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.

1986 Chrysler Town & Country convertible

“Why sit around waiting for a summer breeze to come up when you can create quite a stir yourself?”

1986 was the last model year for Chrysler’s Town & Country convertible. Basically a special version of Chrysler’s LeBaron convertible, the Town & Country was first available in 1983 and was intended to remind potential buyers of the classic (and valuable) Town & Country convertibles of the 1940s. It was not especially successful, selling only 3,721 units in four years, with only 501 sold in 1986.

Like all LeBarons, the Town & Country’s front and rear fascias, headlights, grilles, and taillights were all updated with a more rounded and aerodynamic look in 1986. The center-mounted brake light mandated for all 1986 vehicles by U.S. federal law was mounted atop the trunk lid. Inside, the standard digital instrument cluster was redesigned for better legibility.

1986ChryslerTown&Country
1986 Chrysler Town & Country convertible from the LeBaron brochure.

Also for 1986, a throttle-body fuel injected K 2.5 liter/152 ci inline four producing 100 bhp replaced the carburetted 2.6 inline liter four built by Mitsubishi as the base engine. The optional fuel injected Turbo I 146 bhp 2.2 liter/135 ci turbocharged inline four remained for an additional $628. Both engines were paired with a TorqueFlite three-speed automatic. Mileage with the base engine was 23 city/25 highway by the standards of the day (20/23 by 2014 standards). The Turbo I was rated at 20 city/24 highway—not a big price to pay for a significant percentage of extra horsepower.

The base price for 1986 was a non-trivial $17,595 (about $37,600 in today’s dollars). For that money, you got halogen headlights, dual horns, power brakes, wire wheel covers with locks, and the Town & Country’s distinctive white ash moldings and teak appliques on the body sides. Inside you got a very attractive Mark Cross leather interior along with air conditioning, power mirrors, power driver’s seat, and the Ultimate Sound System AM/FM stereo cassette with graphic equalizer and six speakers.

Options included the $302 Deluxe Convenience Package (cruise control and tilt wheel) and the Power Convenience Discount Package (power windows and power locks).

These eighties Town & Country convertibles are being collected but by a very small set of collectors. I have recently seen nice examples at several AACA judged shows. You do see them for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors: as I update this in June 2015, there’s a white 1986 Town & Country with 82,000 miles for sale for $6,500.

Of course, these convertibles also started Chrysler’s long tradition of making convertibles that might occasionally be sporty but were not sports cars—a market niche they only just exited with the demise of the Chrysler 200 convertible.

I still like what Chrysler was trying to do, and I appreciate how these cars look. Make mine White, please, with that killer Almond/Cream leather interior.

1986 Chevrolet Camaro Berlinetta hatchback coupe

“Elegance With a Technical Touch.”

1986 was the last model year for the Berlinetta semi-luxury version of Chevrolet’s Camaro, and they were by far the rarest of the three Camaros types available. With only 4,579 Berlinettas built in 1986, Chevrolet sold more than eleven times as many IROC-Zs alone.

The base powertrain for the Berlinetta was the LB8 135 bhp 2.8 liter/173 ci multi-port fuel injected V6 with a five-speed manual transmission. Optional power was the $750 LG4 155 bhp 5.0 liter/305 ci V8 with a four-barrel carburetor which was paired with a $465 four-speed automatic transmission (the five-speed manual was not available with the V8 on the Berlinetta).

Fuel economy with the base powertrain combination was 17 city/26 highway by the standards of the day (15/24 by modern standards). Moving up to the V8 dropped mileage ratings only slightly—to 17/25, and reduced the 0-60 mph time to a respectable 9 seconds in a car that weighed approximately 3,250 pounds. With a 15.6-gallon fuel tank, a V8 Berlinetta owner could expect a range of 265 to 295 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Camaro Berlinetta print advertisement.
Camaro Berlinetta print advertisement.

Your $11,902 base price (about $27,600 in today’s dollars or about what a 2019 Chevrolet Camaro 2LT coupe goes for) bought standard mechanical and exterior equipment including power brakes, power steering, dual horns, and Berlinetta-specific wheel covers. Inside, a custom interior, intermittent windshield wipers, a roof console, a locking rear storage cover, and an AM/FM stereo radio with clock and four speakers were included.

Of course, the notable interior component for the Berlinetta was the “Welcome aboard Starship Camaro.” (yes, that was a real advertisement) cluster with dual adjustable control pods, a vacuum-fluorescent digital speedometer, and a bar graph tachometer. To an aspiring young audiophile, the killer feature of this interior was the optional (an extra $242) AM/FM stereo on a swivel with a “proper” upright (no slot) cassette deck and a five-band graphic equalizer. For 1986 only, the stereo received substantially improved backlighting.

Exterior and mechanical options included four-wheel disc brakes ($179), t-tops ($846—ouch!), a rear spoiler ($69), halogen headlamps ($25), rear window defogger ($145), and nice looking Berlinetta-specific aluminum finned wheels ($225). Inside, you could add cruise control ($175) and Berlinetta-specific electronically-controlled air conditioning ($750).

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1986 Berlinetta in (rare) #1 condition is $13,400, with a more normal #3 condition car going for $6,200. In general, third-generation Camaros have good club support and are often available in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and eBay Motors, but Berlinettas of any year are rarely seen. There was a red 1984 Berlinetta with tan cloth seats, a V8, and 34,000 miles available for sale in Hemmings for $11,000 when I last checked in December 2018.

Make mine Black, please.

Updated December 2018.

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1986 Ford Taurus sedan

“An automobile that evolved from a new way of thinking.”

Ford’s 1986 Taurus marked an almost unbelievable change from the Fox-platform LTD that it replaced. Gone was the rear wheel drive and squarish looks, replaced by something front wheel drive with Jack Telnack’s completely different design.

The Taurus definitely looked different on the road, especially for a Ford. Getting beyond the looks, the base engine on the Taurus was the central fuel injected (CFI—otherwise known as throttle-body injection) 90 bhp HSC 2.5 liter inline four. Optional was the fuel injected 140 bhp Vulcan 3.0 liter V6. Mileage with the base engine and the standard three-speed automatic transmission was 20 city/27 highway by the standards of the day (18/24 by 2014 standards). Mileage with the top of the line V6 and four-speed automatic transmission combination was rated at 20 city/28 highway.

Standard equipment on the $9,645 (about $20,700 in today’s dollars) base Taurus L was … fairly basic. Mechanical features include halogen headlamps, power steering, and power brakes. Inside, cloth seats (either bench or bucket) were standard, along with a rear window defroster and an AM radio with two speakers.

Intended to be the sportiest Taurus, the Taurus MT5 ended up being quite rare. It added a five-speed manual transmission with a floor console but paired that with the base engine. Power mirrors, intermittent wipers, tilt steering wheel, bucket seats, a tachometer, and AM/FM stereo radio with four speakers were also included.

The Taurus GL was the usual step up from the L and included the Vulcan V6 and the four-speed automatic as standard equipment. With a GL, you also got power mirrors, intermittent wipers, and an AM/FM stereo radio with four speakers.

The top of the line for 1986 was the Taurus LX (there was as yet no SHO). Beyond all the GL features, every LX included lower body cladding (you’ll have to believe me that it was at least a little hip at the time) and front cornering lamps. Inside, the LX came with air conditioning, power windows, and tilt steering wheel.

Optional exterior and mechanical equipment available for every Taurus included 15-inch aluminum wheels, power antenna, power moonroof, keyless entry system, and an engine block heater. Inside, you could upgrade to six-way power seats, cruise control, and the Premium Sound System. An interesting option was the extended range fuel tank, which added 2.5 gallons to the standard 13.3-gallon tank—perhaps another 55 miles of range in the real world.

Options only available on the upmarket GL and LX models included an electronic air conditioner and leather seating surfaces (LX only).

A car that could have killed (or at least severely wounded) Ford if it had failed, the first generation Taurus was instead very successful. Over 230,000 were sold in the 1986 model year alone, and the Taurus made Car and Driver‘s “10 Best” in 1986 in addition to being Motor Trend‘s “Car of the Year” (one of the few choices that MT made in the 1980s that hasn’t ended up being embarrassing).

Make mine Silver Clearcoat Metallic, please. If (as many claimed) the Taurus was imitating the Audi 5000, we might as well go all the way and use a proper German color.

1986 Porsche 944 Turbo

“Keeping Up with a Porsche 944 Has Just Gone from Difficult to Impossible”

Porsche released its Turbo version of the 944 for the 1986 model year, marking yet another step in the evolution from the original 95 bhp (!) 924 “almost a Volkswagen” design, which dated from 1976.

The 944 Turbo featured a turbocharged and intercooled version of the standard 944’s 2.5 liter inline 4 that produced 217 bhp. New forged pistons were included along with a strengthened gearbox and standard external oil coolers for both the engine and transmission.

Despite some major turbo lag, performance was quite good for the mid-1980s: Car and Driver managed to get a 0-60 time of 6.1 seconds and a top speed of 157 mph, though they noted that the price of almost $30,000 might freeze out some previous 944 customers.

Looks weren’t sharply different from the “civilian” 944, which stayed in production. The nose was somewhat simplified with an integrated front bumper and the rear had a fairing fitted to clean up the appearance of some underside components. Wheels resembling those on the “big brother” 928 were fitted. The result looked quite good in commercials.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for an 1986 944 Turbo in #1 condition is $24,300. I’m beginning to see 944s at judged car shows and they maintain a reasonable presence in the Hemming Motor News classifieds. Make mine Guards Red, please.

1986 Pontiac Fiero GT coupe

While I was out today on the highway in my 1980s car, I saw a Pontiac Fiero coming up quickly from behind.

You just don’t see that many Fieros on the road in 2013—the youngest of them is now over 25 years old. This one was red, and I believe it was a 1987 or 1988 base coupe—the dead giveaway is that it did not have the black bumper pads but otherwise had the debut Fiero 2M4 look. I gave the driver of the Fiero a thumbs-up, he gave me a wave, and we went our separate ways.

“One red-hot with everything, to go.”

The Pontiac Fiero came to market in 1984 with ridiculous expectations brought on partially by Pontiac and partly by how the public sees two-seat mid-engine cars. What had intitially been designed as a somewhat sporty commuter car became a significant part of Pontiac’s We Build Excitement strategy.

At this point, the painful fact that the Fiero’s mechanical parts were from the low end of the General Motors parts bin became stunningly obvious. Citation and Chevette suspension parts abounded, and the only available engine was the distinctly uninspiring 2.5 liter/151 ci Iron Duke inline four with fuel injection, featuring all of 90 bhp. Predictably, handling and acceleration did not meet expectations.

By 1986, Pontiac had gone a long way toward fixing some of the underlying issues. The L44 2.8 liter/173 ci V6 was made available in 1985, its 140 bhp and multi-port fuel injection both major upgrades. In 1986, the fastback body style was added, and a five-speed manual transmission became available for the V6, though only late in the model year. With that powertrain, 0-60 came in a little under eight seconds. Mileage in the 2,500-pound car wasn’t bad, either—18 city/28 highway by the standards of the day (16/26 by today’s standards). With the Fiero’s small 10.2-gallon gas tank, range was between 195 and 210 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $12,875 GT (about $29,600 in 2018 dollars) included the V6, retracting halogen headlamps, and P205/60R15 front and P215/60R15 rear tires (both sizes still readily available) on 15-inch diamond-spoke wheels. Options included air conditioning, power windows, intermittent windshield wipers, tilt steering wheel, and a rear spoiler.

The fastback GT was a striking car—the flying buttresses in the rear and aero nose in front substantially changed the look of the Fiero. I liked the base design more at first, but the fastback has grown on me over time.

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

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1986 Fiero GT in #1/Concours condition is $15,100, with a more common #3/Good condition car going for $5,900. Fieros have a good club following and a fairly strong presence in Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. As I update this in December 2018, there’s a Black 1986 Fiero GT with 46,000 miles for sale for $14,000. Make mine Bright Red, please.

Updated December 2018.

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