1980 Lincoln Continental Mark VI coupe

“A car befitting its illustrious heritage”

For 1980, Lincoln completely revised the Continental Mark series, downsizing it for the first time and adding a sedan. The coupe was over 14 inches shorter than the 1979 Mark V and about 750 pounds lighter. However, the Mark VI was still a big car by any standard—a foot and a half longer than a 2017 Mercedes-Benz S550 coupe.

Standard power for 1980 was a Windsor 129 bhp 4.9 liter/302 ci V8 with fuel injection paired with a four-speed automatic overdrive transmission. Buyers could specify a $160 140 bhp 5.8 liter/351 ci V8 with a two-barrel carburetor. With the standard powertrain, 0-60 took about 14 seconds in the 3,892-pound car. Mileage was 17 city/24 highway by the standards of the day—with the 18-gallon gas tank, Mark VI owners could expect a range of about 330 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $16,291 base Mark VI ($54,500 in today’s dollars or about what a 2018 Lincoln Continental Reserve costs) included hidden halogen headlamps, luxury wheel covers, and P205/75R15 white sidewall tires (a size still readily available) on 15-inch wheels. Inside, cloth Twin Comfort lounge seats, power windows, an electronic instrumental panel with message center, a four-spoke color-keyed steering wheel, automatic temperature control air conditioning, and an AM/FM stereo radio with power antenna were all standard.

As had been true for many years, there were multiple designer packages available for the Mark VI: Bill Blass ($1,825), Cartier ($2,191), Emilio Pucci ($2,191), and Givenchy ($1,739). There was also the Signature Series ($5,485), which added just about every possible option and brought the price to $21,776 (about $72,900 in 2018 dollars).

Individual options included touring lamps ($67), Twin Comfort six-way power seats ($171), a tilt steering wheel ($83), and automatic speed control ($149).

Continental Mark VI page from the 1980 Lincoln brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

Like the Ford Thunderbird of the same year, the 1980 Continental Mark VI did not sell. Sales of the coupe dropped to 27% of the 1979 number—even if you added the newly-available sedan, they were still down 49%; not a good look for a brand new model. To make the news worse, the virtually unchanged Cadillac Eldorado (which had been downsized on 1979) more than doubled the Mark VI coupe’s sales. The agony would continue for several years, only changing with the release of the aerodynamic and significantly smaller Mark VII in 1984.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1980 Continental Mark VI in #1/Concours condition is $15,200, with a far more typical #3/Good car going for $6,300. Values slide up with the various designer packages and the Signature Series, but only by about 5% to 10%. This generation of Marks maintains some presence in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors—as I write this in July 2018, there’s burgundy 1980 Signature Series coupe with 4,800 miles for sale asking $25,000.

1981 Ford Escort hatchback coupe

“Built to take on the world.”

Ford’s biggest news for 1981 was the all-new Escort. Marketed as a “World Car,” the Escort replaced the unloved Pinto and represented a three billion dollar commitment from Ford. The new Escort was shorter, thinner, taller, and about 400 pounds lighter than the Pinto it supplanted.

The Escort’s standard powertrain was the Compound Valve Hemispherical (CVH) 65 bhp 1.6 liter/98 ci inline four with Holley-Weber 5740 2-barrel carburetor paired to a four-speed manual transmission (a three-speed automatic was a $344 option). Mileage with the standard powertrain was impressive: 28 city/43 highway by the standards of the day (about 23 city/31 highway by 2018 standards). Acceleration was less so: 0-60 came in about 14 seconds in the approximately 2,000-pound car. With a 10-gallon fuel tank, Escort drivers could expect a range of from 240 to 320 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $5,158 base Escort (about $15,300 in today’s dollars and close to what a 2018 Fiesta SE hatchback costs) included front wheel drive, rack-and-pinion steering, fully independent four-wheel suspension, halogen headlamps, and P155/80R13 tires (a size still available thanks to Kumho) on 13-inch steel wheels. Inside, high-back body-contoured front bucket seats, fold-down rear bench seat, and an AM radio were included.

As was often true with 1980s Fords, there were many trim levels. L added bright headlamp surrounds and a bright grill along with other brightwork. Moving up to the GL gave the purchaser reclining bucket seats and a four-spoke steering wheel. GLX added dual color-keyed remote sport mirrors, digital clock, locking glovebox, and P165/80R13 tires on styled steel wheels—but started at $6,476 (about $19,200 in 2018 dollars).

Fitting between the GL and the GLX in price, the somewhat sporty SS included black grill and headlamp housing, tape striping, and handling suspension ($37 for other Escorts).

Exterior and mechanical options included power brakes ($79) and power steering ($163). Inside, air conditioning ($530), fingertip speed control ($132), a floor console ($98), cloth/vinyl seat trim ($28), and an AM/FM stereo radio with cassette player ($187) were all available.

Escort page from the 1981 Ford brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

The first-year Escort and its platform-mate Mercury Lynx sold well: 193,000 Escort hatchback coupes, 128,000 Escort liftback sedans, 73,000 Lynx hatchback coupes, and 39,000 Lynx liftback sedans, making for a total of over 430,000. First-generation Escorts and Lynx’s were once so prevalent on American roads, but have virtually disappeared by now. You do occasionally see Escorts for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, but there were none out there as I write this in June 2018.

1985 Pontiac Grand Am coupe

“Introducing a brilliant new driver’s coupe”

The Grand Am name returned for the 1985 model year. Instead of the rear-wheel-drive coupe and sedan that it been in its previous two lives from 1973 to 1980 (with none in 1976 or 1977), it was now a front-wheel-drive coupe, part of GM’s N-body offerings. As such, it’s first relatives were the Buick Somerset Regal and the Oldsmobile Calais.

The standard powertrain on the Grand Am was GM’s Tech IV 92 bhp 2.5 liter/151 ci inline four with throttle-body fuel injection connected to a five-speed manual. For $560, optional power was a 125 bhp 3.0 liter/181 ci V6 with fuel injection which required the $425 automatic transmission (also available with the base engine). 0-60 times for early N-body cars are hard to come by, but were likely about 10.5 seconds for the standard powertrain and about 9.0 seconds for the V6/automatic combination—the 2,419 pound shipping weight helped. Mileage with the standard powertrain was rated at 24 city/34 highway by the standards of the day (21/31 by today’s standards). With the 13.6-gallon tank, Grand Am buyers could expect a range of 310 to 350 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $7,995 base coupe (about $19,600 in 2018 dollars) included power rack and pinion steering, power front disc brakes, and P185/80R13 tires on 13-inch wheels. Inside, reclining bucket seats and an integral floor console were included.

The LE (starting at $8,495 or about $20,200 in today’s dollars) included “substantial body side moldings,” upgraded front bucket seats with adjustable headrests, deluxe door trim, and a fold-down rear seat armrest.

Options included rally tuned suspension ($50) and cruise control ($175). A Driver’s Package was also available, which included 215/60R14 Goodyear Eagle GT radials on 14-inch turbo cast aluminum wheels, “sport-tuned” front and rear stabilizers, and a Driver Information Center.

1985 Pontiac Grand Am, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

I think these were handsome cars, especially with those turbo cast aluminum wheels. Like many America cars of the era that aren’t considered to be collectible, they have essentially vanished despite over 82,000 sold in 1985 alone. They’re invisible in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay and are hard to find anywhere.

1980 Ford Thunderbird coupe

“New Thunderbird elegance in a new size …”

To me, the 1980 Ford Thunderbird was one of those “why?” cars, though the competitive drivers were obvious. The third Ford based on the “Fox” platform (the Fairmont and the Mustang had come first), the eighth generation ‘bird was of one of the most radically downsized automobiles in the North American auto industry. In comparison to its 1979 predecessor, the base 1980 Thunderbird was 17 inches shorter and 900 pounds lighter.

Standard power for 1980 was a Windsor 118 bhp 4.2 liter/255 ci V8 with a Motorcraft two-barrel carburetor paired with a SelectShift three-speed automatic transmission. Powertrain upgrades were available: buyers could specify a $150 131 bhp 4.9 liter/302 ci V8 with a two-barrel carburetor and could then add a $133 automatic overdrive transmission (with that engine only).

With the standard powertrain, 0-60 took about 15 seconds in the 3,100-pound car—the best powertrain combination dropped that time to a far more respectable 12 seconds. Mileage was 18 city/26 highway by the standards of the day—with a 17.5-gallon gas tank, a Thunderbird owner could expect a range of about 345 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $6,816 base Thunderbird (about $22,400 in today’s dollars) included variable ratio power rack-and-pinion steering, power brakes, Thunderbird hood ornament with color-coordinated insert, full wheel covers, and P185/75R x 14 black sidewall tires. Inside, a tweed cloth-and-vinyl Flight Bench seat, a day/night inside mirror, an electric clock, and an AM radio were all standard.

Moving up to the $10,424 Town Landau (approximately $34,200 now) added a lot of equipment, including cast aluminum wheels, dual remote control mirrors, interval windshield wipers, velour cloth split front bench seat, six-way power driver’s seat, SelectAire air conditioning, power windows, power lock group, tilt steering wheel, and an AM/FM stereo radio.

The top of the line Silver Anniversary edition ($12,172 then, $39,900 now) added the 4.9 liter engine, the automatic overdrive transmission, Keyless Entry System, a patterned luxury cloth split front bench seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, fingertip speed control, a power antenna, and turbine-spoke cast aluminum wheels.

Options included a power-operated moonroof ($219), electronic information cluster ($275-$313), and leather upholstery ($349).

Two pages from the 1980 Ford Thunderbird brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

To say the market was not ready for the 1980 Thunderbird is a distinct understatement. Despite a much better level of standard equipment, the Thunderbird was only five inches longer than the plebian Fairmont. Sales of Ford’s halo model collapsed: dropping from 284,141 in 1979 to 156,803 in 1979, and losing almost a full percentage point of sales during a year when none of the main General Motors competitors in the personal luxury coupe market had more than a facelift.

It would get worse in the following two years: 86,693 in 1981 and 45,142 in 1982. By 1982, the Thunderbird was being handily outsold by all four of the mid-size GM coupes: Buick Regal, Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Oldsmobile Cutlass, and Pontiac Grand Prix. It would take the next Thunderbird design in 1983 to redress this balance.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1980 Thunderbird Silver Anniversary in #1/Concours condition is $13,400, with a far more typical #3/Good car going for $5,000. This generation of Thunderbirds maintains some presence in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. As I write this in November 2017, there’s a black/silver two-tone 1980 with 85,000 miles for sale in Germany. The price: $12,800.

1983 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe

A recent query about whether I had done a write-up on a Thunderbird Turbo Coupe compelled me to update this post written a few years ago, changing it enough to consider it a new entry.

“Ford presents a dramatic new balance of form and function.”

The aerodynamic styling of Ford’s 1983 Thunderbird was a breath of fresh air and a substantial change from the boxy and unloved eighth-generation 1980-1982 models, though the underlying components remained the Fox platform. For 1983, the Thunderbird came in base, Heritage, and Turbo Coupe models.

The Turbo Coupe featured Ford’s Lima 142 bhp 2.3 liter/140 ci inline four with Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection and a Garrett turbocharger and came with a standard five-speed manual transmission. Road & Track recorded a 0-60 time of 9.7 seconds in a Turbo Coupe that weighed 3,420 pounds as tested. Ford’s new coupe didn’t just look aerodynamic—the drag coefficient was a very competitive 0.35. Fuel economy ratings for the Turbo Coupe were 21 city/33 highway by the standards of the day (17/24 by today’s standards). With an 18.0-gallon fuel tank, a Turbo Coupe owner could expect a range of between 330 and 435 miles with a 10% reserve—decent for a mid-size performance coupe in the early to mid-1980s.

The $11,790 Turbo Coupe is about $29,700 in today’s dollars and about what a 2018 Mustang EcoBoost Premium Fastback (also with a turbocharged 2.3 liter inline four) costs. Standard exterior and mechanical features on the Turbo Coupe included variable ratio power rack-and-pinion steering, power brakes, power mirrors, a Traction-Lok limited-slip differential, Marchal foglamps, and Goodyear Eagle HR 205/70R-14 tires (a size still readily available) on 14-inch x 5.5-inch cast aluminum wheels. Inside, all Turbo Coupe buyers got a leather-wrapped steering wheel, articulated seats, and an AM/FM stereo radio. Options included front cornering lamps ($68), tilt steering ($105), power door locks ($172), and a premium sound system ($179).

Two pages from the 1983 Ford Thunderbird brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

Reviews were quite good—Road & Track‘s tagline was “An enthusiast’s Bird comes soaring back”—and the newly aerodynamic Thunderbird sold well. After dropping down below 50,000 sales for the 1982 model year with the last of the eighth-generation ‘birds, the ninth generation would not see sales of less than 120,000 per year.

EightiesFordThunderbirdSales

For unclear reasons, Hagerty’s valuation tools do not track any Thunderbird after 1982 (they do track the related Lincoln Continental Mark VII). Thunderbird Turbo Coupes only occasionally show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds—you do see them more often on eBay Motors. Make mine Silver, please.

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 with a six cylinder engine.

I have always said that Honda is an engine company and the Legend’s 151 bhp 2.5 liter C25A 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 2016 standards). With that same five-speed manual, 0-60 mph came in a little under nine seconds in the 3,100-pound car.

Standard equipment in the $19,898 sedan (about $43,800 in 2016 dollars) included four-wheel disc brakes, driver’s side air bag, and an information system that could monitor maintenance intervals, fluid levels, and fuel economy. Power driver’s seat, adjustable rear seats, power folding mirrors, remote locking/keyless entry, and a power tilt/slide sunroof 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 on-line support) and I find that they stand out when I see them. Make mine Blade Silver Metallic, please.

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1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI

“Affordable German Performance.”

The 1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI three-door hatchback defined the “pocket rocket” for the US market, just as it had defined it in Europe since 1977. The Giorgetto Guigiaro-designed Rabbit was a small car by modern standards—the 155.3 inch length puts it squarely in modern Mini territory and makes it more than a foot shorter than a 2016 Golf GTI.

Under the blacked-out, red-lined, and badged hood was a 90 bhp 1.8 liter Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injected in-line four which VW dared to declare was “brawny.” A five-speed manual transmission completed the rest of the powertrain—there was no optional automatic transmission.

Car and Driver recorded a 9.7 second 0-60 time (Road & Track managed a 10.6 second 0-60) in the 1,918 pound car—faster than the same year’s BMW 320i and many other sporting cars of the era. Top speed was 104 mph. Fuel economy was rated at 26 city/33 highway; a 10 gallon fuel tank gave a 265 mile range with a 10% reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment in the $7,990 GTI (about $19,700 in 2015 dollars) included vented front disc brakes, rack and pinion steering, halogen headlights, a urethane front air dam, and Pirelli P6 185/60HR-14 radial tires mounted on 14 x 6 inch alloy wheels. Inside, a sport steering wheel borrowed from the Scirocco, heavily bolstered sports seats, a center console with additional gauges, and a golf-ball shift knob were included.

Options included air conditioning, a sunroof, and an AM/FM stereo with a cassette player and four speakers ($450).

1983 Rabbit GTIs sold like hot cakes when new and first-generation GTIs definitely have a following. Many were driven hard when no longer new, so there’s a paucity of cream-puffs out there. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1983 Rabbit GTI in #1 condition is $11,900, with a more normal #3 condition car going for $4,400. GTIs sometimes show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors.

Make mine black, please.