1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI

“Affordable German Performance.”

The 1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI three-door hatchback defined the “pocket rocket” for the US market, just as it had defined it in Europe since 1977. The Giorgetto Guigiaro-designed Rabbit was a small car by modern standards—the 155.3 inch length puts it squarely in modern Mini territory and makes it more than a foot shorter than a 2016 Golf GTI.

Under the blacked-out, red-lined, and badged hood was a 90 bhp 1.8 liter Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injected in-line four which VW dared to declare was “brawny.” A five-speed manual transmission completed the rest of the powertrain—there was no optional automatic transmission.

Car and Driver recorded a 9.7 second 0-60 time (Road & Track managed a 10.6 second 0-60) in the 1,918 pound car—faster than the same year’s BMW 320i and many other sporting cars of the era. Top speed was 104 mph. Fuel economy was rated at 26 city/33 highway; a 10 gallon fuel tank gave a 265 mile range with a 10% reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment in the $7,990 GTI (about $19,700 in 2015 dollars) included vented front disc brakes, rack and pinion steering, halogen headlights, a urethane front air dam, and Pirelli P6 185/60HR-14 radial tires mounted on 14 x 6 inch alloy wheels. Inside, a sport steering wheel borrowed from the Scirocco, heavily bolstered sports seats, a center console with additional gauges, and a golf-ball shift knob were included.

Options included air conditioning, a sunroof, and an AM/FM stereo with a cassette player and four speakers ($450).

1983 Rabbit GTIs sold like hot cakes when new and first-generation GTIs definitely have a following. Many were driven hard when no longer new, so there’s a paucity of cream-puffs out there. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1983 Rabbit GTI in #1 condition is $11,900, with a more normal #3 condition car going for $4,400. GTIs sometimes show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors.

Make mine black, please.

1983 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe

“Ford presents a dramatic new balance of form and function.”

The aerodynamic styling of Ford’s 1983 Thunderbird was a breath of fresh air and a huge change from the boxy and unloved eighth-generation 1980-1982 models, though the underlying components were still based on the Fox platform. For 1983, the Thunderbird came in base, Heritage, and Turbo Coupe models.

The $11,790 Turbo Coupe ($27,800 in today’s dollars) used Ford’s 145 bhp port fuel injected and turbocharged 4-cylinder Lima 2.3 liter engine and came with a standard five-speed manual transmission. Other upgrades included the Traction-Lok limited-slip differential, Goodyear Eagle P205/70HR tires on 14-inch cast aluminum wheels, Marchal foglamps, and a sportier interior with analog gauges.

Fuel economy ratings for the Turbo Coupe were 22 city/33 highway by the standards of the day. 0-60 came in around 9 seconds in the 3,140 pound car. The car didn’t just look aerodynamic—the drag coefficient was a very competitive 0.35.

Standard mechanical features on the Turbo Coupe included power steering and power brakes. Inside, all Turbo Coupe buyers got a leather-wrapped steering wheel, articulated seats, and an AM/FM stereo radio. Options included front cornering lamps ($68), tilt steering ($105), power door locks ($172), and a premium sound system ($179).

Reviews were generally good and the newly aerodynamic Thunderbird sold well. After dropping down below 50,000 sales for the 1982 model year with the last of the eighth-generation ‘birds, the ninth generation would not see sales of less than 120,000 per year.


Hagerty’s valuation tools do not track any Thunderbird after 1982. Thunderbird Turbo Coupes only occasionally show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds—you do see them more often on eBay Motors. Make mine Silver, please.

1983 Ford Mustang Convertible

I was driving westbound on the Schuylkill Expressway in Philadelphia this morning and saw a Fox Mustang convertible (red exterior, black top). A good enough reason to write a blog entry about these attractive cars.

“It’s not just a convertible … it’s a Mustang.”

For 1983, the big news for the Ford Mustang was the return of the convertible for the first time since the 1973 model year. Introduced on November 5th, 1982, the convertible was available only in the luxury GLX trim and the performance GT trim—lower end L and GL trims remained with the notchback coupe (L and GL) and the hatchback coupe (GL). The GLX was also available only with V-6 and V-8 engines (no inline 4—turbo or not—would sully the droptop experience).

The V-6 engine choice for the GLX was the 112 bhp Essex 3.8 liter with two-barrel carburetor. Optional on the GLX ($595 additional) and standard on the GT was (of course) the 175 bhp Windsor 4.9 liter V-8 with four-barrel carburetor.

Starting at $9,449 (about $22,500 in today’s dollars) and rising significantly during the middle of the model year to a non-trivial $12,467 (about $29,600 in 2015 funds, which is almost exactly what a 2015 Mustang V6 starts at), the GLX did come fairly well equipped. Standard external and mechanical features included power front disc brakes, tinted glass, and an automatic transmission. Standard interior equipment included light group and AM radio.

The GT version of the convertible listed for $13,479 (about $32,000 in 2015 dollars). Standard external and mechanical features included power front disc brakes, power steering, rear spoiler, and a five-speed manual transmission. Standard interior equipment included an AM radio.

The Mustang option list was long. Inside, air conditioning ($724), speed control ($170), power locks ($160), tilt steering wheel ($105), and AM/FM stereo radio with cassette player ($199) were all available.

All 1983 Mustang convertibles came with a power top and all windows rolled down—an emphasis Ford frequently made in reference to the Chrysler K car convertibles.

Page from the 1983 Ford Mustang brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

The 1983 Ford Mustang convertible sold fairly well considering its expense (the GT convertible stickered for 45% more than the GT hatchback). For that year, it probably saved total Mustang sales from dropping below 100,000—helping hold that off until 1991. Between 1983 and 1993, Ford would sell over a quarter of a million of the pony car convertibles.


There is strong club support for the 1983 Mustang, as there is for all Mustangs except the mid-seventies Mustang IIs. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1983 Mustang GT convertible in #1 condition is $17,800, with a more normal number #3 condition car going for $6,700. 1983 Mustangs often show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds—as I write this in February 2015, there’s a well equipped red V-6 GLX with a black top and a black vinyl interior with 11,000 miles available for $10,000.

Make mine Medium Red, please.

1983 Imperial

“A singular statement of car and driver.”

Brought to market in part to reassure buyers of Chrysler products that company would be staying around, the “bustleback” Imperial was introduced in 1981. By 1983, the Cordoba-based luxury coupe was in its final year, selling a mere 1,427 units as all rear-wheel drive Chryslers continued their decline.

For 1983, the powertrain continued to be the same: the 140 bhp LA electronic throttle-body fuel injected 5.2 liter (318 cubic inch) V8 paired with a three speed automatic transmission. Despite serious attempts at increasing quality (each Imperial went on a five-and-a-half mile test drive and had numerous other checks by technicians before it was shipped), the bleeding edge fuel injection continued to be stunningly unreliable—Chrysler frequently ended up replacing it with a carbureted system at a cost of $3,500 plus about 50 hours of labor.

Performance for the 3,900 pound coupe wasn’t very good: 0-60 came in about 14 seconds. Fuel economy was rated at 16 mpg, giving an unimpressive range of less than 300 miles with the 18 gallon gas tank.

Standard mechanical equipment for the loaded $18,688 Imperial (approximately $44,700 in today’s dollars or more than the list price of a loaded 2014 Chrysler 300C) included halogen headlights, power brakes, power steering, cruise control, and Goodyear Arriva P205/75R15 steel-belted radial whitewall tires (a size still easily available) on cast aluminum wheels. Exterior equipment included power heated mirrors, power windows, intermittent windshield wipers, and a rear window defroster. Interior equipment included “semi-automatic” air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, power seats, and a 30-watt AM/FM stereo with cassette and power antenna.

Unusual standard equipment for 1983 in any car included an electronic instrument cluster, a garage door opener, and a two year/30,000 mile warranty (a lot of warranty in those unreliable days). The only extra cost option was high altitude emissions ($75—why did Chrysler cheap out at this point?); no cost options included cloth and vinyl seats, Michelin tires, and wire wheel covers. There was no Frank Sinatra edition for 1983.

Page from the 1983 Imperial brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

Especially from the rear, the Imperial looked a lot like Cadillac’s 1980 Seville redesign, but was evidently a separate idea—exterior design had actually begun in 1977.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1983 Imperial in #1 condition is $10,500, with a more normal #3 condition car fetching $4,000. Imperials do show up in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds—as I write this in September 2014, there’s a Pearl White 1981 with 29,000 miles available for $3,250.

Not surprisingly, allpar.com has an interesting and detailed article on the 1981-1983 Imperial—it is here. Make mine Black, please.

1983 Isuzu Impulse

“Follow Your Impulse”

1983 was the first model year that Isuzu’s Impulse (known as the Piazza in most other parts of the world) became available in the United States. The first-generation Impulse was built on a variant of the aging rear-drive T-body chassis used by the lowly Chevrolet Chevette, but was definitely aimed at a notably different market.

The Impulse came much better equipped than a Chevette: standard mechanical equipment for the $9,998 base price (about $23,700 in 2014 dollars) included alloy wheels and four wheel disc brakes. Inside, power steering, power windows, power door locks, cruise control, air conditioning, tinted glass, a tilt steering wheel, and an AM/FM stereo radio were all included. Optional equipment was spare, with only an improved stereo and turbine wheels available.

For 1983, power for the 2,700 pound Impulse was provided by a 90 bhp 1.9 liter SOHC inline four with multi-point fuel injection (the turbocharged engine did not become available until 1985). Transmissions available were a standard five speed manual and an optional four speed automatic. Fuel economy with the manual transmission was 22 city/28 highway by the standards of the day (19/26 by 2014 standards). 0-60 took around 11 to 12 seconds, with a top speed of about 100 mph.

Of course, the Impulse’s absolute killer feature was its exterior styling, which was very close to Giorgetto Giugiaro’s 1979 “Ace Of Clubs” show car.

First-generation Isuzu Impulse, courtesy of Isuzu.
First-generation Isuzu Impulse, courtesy of Isuzu.

Isuzu gets real credit for messing as little as possible with Giugiaro’s excellent and differentiating design — few automakers were willing to leave as well enough alone as they did. They only did a few things, adding slightly larger bumpers to meet the 5 mph DOT requirement, shortening the windshield and lengthening the hood to allow for easier installation of the engine on the assembly line, and enlarging the overall dimensions a few inches to allow for more interior space. Make my Impulse black, please.

1983 Ferrari Berlinetta Boxer 512i

I live about a mile from a Ferrari dealership. As I walked nearby it earlier this week, I saw a trailer parked around the corner with a low-slung sports car inside. Getting a little closer showed that it was definitely a Berlinetta Boxer—possibly this one. “Now that’s a Ferrari!”, I said. The man unloading the car chuckled as I walked away.

For 1983, Ferrari’s lovely Pinanfarina-designed Berlinetta Boxer 512i received few if any changes. The Boxer’s engine was Ferrari’s 340 bhp 4.9 liter flat 12 with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection – the BB512 had moved to fuel injection (and added the i) for the 1982 model year. When paired with the five-speed manual transmission, 0-60 came in about 5.5 seconds with a top speed of 170 mph or so—fast, fast, fast for 1983.

Ferraris had gotten more luxurious: standard equipment on the BB512i included air conditioning (often said to be inadequate), leather seats, power mirrors, power windows, power door locks driven from the key, a Nardi steering wheel, and a Pioneer AM/FM stereo cassette deck with 7-band graphic equalizer.

Although the Berlinetta Boxer was not legal in the U.S., some importers converted them to U.S. specifications with the addition of catalytic converters, side reflectors, and larger bumpers.

Of course, there’s a fairly famous eighties music video associated with this car.

Sammy Hagar may have his issues, but the Ferrari BB512i he drives in the video made for this song demonstrates exquisite taste. When interviewed by Motor Trend in 2008, he still owned it.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1983 Berlinetta Boxer 512i in #1 condition is $185,000 (though recent auction results may make that seem low). A more “normal” #3 condition example is valued at $122,000. Berlinetta Boxers seem to come up for auction more than as standard sales—Auctions America has 1984 BB512i on the docket for August.

There’s some really excellent support for Berlinetta Boxers (and all Ferraris) from the folks on FerrariChat (who contributed to this post).

Make mine Rosso Corsa (red), please, though I’m quite tempted by how they look in Grigio (grey).

1983 Audi Quattro

“Totally different by design.”

Audi’s Quattro had been changing the perception of all wheel drive in Europe since late 1980, but finally made it to American soil for the 1983 model year with a few modifications (such as larger bumpers) specific to the market.

The only available engine was the WX turbocharged and fuel injected 2.1 liter inline 5 cylinder making 160 bhp and running on premium gas. This engine was paired with a five speed manual transmission connected to (of course!) the Quattro generation I four wheel drive system with manually lockable center and rear differentials. Motor Trend clocked a 1983 Quattro with a 0-60 time of 7.9 seconds – not bad for the early eighties. Fuel economy was 17 city/28 highway by the standards of the day (14/20 by today’s standards).

The Quattro was an expensive car, especially for an eighties Audi – almost three times the cost of the far more plebeian Audi 80 coupe it was based on (and whose squarish styling it closely resembled). At $35,000 (about $83,300 in 2014 dollars) it was approximately $5,000 more than a 1983 Porsche 911. But, there was nothing like it.

All 1983 Quattros included four wheel disc brakes, an independent suspension, tinted glass, front and rear spoilers, and 15-inch alloy wheels with 205/60R15 tires. Inside, power steering, power door locks, power windows, full gauges, cruise control, and an AM/FM stereo cassette were all included.

Options for the 1983 Quattro were relatively few and included a power sunroof ($450), leather trim ($1,500), and a rear wiper/washer ($210).

Original (“Ur”) Quattros have a strong following, though total sales in the United States were only 664 over the three years between 1983 and 1985. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for an 1983 Audi Quattro in #1 condition is $37,500. A more “normal” Quattro in #3 condition is valued at $10,700.

Color is a tough choice here, but I’m going to violate my usual “it is a German car, it looks good in silver” rule and ask that mine be Mars Red.