinted glass on all windows. Mechanical features included power front disc/rear drum brakes, power-assisted steering, and P205/75R15 tires (a size still readily available) on 15-inch wheels with Premium wheel covers. Inside, an air conditioning/heater with automatic temperature control, power windows, a Luxury two-spoke steering wheel, and an AM radio were included.

Packages, Options, and Production Numbers

The Luxury Equipment Discount Package added hood stripes, electroluminescent opera lights, and wire wheel covers with locks. Inside, the same package added automatic speed control, a tilt steering column, Deluxe intermittent windshield washers/wipers, a power deck lid release, and an AM stereo/FM stereo radio with the Premium speaker system and a power antenna. Added upholstery features with the package included (of course) Corinthian leather 60/40 front seat with vinyl trim, dual front power seats, and a Luxury leather-wrapped two-spoke steering wheel. This substantial package cost $2,113 if ordered with the Ultimate Sound audio system and $2,251 if ordered without Chrysler top-of-the-line stereo. Either way, it added 14% to 15% to the Fifth Avenue’s base price.

A Two-Tone Paint Package was also available. This package included (natch!) two-tone paint with a choice of three colors matched with Radiant Silver, a special padded vinyl Landau roof with electroluminescent opera lights, and cast aluminum 15-inch wheels.

Individual options included a power glass sun roof and a driver-only passenger seat. A range of three optional car stereos topped out with the Ultimate Sound system, which included an AM stereo/FM stereo radio, a cassette tape player with automatic reverse and Dynamic Noise Reduction (DNR), a five-band graphic equalizer, and a joystick balance/fader control. Many individual options cost less if they were ordered along with the Luxury Equipment Discount Package.

Chrysler sold 70,579 Fifth Avenues in 1987, making it the single most popular Chrysler model, though all the various LeBaron models combined were good for far more sales. With tooling that had long since been paid for, all the M-body cars (the Dodge Diplomat and Plymouth Gran Fury were also in production) were probably good for Chrysler’s profits.

The View From 2021

These cars were the last of the old Chryslers, with a platform that dated back to 1977 and some design elements that were far older. When rear-wheel-drive returned to big Chryslers in 2005, it was based on a Mercedes-Benz E-class platform.

Though they are far from collector cars, Fifth Avenues of this generation are sometimes available in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, and occasionally show up at auction. As I write this post, a Radiant Silver 1985 Fifth Avenue with a silver vinyl top and gray velvet cloth 60/40 front seats is for sale on Hemmings for $7,850.

Make mine Crimson Red, please.

Other rear-wheel-drive Chrysler products I have written about are the 1980 Chrysler Cordoba coupe, the 1980 Plymouth Volaré station wagon, and the 1983 Imperial coupe.

1989 Bentley Turbo R sedan

“The quintessential power trip.”

Bentley’s Turbo R sedan debuted in 1985 but didn’t make it to the US until the 1989 model year. The Turbo R followed the Mulsanne Turbo, which had debuted in 1982 and marked the first genuinely sporting Bentley in decades. Bentley stated that the R stood for “roadholding,” and the Turbo R had a completely revised suspension, with different dampers and stiffer anti-roll bars.

1989 Bentley Turbo R advertisement

The Turbo R’s 6.75 liter/412 ci V8 had an estimated 335 bhp—for decades, Bentley didn’t state actual horsepower. The big V8 featured Bosch MK-Motronic fuel injection, a Garrett AiResearch turbocharger, and an intercooler. The transmission was GM’s Turbo Hydramatic THM-400. Considering that the Turbo R had a curb weight of 5,313 pounds, the 0-60 time of a little under 7 seconds was notable. Fuel economy was less impressive: a 9 city/12 highway rating by the standards of the day meant that the Turbo R was a recipient of the dreaded gas guzzler tax. Despite a sizeable 28.6-gallon gas tank filled with premium gasoline, the proud new owner of Turbo R could only expect a range of about 270 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $165,000 Turbo R (about $381,500 in today’s dollars) included power rack and pinion steering, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, and 255/65VR15 tires (a size still available thanks to Avon) on 15-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. The traditional Connolly leather seats, burled walnut veneer dash, and lambswool carpeting seen in many Bentleys were present inside. More prosaic standard equipment included air conditioning, cruise control, power seats, power mirrors, and power windows. Bentley built 929 Turbo Rs for the 1989 model year, making it an unqualified success.

The View From 2021

Like all Bentleys, the Turbo R attracts collector interest and substantial club support. Perhaps driven by maintenance costs that are substantial if the car has not been rigorously maintained, values are not as high as one might think. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1989 Turbo R in #1/Concours condition is $26,000, with a far more normal #3/Good condition version going for $13,500.

Turbo R’s are often available in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds, and they sometimes show up at auction. As I write this post, a White 1989 Turbo R with red leather front bucket seats and a salvage title is for sale on Hemmings for $12,750.

After over eight years, this post is the first on a Bentley in Eighties Cars. There will be others—I definitely expect to get to the aforementioned Mulsanne Turbo at some point.

Make mine British Racing Green, please.

1986 Pontiac Firebird SE hatchback coupe

“Comfort and function define every Firebird interior.”

For 1986, Pontiac offered three versions of its sporty Firebird—the base car, the SE, and the Trans Am. The SE was intended to be the most comfortable of the three versions (Pontiac stated that it possessed “a subtle sophistication”), and its $11,995 base price (about $30,500 in today’s dollars) slotted between the $9,279 base coupe and the $12,395 Trans Am.

The SE‘s standard engine was the 135 bhp LB8 2.8 liter V6 with fuel injection, while it’s only optional engine was the $400 155 bhp LG4 5.0 liter/305 ci v8 with a four-barrel carburetor (only Trans Ams could get fancier V8s). Both engines came standard with a five-speed manual and were offered with an optional four-speed automatic ($465). The V8 with the manual was the quickest (0-60 mph in about 9 seconds) and the fastest (top speed of about 131 mph) SE. EPA gas mileage ratings were 17 city/26 highway with the standard powertrain (15/24 by today’s standards). Interestingly, the V8 wasn’t significantly worse at 16 city/26 highway with the manual or at 17 city/25 highway with the automatic. With a relatively small 15.5-gallon gas tank, SE owners could expect a range of between 265 and 320 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

1986 base and SE Firebird versions from the Pontiac full-line brochure

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on all Firebirds included concealed rectangular quartz halogen headlamps, Sport mirrors, power steering, power front disc/rear drum brakes, and P215/65R15 tires on 15-inch wheels. Inside, a full-length console, reclining front bucket seats, cut pile carpeting, and a Delco-GM AM radio were standard.

Additional standard equipment on the SE included hood air louvers, black body side moldings, and 15-inch diamond spoke aluminum wheels. Inside, the Formula steering wheel, shift knob, and parking brake were all leather-wrapped. Luxury Trim Group included Custom front bucket seats, a Deluxe split folding rear seat, and Deluxe door trim. An interior roof console included sub-woofer controls if the subwoofer six-speaker system was ordered.

Optional exterior and mechanical equipment included a body color rear deck spoiler ($70), a hatch roof with removable glass panels, and power four wheel disc brakes ($179 and requiring the limited slip differential). Inside, Custom air conditioning (which required Soft Ray glass), power door locks, power windows, a six-way power driver’s seat, a tilt steering wheel, and five different radios were available. A loaded SE moved from comfortable to relatively luxurious by mid-1980s standards.

Like its Camaro Berlinetta cousin, the SE did not sell well—it was only 2% of overall Firebird sales in 1986. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1986 Firebird SE with the V8 and the manual in #1/Concours condition is $13,200, with a far more normal #3/Good condition version going for $4,600.

Mid-1980s Trans Ams are always available in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, but SEs rarely make an appearance—as I write this post, there are no third-generation Firebird SEs for sale on either site. I have not seen an SE in almost 20 years.

Other Firebird versions I have written about include the 1981 Trans Am coupe, the 1982 Trans Am hatchback coupe, the 1984 Trans Am 15th Anniversary Edition hatchback coupe, the 1985 Trans Am hatchback coupe, and the 1989 20th Anniversary Turbo Trans Am hatchback coupe. I should probably cover a Formula and a GTA at some point.

Make mine Midnight Blue over Silver, please.

1980 Ford Fiesta hatchback coupe

Recently Bring a Trailer featured a 1980 Ford Fiesta with unknown mileage selling at no reserve—it went for $7,200.

Ford’s first-generation Fiesta was in its final year of availability in the United States, soon to be replaced by the Escort. Because of this, the 1980 Fiesta had only minor trim and detail changes.

The Fiesta’s standard powertrain was a transverse-mounted 66 bhp 1.6 liter/98 ci inline four with a two-barrel carburetor paired with a four-speed manual. Ford’s full-line brochure stated that Fiesta acceleration was “exhilarating.” In reality, 0-60 mph took between 11 and 12 seconds in a car with a shipping weight of 1,726 pounds. The EPA rated fuel economy at an impressive 26 city/38 highway. With a 10-gallon gas tank, a Fiesta owner could expect a range of about 290 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Classified by the EPA as a subcompact, the Fiesta was a small car even in 1980, and is tiny by modern standards. With a 90 inch wheelbase and a 147.1 inch length, it gives up 8 inches of wheelbase and over 5 inches of length to a modern MINI Cooper. In 1980 brochures, Ford used the old trick of putting the car in the foreground and putting models at some indeterminate distance in the background.

Fiesta page from the 1980 Ford brochure

Standard equipment for the $5,032 Fiesta (about $18,300 in today’s dollars) included front wheel drive, a MacPherson strut front suspension, rack and pinion steering, front disc brakes, and Michelin 155-12 steel-belted radial tires on 12-inch argent road wheels. Inside, the Fiesta included all-vinyl high back front bucket seats, a fold-down rear seat, and color-keyed passenger compartment carpeting.

Options included a manually-operated flip-up open-air sunroof ($219), tinted glass ($55), an electric rear window defroster ($96), white sidewall tires ($70), air conditioning ($475 and not available in European versions), and an AM/FM stereo radio ($183). Decor Group and a Ghia interior which included velour and cloth upholstery were also available.

1980 Fiesta sales were off 11% from 1979, but Ford still moved 68,841. I haven’t seen a first-generation Fiesta on the streets for many years. Apparently, Bring A Trailer auctions one of these Fiestas about once a year.

Make mine Venetian Red, please.

My Eighties Car Departs

In the spring of 2021, I had a major medical issue that involved lower back surgery. Close followers of this blog might have noticed the paucity of posts between late January and late May.

When I returned home from not one but two hospitals, one of the first things that came to mind was what to do with my 1985 Chevrolet Corvette coupe. With its hard-riding Z51 sport suspension and challenging entry/exit, this car is not for someone who has had back surgery—and I don’t believe in keeping cars around that we don’t drive.

After thinking about it for a while, I decided to auction my Corvette on Bring a Trailer at no reserve—there was nothing that would want me to keep the car. I chose Bring a Trailer in part because I wanted to reach a wide audience: I figured that my 1985’s Light Blue Metallic color was a love it or hate it deal, and I wanted potential bidders to be able to self-sort.

I filled out the vehicle submission form, and the next step was to get the car photographed. Bring a Trailer‘s assigned professional came out in mid-July on what must have been the hottest day of the summer. He took many both accurate and complimentary photos of the car.

In late August, the auction began. Like most Bring a Trailer auctions, it ran for slightly over a week. I was eager not to misrepresent the car but equally interested in putting its best face forward. This desire meant that I spent a lot of time in the comments section.

The 1985 leaves

Three days after the auction ended, the winning buyer sent one of his employees out to pick up the car. He loaded the car onto an open trailer (very on-brand for the purchase venue) in the light rain. A few minutes later, he drove away, and my life with a 1985 Corvette ended.

I was sad to see the Corvette go, but not unhappy. My view is that the car owed us nothing—we enjoyed it for seventeen years and it was our ticket to many interesting experiences. I hope the new owner has as much fun with this C4 as we did.