1986 Buick Century sedan

For the last few weeks, there’s been a white Buick Century sedan parked outside one of my local supermarkets. Followers of Eighties Cars know that is likely to generate a blog entry.

“… truly satisfying motoring in the European tradition.”

For 1986, Buick’s Century gained a new slanted grille along with lower profile headlamps. The other major news was the T Type coupe had been discontinued, though the sedan version remained alive. Both the sedan and the coupe were available in Custom (base) and Limited trim, while the wagon was available in Custom (base) and Estate versions. We’ll concentrate on the sedan in this post.

Standard power on the Century remained the Iron Duke 92 bhp 2.5 liter/151 ci inline four with throttle-body fuel injection. Two different V6 engines were available: a $435 112 bhp 2.8 liter/181 ci V6 with a two-barrel carburetor and a $695 150 bhp 3.8 liter/231 ci V6 with sequential fuel injection. A three-speed automatic transmission was standard with the 2.5 liter inline four and 2.8 liter V6, but buyers could add a four-speed automatic for an additional $175.

With these three engines, two transmissions, and curb weights in the 2,750 to 2,850-pound range, there was a wide variance in performance. 0-60 mph with the inline four/three-speed automatic combination was about 13.5 seconds, while 3.8 liter/231 ci V6 owners with the four-speed automatic could expect to get from 0-60 in about 10 seconds.

Mileage with the base four and three-speed automatic was 22 city/32 highway (19/29 by today’s standards) while owners of the top-of-the-line V6/four-speed automatic combination could expect 19 city/29 highway (17/26 by 2018 standards). With a 15.7-gallon fuel tank, Century V6 drivers could expect a range of between 305 and 340 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard equipment on the $10,228 Century Custom (about $23,800 in 2018 dollars—just slightly under what a 2019 Regal Sportback goes for) included front-wheel drive, power rack-and-pinion steering, power front disc/rear drum brakes, and 185/75R14 tires (a size still available from Hankook) on 14-inch wheels. Inside, a cloth notchback front bench seat and a Delco AM radio with dual front speakers and a fixed antenna were included.

Moving up to the $10,729 Limited (about $25,000 in today’s dollars) added 55/45 notchback velour seats and a hood ornament.

The relatively rare $13,714 T Type (about $31,900 in 2018 dollars) included the 3.8 liter/231 ci V6 and four-speed automatic combination, along with a Gran Touring suspension and 215/60R14 tires on 14-inch aluminum wheels. Inside, a sport leather-wrapped steering wheel, a full length storage console, and reclining cloth bucket seats were included.

Century buyers had many choices to personalize their sedan. Optional exterior and mechanical equipment included aluminum wheels ($199), tinted glass ($115), and engine block heater ($18). Inside, air conditioning ($750), cruise control ($175), Twilight Sentinel ($57), power windows ($270), and six-way power driver’s seat ($225) were available.

Century page from the 1986 Buick full-line brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

The 1986 Buick Century sedan sold rather well—sales inched up slightly from 1985 as Buick moved about 232,000, with 5,286 being the T Type version.

I think of these A-body cars as basic and honest. Centurys sometimes show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors. Make mine dark blue metallic.

Other A-bodies I’ve written about in this blog (I guess I owe the Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera some attention):

1983 Pontiac 6000 STE sedan

1989 Chevrolet Celebrity sedan

1986 Honda Accord sedan

“Once again, other manufacturers will be forced to return to their drawing boards.”

The Honda Accord was all new for 1986, with a brand new body and upgraded engines—the standard powertrain was the A20A 98 bhp 2.0 liter/120 ci inline four with two-barrel carburetor paired to a five-speed manual transmission (a four-speed automatic was optional). Acceleration was acceptable: 0-60 came in a little under 11 seconds in the approximately 2,400-pound car. Mileage was good: 27 city/33 highway by the standards of the day (about 23 city/30 highway by 2018 standards). With a 15.9-gallon fuel tank, Accord drivers could expect a range of from 380 to 430 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

By modern standards, the 1986 Accord was not a large car: with a 102.4-inch wheelbase and a 178.5-inch length, it was four inches shorter in both wheelbase and length than a 2018 Honda Civic and was classified by the EPA as a subcompact car (the modern Accord is classified as a large car). What’s even more striking is the height or lack thereof: at 53.3 inches, the Accord was only three inches taller than the same year’s Camaro. The 1986 Accord had a six-inch longer wheelbase, three inches more of length, and was almost an inch shorter than the 1985 version.

Standard equipment on the base Accord DX sedan included front wheel drive, double wishbone front and rear suspension, power brakes, variable-assist power steering, pop-up halogen headlights, hidden wipers, and P185/70R13 tires (a size still available) on 13-inch wheels with full wheel covers. Inside reclining front bucket seats, an adjustable steering column, and cruise control were included. The DX went for $9,299—about $21,600 in 2018 dollars.

Moving up to the LX added air conditioning, power door locks, power windows, and an AM/FM stereo with cassette player and power antenna. The top of the line LXi went for $12,675 (about $29,400 in today’s dollars or about what a 2018 Accord EX-L sedan goes for) and added the 110 bhp fuel injected engine, cast aluminum alloy wheels, and a power moonroof.

1986 Honda Accord advertisement.

The 1986 Honda Accord was well received. It was present on Car and Driver‘s 10 Best list and got good reviews. Honda sold 325,000 in the United States, making it the fifth best selling car model that year.

Third-generation Accords were once prevalent on American roads, but have virtually disappeared by now. You do occasionally see these Accords for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, but there were no sedans out there as I write this in July 2018.

1986 Acura Legend Touring Sedan

“No other automobile line has accomplished so much, so soon.”

The 1986 Acura Legend Touring Sedan was the top of the line vehicle available from the then brand new Acura brand and the first Honda product made with a six-cylinder engine.

I have always said that Honda is an engine company and the Legend’s C25A 151 bhp 2.5 liter/152 ci fuel-injected 24-valve SOHC V6 was an interesting one, with a 90 degree V-angle to the crankshaft. Mileage with the five-speed manual transmission was decent—20 city/25 highway by the standards of the day (18/23 by 2018 standards), giving the Legend a 330 to 365 mile range with a 10% fuel reserve. With that same five-speed manual, 0-60 mph came in a little under nine seconds in the 3,078-pound car.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment in the $19,898 sedan (about $46,100 in 2018 dollars—just a little over what a loaded 2019 Acura TLX costs) included four-wheel disc brakes, a power tilt/slide sunroof, power folding mirrors, remote locking/keyless entry, and P205/60R15 tires (a size still readily available) on 15-inch wheels. Inside, an information system that could monitor maintenance intervals, fluid levels, and fuel economy, a driver’s side air bag, a power driver’s seat, and adjustable rear seats were also included. The only option available was a four-speed automatic transmission.

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1986 Acura Legend Touring Sedan

I don’t see a lot of Legends come up for sale in either the Hemmings Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors. First generation Legends have a small but avid following (with decent online support), and I find that they stand out when I see them. Make mine Blade Silver Metallic, please.

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1986 Chevrolet Cavalier Z24 coupe

“Camaro Z28 Is Its Big Brother”

Chevrolet’s Cavalier Z24 was announced for the 1985 model year, but didn’t actually become available until the 1986 model year. The most important feature of the Z24 was definitely the engine—GM’s corporate LB6 120 bhp 2.8 liter/171 ci V6 with multi-port fuel injection. Paired with the standard four-speed manual transmission, 0-60 came in about 8.5 seconds in the 2,450-pound car—decent for a sporty compact car in 1986 (the 102 bhp Volkswagen GTI hatchback of the same year was about as fast).

Mileage was 19 city/26 highway by the standards of the day (19/24 by today’s standards). The Z24‘s range was an unimpressive 225 miles with a 10% fuel reserve—like all Cavaliers, the fuel tank was only 11.6 gallons (the same size as a modern Mini).

Standard equipment on the $8,878 Z24 (about $19,600 in today’s dollars) included the aforementioned engine and transmission, a ground effects package, black grille, dual black sport mirrors, the F41 sports suspension, and P215/60R-14 Eagle GT radial tires mounted on 14-inch Rally wheels. Inside, all Z24 buyers received digital instrumentation fed from “a 16K computer,” including a tachometer and trip odometer, along with reclining front bucket seats, a rear window defroster, and an AM radio.

Available options included 14-inch aluminum wheels ($173), tinted glass ($99), air conditioning ($645), cruise control with resume ($175), power door locks ($130), power windows ($195), Comfortilt steering wheel ($115), and an electronic-tuning AM stereo/FM stereo seek/scan radio with cassette player, graphic equalizer, and clock ($494). A comfortably optioned Z24 could easily reach almost $11,000 (about $24,100 in 2016 dollars or about what you’ll pay nowadays for a loaded Chevrolet Sonic RS).

Handsome in a broad-shouldered sort of way, the Z24 coupe sold pretty well for 1986—about 36,000 units. The slightly more expensive hatchback added another 10,000 units: the two models accounted for about 11% of total Cavalier production.

There are a few folks collecting these cars, but they certainly aren’t common at shows. You do occasionally see Z24s for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors: as I write this in November 2015, there’s a white 1988 Z24 convertible with a gray interior and 52,000 miles listed on Hemmings for $7,000.

Other J cars in this blog:

1982 Cadillac Cimarron sedan

1988 Cadillac Cimarron sedan

1986 Mercedes-Benz 560SEC coupe

Only a couple of blocks from my house, I walked by a black 560SEC with a tan interior in really good condition earlier this week—a good enough reason as any to write this post.

“Bold lines which reflect the latest in motoring refinement.”

For 1986, Mercedes-Benz’s big W126 S-Class coupe gained an upgraded 238 bhp M117 5.5 liter/338 ci Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injected V8 paired with a four-speed automatic transmission. The mid-cycle refresh also differed cosmetically from previous years with the addition of flush-face halogen headlamps and integral headlight wipers.

0-60 came in a sprightly 7.5 seconds in the 3,900-pound car while mileage was a predictably bad 14 city/16 highway by the standards of the day (12/15 by modern standards). With the large 23.8-gallon fuel tank, range was between 290 and 320 miles with a 10% reserve.

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Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $58,700 560SEC (about $129,700 in today’s dollars—a modern S550 4MATIC coupe starts at $119,900) included four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and 215/65VR15 tires on 15-inch “fifteen slot” alloy wheels.

Interior equipment included electronic automatic climate control (said to be less effective than you’d expect), an electronically adjustable steering column, cruise control, driver’s side airbag, dual-stage heated front seats, leather steering-wheel and shift-lever trim, and a Becker Grand Prix AM/FM stereo radio with cassette player and power antenna.

Optional equipment included sun roof, power rear sun shade, front passenger air bag, and California emissions.

There is decent club support for the 560SEC, as there is for almost all Mercedes-Benz’s. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1986 Mercedes-Benz 560SEC in #1 condition is $15,500, with a more normal #3 condition car going for $7,700. 560SECs frequently show up for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors: as I write this in July 2015, there’s a black 560SEC with a beige interior and 97,000 miles listed on Hemmings for $14,000.

Make mine Black Pearl, please.

1986 Mercury Capri

“Proof that getting there can be a fun experience in itself.”

Mercury made three attempts at the Capri. The first was an imported version of the European Ford Capri and was sold from the 1970 to 1978 model years as first the Capri and then the Capri II. The second was Mercury’s version of the Fox body Mustang and was sold from 1979 to 1986. The final version of the Capri was an imported version of the Australian Ford Capri and was 1991 to 1994. Sense a trend here?

For 1986, Mercury’s Capri had three engine choices and two transmission choices. Standard on the GS was the Lima 88 bhp (aargh!) 2.3 liter in-line 4 with one-barrel carburetor mated to a four-speed manual transmission. Power options for the GS included the Essex 120 bhp 3.8 liter fuel injected V-6 and the (wonderful) Windsor 200 bhp 5.0 liter V-8 with sequential fuel injection that was standard on the 5.0L. All three engines could be paired with a three-speed automatic transmission for an additional $510 (the V-6 required the automatic while the 5.0L came standard with a five-speed manual transmission with overdrive).

Mileage ratings for the various configurations ranged from 23 city/28 highway (21/26 by today’s standards) for the four-speed manual in-line 4 combination that I’m not convinced that anyone bought to 17/25 for the “big daddy” five-speed manual paired with the V-8.

Performance with the 2.3 liter paired with either transmission was ghastly — 0-60 came in about 15 seconds, which meant a Capri driver with the Lima engine would see only the taillights of Iron Duke powered Camaros and Firebirds (such a sad competition!). Moving to the V-6 paid significant performance dividends, dropping the 0-60 time by about 3.5 seconds. Of course, the V-8 was by far the best: even the automatic was in the 7 second range, while the manual could do 0-60 in about 6.5 seconds.

The base price for a Capri GS was $8,331 (about $17,800 in 2015 dollars). For that money, the Capri came fairly well equipped by mid-1980s standards: external and mechanical feature included halogen headlamps, power steering, power brakes, tinted glass, and the distinctive bubble-back rear hatch with rear-window defroster. Inside, power windows, interval wipers, tilt steering wheel, and an AM/FM stereo radio were standard.

Page from the 1986 Mercury Capri brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

The more sporty Capri 5.0L stickered for $10,950 (about $23,300 in today’s dollars) and added the aforementioned V-8, dual exhaust, and P225/60VR15 tires on cast aluminum wheels.

Exterior options for both the GS and the 5.0L included a flip-up open-air roof ($315) or a T-Roof ($1,100). Inside, buyers could add air conditioning ($762), power door lock group ($182), speed control ($176), and an AM/FM stereo radio with cassette ($300).

Sales for the last of the second generation Capris were not at all good, but Capri sales had not been good for years — Mercury’s traditional problem wedged between Ford and Lincoln. By 1986, Capri sales were about 9% of Mustang sales.

MercuryCapriSales

Fox body Capris sometimes show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds, but there’s definitely not a lot of activity, though I’ll say they are uncommon rather than unloved. Make mine Smoke Metallic, please.

1986 Cadillac Eldorado coupe

“Imaginatively new. Decidedly Cadillac.”

Is it possible to miss the market more than this? For, 1986 Cadillac downsized the front wheel drive Eldorado coupe again. This time, wheelbase dropped to 108 inches, and overall length was down by over 16 inches to 188 inches—what was supposed the top of the non-limousine Cadillac line was now about the size of a 1986 Chevrolet Celebrity (or only about six inches longer than a 2014 ATS) and a full three feet shorter than the (admittedly massive) 1978 Eldorado.

Predictably, Eldorado buyers didn’t go for it. Sales collapsed from about 74,000 in 1985 to about 21,000 in 1986—definitely not what would be expected from a complete model revision.

EightiesEldoradoSales

So, what did those relatively few buyers get with their $24,251 (about $52,600 in today’s dollars) 1986 Eldorado? Standard exterior and mechanical equipment included power four-wheel disc brakes, power steering, and aluminum alloy wheels. Inside, front bucket seats, power mirrors, power windows, power door locks, a power trunk release, cruise control, electronic climate control, and an AM/FM stereo radio with power antenna were all included, so the Eldorado was at least pretty well equipped.

Moving up to the Biarritz (almost always the top if the line Eldorado since 1956) cost either $3,095 (with cloth seats) or $3,495 (with leather seats) raising the price to either $27,346 ($59,400 today) or $27,746 ($60,200 today). Standard equipment on the Biarritz included nicer seats with power lumbar support, two-tone paint, and real walnut accents.

Options included a power Astroroof ($1,255), a nicely integrated cellular phone ($2,850), the FE2 touring suspension with 15-inch aluminum alloy wheels and 215/60R15 Goodyear Eagle GT tires ($155), and the Delco-GM/Bose Symphony Sound System ($895).

The Eldorado’s engine was Cadillac’s 130 bhp HT-4100 throttle body fuel injected 4.1 liter/249 ci V8 paired with a four-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy was 17 city/26 highway by the standards of the day (15/24 by today’s standards). Since the engine and transmission remained the same and the Eldorado was smaller and lighter, performance was better but still not very impressive: 0-60 improved to about 11 seconds.

Page from the 1986 Cadillac Eldorado brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1986 Eldorado in #1/Concours condition is $10,400, with a far more typical #3/Good car going for a mere $3,900. Eldorados of this age come up for sale often in Hemmings Motor News, so folks are saving them. As I write this in June 2014, four 1986 Eldorados are for sale, with prices ranging from $7,750 to $11,995.