1985 Chevrolet C20 Suburban Silverado SUV

For Memorial Day 2020, here’s some truly large American iron.

I was working at the local Chevrolet dealership when a special-ordered Suburban Silverado came in with a 454. It was late in 1984—no passenger car was shipping with anything approaching a big block. But this C20 Suburban had a “rat motor” inside, and you could hear a distinct difference.

For 1985, Chevrolet changed little with the Suburban in the 13th model year of its seventh generation (Suburbans go back to 1935). There was a new grille, but that was about it other than minor trim changes.

The standard powertrain for the C20 Suburban was an LT9 160 bhp 5.7 liter/350 ci V8 with a four-barrel carburetor paired with a floor-mounted four-speed manual transmission. Engine options included an LH6 148 bhp 6.2 liter/379 ci diesel V8 and the aforementioned LE8 230 bhp 7.4 liter/454 ci V8 with a four-barrel carburetor (which required power steering and a heavy-duty battery and was a $700 option). A three-speed automatic was available for all three engines, while a four-speed automatic was for only the 350 ci engine.

The Suburban was a substantial vehicle for 1985, with an 129.5 inch wheelbase and 219.1 inches of overall length. With a 4,705-pound curb weight, C20 Suburbans had a gross vehicle weight rating of 8,600 pounds—high enough not to receive fuel economy ratings, which was likely a good thing. A standard 27-gallon fuel tank kept the range respectable but filling it was painful to the wallet.

Standard equipment for the base C20 Suburban (which Chevrolet designated the Custom Deluxe) included power front disc/rear drum brakes, 16 x 6.5 inch wheels, a vinyl bench seat, and a heater and defogger. At $10,953, the C20 was approximately $26,700 in today’s dollars or about half of what a base 2020 Suburban costs—SUVs have moved substantially upmarket in the last 35 years. For most of the eighties, Chevrolet offered two upgraded trims:

  • Scottsdale trim ($459 for gasoline-engined Suburbans) included black body-side moldings, dual horns, two dome lamps, a cigarette lighter, and Scottsdale nameplates on the front fenders and instrument panel.
  • Silverado trim ($1,259 for gasoline-engined Suburbans) required Custom cloth or Custom vinyl seats. It included a Deluxe molding package, bright body-side moldings, Deluxe front appearance, dual horns, and Silverado nameplates on the front fenders. Inside, a cigarette lighter, a dome lamp, voltmeter, temperature, and oil pressure gages, and a Silverado nameplate on the instrument panel were included.
Options page from the 1985 Suburban brochure

Beyond the trims, the 1985 Suburban’s options list was long and complicated. Suburban buyers first had to choose whether they wanted panel rear doors (standard) or a tailgate with manual drop glass ($36). Next came seating choices: front seat only, front seat and folding center seat, or front seat, folding center seat, and removable rear seat.

Other exterior and mechanical options included deep tinted glass in two different configurations, halogen high beam headlamps, two optional gas tank sizes (31 gallon and 41 gallon), and a wide range of wheels and tires. Inside, air conditioning (front or front and rear), an electric rear window defogger, electronic speed control, power door locks, power windows, a quartz electric clock, Custom reclining bucket seats with a console, and a range of radios up to an AM/FM stereo with a cassette player were all available. Chevrolet sold 64,470 Suburbans in the 1985 model year—many of them heavily-optioned.

These seventh-generation Suburbans have their fans. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1985 C20 Suburban Silverado in #1/Concours condition is $28,600, with a more typical #3/Good condition example going for $13,400. Suburbans frequently show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. As I write this post in May 2020, a 1985 Doeskin Tan/Frost White two-tone Scottsdale with a Saddle Tan Custom cloth bench seat, a 5.7 liter/350 ci V8, an automatic, and 42,000 miles is available on Hemmings for $24,900.

Make mine Apple Red, with Saddle Tan Custom cloth reclining bucket seats, please—just like that 454 all those years ago.

1985 Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck

One of my frequent readers once owned the Maxi-Cab version of the 1985 Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck. So, here you go.

“America’s ideal pickup.”

For 1985, Chevrolet offered seven distinct versions of the S-10 pickup truck, divided up by cab style (short, Maxi-Cab/extended cab, or chassis cab), engine (gas or diesel), and drive (2WD or 4WD). Beyond that, three of the versions offered a choice of a long or short box, which resulted in a different wheelbase.

Changes for 1985 were few, with the most significant news probably being improved corrosion protection. Also new was an updated version of GM’s “Iron Duke” inline four, which replaced 1984’s LQ2 2.0 liter inline four.

Only the absolute base truck (short cab, short wheelbase, gas, 2WD) came with the smallest engine, which was the Isuzu-built LR1 82 bhp 1.9 liter/119 ci inline four. That engine also was not available in California. Far more common—and standard on all gasoline configurations except the absolute base truck—was the LN8 “Iron Duke” 92 bhp 2.5 liter/151 ci inline four with throttle body fuel injection, which did have 31 more ft-lbs of torque than the smaller four. Optional “power” for all the gasoline trucks was the LR2 110 bhp 2.8 liter/173 ci V6 with a two-barrel carburetor. The single diesel available was the LQ7 62 bhp 2.2 liter/137 ci inline four, which could only be specified with 2WD.

All four engines came standard with a four-speed manual transmission. Every version but the chassis cab could upgrade to a five-speed manual, while all but the two diesel models could option a four-speed automatic.

Maxi-Cab pages from the 1985 Chevrolet S-10 brochure

Standard equipment on the base $5,990 S-10 (about $14,700 in 2020 dollars) was pretty spare. Still, it included P195/75R14 all-season steel-belted radial tires on 14 x 6 inch painted argent wheels with bright metal hub caps, a color-keyed instrument panel, an upshift light, a locking stowage box, a full headliner, and a vinyl bench seat. At $7,167 (about $17,600 in today’s dollars and well under what a base 2020 Chevrolet Colorado costs), all Maxi-Cab S-10s included tinted glass, vacuum power brakes, and a dome lamp. 4WD versions of the Maxi-Cab included a front stabilizer bar and P195/75R15 tires on 15 x 6 inch wheels.

Among the many exterior and mechanical options available for the Maxi-Cab were two different two-tone paint treatments, a sliding rear window ($107), a heavy-duty radiator ($53), and a 20-gallon fuel tank ($49). Inside, a tachometer, power windows ($190), power door locks ($135), electronic speed control ($195), air conditioning ($740), Custom vinyl high-back bucket seats, folding rear jump seats ($215), and an array of stereos were available.

In addition to individual options, there were also three equipment packages for the Maxi-Cab, which definitely made the S-10 ownership experience more comfortable.

  • The $334 Durango package included a black and chromed grille, black and chromed headlight bezels, a Deluxe chromed bumper with rub strip, wheel trim rings, reflecting lettering on the tailgate, and (of course) Durango nameplates on the front fenders. Inside, Durango purchasers received a side window defogger, a Deluxe vent system, a courtesy lamp, stowage box and ashtray lamps, a headlamp warning buzzer, a cigar lighter, and a Durango nameplate on the stowage box door. Upholstery included a Deluxe color-keyed steering wheel, a color-keyed floor mat, a color-keyed jack cover, and either a Custom cloth/vinyl bench seat or a leather-grained Custom vinyl bench seat.
  • The $605 Tahoe package included everything in the Durango package. Additions and changes to the Durango package included a black grille, color-keyed door handle inserts, black body side and bright wheel opening moldings, a chromed taillight molding, and Tahoe nameplates on the front fenders. Inside, the Tahoe added a full instrument cluster with brushed metal trim, a right hand visor mirror, and a Tahoe nameplate on the stowage box door. Upholstery included color-keyed carpeting, two vinyl jump seats, and a choice of either leather-grained Custom vinyl bucket seats or dual-tone woven Custom cloth bucket seats. The Tahoe required either Special Custom or Custom trim.
  • Finally, the top-of-the-line Sport package ($868) included everything in the Tahoe package. Additions and changes included a black chrome grille and headlight bezels, two-tone paint, painted argent styled wheels, and Sport nameplates on the front fenders. Inside, the Sport included a color-keyed lockable center console and a Sport nameplate on the stowage box door. Upholstery included a color-keyed Sport steering wheel with a bright shroud, door trim panels with cloth inserts, and high back Sport cloth front bucket seats.

S-10 pickup trucks from the eighties make regular appearances in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, though many have been heavily modified (small block Chevrolet V8s are common).

Make mine Apple Red, please. If it’s got the Sport package, I’d like it with the Silver Metallic secondary color.

Much of the detailed information for this post—including any hope I had of getting the options packages correct—comes courtesy of the GM Heritage Center. I’ve also written about the 1983 Chevrolet S-10 Blazer SUV.

1985 Oldsmobile Firenza ES sedan

In this post, we’re once again revisiting interesting versions of mass-market eighties vehicles that just about nobody bought. This one is a sporty version of Oldsmobile’s J platform entry.

“A sporty way to tame the open road.”

For 1985, Oldsmobile offered three different Firenza body styles: a three-door hatchback coupe, a four-door sedan, and a five-door wagon. Both the hatchback coupe and the sedan had sporty versions: in the case of the hatchback, it was the GT, while for the sedan, it was the ES. I am going to write about the ES in this post.

The Firenza’s standard powertrain was an 88 bhp LQ5 2.0 liter/121 ci inline four with throttle-body fuel injection paired with a four-speed manual transmission. Engine options included a $50 84 bhp LH8 1.8 liter/110 ci inline OHC four with the throttle-body fuel injection and a far more interesting $560 130 bhp LB6 2.8 liter V6 with multi-port fuel injection. Transmission options included a $75 five-speed manual (available for the LH8 only) and a $425 three-speed automatic (available for all three engines).

Standard equipment exterior and mechanical equipment on all Firenzas include front-wheel-drive, rack and pinion steering, and P175/80R13 blackwall tires on 13-inch wheels. Inside, contour-reclining bucket seats and an AM push-button radio with two front speakers and a fixed mast antenna were included. With a base price of $7,679 (about $18,900 in 2020 dollars), Firenza sedans added Deluxe wheel discs and a Deluxe steering wheel.

Firenza ES page from a 1985 Oldsmobile brochure

Standard exterior equipment on the ES sedan included amber turn signals, a Firenza ES nameplate on the front fenders, and blacked-out trim all around. Mechanical equipment included the 1.8 liter inline four, a five-speed manual transmission, tungsten halogen high-beam headlamps, a firm ride and handling package, and Goodyear Eagle GT P205/60R14 blackwall tires (a size still readily available, though generally not from major manufacturers) on 14-inch wheels with Deluxe styled wheel discs.

Inside, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a Rallye instrument panel cluster were included. Only three exterior colors were available for the ES: Silver Metallic, Light Teal Blue Metallic, and Carmine Red.

Among the many exterior and mechanical options available for the ES were Soft-Ray tinted glass, a Vista-Vent glass-panel sunroof ($310), and two-tone paint. Inside, Oldsmobile offered a Four-Season air conditioner, power door locks, and a choice of three optional radios. A special contoured hood was added if the V6 was selected.

For Oldsmobile in 1985, the Firenza was emphatically not the center of the product line, with every other model—all of them at least somewhat larger—selling better. Of the Firenzas that sold, the vast majority were base sedans, not the GT hatchback coupe (498 sold) or the ES sedan (863 sold). Firenzas of any sort are now almost completely vanished from the nation’s roads, and they rarely show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds or eBay Motors.

Other J platform cars I have covered this blog include the 1982 Cadillac Cimarron sedan, the 1988 Cadillac Cimarron sedan, the 1986 Chevrolet Cavalier Z24 coupe, and the 1984 Pontiac 2000 Sunbird S/E hatchback coupe. I will not ignore the Buick Skyhawk forever.

1985 Ferrari 308 GTB Quattrovalvole coupe

“Only those who dare … truly live”

1985 was the final year for the Ferrari 308 (the 328 would follow in 1986). Ferrari’s least expensive two-seater was also overshadowed in the public view by the release of its big brother Testarossa.

The engine was Ferrari’s Tipo F105AB 2.9 liter/179 ci V8 with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection and four valves per cylinder (thus Quattrovalvole), making 230 bhp and mated with a five-speed manual transmission. In the 3,200 pound GTB, this was good for period 0-60 times of under 7 seconds. Mileage was pretty awful compared to some of the 308’s fuel-injected competition—10 city/16 highway by the standards of the day (9/15 by today’s standards). With an 18.5-gallon gas tank, 308 owners could expect a chastening 200 to 215 mile range with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $54,000 GTB (about $134,000 in 2020 dollars) included four-wheel disc brakes, rack and pinion steering, and 16-inch alloy wheels. Inside, leather bucket seats, power windows, tinted glass, and a heated rear window were all included. Available options included metallic paint, a deep front spoiler, a satin black finished aerofoil at the rear of the roof, 16 x 8 inch Speedline wheels with Pirelli P7 tires, air conditioning, and cloth seat centers.

Ferrari 308 GTB Quattrovalvole, courtesy of Ferrari

The lovely Pininfarina styling that made its first appearance in 1975 had aged well with relatively few changes. Debuting for the 1983 model year, the Quattrovalvole could be differentiated from previous 308s by the addition of a slim black louvered panel on the hood to aid radiator exhaust air exit and a redesigned radiator grille with rectangular driving lights on each side. Also new were power-operated side mirrors carrying small enamel Ferrari badges and rectangular side repeaters. The interior also received some minor updates, such as a satin black three-spoke steering wheel with a triangular center.

Values for the 308 have gone up and down over the last decade. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1985 Ferrari 308 GTB Quattrovalvole in #1/Concours condition is currently $97,000 with the targa-top GTS in the same condition getting $80,000 (the GTB is far rarer, at about 20% of overall Quattrovalvole production). Prices drop significantly for more normal #3/Good condition cars—$58,000 for a GTB and $47,500 for a GTS. Ferrari 308s frequently show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and at auction. As I write this in March 2020, there’s a 1984 Rosso Corso GTS QV listed for $65,000.

Make mine Rosso Corso, of course. Is there really a question?

Other Ferraris I have written about in this blog include the 1983 Berlinetta Boxer 512i coupe and the aforementioned 1985 Testarossa coupe.

1985 Merkur XR4Ti hatchback coupe

“For the North American continent the Merkur XR4Ti represents an innovative, new total performance machine.”

The Merkur XR4Ti never had a chance.

There, I’ve said it. Though the redoubtable Bob Lutz was involved, I can’t even imagine the combination of decisions that made Ford think that selling a Karmann-assembled version of the European Ford Sierra at Lincoln-Mercury dealers in the mid-1980s was ever going to work out. By early 1989, the XR4Ti was gone.

Because the Cologne 2.8 liter V6 the Sierra used in Germany could not clear US emissions, the engine the XR4Ti received was Ford’s Lima 2.3 liter/140 ci turbocharged and fuel injected inline four also seen in the Ford Mustang SVO and Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe. In its Merkur guise, it made 175 bhp with the standard five-speed manual transmission and 145 bhp (ouch!) with the optional ($427) three-speed automatic transmission. 0-60 mph came in about 9 seconds with the manual, and top speed was a little under 130 mph. Fuel economy wasn’t very good: with the manual, it was 19 city/24 highway by the standards of the day (17/22 by today’s standards). With a 15.1-gallon gas tank, a Merkur owner could expect a range of 265 to 290 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Base price for the 1985 XR4Ti was $16,361 (about $39,200 in 2018 dollars). Standard exterior and mechanical features included flush headlamps, power front disc/rear drum brakes, nitrogen pressurized shock absorbers, variable ratio power rack-and-pinion steering, and the famous (and polarizing) biplane rear spoiler derived from the one on the Probe III concept car Ford had shown in 1981. Pirelli P6 195/60HR14 tires (a size still readily available) were fitted on 14-inch “phone dial” wheels. Inside, standard equipment included air conditioning, variable ratio power steering, power mirrors, a 60/40 folding rear seat, and an AM/FM stereo with cassette player.

Options other than the automatic transmission were relatively few: a $470 Convenience group (power door locks, power windows, and cruise control), tilt/slide moonroof ($549), leather seats ($890), heated seats ($183), and metallic paint ($274).

1985 Merkur print advertisement.
1985 Merkur print advertisement.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1985 Merkur XR4Ti in #1/Concours condition is $6,500, with a more normal #3/Good car going for $2,400. I find it interesting that Hagerty tracks them at all—there are many of what I think would be equally interesting cars that they don’t track. You rarely see them for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds—they are at least a little more common on eBay Motors.

Make mine Paris Blue Metallic with the optional Gray leather interior, please. The real question is how many are left.

1985 Chevrolet Citation II hatchback sedan

“One car that does it all.”

1985 was, mercifully, the last year for the Chevrolet Citation. It was also, in a sad General Motors tradition, the best Citation (the 1985 Citation had no recalls after the nine that the 1980 had). Half-heartedly renamed Citation II in 1984, the X-car would be replaced by the Nova in 1986. There were some changes: new colors were available, and the dashboard was revised, allowing the “normal” horizontal Delco radios.

For 1985, the Citation II’s standard powertrain remained the LR8 “Iron Duke” 92 bhp 2.5 liter/151 ci inline four with throttle-body fuel injection paired with a four-speed manual (the Citation never got a five-speed—even as an option). With the standard powertrain, 0-60 came in a little under 12 seconds in the 2,500-pound car with a theoretical top speed of 101 mph. Mileage was competitive: 24 city/34 highway by the standards of the day (21/31 by today’s standards). With a 14-gallon fuel tank, the owner of a base Citation could expect a range of between 325 and 365 miles with a 10% field reserve.

Powertrain options included two different 2.8 liter/173 ci V6’s (why?): the LE2 112 bhp version with a two-barrel carburetor ($260) and the LB6 130 bhp type with fuel injection ($435). A three-speed automatic was—of course—available ($425). The V6 in general, and especially the fuel injected version, made the Citation II substantially more spritely: 0-60 times of about 9 seconds and a top speed of about 118 mph. You paid a mileage price for that performance: 19 city/26 highway by the standards of the day (17/24 by today’s standards).

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $7,090 Citation II hatchback sedan (approximately $16,900 in 2019 dollars—about what base 2019 Chevrolet Cruze L sedan goes for) included halogen headlamps, rack-and-pinion steering, front disk/rear drum brakes, and P185/80R-13 radial tires (now a trailer size) on 13-inch by 5.5-inch steel wheels with full wheel covers. Inside, sliding door locks, a lockable glove box, a folding rear seat, and an AM/FM radio with two speakers were included.

Exterior and mechanical options included tinted glass ($110), two-tone paint ($176), power brakes ($100), power steering ($215), and the F41 sports suspension (acknowledged to be a bargain at $33). Inside, a quiet sound/rear decor package ($92), air conditioning ($730), cruise control ($175), Comfortilt steering wheel ($110), an electric rear defogger ($140), and an electronic-tuning AM/FM stereo radio with cassette, clock, and seek/scan ($319) were all available.

1985 Citation II brochure cover, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

The 1985 Citation II did not sell—overall sales in this last year fell to a mere 8% of the first year sales. At an average Chevrolet dealership, you could expect it to be outsold by the Chevette, the Cavalier, the Camaro, the Celebrity, the Monte Carlo, and the Caprice Classic.

I haven’t seen a Citation in years—the last one was an X-11 in early 2014. They rarely show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds or eBay Motors. I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen one shown, though I’m not betting against that at some point.

Updated in February 2019.

1985 Pontiac Grand Am coupe

“Introducing a brilliant new driver’s coupe”

The Grand Am name returned for the 1985 model year. Instead of the rear-wheel-drive coupe and sedan that it been in its previous two lives from 1973 to 1980 (with none in 1976 or 1977), it was now a front-wheel-drive coupe, part of GM’s N-body offerings. As such, it’s first relatives were the Buick Somerset Regal and the Oldsmobile Calais.

The standard powertrain on the Grand Am was GM’s Tech IV 92 bhp 2.5 liter/151 ci inline four with throttle-body fuel injection connected to a five-speed manual. For $560, optional power was a 125 bhp 3.0 liter/181 ci V6 with fuel injection which required the $425 automatic transmission (also available with the base engine). 0-60 times for early N-body cars are hard to come by, but were likely about 10.5 seconds for the standard powertrain and about 9.0 seconds for the V6/automatic combination—the 2,419 pound shipping weight helped. Mileage with the standard powertrain was rated at 24 city/34 highway by the standards of the day (21/31 by today’s standards). With the 13.6-gallon tank, Grand Am buyers could expect a range of 310 to 350 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $7,995 base coupe (about $19,100 in 2019 dollars) included power rack and pinion steering, power front disc brakes, and P185/80R13 tires (now a trailer size) on 13-inch wheels. Inside, reclining bucket seats and an integral floor console were included.

The LE (starting at $8,495 or about $20,200 in today’s dollars) included “substantial body side moldings,” upgraded front bucket seats with adjustable headrests, deluxe door trim, and a fold-down rear seat armrest.

Options included rally tuned suspension ($50) and cruise control ($175). A Driver’s Package was also available, which included 215/60R14 Goodyear Eagle GT radials (a size available thanks to BFGoodrich and Riken) on 14-inch turbo cast aluminum wheels, “sport-tuned” front and rear stabilizers, and a Driver Information Center.

I think these were handsome cars, especially with those turbo cast aluminum wheels—Pontiac had great wheel designs in the eighties. Like many America cars of the era that aren’t considered to be collectible, they have essentially vanished despite over 82,000 sold in 1985 alone. They’re invisible in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors and are hard to find anywhere.

Make mine Red, please.

1985 Alfa Romeo GTV-6 hatchback coupe

On this Easter Sunday, I filled up our modern sedan at one of the local Sunocos. Across from me: an Alfa Romeo GTV-6. So, here you go.

“… an extremely exciting machine”

For 1985, Alfa Romeo’s GTV-6 stood mostly pat. The shift linkage was modified to address some complaints of stiffness and some standard equipment was removed to reach a more approachable price.

The engine continued to be the star: a 154 bhp 2.5 liter/152 ci V6 with aluminum block and heads and Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection paired with a five-speed manual. Performance was respectable—Road & Track recorded an 8.5 second 0-60 time in the 2,955-pound car. Fuel mileage was 19 city/26 highway by the standards of the day—17/24 by today’s standards.

Standard equipment in the $16,500 car (about $39,000 in today’s dollars or almost exactly what a 2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia goes for) included an independent front suspension, a deDion rear suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, and 195/60HR15 tires (a size still easily available) on 15-inch wheels. Inside, there was an adjustable steering column and cloth seats. Power windows were standard, but with a back-up mechanical crank.

Optional equipment included rear spoiler ($395), sunroof ($500), leather seats ($750), and an AM/FM stereo with a cassette player ($395). A very uncommon option was the Callaway Twin Turbo package ($2,095), which include a 230 bhp engine, along with upgraded BBS 16 x 7 wheels and Goodyear Eagle 205/55VR-16 tires.

Potential collectors of a GTV-6 are warned that they are highly susceptible to rust—even in states where that isn’t usually a problem. These cars have a following, and make appearances in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and eBay. Values are sliding up: according to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1985 GTV-6 in #1/Concours condition is $24,700, with a far more typical #3/Good car going for $12,900.

Make mine red, of course.

1985 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am hatchback coupe

Every year I do a retro CD for the holidays that goes to friends and family. Whatever expertise in popular music that I do have is from the eighties, so I go forward one year in that decade—that means that this year I’m doing 1988. There’s a story behind every year’s CD, and this one involved a 1985 Trans Am. So, I decided I would draw a 1985 Trans Am dashboard and thus this blog post.

“The most serious piece of machinery we put on the road.”

Updates for the 1985 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am included a restyled nose with built-in fog lamps, new taillights, fake hood louvers replacing the traditional power bulge, and full rocker and quarter panel extensions. A new WS6 suspension package was made available for the Trans Am, which included gas pressurized shocks and 16-inch wheels with P245/50VR16 Goodyear “Gatorback” tires for a $664 price tag. Inside, all gages now had graph patterned backgrounds, and a new UT4 “Touch-Control” optional stereo was available.

1985 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am dashboard.

For 1985, the standard Trans Am powertrain was a 165 bhp 5.0 liter/305 ci V8 with a Rochester four-barrel carburetor paired with a five-speed manual transmission. The top of the line engine was the $695 LB9 fuel injected 5.0 liter/305 ci V8, with 205 bhp—but that was only available with a four-speed automatic transmission, yielding a zero to sixty time of about 7.5 seconds. If you wanted the five-speed manual transmission, the best engine choice available on the Trans Am was the 190 bhp H.O. V8 with a four-barrel carburetor.

Mileage with the standard powertrain was 15 city/24 highway by the standards of the day (14/22 by 2017 standards). With a 15.9-gallon fuel tank, a Trans Am owner could expect a range of between 255 and 280 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $11,113 Trans Am (about $26,600 in today’s dollars and close to what a base 2018 Camaro costs) included power brakes (front disc/rear drum), hidden electronically-controlled halogen headlamps, dual sport mirrors, an all-glass rear hatch, a rear deck lid spoiler, and P215/65R15 steel-belted radial tires (still a readily available size) on “deep-dish” 15 x 7 wheels. Inside, reclining front bucket seats and side window defoggers were included.

Options included T-tops ($825), a louvered rear sunshield ($210), air conditioning ($630), Recaro bucket seats ($636), and cruise control ($175).

The 1985 Trans Am sold reasonably well, with 44,028 sold—about 46% of total Firebird sales. Third-generation Firebirds have a strong following, and 1985 Trans Ams make regular appearances in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. As I update this post in December 2018, there’s a Blaze Red 1985 with 4,400 miles for sale for $24,900. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1985 Trans Am with the LB9 in #1/Concours condition is $23,300, with a far more typical #3/Good car going for $8,800.

Please make mine Black, please—I think.

Updated December 2018.

Auction Favorite: 1985 Mercedes-Benz 380SL convertible

The Mercedes-Benz 380SL is a common vehicle at the auctions I follow—since starting this blog in late 2013, I’ve seen almost 40 of these convertibles go across the block, mostly at the Barrett-Jackson and Mecum events. I chose to go with 1985 as the model year to write about because it and 1982 have been the two most common years I have seen.

“What do you get when you blend a Mercedes-Benz with a sports car? The incomparable 380SL.”

1985 was the final year for the 380SL—from 1986 on, the heavier and more powerful 560SL would be the only option in North America. There wasn’t much change for 1985; all cars got anti-lock brakes, and later production SLs got a drivers-side airbag. About 11,100 buyers took home this last of the line example, which benefited from having very little real competition.

Motive power was provided by a 155 bhp 3.8 liter/234 ci V8 with Bosch Jetronic fuel injection, connected to a four-speed automatic transmission. As with all R107 models, mileage for the 3,600-pound car wasn’t very good—the ratings of the day were 16 city/18 highway (14/17 by today’s standards). With the 22.5-gallon fuel tank, a 380SL driver could expect a range of between 310 and 350 miles with a 10% fuel reserve. 0-60 came in about 10.5 seconds; despite the claims of Mercedes-Benz, the 380SL was closer to a grand touring car than to a sports car.

The 380SL’s base price for 1985 was $43,820 (about $102,200 in today’s dollars—neatly spaced between what an SL 450 and an SL 550 cost in 2017). For the money, exterior and mechanical standard features included the aforementioned ABS controlling power disk brakes, power steering, a steel hardtop, and 205/70VR14 tires (now a rare size) on 14-inch forged light-alloy wheels. Inside, power windows, power door locks via a vacuum locking system, cruise control, and an AM/FM stereo with cassette player were standard. Air conditioning was also included in the electronic automatic climate control system, though most say it wasn’t that effective. Heated leather seats were optional.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1985 380SL in #1/Concours condition is $28,200, with a more typical #3/Good car going for $13,600. There is decent club support for the 380SL, as there is for almost all Mercedes-Benz’s. 380SLs maintain a substantial presence in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. As I write this in September 2017, there are 66 advertised on Hemmings, including 14 of the 1985 models.

Make mine Astral Silver Metallic, please. Dealer advertising image courtesy of Alden Jewell.

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