1987 Sterling 825 sedan

“… such effortless motion, …”

The Sterling 825 sedan was an interesting (perhaps desperate) attempt at re-introducing Rover cars to the North American market, but with different branding than the brutally unsuccessful Rover 3500 hatchback sedan from 1980. Based on the same platform as the acclaimed Acura Legend, the Sterling featured an angular exterior design and an interior with traditional British luxury cues such as Connolly leather seats and burled walnut trim. On the exterior, only the door handles were obviously shared between the Acura and the Sterling.

A Honda-built 151 bhp 2.5 liter/152 ci V6 with fuel injection combined with a five-speed manual transmission yielded mpg ratings of 18 city /24 highway by the standards of the day (16/22 by modern standards). The four-speed automatic transmission dropped mpg incrementally to 17 city/23 highway.

The $19,200 (about $30,700 in today’s dollars or about $6,000 less than the price of a base 2019 Jaguar XE sedan) 825 S came with remote locking, power rack-and-pinion steering, power brakes, and 195/65R15 tires (a size still readily available) on 15-inch alloy wheels. Inside, air conditioning, power windows, an electric moonroof, cruise control, velour cloth seats, and a Phillips AM/FM stereo cassette with six speakers were all included.

Moving up to the $23,900 (about $38,200 in 2018 dollars) 825 SL added a four-speed automatic transmission, Bosch anti-lock brakes, a trip computer, leather upholstery with a heated driver’s seat, and an eight-speaker stereo.

Advertised as “The inevitable British road car.” Sterling sold 14,171 units of the 825 in the 1987 model year—not a bad debut. But, trouble was brewing; in an attempt to generate more jobs in the United Kingdom, Rover had decided to use Lucas electronic systems instead of those from Honda. Predictably, those electronics weren’t reliable, and there were also issues with the interior plastics and the exterior paint. Finally, rust came much too quickly.

All this meant that sales dropped rapidly. In 1988, only 8,901 were sold, and every year following things got worse. In August 1991, Sterling announced they were leaving the North American market after selling a total of about 35,000 cars over five years.

In 2018, the Sterling 825 rarely comes up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors. I haven’t seen one in many years, but I believe I’d still notice that handsome styling if I did. Make mine silver, I think.

1987 Mercury Lynx XR3 hatchback coupe

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“… the sporting side of Lynx.”

1987 was the final year for the Lynx—Mercury’s version of Ford’s Escort compact. The Escort would soldier on for many more years (through model year 2002), but from 1988 forward the smallest American-built Mercury would be the Topaz—still a compact, but larger in almost every dimension. For 1986 and 1987, the top of the line Lynx was the XR3 hatchback coupe.

The Lynx XR3‘s standard (and only) powertrain was a “High Output” 115 bhp 1.9 liter/113 ci inline four with Bosch fuel injection paired to a five-speed manual transmission. Mileage was good—25 city/34 highway by the standards of the day (about 22 city/31 highway by 2018 standards). Acceleration was reasonably quick: 0-60 came in about 10 seconds in the approximately 2,400-pound car. With a 13-gallon fuel tank, Lynx XR3 drivers could expect a range of 310 to 345 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $8,808 Lynx XR3 (about $20,100 in today’s dollars and close to what a 2018 Fiesta ST hatchback costs) included an asymmetrical grille, an aerodynamic front air dam with built-in fog lamps, wide wheel flairs, a rear spoiler, dual power mirrors, and P195/60R15 Goodyear Eagle GT tires (a size still readily available) on 15-inch cast-aluminum wheels. Inside, cloth sport bucket seats, power steering, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a locking fuel filler door with remote release were included.

Standard equipment on every Lynx included front-wheel-drive, rack-and-pinion steering, a four-wheel independent suspension, aero halogen headlamps, low-back individual reclining seats, and a folding rear seat. The Lynx was not a large car—there aren’t many small coupes left to compare it to, but the current Honda Civic coupe is 5 inches wider and about 10 inches longer.

XR3 page from the 1987 Mercury Lynx brochure.

Since the XR3 came relatively loaded for a compact car, there weren’t many options available. Seven separate options available for lesser Lynxes were standard on the XR3. Exterior and mechanical options for the XR3 included tinted glass ($105), a rear window wiper/washer ($126), and an engine block heater ($18). Inside, air conditioning ($688), speed control ($176), and a tilt steering wheel ($179) were available.

The final-year Lynx didn’t sell very well: a total of 39,039 in a year when Ford sold 374,765 Escorts. First-generation Escorts and Lynxes were once so prevalent on American roads, but have now virtually disappeared. You occasionally see Lynxes for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, but there are none out there as I write this in July 2018.

Make mine Smoke, please.

Other Mercury’s I have written about are the 1983 Grand Marquis sedan, the 1986 Capri hatchback coupe, and the 1988 Cougar XR-7 coupe. I have also written about the 1981 Ford Escort hatchback coupe.

1987 Chevrolet Chevette CS hatchback sedan

My wife and I were taking a walk early this Saturday morning and passed a Chevrolet Chevette parked at the end of our street. Reason enough to finally complete this blog entry.

“… one of America’s best known cars …”

1987 was the final year for the somewhat antiquated rear wheel drive Chevette—in North America, at least. The 1.8-liter diesel engine was no more, but otherwise little was changed from 1986.

The only engine available was the L17 1.6 liter/98 ci inline four with a Holley 6510c two-barrel carburetor and 65 bhp, but you did have a choice of transmission: the standard four-speed manual, an optional three-speed automatic ($450), or an optional five-speed manual ($75). Mileage with the standard transmission was 28 city/34 highway by the standards of the day (24/31 by today’s standards). With the 12.2-gallon fuel tank, Chevette owners could expect a 340-mile range with a 10% reserve. Predictably, 0-60 mph took a little under 16 long seconds.

The Chevette was a small car, classified by the EPA as a sub-compact. Curb weight for the sedan was 2,137 pounds, with a 97.3-inch wheelbase, a 164.9-inch overall length, a 61.8-inch width, and a 52.8-inch height.

The truly “base” Chevette had been gone since 1985, but standard equipment was spare even on the supposedly upmarket CS. For your $5,495 base price (about $12,500 in 2018 dollars—a little under the cost of a base 2019 Chevrolet Spark hatchback coupe), you got four doors, a rear hatch with a single strut, rack and pinion steering, front disc and rear drum brakes, and P155/80R13 tires (a size still available from Kumho) on 13-inch by 5-inch steel wheels. Inside, there were vinyl front bucket seats and vinyl rear bench seats, along with a floor console.

Because the standard equipment was so spare, there were a lot of options. Optional exterior and mechanical equipment included power brakes ($105), power steering ($225), an engine block heater ($20), and a custom exterior package ($154). Inside, the buyer could add air conditioning ($675), a tilt steering column ($125), custom cloth bucket seats ($130), a rear defogger ($145), and an AM/FM stereo radio ($119).

Despite being on its last legs, Chevrolet still sold a little over 20,000 Chevette sedans in 1987, along with slightly more than 26,000 coupes. Chevettes rarely show up in either the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors.

Updated February 2019.

1987 Chevrolet Caprice Classic coupe

For unclear reasons, for several years this was my most popular post on this blog. Because of this, I recently updated it to reflect both changes in my posting style and substantial improvements in available data.

“… the personal flair of a distinctive coupe.”

1987 was the final model year for Chevrolet’s Caprice Classic coupe, with only 3,110 made. Beginning in 1988, the Caprice would soldier on with just the sedan and wagon, as the once very popular big American coupes continued to lose favor.

ChevroletCoupeSales

The standard power team on the coupe (and sedan) was the LB4 140 bhp 4.3 liter/262 ci V6 with throttle-body fuel injection paired with a three-speed automatic transmission. Mileage was rated at 18 city/23 highway by the standards of the day (16/22 by modern standards).

Optional power was the LG4 165 bhp 5.0 liter/305 ci V8 with a four-barrel carburetor paired with a four-speed automatic transmission (I see what you did there, Chevrolet). In 1987, this combination was rated at 18 city/25 highway (16/23 by 2014 standards). With a large 25-gallon fuel tank, you could reasonably expect a comfortable range of about 440 to 480 miles with a 10% fuel reserve—impressive for a 3,600-pound full-size car back then. Even with the V8, these cars were not fast—0-60 came in about 10.5 seconds.

Caprice Classic Coupe pages from the 1987 Chevrolet Impala/Caprice brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

Standard equipment for the $11,392 coupe (about $26,600 in today’s dollars—just a few thousand dollars less than a 2020 Impala LT sedan goes for) included power steering, power brakes, halogen headlights, and P205/75R15 all-season radial tires (a size still readily available) on 15-inch wheels. Inside, a full-width cloth bench seat, Quiet Sound Group, and an AM radio were standard.

Optional equipment included air conditioning ($775), cruise control ($175), power door locks ($145), power windows ($210), power seats ($240 each), power trunk opener ($50), a 50/50 split-front seat ($195), and AM/FM stereo cassette with graphic equalizer ($435).

I have fun sometimes (often?) building a “unicorn” configuration for these old cars. When I was working at the local Chevrolet dealership in the mid-eighties, I dreamed up a Caprice S. Here’s what optional equipment it would have required, all still available in 1987:

  • F41 Sport Suspension (includes a rear stabilizer bar, 15-inch by 7-inch wheels, and sportier shock absorbers)
  • LG4 5.0 liter/305 ci V8
  • P225/70R-15 tires
  • Sport wheel covers
  • Limited slip differential
  • Performance axle ratio
  • Heavy-duty cooling
  • Dual power Sport mirrors
  • Special instrumentation/gauge package

So, a “John-configured” coupe would have listed for at least $15,096—real money in 1987 and about $34,500 in 2019 dollars. A desperate product planner might have tried to get the leather seats from the Brougham available in the Coupe and maybe scored some black wall tires, but that’s another story …

These big and (I think) handsome coupes show up occasionally in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, though Hagerty’s valuation tools do not track Caprice Classic values between 1972 and 1991. When I last updated this blog entry in December 2019, there was a Dark Gray Metallic 1984 coupe with sand gray cloth seats and 150,000 miles for sale on Hemmings for $12,000. Make mine Silver Metallic, please, though I’m tempted by the Black/Medium Gray Metallic two-tone.

Another Caprice that I’ve written about is the 1985 Caprice Classic station wagon.

Updated December 2019.

1987 Porsche 911 3.2 Carrera coupe

“The Classic Porsche”

For 1987, the Carrera version of Porsche’s evergreen 911 continued with the Bosch fuel injected 3.2 liter/193 ci flat six in use since 1984, but with a new fuel mapping that increased horsepower slightly to 214 bhp. With the standard Getrag G50 five-speed manual transmission (also new for 1987), you could expect to hit 60 mph in 6.1 seconds, with a top speed of 149 mph in the 2,750 pound Carrera (the 2020 911 Carrera S is almost 3,400 pounds). Fuel mileage was 18 city/25 highway by the standards of the day (16/23 by today’s standards) with premium gas.

The 911 was certainly not an entry-level Porsche: in 1987 that was left to the 924S (starting at $19,900) and the 944 ($25,500). For your 911’s $40,425 base price (about $92,100 in 2019 dollars) you got four-wheel vented disc brakes (but no ABS) and an engine oil cooler. The exterior included forged alloy wheels, heated power mirrors, heated windshield washer nozzles, fog lights, and tinted glass. Inside, power windows, air conditioning, fold-down rear seats, and Blaupunkt’s AM/FM stereo cassette (either Charleston or Portland) with four speakers were all standard.

By 1987, Porsche had figured out that the real money was in the options—a behavior that continues to this day. They included the Turbo-Look 911 Turbo body components ($12,593!), limited slip differential ($741), sport shock absorbers ($247), and front and rear spoilers ($1,604). Inside, you could add cruise control ($365), power door locks ($334), heated seats ($164 each), an alarm system ($240), and Blaupunkt’s upmarket Reno AM/FM stereo cassette ($133).

Things hadn’t gotten that comfortable, though—that would wait for the 1990s. There was as yet no automatic transmission option, and many (including Car and Driver) mentioned that the ergonomics still showed their 1960s origins when compared to the 928 or 944.

911 Carreras from the 1980s have held their values quite well. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1987 Porsche  911 3.2 Carrera coupe in #1/Concours condition is $86,000, with a more normal #3/Good condition car going for $45,500. A cabriolet can fetch up to $68,900 while a targa can get up to $77,700.

Porsche 911 3.2 Carreras have (of course) excellent club support from many sources and are often available in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds. As I update this in February 2019, a Guards Red 1987 coupe with 40,000 miles is for sale for $74,500. Make mine Silver Metallic, please.

Updated February 2019.