Auction Favorite: 1985 Mercedes-Benz 380SL

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 cars got a drivers-side airbag. About 11,100 buyers took home this last of the line example.

Motive power was provided by a 155 bhp 3.8 liter/234 cubic inch 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 mpg/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; 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.

1980 Mercedes-Benz 380SL Roadster

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, linked from Flickr.

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1985 Dodge 600 Club Coupe

This post was one of my first ten in this blog, which I’ve updated to reflect both changes in my posting style and substantial improvements in available data. At this point, it’s changed enough to be considered a new post.

The crazy folks at The Truth About Cars posted recently about a 1985 Dodge 600 Club Coupe as part of their Junkyard Find series.

There’s a strong feeling of fulfillment behind the wheel of this striking coupe.

The Dodge 600 was an extended (E-platform) version of the original K-platform cars, with three more inches of wheelbase added to the sedans (coupes and wagons remained the same length as the original cars). It debuted in the 1983 model year, two years after the original K cars made it to market. Other E-platform cars were the Chrysler New Yorker, Chrysler E-Class, and (later) the Plymouth Caravelle.

There were three engines available for the Dodge 600. The base engine was Chrysler’s K 99 bhp 2.2 liter/135 cubic inch inline four with fuel injection. One option was the Turbo I 146 bhp version of the same engine with Garrett T3 turbocharger and fuel injection while another was Mitsubishi’s Astron series 4G54 101 bhp 2.6 liter/153 cubic inch inline four with a carburetor. Fuel economy for the Turbo I and three-speed automatic transmission combination (the five-speed manual was no longer available) was 19 city/24 highway by the standards of the day (it would be 17/22 today).

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $9,060 club coupe (about $21,100 in today’s dollars) included power brakes, power steering, halogen headlamps, Landau padded vinyl roof, and P185/70R14 tires. Inside, cloth front bucket seats, a full-length console, color keyed steering wheel, and an electronically-tuned AM radio were standard. Features listed that wouldn’t be considered worth mentioning now included a tethered fuel filler cap and an inside hood release.

Optional equipment included sport/handling suspension ($79), air conditioning ($757), tinted glass ($115), automatic speed control ($179), leather wrapped steering wheel ($50), and tilt steering wheel ($110).

Page from the 1985 Dodge 600 brochure, linked from the Old Car Manuals Project’s amazing brochures pages.

The original K cars and their many variants were once so common on the roads, but have essentially disappeared in mid-2017. I haven’t seen a 600 of any type in years, despite the fact that Dodge made over 300,000 of them between 1983 and 1988. You’ll occasionally see the original Dodge Aries/Plymouth Reliant cars at AACA shows along with the top of the line Chrysler LeBaron convertibles.

You do occasionally see Dodge 600s for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, but there are no coupes out there as I write this in July 2017.

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1985 Mazda RX-7 GSL-SE

This post was one of my first twenty in this blog, which I’ve updated to reflect both changes in my posting style and substantial improvements in available data. At this point, it’s changed enough to be considered a new post.

“… artfully appointed to raise the aesthetic pleasures of driving …”

The 1985 Mazda RX-7 GSL-SE was the last of the first generation RX-7s which had debuted in 1979, timing the market perfectly for a relatively low-priced and attractive sports car. At $7,195 when released, it hit an attractive price point and entered a market with few natural competitors for such a pure sports car.

Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection and more power had come in 1984 with the 13B Wankel 1.3 liter/80 cubic inch two-rotor engine. Power increased from 101 bhp to 135 bhp—respectable for a relatively lightweight (2,447 pounds) sports car and dropping 0-60 times more than a second to slightly under 8 seconds. Even with the five-speed manual transmission, mileage remained somewhat of the traditional rotary bugaboo that would eventually drive Mazda out of the rotary business. At 16 city/23 highway by the standards of the day, it was not as good as the Nissan/Datsun 300ZX (19/25) or the Toyota Celica Supra (20/24)—both of which had more power. Owners of a new RX-7 could expect to get about 290 miles of range from the 16.6-gallon fuel tank before starting to look for more gasoline.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on every 1985 RX-7 ($10,945 or approximately $25,500 in today’s dollars) included retractable headlamps, tinted glass, side window demisters, electric rear window defroster, and 185/70HR13 radial tires on 5 x 13-inch wheels. Inside, full gauges, reclining bucket seats with adjustable headrest, a full console with armrest, a digital quartz clock, and an AM/FM stereo radio with power antenna were standard.

By 1985, the fancier RX-7s had slid well up-market—the GSL-SE‘s package’s price was $16,125 (about $37,600 in 2017 dollars; more than a loaded 2017 Miata MX-5 RF Grand Touring). Exterior and mechanical equipment on the GSL-SE included halogen headlamps, ventilated four wheel power disc brakes, power windows, electrically adjusted dual sideview mirrors, a removable steel sunroof, and “low profile” P205/60VR14 Pirelli P6 tires on 5.5 x 14-inch alloy wheels. Inside, every GSL-SE included air conditioning, cruise control, striped velour seats, and an electronically AM/FM stereo radio with a nine-band graphic equalizer and a separate auto reverse cassette player sitting below.

Optional equipment for the loaded GSL-SE was limited to a leather package which included leather seats, leather door trim, and a leather steering wheel.

I followed a first generation RX-7 for a while a few months ago, and I was struck by how small it looked—smaller than I remembered these cars as being. They were small, of course: 170 inches long (shorter than a modern Honda Civic coupe) and less than 50 inches tall.

RX-7s have fairly solid club support and maintain a reasonable presence in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1985 RX-7 in #1/Concours condition is $16,200, with a more normal #3/Good question going for $3,900. As I write this in August 2017, there’s a Sunrise Red 1984 GSL-SE with two-tone gray cloth seats, a manual transmission, and 89,000 miles asking $12,995. Make mine Sunbeam Silver Metallic, please—I think light silver works best on these cars.

1985 Mercedes-Benz 300CD Turbo

For some reason, one of my local supermarkets often has interesting eighties cars. Today, there was a Mercedes-Benz 300CD Turbo casually parked among the crossovers—good enough reason for this blog entry.

A 1985 Mercedes-Benz 300D Turbo Coupe in Radnor, PA
An (I think) Champagne Metallic 1985 Mercedes-Benz 300CD Turbo in Radnor, PA

“A singular new achievement”

1985 was the last year for Mercedes-Benz’s mid-size W123 models—they would be followed by the substantially revised and very different looking W124 models in 1986.

For 1985, the 300CD Turbo powertrain continued to be the fuel-injected 125 bhp 3.0 liter five cylinder turbodiesel connected to a four-speed automatic transmission. At about 3,360 pounds, these were not fast cars—0-60 mph took about 15 seconds. Fuel economy was 22 city/25 highway by the standards of the day—19/23 by today’s standards. With the 21.1 gallon fuel tank, the driver of a 300CD could expect almost 450 miles of range with a 10% reserve.

Base price for the 300CD Turbo was a non-trivial $35,220—about $81,700 in today’s dollars. You did get a lot of standard equipment: power steering, power brakes, halogen headlamps, halogen fog lamps, and light alloy wheels were all included. Inside, power windows, power door locks, cruise control, intermittent windshield wipers, eight-way power front bucket seats, electronic climate control, and an AM/FM stereo with cassette player and power antenna were standard.

There were few options on the 300CD Turbo: leather upholstery and a power sunroof (optional at no extra cost) were available.

W123 models definitely have a following, especially the relatively rare coupes and the 300TD wagons. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1985 300CD in #1/Concours condition is $16,900, with a more normal #3/Good condition car going for $8,400. 300CDs sometimes show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, often with mileage well over 200,000.

I like these coupes, with their smooth hardtop lines and their reasonable size. Make mine Astral Silver Metallic, I think.

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1985 Ford LTD LX

“Because Mr. Bondurant shouldn’t have all the fun.”

Late in the 1984 model year, Ford added a performance-oriented model to the LTD line. The LX was loosely based on a few sedans that Bob Bondurant had cobbled together for use at his high performance driving school.

The engine was Ford’s 165 bhp 302 cubic inch Windsor V8 with electronic fuel injection. The only transmission available was a four-speed automatic transmission. 0-60 came in a respectable 9 seconds—faster than the Dodge 600ES and competitive with the Pontiac 6000 STE. Mileage was 19 city/23 highway by the standards of the day (17/22 by today’s standards). With a 16 gallon fuel tank, range was about 300 miles with a 10% reserve.

For 1985, the LX wore the updated nose and tail that came along with all 1985 LTDs. Standard exterior and mechanical equipment in the $11,421 LX (about $26,500 in 2016 dollars) included quad rectangular halogen headlamps, power brakes, a Traction-Lok rear axle, a rear stabilizer bar, and P205/70HR Goodyear Eagle tires on 14-inch styled road wheels. Inside, dual power mirrors, lumbar-support bucket seats, a center console with a floor shifter for the transmission, brushed aluminum trim on the dash bezels, a special instrument cluster with tachometer, a Tripminder computer, and an AM radio with dual front speakers (ah, the glamor!) were included.

Options included cast aluminum wheels ($224), air conditioning ($743), power windows ($272), power locks ($213), and an electronic AM/FM stereo radio with cassette ($409).

Page from the 1985 LTD brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochure pages.

Like some other interesting Ford performance cars from the 1980s, LTD LX’s did not sell well, with only 3,260 sold over the 1984 and 1985 model years (there would be no 1986 LX). Likely because of the limited production numbers, you rarely see them in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors.

Make mine Medium Charcoal Metallic, please.

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1985 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Station Wagon

For Independence Day 2015, here’s an all-American eighties wagon from thirty years ago.

“Big wagon convenience that drives like a Caprice.”

1985 was a year of refinement for Chevrolet’s full-size wagon. The standard engine was Chevrolet’s LG4 5.0 liter V8, uprated to 165 bhp but still struggling to haul around about two tons and eighteen feet of metal. Paired with a four-speed automatic transmission, fuel economy was 15 city/22 highway by the standards of the day (14/20 by today’s standards). With the 22 gallon fuel tank, range was about 365 miles with a 10% reserve.

The full-size Chevrolet interior was also modernized for 1985, with an updated satin finish dash design that added the ability to use more capable DIN style radios instead of the previous two-knob style.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $10,714 wagon (about $24,500 in today’s dollars) included power steering, power brakes (disk front/drum rear), a three-way tailgate with power window, heavy-duty front and rear suspension, a Delco Freedom II battery, full wheel covers, and white-striped P225/75R-15 all-season radial tires.

Inside, Quiet Sound Group, a quartz electric clock, a headlamp-on reminder chime, a lockable glove box with light, a full-width front bench seat with center armrest, a third row seat, and an AM push-button radio with dual front speakers were all part of a base Caprice Classic wagon.

Exterior and mechanical options included Estate Equipment ($307), roof carrier ($110), rear air deflector ($40), power tailgate lock ($50), heavy duty battery ($26), heavy duty cooling ($40), engine block heater ($20), cornering lamps ($55), and high and low beam halogen headlamps ($22).

Inside, buyers could add air conditioning ($730), electronic speed control ($175), Comfortilt steering wheel ($110), power windows ($185), power door locks ($125), deluxe rear compartment decor ($59), and a GM-Delco ETR AM/FM stereo radio with seek and scan, cassette tape, clock, graphic equalizer and extended range sound system ($394).

Page from 1985 Chevrolet full-size brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

Chevrolet sold almost 56,000 Caprice Classic  wagons in the 1985 model year, marking about 21% of total full-size Impala/Caprice production. I sense that there actually are a few folks preserving these cars, but they certainly aren’t common at shows. You do sometimes see Caprice wagons for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors: as I write this in July 2015, there’s a rather rough white wagon with a burgundy interior and 77,000 miles listed on eBay.

Make mine Dark Blue Metallic please.

1985 Dodge Omni GLH

“… never, never, take it home to meet Mom.”

Though 1984 was the debut year for the Dodge Omni GLH, 1985 was the first year that Chrysler’s 2.2 liter Turbo I turbocharged inline 4 was available with it (for an additional $872). Packing 146 bhp and 170 lb-ft of torque, the turbo delivered 0-60 times in about 7.5 seconds. Standard power on the GLH was the 2.2 liter High Output 110 bhp inline 4 and both engines came with a five speed manual transmission.

1985 Dodge Omni GLH pages from the 1985 Dodge Performance brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

Mileage for the turbo was from 21 city/30 highway (18/27 by today’s standards) on premium gasoline. Giving up the turbo took you to 25/34 and let you run on regular fuel. Range with the 13 gallon gas tank was almost 300 miles with a 10% reserve.

The base price for an Omni GLH was $7,620 (about $16,600 in 2015 dollars). For that money, purchasers got a front air dam and side skirts, both finished in black, as was the grille. Distinctive aluminum 16-hole “pizza” wheels rolled on low-profile 195/50R15 tires—now considered a tiny size. Power steering, power brakes, and a sport suspension were standard and fog lamps completed the “sporty for a 4-door compact” look.

Inside, a GLH was pretty basic. You did get cloth high-backed bucket seats, rallye instrument cluster, dual remote mirrors, intermittent windshield wipers, and an AM/FM stereo radio.

The GLH had few exterior add-ons available. Inside, buyers could add options such as air conditioning ($643), automatic speed control ($179), and an AM/FM stereo radio with cassette.

Dodge sold 6,513 Omni GLH models in 1985, including 3,004 normally-aspirated models and 3,509 with the turbo, making the GLH about 9% of total Omni/Horizon production for that model year.

GLH’s rarely show up in either the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors; I don’t think many of these cars lasted even a decade. Make mine black, please—so the ground effects match.