1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme

 “America’s favorite Cutlass for flair, value and price”

For 1981, the exterior of Oldsmobile’s Cutlass Supreme was substantially revised, with a lowered front, a slightly higher decklid, and quad headlamps. With the new styling, aerodynamic drag dropped by about 15%.

The standard engine remained the 110 bhp 3.8 liter V6 with two-barrel Rochester carburetor. The optional engines, a 4.3 liter gasoline V8 ($50) and a 5.7 liter diesel V8 ($695!), both had (this makes no sense) five less horsepower than the V6. A three-speed automatic transmission was the only transmission available. Mileage with the V6 was 21 city/30 highway by the standards of the day.

Standard equipment on the $7,484 Cutlass Supreme (about $21,500 in today’s dollars) included power steering, power front disc brakes, bench seats with a choice of vinyl or cloth, and P195/75R14 radial tires (a size last seen on nineties Volkswagen vans).

Optional exterior and mechanical equipment included cast aluminum wheels, tungsten halogen high-beam headlamps, engine block heater, limited slip differential, power antenna, dual sport mirrors, electric rear window defogger, and removable glass roof panels ($695). Inside, you could add either Four-Season or Tempmatic air conditioning, Tilt-Away steering wheel, cruise control, power windows, power door locks, bucket seats, digital or regular electric clock, and a series of radios.

Page from the 1981 mid-size Oldsmobile brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

The Cutlass Supreme sure was popular—Oldsmobile sold almost 189,000 of them in the 1981 model year along with another 94,000 Cutlass Supreme Brougham coupes for a total of over a quarter of a million.

There are a few folks collecting these cars, but they aren’t common at shows. You do see Cutlass Supremes for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors: as I write this in June 2015, there’s a brown/beige two-tone Cutlass Supreme with a beige interior and 28,000 miles listed on Hemming’s for $13,000.

Make mine Dark Blue Metallic, please.

1981 Toyota Celica Sport Coupe

We do requests on Eighties Cars, whether or not they are definitive ones. A friend of mine mentioned his 1981 Celica in one of the forums I frequent and that was enough inspiration for me.

 “The Ultimate Toyota.”

1981 was the final year for the second-generation Toyota Celica which had debuted in 1978. Despite this, there were some significant changes, including a new engine.

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1981 Celica and Celica Supra poster, courtesy of Flickr user Alden Jewell.

The Celica’s new engine for 1981 was the 2.4 liter 97 bhp 22R two-barrel carburated inline four cylinder. Paired with a five speed manual transmission, fuel economy was an impressive 25 city/37 highway by the standards of the day (22/34 by today’s standards). Choosing the optional four speed automatic transmission dropped economy slightly to 25 city/35 highway (22/32 by 2014 standards).

The Celica Sport Coupe was available in ST and GT trim levels. Standard equipment on the Celica ST ($6,699 or about $17,500 in today’s dollars)  included electronic ignition, an FM radio, reclining front bucket seats, “cut pile wall-to-wall carpeting”, power front disc brakes and rear drum brakes, and styled steel wheels with 185/70R14 tires.

Moving up to the GT ($7,429 or about $19,400 in today’s dollars) added features such as tungsten halogen high beams, dual outside mirrors, a dressed up instrument panel and console, and a locking gas cap.

Optional equipment included air conditioning, sunroof, and power steering. Aluminum alloy wheels, rear window defogger, and cruise control were GT only options.

1981 Plymouth Reliant

I don’t know if he was serious, but one of the folks on Corvette Guru asked me when I was going to do a write-up on the K cars. So, here’s the Plymouth version.

“right for the times we drive in”

The 1981 Plymouth Reliant (along with its sibling the Dodge Aries) are the K-body cars often (and reasonably) credited with saving Chrysler in the early 1980s.

The first K cars were basic transportation, famously (like the GM X cars a year before) with no roll-down rear windows and just barely mid-size by the EPA’s classification. For $5,880 (about $16,900 in 2015 dollars), you got a Reliant coupe with rack and pinion steering and a front vinyl bench seat. Base tires were P175/75R13—a size that basically doesn’t exist any more. The upmarket tire was a P165/75R14—a size that fit the mid-90s Plymouth Neon compact just fine.

Spending another $500 or so moved you up to Custom trim, which added halogen headlights, a cloth front bench seat, a cigarette lighter, a color-keyed steering wheel, a digital clock, and an AM radio. Custom wagons also got power brakes.

The top-of the line Special Edition (SE) Reliants added power steering, power brakes, dual horns, deluxe wheel covers, and a snazzier steering wheel. An option only available to the SE was cloth bucket seats.

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1981 Plymouth Reliant two door coupe, scan courtesy of Alden Jewell

All levels of trim were sold as four door sedans and two door coupes, but station wagons were only available in Custom and SE trims. In 1981, the 151,000 buyers split almost evenly between the three trim levels.

Options included air conditioning (which required tinted glass and power brakes—things were tightly engineered in the early 1980s), cruise control, power door locks, power front seats (said to be quite rare), along with a variety of radios.

Standard engine was a 84 bhp 2.2 liter inline 4 with two-barrel carburetor—a Mitsubishi built 92 bhp 2.6 liter inline 4 was optional. The standard transmission was a four speed manual, with a three speed automatic optional. Gas mileage with the standard combination was rated at 29 city/41 highway by the standards of the day.

Motor Trend managed to get a 2.2 liter with the automatic to do 0-60 in 12.5 seconds—they tried with another Reliant running the same combination and it took 14.0 (oog) seconds. Top speed (if you could call it that) ranged from 88 to 96 mph.

Thanks to the crazy folks at Allpar for much of the source material for this post.

1981 Chevrolet Citation X-11

I walked past a small junkyard in Philadelphia yesterday. A Maroon Citation X-11 was recognizable though not really well-preserved, but it did encourage me to finally publish this blog post.

“It gives you goose bumps.”

Chevrolet’s Citation X-car is now known mostly for being constantly recalled, but there were some positive points. The X-11 sporty version was a definite glimmer of hope.

The Citation X-11 was built around a specific engine for its entire life. For 1981, the $1,498 X-11 package featured the LH7 2.8 liter “HO” V6 with Rochester 2 barrel carburetor, making 135 bhp, instead of the 110 bhp that the “generic” LE2 V6 made in other Citations. Upgrades from the LE2 to the LE7 included a higher compression ratio (8.9:1 versus 8.5:1). The standard transmission was the four speed manual with a three speed automatic optional. The four speed along with the X-11’s special axle ratio was good enough to give a 0-60 time of around 8.5 seconds.

Other changes for 1981 were the addition of a hood bulge and aluminum alloy wheels. The X-11 also received power brakes and the F41 Sport Suspension, which featured revised shock absorbers, stiffer anti-roll bars, and P215/60R14 tires. Inside was an instrument panel that included a five-gauge cluster, a leather-wrapped sport steering wheel, and cloth bucket seats. Exterior X-11 specific appearance items included a black grill and body accents, sport mirrors, and a rear spoiler.

X-11 page from the 1981 Chevrolet Citation brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

Options available included air conditioning ($585), cruise control ($123), intermittent wipers ($41), rear defogger ($107), and tilt steering wheel ($81).

X-11’s do sometimes show up in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds but, as I write this in February 2014, there are none for sale.