1985 Mazda RX-7 GSL-SE hatchback coupe

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 good-looking 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 ci 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 (15/22 by today’s standards), 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 275 to 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 condition car 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 sedan

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

Late in the 1984 model year, Ford added a performance-oriented model to the Fairmont-based 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 4.9 liter/302 ci 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 between 280 and 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 (a size still readily available) 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, an upgraded 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 (I’m thinking of you, Mustang SVO), 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. There is some enthusiast support.

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.

1985 Honda Civic CRX Si hatchback coupe

“Fuel injected fun.”

For 1985, Honda put one of its hottest four-cylinder engines into its tiny CRX, creating the Si. Si stood for Sports, injected and the new EW3/4 engine was a multiport fuel injected version of the carburetted 1.5 liter/91 ci engine that had been the top of the line in 1984.

Horsepower was 91 bhp at 5,500 rpm, up 20% from the carburetted engine. This increase doesn’t sound like much, but the CRX only weighed about 1,800 pounds—to get the same power to weight ratio in a 2014 Honda Civic coupe you would need 143 bhp (interestingly, the 2014 Civic coupe has a … 143 bhp engine). Car and Driver recorded a 0-60 time of 9.1 seconds (Motor Trend reported 8.5 seconds) and a top speed of 112 mph. The EPA fuel economy rating with the required five-speed manual transmission was 32 city/36 highway by the standards of the day (27/33 by today’s standards).

The $7,999 base price (about $17,700 in 2014 dollars) included a power sunroof, a rear wiper/washer, 175/70R13 tires (a size last seen on the 2005 Hyundai Accent) on 5.0-inch-wide alloy wheels, and a rear spoiler molded of soft urethane instead of the hard plastic in other CRXs.

Since the CRX Si came pretty loaded by Honda standards, there were few options. The Si received an exclusive black paint option in place of the white available in other CRXs—red or blue were also available. Air conditioning was available only as a dealer accessory, as were a rear speaker and a choice of various car stereos: Honda would continue to sell AC as a dealer accessory well into the 1990s.

I don’t see a lot of first-generation CRX Si’s come up for sale in either the Hemmings Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors. However, there is good club support for the CRX at Red Pepper Racing.

Make mine black, please. It looks sharp with the red band on new for 1985 charcoal gray body cladding.

1985 Toyota MR2 coupe

One of my favorite high-school teachers had an MR2 in red—she caused somewhat of a stir when she showed up in it the first time.

“Fun is taking the all-new MR2 out to play.”

The MR2 was undoubtedly one of the most interesting cars Toyota brought to market in the 1980s (development had begun in 1976). Visually evolved from the SV-3 concept car shown at the 1983 Tokyo Motor Show, MR2 stood for “midship runabout 2-seater”.

A small sports car (almost six inches shorter than a 2015 Honda Fit) with an angular wedge body, the MR2 became available for the 1985 model year, entering a market that already included the Bertone (formally Fiat) X1/9 and the Pontiac Fiero. MR2s got really good reviews from the likes of Motor Trend (winning “Import Car of the Year”), Road & Track, and, later, Automobile—who famously compared it to a Ferrari 308 and found the MR2 to be the winner.

The MR2’s engine was the 16-valve 1.6 liter 4A-GE fuel injected double overhead cam inline four, with 112 bhp. Paired with the standard five-speed manual transmission (a four-speed automatic transmission was optional) in the 2,350 pound “Mister Two,” this engine was good for 0-60 in under 9 seconds and a top speed of about 120 mph. Mileage was very good: 27 city/32 highway by the standards of the day (23/29 by modern standards). With a 10.8-gallon fuel tank, an MR2 owner could expect a range of 250 to 285 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard equipment in the $10,999 car (about $24,300 in 2014 dollars) included power disc brakes and 14-inch alloy wheels on 185/60R14 tires. Inside, automatic climate control, power side mirrors, tinted glass, a leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, and an AM/FM stereo radio were included in an interior that was considered roomy for the MR2’s size.

Options available for the 1985 MR2 included air conditioning ($840), a moonroof ($300), cruise control ($185), power windows and locks ($305), and an AM/FM stereo radio with cassette ($365).

MR2s do have club support, including a fairly active forum. Though there are slim pickings in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds, first-generation MR2s (sold up until the 1989 model year) show up fairly often on eBay Motors. As I write this in July 2014, there’s a blue 1985 with 92,000 miles with a $3,333 “Buy It Now” price.

Make mine the same red as that high school teacher owned, please.