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.

1983 Isuzu Impulse hatchback coupe

“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 $25,700 in 2018 dollars) included four-wheel disc brakes and P195/60R14 tires (a size still readily available) on alloy wheels. 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/119 ci SOHC inline four with multi-point fuel injection (a 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 2018 standards). 0-60 took around 11 to 12 seconds, with a top speed of about 110 mph. With a 15.3-gallon fuel tank, you could expect a range of between 310 and 345 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

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. Road & Track put the Impulse on the cover of their June 1983 issue, with the tagline being “Sensuous show car hits the road.”

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 five 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.

Impulses of this generation are rarely seen in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors. Make mine Black, please.

Updated in December 2018.

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.

1983 Mitsubishi Starion hatchback coupe

“The sportscar that’s charged with more than a turbo.”

The 1983 Mitsubishi Starion was a significant change of pace for Mitsubishi. Seen back in the day as a poor man’s Porsche 944 at about two-thirds of the price, the Starion reached customers that Mitsubishi had never competed for before. Because of Chrysler’s relationship with Mitsubishi, nearly identical cars were sold starting in 1984 first as the Plymouth Conquest and Dodge Conquest and then as the Chrysler Conquest beginning in 1987 (gotta love branding).

For 1983, motive power was provided by the Astron G54B 145 bhp 2.6 liter/156 ci inline four with turbocharger and fuel injection connected to a five-speed manual. There was no automatic transmission available for 1983, so all 6,297 cars sold came with the manual. 0-60 came in about 9 seconds in a car that weighed about 2,700 pounds. Mileage was 19 city/24 highway by the standards of the day (17/22 by today’s standards). With a relatively large 19.8-gallon gas tank, a Starion owner could expect a range of between 310 and 385 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

At $12,079 (about $28,800 in today’s dollars), the base Starion EX included four-wheel disc brakes, power steering, power windows, and alloy wheels. Moving up to the LS (an additional $1,840, making the car a $33,100 purchase in 2014) added air conditioning, six-way adjustable front seats, digital instrumentation, and an AM/FM stereo cassette with eight speakers.

Options included a sunroof, cruise control, and larger tires and wheels. LS purchasers could go crazy and get leather seat facings and a single two-tone paint option (Italian Silver/Behring Blue Metallic).

I have not seen a Starion on the road in years, but it seems that at least a few are being saved and there is some online support. A quick perusal shows that lack of maintenance of the complex for its day engine causes most of the serious issues with this car.

You occasionally see Starions come up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors, but there were none for sale when I last checked—the later 3000 GT does better. I haven’t seen one in many years. Make mine red, of course.

Short Take: 1983 Honda Civic S hatchback coupe

Finding detailed information about the 1983 Honda Civic S turned out to be surprisingly hard, so this is my first “Short Take”—a post that I don’t consider long enough to be a full discussion.

“We Make It Simple”

Honda continued to hit on all (four) cylinders in 1983 with the introduction of the Civic S. At $6,399 (about $16,400 in 2019 dollars), the 1500 S was the top of the two-door hatchback line and over 30% more than the base 1300 model.

The engine in the S was not specific to it, but was the optional EM 1.5 liter/91 ci inline four with a three barrel carburetor, making 63 bhp. Mileage with the standard five-speed manual transmission was 35 city/46 highway by the standards of the day. 0-60 came in a little under 13 seconds, and top speed was about 99 mph for the last of second-generation Civics.

A handsome little car, the Civic S was fitted with firmer suspension (with rear stabilizer bar) and 165/70R13 Michelin tires (a size still available thanks to Vredestein) on 13-inch wheels. A red accent stripe encircled the S and set it apart from other Civics as well as a black grille and blackout paint around the window frames. Standard equipment on the S included a front spoiler, a tachometer, and a quartz digital clock.

Standard equipment on all 1983 Civics included front wheel drive, rack and pinion steering, power-assisted front disc/rear drum brakes, and MacPherson struts on all four corners. Inside, full carpeting, reclining front bucket seats with adjustable headrests, and a fold-down rear seat were included.

There were only two color choices for a 1983 Civic S. Make mine Black, please.

Updated February 2019.

1983 Chevrolet S-10 Blazer

“Tough Chevy trucks are taking charge”

1983 was the first year for Chevrolet’s S-10 Blazer (along with its sister, the GMC S-15 Jimmy). Intended as a smaller compliment to the full sized K5 Blazer that had been in production since 1969, the S-10 Blazer found a ready market. Styling was good—derivative of the K5, but clean and appropriate for the size.

For 1983, the S-10 Blazer’s standard power was provided by the LQ2 83 bhp 2.0 liter inline four cylinder with 2-barrel carburetor. Optional power was quite a step up: the $243 LR2 110 bhp 2.8 liter V6 with 2-barrel carburetor was available (and very popular) and required power steering (an additional $247). Mileage with the V6 and the four speed automatic transmission was 17 city/23 highway by the standards of the day (15/22 by today’s standards).

The S-10 Blazer buyer had a choice of two or four-wheel-drive, with four-wheel-drive costing an additional $1,194. The four-wheel-drive versions came with “Insta-Trac“, meaning the driver could shift into (or out of) four-wheel-drive high at any speed. Selecting four-wheel-drive low (for very slippery, rough, or steep terrain) required stopping the Blazer.

Three trim levels were offered: base, Tahoe and Sport. Standard equipment on base version ($9,423 with four-wheel-drive or approximately $22,400 in 2014 dollars) included a heater, high back vinyl bucket seats, and color-keyed rubber floor mats. For $576, moving up to the Tahoe trim upgraded the truck with chrome trim, wheel trim rings, carpeting, and a gauge package.

At $910, the top-of-the line Sport trim included features such as a wheel trim rings, two-tone paint, color-keyed bumpers, reclining seat backs, console, a sport steering wheel, a gauge package, and additional sound insulation.

Optional equipment included air conditioning ($690), cruise control ($185), tilt steering wheel ($105), the Operating Convenience Package ($300 for power windows and power door locks), and an AM/FM stereo cassette ($555). Mechanically, you could get the Off-Road Package ($571 with the Tahoe or Sport trim), the Heavy-Duty Trailering Package ($193), and the Cold-Climate Package ($69 with the upper level trims and air conditioning).

All of these options meant you could make an S-10 Blazer rather pricey—I fairly easily configured a four-wheel drive Sport with the V6 and the four speed automatic transmission to $15,039 or about $35,700 in today’s dollars.

First year S-10 Blazer sales were quite strong, with over 106,000 sold of a model that dropped over 1,000 pounds in curb weight compared to its big brother.

You rarely see Blazers for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds. They are more prevalent on eBay Motors, but it is rare to see one that has not been modified in some way.