1987 Chevrolet Caprice Classic coupe

For unclear reasons, for several years this was my most popular post on this blog. Because of this, I recently updated it to reflect both changes in my posting style and substantial improvements in available data.

“… the personal flair of a distinctive coupe.”

1987 was the final model year for Chevrolet’s Caprice Classic coupe, with only 3,110 made. Beginning in 1988, the Caprice would soldier on with just the sedan and wagon, as the once very popular big American coupes continued to lose favor.

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The standard power team on the coupe (and sedan) was the LB4 140 bhp 4.3 liter/262 ci V6 with throttle-body fuel injection paired with a three-speed automatic transmission. Mileage was rated at 18 city/23 highway by the standards of the day (16/22 by modern standards).

Optional power was the LG4 165 bhp 5.0 liter/305 ci V8 with a four-barrel carburetor paired with a four-speed automatic transmission (I see what you did there, Chevrolet). In 1987, this combination was rated at 18 city/25 highway (16/23 by 2014 standards). With a large 25-gallon fuel tank, you could reasonably expect a comfortable range of about 440 to 480 miles with a 10% fuel reserve—impressive for a 3,600-pound full-size car back then. Even with the V8, these cars were not fast—0-60 came in about 10.5 seconds.

Caprice Classic Coupe pages from the 1987 Chevrolet Impala/Caprice brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

Standard equipment for the $11,392 coupe (about $26,600 in today’s dollars—just a few thousand dollars less than a 2020 Impala LT sedan goes for) included power steering, power brakes, halogen headlights, and P205/75R15 all-season radial tires (a size still readily available) on 15-inch wheels. Inside, a full-width cloth bench seat, Quiet Sound Group, and an AM radio were standard.

Optional equipment included air conditioning ($775), cruise control ($175), power door locks ($145), power windows ($210), power seats ($240 each), power trunk opener ($50), a 50/50 split-front seat ($195), and AM/FM stereo cassette with graphic equalizer ($435).

I have fun sometimes (often?) building a “unicorn” configuration for these old cars. When I was working at the local Chevrolet dealership in the mid-eighties, I dreamed up a Caprice S. Here’s what optional equipment it would have required, all still available in 1987:

  • F41 Sport Suspension (includes a rear stabilizer bar, 15-inch by 7-inch wheels, and sportier shock absorbers)
  • LG4 5.0 liter/305 ci V8
  • P225/70R-15 tires
  • Sport wheel covers
  • Limited slip differential
  • Performance axle ratio
  • Heavy-duty cooling
  • Dual power Sport mirrors
  • Special instrumentation/gauge package

So, a “John-configured” coupe would have listed for at least $15,096—real money in 1987 and about $34,500 in 2019 dollars. A desperate product planner might have tried to get the leather seats from the Brougham available in the Coupe and maybe scored some black wall tires, but that’s another story …

These big and (I think) handsome coupes show up occasionally in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, though Hagerty’s valuation tools do not track Caprice Classic values between 1972 and 1991. When I last updated this blog entry in December 2019, there was a Dark Gray Metallic 1984 coupe with sand gray cloth seats and 150,000 miles for sale on Hemmings for $12,000. Make mine Silver Metallic, please, though I’m tempted by the Black/Medium Gray Metallic two-tone.

Another Caprice that I’ve written about is the 1985 Caprice Classic station wagon.

Updated December 2019.

1986 Chevrolet Camaro Berlinetta hatchback coupe

“Elegance With a Technical Touch.”

1986 was the last model year for the Berlinetta semi-luxury version of Chevrolet’s Camaro, and they were by far the rarest of the three Camaros types available. With only 4,579 Berlinettas built in 1986, Chevrolet sold more than eleven times as many IROC-Zs alone. There were few changes for the 1986 Berlinetta—among them the appearance of the federally mounted center high mounted stop lamp, new colors, updated interiors, and a new automatic closure for the large and heavy rear hatch.

The base powertrain for the Berlinetta was the LB8 135 bhp 2.8 liter/173 ci multi-port fuel injected V6 with a five-speed manual transmission. Optional power was the $450 LG4 155 bhp 5.0 liter/305 ci V8 with a Rochester Quadrajet four-barrel carburetor which was paired with a $425 four-speed automatic transmission (the five-speed manual was not available with the V8 on the Berlinetta).

Fuel economy with the base powertrain combination was 17 city/26 highway by the standards of the day (15/24 by modern standards). Moving up to the V8 dropped mileage ratings only slightly—to 17/25, and reduced the 0-60 mph time to a respectable 9 seconds in a car that weighed approximately 3,065 pounds. With a 16.2-gallon fuel tank (for some reason 0.7 gallons larger than with the V6), a V8 Berlinetta owner could expect a range of 275 to 305 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Camaro Berlinetta print advertisement.
Camaro Berlinetta print advertisement.

Your $11,902 base price (about $27,500 in today’s dollars—just a little less than what a decently-equipped 2019 Chevrolet Camaro 2LT hatchback coupe goes for) bought standard mechanical and exterior equipment including power brakes, power steering, dual horns, and P205/70R-14 blackwall steel-belted radial tires (a size still readily available) on 14 x 7 inch wheels with Berlinetta-specific full wheel covers. Inside, custom cloth reclining seats with adjustable headrests, a Berlinetta-only steering wheel, intermittent windshield wipers, a roof console with a removable flashlight, a fold-down rear seat, a locking rear storage cover, Quiet Sound Group, and an AM/FM stereo radio with clock and four speakers were included.

Of course, the most notable interior component in the Berlinetta was the “Welcome aboard Starship Camaro.” (yes, that was a real advertisement) electronic instrument cluster with dual adjustable control pods, a vacuum-fluorescent digital speedometer, and a bar graph tachometer. To an aspiring young audiophile, the killer feature of this interior was the optional (an extra $242) AM/FM stereo on a swivel with a “proper” upright (no slot) cassette deck and a five-band graphic equalizer. For 1986 only, the stereo received substantially improved backlighting.

Among the many exterior and mechanical options were four-wheel disc brakes ($179 and only available with the V8), t-tops ($846—ouch!), a rear spoiler ($69), halogen headlamps ($25), electric rear window defogger ($145), and nice looking Berlinetta-only aluminum finned wheels ($225). Inside, you could add cruise control ($185), Comfortilt steering wheel ($115), power door locks ($145), and Berlinetta-specific electronically-controlled air conditioning ($775). The Berlinetta could get expensive: I had no trouble getting getting a V8 version up to $15,400—about $35,600 in 2019 dollars or about what a loaded 2019 Camaro 3LT/RS hatchback coupe goes for.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1986 Berlinetta in (rare) #1/Concours condition is $13,400, with a more normal #3/Good condition car going for $6,200. In general, third-generation Camaros have good club support and are often available in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and eBay Motors. However, Berlinettas of any year (Chevrolet first brought them to market in 1979) are rare—though a couple showed up at auction in early 2019. There was a Bright Red 1984 Berlinetta with tan cloth seats, a V8, and 34,000 miles available for sale in Hemmings for $11,000 when I last checked in February 2019.

Make mine Black, please.

Thanks to the GM Heritage Center for some really specific information on the 1986 Berlinetta.

Updated February 2019.

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1980 Pontiac Sunbird Sport Hatch

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“Sunbird offers new thrills for the thrifty.”

1980 was the last model year for the rear wheel drive Pontiac Sunbird, Pontiac’s variant of Chevrolet’s Monza. Initially available in base coupe, sport coupe, and sport hatch (a base hatch was added mid-year, but the wagon was permanently gone), the Sunbird received few changes for 1980.

The standard engine was the LX8 Iron Duke 2.5 liter/151 ci inline four with a Rochester 2SE two-barrel carburetor, making all of 86 bhp. Optional was the LD5 110 bhp 3.8 liter/231 ci V6 with a Rochester M2ME two-barrel carburetor. A four-speed manual was standard, with an optional three-speed automatic available.

Mileage with the inline four and four-speed manual was pretty impressive in 1980: 22 city/35 highway by the standards of the day (around 17/27 by today’s standards). Getting decadent by spending $545 for the automatic and the V6 combination took mileage down to 20 city/27 highway. With the V6/automatic transmission pairing and an 18.5-gallon fuel tank, a Sunbird owner could expect a range of 300 to 390 miles.

Not much came standard for the $4,371 base price (approximately $14,900 in today’s dollars), especially to our 2020 eyes. Feature highlights for a base Sunbird included bright grill with park and signal lamps, whitewall tires, custom wheel covers, and “Sunbird external identification.” Inside, base Sunbirds included tinted windows, vinyl bucket seats, and a Delco AM radio.

Moving up to the sport coupe ($4,731) or the sport hatch ($4,731) added body color mirrors, “custom” vinyl bucket seats, and various moldings, but was still rather austere. Luxury trim ($195) added cloth seats along with snazzier carpeting and door trim.

1980 Pontiac Sunbird brochure picture
1980 Sunbird Sport Hatch with the Formula Package

Available only with the sport hatch, the rare (only 1% of production) and expensive ($674, or about $2,300 in today’s dollars) Formula Package added a front air dam and rear spoiler, along with blacked-out grille, and BR70-13 white lettered tires (nearly equivalent 195/70R13 tires are available from BF Goodrich) on 13-inch cast aluminum rally wheels with trim rings. It wasn’t all bark and no bite: the Rally Handling Package was included, with larger front and rear stabilizer bars. Inside, a tachometer and other rally gauges were included. The whole combination meant that a sport hatch with the Formula Package, the V6, and the four-speed manual came to $5,630 (about $19,200 in today’s dollars). The 0-60 time for this top-of-the-line Sunbird was probably around 10 seconds—not far from some versions of the line-leading 1980 Firebird Trans Am.

Mechanical options included variable-ratio power steering (the most popular option and required with the V6) and power front disc brakes. Inside, you could add Custom air conditioning ($531), a tilt steering wheel (which required power steering), and an AM/FM stereo cassette player (two different 8-track radios were also still available). A removable sunroof was also available for $193.

The rear wheel drive Sunbird sold well even in its final year, partially because of the extended model year. Almost 188,000 were sold with over 100,000 being the base coupe, making the Sunbird the best-selling of all the 1980 H-bodies. Pontiac would return partially to the Sunbird name with the 1983 2000 Sunbird convertible version of the J-body—by 1985, the Sunbird name would once again stand alone.

Sunbirds of this generation rarely come up for sale in Hemmings Motor News and eBay Motors—they seem to have disappeared entirely. You do occasionally see examples of the “sister” Chevrolet Monza advertised.

Make mine Agate Red, please.

Post updated when it made it to 1,000 views in July 2020.

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1985 Buick Somerset Regal coupe

Welcome, Jalopnik and Autoblog readers! We have many meh cars at Eighties Cars—the unloved category covers most of them.

I saw a reasonably original Buick Somerset Regal with Dark Gray Metallic paint on a side road in Philadelphia about a week ago. It was the first one I’d seen in many years.

“There has never been a Buick quite like the Somerset Regal”

Buick’s Somerset Regal was a new model for 1985. Available initially in coupe form only, Buick’s version of the N-body (Oldsmobile had the Calais, and Pontiac had the Grand Am) was designed to at least partially replace the Skylark. It failed miserably, only surviving for three years before being subsumed back into the Skylark product line. Respectable first-year sales of 86,076 declined to 75,620 in 1986 and 46,501 in 1987.

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1985 Buick Somerset Regal Limited, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

The Somerset Regal was not a big car by today’s standards. With 180 inches of length and a 103.4-inch wheelbase, it is within shouting distance of a 2019 Honda Civic coupe, which is 177.3 inches long and has a 106.3-inch wheelbase. Of course, cars, in general, have gotten a lot bigger in these thirty years—the Somerset Regal was notably more substantial than the 1985 Honda Accord.

The standard powertrain was a Tech IV 92 bhp 2.5 liter/151 ci inline four with throttle body fuel injection (a slightly upgraded Iron Duke) paired with a five-speed manual transmission, but I believe most buyers went with the optional ($425) three-speed automatic instead. The hot set-up (if you could call it that) was the optional ($560) LN7 125 bhp 3.0 liter/181 ci multi-port fuel-injected V6, only available with the automatic. 0-60 times ranged from 10.5 to 13 seconds.

Mileage for the inline four and five-speed manual combination was an impressive 24 city/34 highway by the standards of the day (21/31 by 2018 standards). Choosing the more realistic three-speed automatic cost two mpg while upgrading to the V6 dropped you all the way down to 20 city/26 highway. With a 13.6-gallon gas tank, owners of the most profligate powertrain combination could expect a range of between 255 and 280 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

1985BuickSomersetRegal
1985 Buick Somerset Regal interior, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

For the Somerset Regal’s $8,857 base price (about $21,300 in today’s dollars), standard equipment included power brakes, power steering, tungsten-halogen headlights, and body-colored bumpers. The interior included cloth or vinyl bucket seats, a center console, brushed metal accents, electronic digital instrumentation (somewhat upmarket at the time), and an AM radio. Moving up to the Limited trim added dual horns, chrome bumpers, and courtesy lamps, along with snazzier cloth seats and steering wheel.

Standard features that date the Somerset Regal included the Delco Freedom II Plus battery, front and rear ashtrays in the console, and the P185/80R13 tires (now considered a trailer size) on 13-inch wheels.

Options included the $645 air conditioning (in the mid-1980s not yet standard on most cars), cruise control ($175), leather seats ($275 and only available with the Limited), power door locks ($130), power windows ($195), Vista-Vent sunroof, Delco GM/Bose Music System AM/FM stereo cassette ($995!), cast-aluminum wheels ($229), and a Gran Touring suspension ($27).