1983 Toyota Camry sedan

“Introducing the family Camry”

The Toyota Camry debuted in the middle of the 1983 model year, in four-door sedan and five-door hatchback models. Instead of being designed to compete with European manufacturers, the Camry was designed to compete with American cars—in fact, Car and Driver famously wrote that “the Camry drives as if Buick engineers had moonlighted on its development.” The Camry’s measurements ended up splitting the difference in size between the GM J-body (Buick Skyhawk, Cadillac Cimarron, Chevrolet Cavalier, Oldsmobile Firenza, and Pontiac 2000) and the GM X-body (Buick Skylark, Chevrolet Citation, Oldsmobile Omega, and Pontiac Phoenix).

Power for the first-year Camry was provided by a 92 bhp 2.0 liter/122 ci inline four with fuel injection, which was available with either a standard five-speed manual or an optional four-speed automatic. With the manual, 0-60 mph came in a little under 13 seconds in the 2,236-pound car. Mileage was good—32 city/44 highway by the standards of the day (25/31 by modern standards). With a 14.5-gallon gas tank, a Camry owner could expect a 365 to 495 mile range with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard equipment on the $7,988 (about $20,000 in today’s dollars—a 2018 Camry starts at $23,500) DLX sedan included front wheel drive, a four-wheel independent suspension, and 185/70R13 tires (a size still available from Kumho and Vredestein) on 13-inch wheels. Upgrading to the $9,698 LE made the four-speed automatic standard and added variable-effort power steering, rear window defogger, dual remote side mirrors, full instrumentation, reclining cloth bucket seats, and an AM/FM stereo radio with five speakers.

Individual options were relatively few and included air conditioning, sunroof, and a cruise control/power locks/power windows package.

The first-generation Camry was well received and got good reviews—the tagline in Car and Driver‘s test was “At home in America.” 52,651 were sold in that first model year, with sales increasing steadily throughout the decade.

Unlike other Toyotas that are deemed more collectible from the eighties (Land Cruisers, pickup trucks, Celicas, Supras, MR2s), first-generation Camrys rarely come up for sale for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors.

1983 Buick Skylark T TYPE coupe

“A road car with a very distinct personality.”

Buick offered five separate T TYPE models (their spelling) in 1983. One of the new ones was the Skylark coupe, Buick’s version of the X-car.

The Skylark T TYPE‘s standard powertrain was the LH7 “high output” 135 bhp 2.8 liter/173 ci V6 with a Rochester E2SE two-barrel carburetor paired with a four-speed manual. The 0-60 time was a little over 9 seconds—respectable but not great in 1983. Mileage was 21 city/34 highway by the standards of the day (17/23 by today’s standards). With a 15.1-gallon fuel tank, a T TYPE owner could expect a range of 270 to 375 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard mechanical equipment on the $9,337 T TYPE coupe (about $24,000 in today’s dollars or about what a base 2018 Regal Sportback costs) included a Sport suspension (stiffer rate springs, stiffer shock absorbers, a more rigid front stabilizer bar, and added rear stabilizer bar), a “special tuned” exhaust, a 3.65:1 final drive ratio, and P215/60R14 steel belted radial tires (a size still available from BFGoodrich and Riken) on 14-inch styled aluminum wheels. Exterior equipment specific to the T TYPE included a blacked out grille, smoked tail lamp lenses, and charcoal lower body accent paint. Inside, vinyl or cloth bucket seats with backrest recliner, full-length operating console, special sport steering wheel, and color-coordinated seat belt buckles were included.

Standard equipment on all Skylarks included front wheel drive, power rack and pinion steering, power front disc/rear drum brakes, tungsten-halogen high/low beam headlamps, a Delco Freedom II Plus battery, and an AM radio with two front speakers and a fixed-mast radio antenna.

Options included dual electric remote mirrors ($78), Vista-Vent flip-open removable glass sunroof ($295), air conditioning ($725), Cruise Master speed control with resume ($170), power windows ($180), tilt steering ($105), and an ETR AM/FM stereo radio with cassette player and graphic equalizer ($505).

Skylark pages from the 1983 Buick T TYPEs brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

Despite Buick’s commitment to extending the T TYPE line (they even went to the trouble of creating a T TYPE brochure), sales were not impressive—about 3.5% of the sales of the Skyhawk, Skylark, Century, Regal, and Riviera. Of the T TYPEs, the Skylark was comparatively successful, with 2,489 sold—about 6.1% of overall Skylark sales.

I haven’t seen a Skylark T TYPE since they were new and I saw one parked outside of the long-gone Crown Buick on the Lincoln Highway in Ardmore, PA. Skylarks of this era are rarely seen in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors—when one does come up for sale Hemmings considers it worthy of a portion of a blog entry.

There were only four exterior colors available for the Skylark T TYPE: White, Silver, Dark Red, and Light Sand Gray. Make mine Silver, please.

1983 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe

A recent query about whether I had done a write-up on a Thunderbird Turbo Coupe compelled me to update this post written a few years ago, changing it enough to consider it a new entry.

“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 substantial change from the boxy and unloved eighth-generation 1980-1982 models, though the underlying components remained the Fox platform. For 1983, the Thunderbird came in base, Heritage, and Turbo Coupe models.

The Turbo Coupe featured Ford’s Lima 142 bhp 2.3 liter/140 ci inline four with Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection and a Garrett turbocharger and came with a standard five-speed manual transmission. Road & Track recorded a 0-60 time of 9.7 seconds in a Turbo Coupe that weighed 3,420 pounds as tested. Ford’s new coupe didn’t just look aerodynamic—the drag coefficient was a very competitive 0.35. Fuel economy ratings for the Turbo Coupe were 21 city/33 highway by the standards of the day (17/24 by today’s standards). With an 18.0-gallon fuel tank, a Turbo Coupe owner could expect a range of between 330 and 435 miles with a 10% reserve—decent for a mid-size performance coupe in the early to mid-1980s.

The Turbo Coupe started at $11,790—approximately $30,300 in today’s dollars and nearly what a 2019 Mustang EcoBoost Premium Fastback (also with a turbocharged 2.3 liter inline four) costs. Standard exterior and mechanical features on the Turbo Coupe included variable ratio power rack-and-pinion steering, power brakes, power mirrors, a Traction-Lok limited-slip differential, Marchal foglamps, and Goodyear Eagle HR 205/70R-14 tires (a size still readily available) on 14-inch x 5.5-inch cast aluminum wheels. Inside, all Turbo Coupe buyers got a leather-wrapped steering wheel, articulated front 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).

Two pages from the 1983 Ford Thunderbird brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

Reviews were quite good—Road & Track‘s tagline was “An enthusiast’s Bird comes soaring back”—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.

For unclear reasons, Hagerty’s valuation tools do not track any Thunderbird after 1982 (they do monitor the related Lincoln Continental Mark VII). Thunderbird Turbo Coupes only occasionally show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds. You do see them more often on eBay Motors; as I update this blog entry in December 2018, there’s a 1985 Silver Clearcoat Metallic/Medium Charcoal Clearcoat Metallic two-tone Turbo Coupe with Oxford Gray cloth seats and 52,000 miles listed for $8,500. Make mine Silver, please.

Updated December 2018.

1983 Mercury Grand Marquis sedan

As I walked to the train earlier the week, I saw an eighties Mercury Grand Marquis sedan idling on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. It stood out because of its size (at 214 inches these cars are more than a foot longer than a 2018 Lincoln Continental) and its new for 1979 squareness. Reason enough to write a (rare) Mercury blog entry (my only other one so far is about the 1986 Mercury Capri).

“A Lesson In Luxury”

For 1983, Mercury renamed all versions of the full-size Marquis to Grand Marquis and moved the Marquis name to the mid-size Fox platform. Other than the name change, changes for the Grand Marquis were relatively modest: there were new full-width wraparound tail lamps and a modified grille. New options included a remote locking fuel filler door ($24), locking wire wheel covers ($168), and a Tripminder trip computer ($261) which showed month/day/time, elapsed time, average speed, average MPG, instantaneous MPG, and gallons of fuel used. In their annual “Charting the Changes” roundup, Car and Driver once again made the ritual complaint that there was still no de Sad package.

The standard engine in 1983 was Ford’s 130 bhp 4.9 liter/302 ci V8 with fuel injection paired to a four-speed automatic. Somewhat strangely to our modern eyes, the optional power upgrade was a carburetted version of the same motor with 145 bhp. These were not fast cars—with an almost 3,800-pound curb weight, 0-60 came in about 12 seconds. Mileage with the standard powertrain was 17 city/27 highway by the standards of the day (14/20 by today’s standards). With the 18-gallon fuel tank, Grand Marquis drivers could expect a range of 275 to 355 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $10,718 Grand Marquis (about $26,900 in today’s dollars) included a coach vinyl roof, coach lamps, halogen headlamps, power brakes (front disc and rear drum), power steering, and P215/75R14 steel-belted white sidewall radial tires on 14-inch wheels with deluxe wheel covers. Inside, cloth/vinyl Twin Comfort Lounge seats with dual front seat recliners, a four-spoke luxury (the Grand Marquis brochure mentioned luxury a lot) steering wheel, an analog quartz clock, and an AM/FM stereo radio with four speakers were included. Standard items that Mercury proudly listed that do not impress in 2017 included a front stabilizer bar, seat belt warning chimes, and carpeted lower door trim panels.

Upgrading to the $11,273 LS added tinted glass, luxury cloth Twin Comfort Lounge seats, cloth-trimmed headrests, right-hand visor vanity mirror, map pockets in front seatback, luxury door trim with armrest woodtone inserts and courtesy lights, dual beam dome/map light, dual fold-down front center armrests, rear-seat folding center armrest, and the all-important LS badge on the rear decklid.

Exterior and mechanical options included the Traction-Lok differential ($95) and cast aluminum turbine spoke wheels ($361) which required P205/75R15 tires ($17). Interior options included manual air conditioning ($724), automatic air conditioning ($802), 6-way power driver’s seat ($210) or driver’s and passenger’s seats ($420), power door locks ($123), fingertip speed control ($170), and tilt steering wheel ($105). Audio options included a host of optional radios with 8-track or cassette player, a power antenna ($60), and Premium Sound System with two additional speakers in the front doors, upgraded rear speakers, and an extra power amplifier ($175 base/$145 LS). Leather seating surfaces ($418) were only available on the LS. All these options meant that a loaded Grand Marquis LS could quickly get close to the Lincoln Town Car’s pricing territory—I quickly priced one to $14,584 (about $36,700 in 2017 dollars).

The rear cover of the 1983 Mercury Grand Marquis brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

The Grand Marquis sold well for Mercury in 1983—72,207 sedans, 11,117 coupes, and 12,394 Colony Park wagons made it one of the division’s best sellers—23% of sales in a year when Mercury also offered the Capri, Cougar, LN7 (remember the LN7?), Lynx, Marquis, and Zephyr.

The first-generation Grand Marquis sometimes shows up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. Make mine Midnight Blue Metallic, I think.

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1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI hatchback coupe

“Affordable German Performance.”

The 1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI three-door hatchback defined the “pocket rocket” for the US market, just as it had established it in Europe since 1977. The Giorgetto Giugiaro-designed Rabbit was a small car by modern standards—the 155.3-inch length puts it squarely in modern Mini territory and makes it about a foot shorter than a 2019 Golf GTI.

Under the blacked-out, red-lined, and badged hood was a 90 bhp 1.8 liter/109 ci inline four with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection—an engine 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/36 highway (21/26 by today’s standards); a 10-gallon fuel tank gave a 210 to 280-mile range with a 10% reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment in the $7,990 GTI (about $20,500 in 2018 dollars—well under what a 2019 Golf GTI S goes for) included vented front disc brakes, rack and pinion steering, halogen headlights, a urethane front air dam, and Pirelli P6 185/60HR-14 radial tires (a size still readily available) mounted on 14 x 6 inch “Snowflake” 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 (dealer installed), a sunroof, and an AM/FM stereo with a cassette player and four speakers ($450).

The 1983 Rabbit GTI got good reviews (Car and Driver included it in their first 10Best) and sold well—Volkswagon built about 30,000 copies over two years at their Westmoreland County, PA plant. First-generation GTIs certainly have a following, but 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/Concours condition is $18,200, with a more normal #3/Good condition car going for $6,000. Values are also up notably; that perfect #1 car was only $10,700 five years ago. GTIs sometimes show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, but there were none for sale when I updated this blog entry in December 2018.

Make mine Black, please.

Updated in December 2018.

1983 Ford Mustang GT 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 V6 and V8 engines (no inline four—turbo or not—would sully the drop-top experience).

The V6 engine choice for the GLX was the Essex 112 bhp 3.8 liter/231 ci with a two-barrel carburetor. Optional on the GLX ($595 additional) and standard on the GT was (of course) the Windsor 175 bhp 4.9 liter/302 ci V8 with a four-barrel carburetor.

Starting at $9,449 (about $24,200 in today’s dollars) and rising significantly during the middle of the model year to a non-trivial $12,467 (about $31,600 in 2018 funds, which is almost exactly what a 2019 Mustang EcoBoost convertible starts at), the GLX did come reasonably 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 $34,600 in 2018 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.

All 1983 Mustangs included dual rectangular halogen headlamps, a modified MacPherson strut front suspension, front disc/rear drum brakes, and rack and pinion steering. Inside, full instrumentation (tachometer, trip odometer, fuel/temperature/oil/alternator gauges), full vinyl bucket seats, and a cigarette lighter were included.

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 a 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.

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

The 1983 Ford Mustang convertible sold reasonably 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.

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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/Concours condition is $21,000, with a more normal number #3/Good condition car going for $7,900. 1983 Mustangs often show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors—as I update this in February 2019, there’s a 1983 Mustang GLX convertible with a white top, a white vinyl interior, a V8, and 25,000 miles available for $11,700.

Make mine Medium Red, please.

Updated February 2019.

1983 Chrysler Imperial coupe

While out in driving late in 2014, I saw an early 1980s Chrysler Imperial aggressively carving the back roads in the Philadelphia suburbs near where I live. The body design remains utterly distinctive: the alacrity with which the Imperial was moving makes me assume that it had the carburetor conversion and/or some other engine upgrade.

“A singular statement of car and driver.”

Chrysler introduced the “bustle back” Imperial for the 1981 model year, bringing it to market in part to reassure potential buyers that the company would remain in business. 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 LA 140 bhp electronic throttle-body fuel injected 5.2 liter/318 ci V8 paired with a TorqueFlite three-speed automatic transmission. Despite notable attempts at increasing quality (each Imperial went on a five-and-a-half mile test drive and received numerous other checks before shipping from the factory), the bleeding edge fuel injection continued to be stunningly unreliable—Chrysler frequently ended up replacing it with a carburetted system at the cost of $3,500 plus about 50 hours of labor.

Performance for the 3,900-pound coupe wasn’t impressive: 0-60 came in a little under 14 seconds. To be fair, neither the Cadillac Eldorado nor the Lincoln Continental Mark VI (the Imperial’s intended competitors) were notably faster in 1983. Fuel economy was rated at 16 city/26 highway by the standards of the day, giving a range of about 340 miles with the 18-gallon gas tank and a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard mechanical equipment for the quite well equipped for 1983 $18,688 Imperial (approximately $48,000 in today’s dollars or more than the list price of a loaded 2018 Chrysler 300C) included halogen headlights, power brakes, power steering, cruise control, and Goodyear Arriva P205/75R15 steel-belted radial whitewall tires (a size still readily 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, leather and vinyl 60/40 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. Unlike in 1981 and 1982, there was no Frank Sinatra edition for 1983.

Page from the 1983 Chrysler 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 seems to have been a separate idea—exterior design had begun in 1977.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1983 Chrysler Imperial in #1/Concours condition is $10,500, with a more normal #3/Good condition car fetching $4,000. Imperials do show up in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds—as I update this entry in December 2018, there’s a Day Star Blue Crystal Coat 1981 with 83,000 miles and the original fuel injection still installed (“runs poor” states the dealer) available for $5,000.

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