1982 Ford EXP hatchback coupe

“Two-seat excitement in a world class coupe.”

Ford’s EXP two-seat coupe was new for the 1982 model year and introduced early in April 1981. Ford’s first two-seat car since the 1957 Thunderbird, the EXP was designed for a far different purpose. Built on the same platform as the Ford Escort/Mercury Lynx twins and closely related to the Mercury LN7, the EXP was marketed as a car for buyers who wanted an efficient and decently-equipped vehicle somewhat sportier than the Escort.

The design language of the EXP resembled that of the contemporary Fox-body Mustang. However, front-wheel-drive and a different platform made the proportions different, which some observers saw as ungainly. I remember thinking that it was different-looking, but not unattractive.

Ford’s new two-seater was a small car—a length of 170.3 inches makes the EXP more than half a foot shorter than the 2020 Honda Civic coupe. However, the EXP’s length was almost seven inches longer than an Escort hatchback coupe, while its height was over 2.5 inches shorter. Because Ford made the EXP fairly well-equipped, it’s weight was about 125 pounds greater than the spare base Escort.

The EXP’s standard powertrain was a CVH 70 bhp 1.6 liter/98 ci inline four with a Motorcraft 740 two-barrel carburetor paired with a four-speed manual. An automatic transmission was optional for $411. EPA fuel economy ratings with the manual were 29 city/46 highway by the standards of the day. With an 11.3-gallon gas tank, an EXP owner could expect a range of between 345 and 380 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

What the EXP wasn’t was anything approaching quick. Figures are hard to find, but the EXP’s 0-60 time was likely about 14.5 seconds. Late in the extended 1982 model year, an HO version of the same engine became available, with 80 bhp. It likely dropped the EXP’s 0-60 time by more than a second, but in this case, HO did not mean fast.

1982 Ford EXP brochure cover
1982 Ford EXP brochure cover

Standard equipment on the $7,387 EXP included front-wheel-drive, a four-wheel independent suspension, rack and pinion steering, power front disc/rear drum brakes, and P165/80R13 tires (a size now hard to find) on 13-inch wheels. Inside, a Sport steering wheel, reclining high-back bucket seats, a console, and an AM radio were included.

Exterior and mechanical options included tinted glass (initially $82 but standard later in the model year), a flip-up open air roof ($276), power steering ($190), and cast aluminum wheels ($232). Inside, options included an air conditioner ($611), fingertip speed control ($151), leather/vinyl reclining low back bucket seats ($138), and a few different stereo choices.

The optional TR Performance Suspension Package included special handling tuned suspension components (a thicker stabilizer bar, stiffer shocks, and stiffer springs) and P165/70R 365 Michelin TRX tires (still available!) on a choice of either TR Sport aluminum wheels ($405) or Sport steel wheels ($204).

First-year sales of the EXP were decent: 98,258 in a model year that extended from April 1981 through September 1982. Following 1982, sales dropped precipitously—only 19,697 for 1983, 23,016 for 1984, 26,462 for 1985, 30,978 for 1986, and 25,888 for the EXP’s final year in 1987.

I have not seen an EXP on the road in over a decade. EXPs rarely show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors—in fact, they seem to have virtually vanished.

Make mine Bright Red, please.

I have previously written about the 1981 Escort hatchback coupe and the 1987 Mercury Lynx XR3 hatchback coupe. Perhaps someday I shall write about the short-lived Mercury LN7.

1987 Volvo 780 coupe

“The kind of Volvo you design when you’ve been designing Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Maseratis all your life.”

Designed and produced by Bertone and primarily based on the 760 sedan, the 780 was Volvo’s second attempt at a stylish coupe. The first was also a Bertone creation—the 262C built from 1977 through 1981. Beyond the handsome exterior, the interior was also specific to the 780—not merely a slightly re-purposed 760 design. Among the significant changes from the 760’s interior were a move from five seats to four, with individually-shaped seats for those in the rear.

The 780 used its design and a notably high standard equipment level as differentiators as Volvo attempted to move into higher-end markets. The 780’s base price was $34,785—about $81,700 in today’s dollars, which is well more than any Volvo vehicle’s sticker price in 2020. Back in 1987, the 780’s real competition was unclear. Was it the Acura Legend (also in its first year but much less expensive), the BMW 6-series (much more expensive), the Lincoln Mark VII (far less expensive—at least until many options were added), or some other car?

For 1987, the only powertrain available was the B280F 146 bhp 2.8 liter/174 ci V6 with Bosch LH-Jetronic fuel injection paired with a four-speed automatic transmission. 0-60 mph times were in the 11 second range—Volvo did not intend the 780 to be a sports coupe. Mileage in the 3,415-pound car was rated at 17 city/21 highway by the standards of the day (15/20 by today’s standards). With a relatively small 15.9-gallon fuel tank, 780 drivers could expect 250 to 270 miles of range with a 10% reserve.

1987 Volvo 780 advertisement
1987 Volvo 780 advertisement

Standard exterior equipment for the 780 included tinted glass, a power moonroof with a sliding sunshade, dual power mirrors with a heating element, flush-lens halogen headlamps, front and rear fog lamps, and the Bertone name and logo on both C pillars. Mechanical features included power steering, four-wheel vented power disc brakes with ABS, and 205/60R15 tires (a size still readily available) on 15 x 6 inch 15-spoke alloy wheels.

Inside, the 780 came loaded, with full instrumentation including a tachometer, a power central locking system, power windows, automatic climate control, cruise control, and a driver’s side airbag. Upholstery highlights included heated eight-way power leather front bucket seats and beach burl wood trim. The standard stereo was an AM/FM ETR stereo cassette with a seven-band graphic equalizer, four speakers, a 200-watt amplifier, and a power antenna.

Volvo did not sell a lot of 780’s—but I don’t believe they expected to. Only 9,215 (other sources say 8,518) were produced over six years of production, with about 61% of those going to the United States market. There’s an enthusiast site at 780coupe.com, and folks do collect 780’s. You also sometimes see them in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors.

Make mine Blue Metallic, please.

This post is the first on a Volvo in Eighties Cars. There will be others—I definitely expect to get to the 240 wagon at some point.

1983 Renault Alliance sedan

A girlfriend of mine owned a light blue Renault Alliance, which she named “Pierre.”

“Driver appeal and room for five.”

Renault’s Alliance sedan debuted in 1983. Based on the Renault 9 and 11, the Alliance was re-engineered for the North American market and built in AMC’s Kenosha, WI assembly plant—the first front-wheel-drive car built there. The Alliance was available in four-door sedan and two-door coupe versions.

The Alliance’s only engine was Renault’s Cléon-Fonte 64 bhp 1.4 liter/85 ci inline four with Bendix central fuel injection, already over two decades old in its basic design. Transmissions for the sedan varied depending on equipment level; the L (there was no absolutely base sedan—only a coupe) came standard with a four-speed manual, while the better equipped DL and Limited came with a five-speed manual. All three models could be ordered with an automatic ($420 for an L/$325 for others).

Despite a curb weight of around 2,000 pounds, the Alliance was not a fast car. 0-60 times ranged between 15 and 17 seconds depending on transmission. On the other hand, fuel mileage ratings were impressive: the four-speed manual returned 37 city/54 highway by the standards of the day. Of course, applying modern standards lowers the numbers, but what would now be 29 city/37 highway still isn’t that bad. Interestingly, the five-speed manual didn’t do any better, despite the extra gear (it did help a little bit with acceleration and lowered noise at highway speeds). Even the automatic was reasonably efficient at 29 city/38 highway. With a 12.4-gallon gas tank, a new Alliance owner could expect a range of between 370 and 505 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

1983 Renault Alliance advertisement

Standard equipment on the $6,270 Alliance L (about $16,500 in today’s dollars or about what a 2020 Toyota Yaris sedan goes for) included front-wheel-drive, rack-and-pinion steering, power-assisted front disc/rear drum brakes, and 155/80GR13 tires (a size still available thanks to Kumho) on 13-inch wheels. Inside, vinyl bucket seats, a soft-feel steering wheel, a day/night mirror, and a trip odometer were included.

Moving up to the $6,905 DL added tinted glass, a dual-note horn, and 175/70SR13 tires (still readily available) with wheel trim rings. Inside, DL buyers got Deluxe six-way cloth reclining bucket seats, a color-keyed remote left mirror, a soft-hub steering wheel, a tachometer, and a digital clock.

The top-of-the-line Limited ($7,470) included halogen headlamps and Luxury wheel covers. Inside, Light Group, Visibility Group (dual remote mirrors, lighted visor mirror, and intermittent wipers), textured cloth reclining bucket seats, a rear center armrest, and luxury door panels were included.

Individual exterior and mechanical options for the Alliance included two-tone paint ($199) and power steering ($199). Inside, power door locks ($170), speed control ($170), rear defroster ($130), air conditioning ($630), and a variety of radios were available. Leather bucket seats were available for the Limited only and set the buyer back $413.

Early on, the Alliance received many good reviews—in fact, it was Motor Trend‘s Car of the Year for 1983. Obtaining this particular plaudit led Renault to (really!) build an MT special edition for the Alliance late in the model year. MT-specific equipment included charcoal gray metallic paint, a decklid luggage rack, painted aluminum wheels, and a right-hand remote mirror. Inside, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and an electronic-tuning stereo radio with six speakers were included.

Those initial positive reviews of the Alliance have not aged well, and many disparaging articles have been written about MT‘s choice. They were not alone—Car and Driver included the Alliance on their 1983 “10 Best” list (26 years later they apologized). Perhaps reviewers of the day wanted the idea of the Alliance to work so much that it clouded their judgment of the actual product delivered.

I have not seen an Alliance in over a decade. Alliances rarely show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors—in fact, they seem to have virtually vanished, despite the 623,573 made between the 1983 and 1987 model years.

Another Renault I have written about is the 1982 Fuego hatchback coupe. I’ve also covered the 1980 AMC Eagle station wagon and the 1982 Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler pickup truck.

1980 Cadillac Seville sedan

“Introducing Seville for the 80’s”

For 1980, the Cadillac Seville sedan could justifiably be called all-new. It switched from rear-wheel-drive to front-wheel-drive, used a completely different platform, and made a diesel engine standard.

Of course, the Seville’s exterior look was also completely changed. That styling—by Wayne Cady under Bill Mitchell’s direction—was instantly polarizing; words used in period reviews included striking, astonishing, controversial, and odd. Despite my pre-teen bent toward classically-influenced cars, I did not like the new Seville’s design. Perhaps this was because I really liked the styling of the first-generation Seville.

The 1980 Seville’s standard engine was an LF9 105 bhp 5.7 liter/350 ci diesel V8. An L61 145 bhp 6.0 liter/368 ci V8 with fuel injection was a no-cost option. In California, the gasoline engine choice was a 5.7 liter/350 ci V8 with fuel injection.

As might be expected, fuel mileage ratings for the standard diesel were impressive, especially for a car with a 3,911 shipping weight. A Seville owner could expect 21 city/31 highway. With a 23-gallon gas tank, range was an astounding 540 miles with a 10% fuel reserve—at least in theory. What wasn’t impressive was the Seville’s performance; Road & Track clocked a 0-60 mph time of 21 seconds.

The story was different but not necessarily better with the gas engine. With it, mileage was 14 city/22 highway, so range dropped to about 375 miles. Performance was notably better, but still not good with the 0-60 time at about 13 seconds.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $19,662 Seville (about $67,000 in 2020 dollars) included Soft-Ray glass, tungsten-halogen headlamps, a four-wheel independent suspension, electronic level control, four-wheel disc brakes, and P205/75R15 tires (a size still readily available) on 15-inch wheels. Inside 50/45 Dual Comfort front seats, electronic climate control, and a tilt and telescope steering wheel were included.

Seville Elegante brochure page
Seville Elegante page from the 1980 Cadillac brochure

The $2,934 Elegante package included two-tone paint and 40/40 leather seats. Chrome-plated wire wheel covers were available at no extra cost.

Options included an Astroroof ($1,058), power door locks ($129), the Cadillac trip computer ($920), and an AM/FM stereo cassette ($225).

Famously, the Cadillac with the Deadhead sticker that passes Don Henley when he sings about “The Boys of Summer” was a second-generation Seville—likely a 1980 or a 1981.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1980 Cadillac Seville with the gas engine (they don’t list values for the diesel) in #1/Concours condition is $15,500, with a more normal #3/Good condition car going for $3,500.

Second-generation Cadillac Sevilles are often available in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds, on eBay Motors, and at auction. As I write this post, a silver/gray two-tone 1983 Seville with gray bucket seats and 31,000 miles is for sale on Hemmings for $8,000.

Make mine an Elegante in its Sable Black/Sheffield Gray Firemist two-tone, please. Over time, the second-generation styling has grown on me—especially with two-tone paint. Mecum sold a striking Seaspray Green/Neptune Aqua two-tone at their Harrisburg auction in 2019.

Other eighties Cadillacs I have covered include the 1982 Eldorado Touring Coupe, the 1986 Eldorado coupe, the 1986 Fleetwood Brougham sedan, the 1988 Eldorado coupe, the 1989 Allanté convertible, and the 1989 Cadillac Sedan deVille.

1982 Renault Fuego hatchback coupe

A friend of mine mentioned recently that he once owned an early Renault Fuego Turbo. As good a reason as any to finally complete this blog post—one I’ve had “in the hopper” for years.

After some sales success in Europe, Renault’s Fuego hatchback coupe became available for sale in the United States in 1982. Based on the Renault 18 sedan and using its floorpan and drivetrain, the Fuego was a different approach to a sporty coupe from what most manufacturers offered in the early eighties. Designed by Michel Jardin, the Fuego’s exterior looked like nothing else on the market, though some saw faint echos of the Porsche 924 and 928.

Two versions of the Fuego were available on its debut in the USA: the base Fuego coupe and the line-leading Fuego Turbo. The coupe came with an 81 bhp 1.6 liter/101 ci inline four with Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection mated with a five-speed manual transmission. The Turbo featured an A5L 107 bhp 1.6 liter/96 ci inline four with Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection and a Garrett T3 turbocharger paired with the same five-speed transmission.

As one might expect, performance was notably different for the two models. With a 2,372-pound curb weight, owners of a new Fuego Turbo could expect a 0-60 time of little over 10 seconds. A base Fuego was about 3.5 seconds slower, putting it in the same category as other slow sporty coupes for 1982, such as Lima-powered Mustangs and Capris and Iron Duke-powered Camaros and Firebirds. Mileage ratings were impressive for either version—the Turbo registered 26 city/39 highway mileage rating by the standards of the day. With a 14.8-gallon fuel, a Fuego Turbo owner could expect a range of 390 to 435 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

1982 Renault Fuego advertisement
1982 Renault Fuego advertisement

Standard equipment for the $8,654 base Fuego included front-wheel-drive, rack-and-pinion steering, front disc/rear drum brakes, and P185/70R13 tires on 13-inch wheels.

Standard equipment on the $10,704 Fuego Turbo included power rack-and-pinion steering, 190/65 HR 365 (metric) Michelin TRX radial tires on 14.4-inch cast alloy wheels, air conditioning, and an AM/FM stereo. An electric sunroof was a $400 option.

Despite their success in Europe, Fuegos did not sell well in North America, which was Renault’s evident lot in life. Peak sales of 33,229 in 1982 declined every year going forward—by 1986, the Fuego’s last year in the US, they were a mere 4,152.

Those who did buy a Fuego reported that they were generally happy with their choice. A January 1983 Popular Mechanics Owner’s Report found that owners liked the handling and styling, but wanted more power.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1982 Renault Fuego in #1/Concours condition is $5,400, with a more typical #3/Good condition example going for $1,700. For unclear reasons, Hagerty only has values for the base version and not the Turbo. Fuegos rarely show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors—in fact, they seem to have basically vanished. There was an interesting write-up on the Fuego in OldMotors last year.

Make mine Silver Poly, please.

This post is another first—my first Renault. I should probably cover the Alliance I spent a portion of the early nineties in sometime soon …

1984 Plymouth Voyager van

1984 Plymouth Voyager on the National Mall
1984 Plymouth Voyager on the National Mall, courtesy of the HVA

In spring 2018, the Historic Vehicle Association placed a series of five notable vehicles in a glass case on the National Mall in Washington, DC. One of those vehicles was a 1984 Plymouth Voyager Limited Edition minivan—highly original, and with a mere 12,000 miles.

“The Magic Wagon.”

Few eighties vehicles changed the world as much as the Dodge Caravan/Plymouth Voyager twins—because few automobiles essentially create a new market segment. The essential glory of K-platform minivans was their splitting of the packaging differences between traditional station wagons and full-size vans, along with their utilization of front-wheel-drive. Astoundingly, Allpar writes that Chrysler had been working on the same basic idea since around 1972. A reason given that those early designs were not brought to market was that General Motors and Ford had not released their own versions. It took Lee Iaccoca’s arrival in late 1978 to finally get upper management support for the T-115 concept.

The Voyager’s standard powertrain was an 84 bhp 2.2 liter/135 ci inline four with a two-barrel carburetor paired with a five-speed manual. Powertrain options included a $439 three-speed automatic and a $259 105 bhp 2.6 liter/156 ci inline four with a two-barrel carburetor (which required the automatic).

For a mainstream vehicle in 1984, the Voyager came respectably equipped. Standard exterior and mechanical equipment ($8,290 or about $20,200 in today’s dollars) included tinted glass for all windows, a right hand sliding door with a vented window, quad halogen headlamps, power rack and pinion steering, and P185/75R14 blackwall tires on 14-inch wheels with bright wheel covers. Inside, a left hand remote control mirror, two-speed windshield wipers, cloth low back front bucket seats, a three-passenger rear seat, full-floor carpeting, and an AM ETR radio with a digital clock were included.

Moving up to the S.E./Special Edition package ($227) added black exterior window trim, black lower body paint, road styled wheels with bright centers and trim rings, and Deluxe cloth low back front bucket seats.

Page from the 1984 Plymouth Voyager brochure
L.E. page from the 1984 Plymouth Voyager brochure

The top-of-the-line L.E./Limited Edition package ($815) included everything from the S.E. package and added woodgrain exterior vinyl bodyside panels, dual horns, a Luxury steering wheel, and Luxury cloth high back front bucket seats with recliners.

Individual options included premium wheel covers ($203), a 20-gallon fuel tank ($43), air conditioning ($737), automatic speed control ($179), a rear window defroster ($143), power door locks ($176), and an AM/FM stereo with a cassette player ($389). A Seven-Passenger Seating Package ($336) was available with either the S.E. or the L.E.—that was Chrysler’s nomenclature for adding a third row seat.

Of course, the Chrysler minivan twins were a huge success, with 209,895 sold in their initial model year. They also received good to great reviews from the automotive press—Car and Driver included them in their 1985 10Best Cars.

Ford and General Motors had notable trouble in responding. Both had competitors (Chevrolet Astro, Ford Aerostar, GMC Safari) in place by the 1986 model year, but the market found them wanting—in part because they were rear-wheel-drive. The first real competition for Chrysler did not come until the mid-nineties when Honda debuted the front-wheel-drive Odyssey.

Despite their importance, just a few folks out there collect these minivans—though I did spot one at a car show several years ago. Chrysler minivans of this era rarely show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors—in fact, they now are seldom for sale anywhere.

Make mine Gunmetal Blue Pearl Coat, please.

1984 Maserati Biturbo coupe

After over six years of writing, this is the first Maserati to be featured in Eighties Cars.

“Formula One Performance in a Grand Touring Masterpiece”

After two years of European production, 1984 was the first model year that Maserati’s Pierangelo Andreani-styled Biturbo coupe was available in the United States. The Biturbo was a complete change of pace for Maserati, essentially designed to be an Italian-flavored BMW 3 series competitor.

Of course, the Biturbo was famous for—and named for—it’s engine, the first production twin-turbocharged powerplant in the world. For 1984’s move to the US market, displacement of the V6 was increased to 2.5 liters/152 cubic inches, which resulted in 192 bhp. Unsurprisingly for the era, a Weber two-barrel carburetor fed the fuel/air mixture. The only transmission available for 1984 was a five-speed manual.

page from 1984 maserati Biturbo brochure
Page from the 1984 Maserati Biturbo brochure

Maserati’s four-page brochure claimed a top speed of 130 mph and a 0-60 time of 6.9 seconds in the 2,650-pound Biturbo (quick in 1984), and period road tests came reasonably close to those figures. Fuel economy was less impressive—rated at 15 city/25 highway by the standards of the day (12/18 by today’s standards). With a sizeable 21.2-gallon gas tank, a Biturbo owner could expect a range of between 285 and 380 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard equipment on the $26,874 Biturbo (about $68,200 in today’s dollars or about what a 2020 Ghibli sedan costs) included a four-wheel independent suspension, rack and pinion steering, four-wheel power disc brakes, and Pirelli P6 195/60HR14 tires (a size still readily available) on 14 x 5.5 inch magnesium alloy wheels. The luxurious interior design was highly acclaimed at the time and remains attractive even to this day.

Initially, the Biturbo sold reasonably well in North America, aided by positive reviews—Popular Mechanics called it “the Clark Kent of cars.” However, a reputation for both engine unreliability (related to the blow-through carburetor/turbo combination) and spotty build quality quickly took its toll, and by 1985 many coupes sat on dealer lots. Decades later, this notoriety would end up landing the 1984 Biturbo on Time magazine’s The 50 Worst Cars of All Time list, where it joined other notably failed cars such as the 1982 Cadillac Cimarron. As always, as with any vehicle, there are different opinions.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1984 Biturbo coupe in #1/Concours condition is currently $8,400, with a more normal #3/Good condition car going for a mere $3,200. These Biturbos sometimes show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, but are often in at least somewhat sketchy condition. Make mine Bordeaux, please.

1981 Datsun 810 Maxima sedan

“For the luxury minded who long to be Datsun driven.”

1981 brought the nicest Datsun yet for America, in the form of the 810 Maxima sedan. Datsun aimed high, advertising the Maxima as having the “luxury of a Mercedes” and the “sophistication of a Cadillac.” Nissan was in the process of transitioning away from the Datsun name, so the Maxima‘s official name was a clunky “Datsun 810 Maxima by Nissan.”

The only powertrain available for the Maxima was the L24E 118 bhp 2.4 liter/146 ci inline six with Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection paired with a three-speed automatic. Luxury did not mean quick in 1981—in the 2,800-pound car, 0-60 came in about 12.5 seconds. EPA fuel economy ratings were 22 city/27 highway—with a 16.4-gallon gas tank, a Maxima owner could expect a range of 360 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Despite being the top of Datsun’s sedan line and “the roomiest and most comfortable Datsun ever created” to that point, the Maxima was not a particularly large car. With a 183.3 inch length, it was barely longer than today’s Nissan Sentra, which is classified as a compact car. In advertisements, Datsun stated that the Maxima was “about the size of a BMW 528i at less than half the price.” Both of these claims were true, but the Maxima was not yet a “4-Door Sports Car.”

810 Maxima pages from the 1981 Datsun brochure

Standard exterior equipment on the $10,879 1981 Maxima (about $33,200 in 2020 dollars or just a little less than a 2020 Maxima S costs) included an electric sliding sun roof and Quadrabeam headlights with halogen high beams. Mechanical equipment included a fully independent suspension, power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, four-wheel power-assisted disc brakes, and 185/70SR14 tires (a size still readily available) on 14-inch “mag-style” alloy wheels.

Inside, centralized locking, power controls, a tilt steering column, cruise control, and an AM/FM digital four-speaker stereo with a cassette player were included. Standard upholstery included “loose-pillow” velour seats, fully reclining front seats, a six-way adjustable driver’s seat, and full Saxony carpeting. Famously, an early version of the vocalized warning system warned a Maxima‘s driver when the headlights were on.

There were few if any options available for the 1981 Maxima sedan. Reviews of the day generally liked the new car’s exterior styling, but the “buff books” complained that the Maxima was only available with a three-speed automatic and velour upholstery. Car and Driver‘s write-up in April 1981 stated: “What we have here seems to be a clear case of over-Americanization.”

It isn’t that surprising that Hagerty’s valuation tools do not track any eighties Datsuns other than the Z-cars. Eighties Maximas rarely show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors.

Make mine Medium Gray Metallic, please.

1989 Buick Electra Park Avenue Ultra sedan

“The standard for luxurious, smooth-riding American sedans …”

For 1989, Buick’s Electra Park Avenue received a new trim in the middle of the model year: Ultra. It became the new top-of-the-line Buick sedan.

The only powertrain for the Ultra or for any 1989 Electra was a “3800” LN3 165 bhp 3.8 liter/231 ci V6 with sequential fuel injection teamed with a four-speed automatic transmission. Mileage for the standard engine was 19 city/28 highway by the 1989 measures (17/26 by today’s standards). With an 18-gallon gas tank, an Ultra owner could expect a range of about 345 to 380 miles with a 10% fuel reserve. 0-60 mph took a little under 11 seconds.

Electra pages from the 1989 Buick brochure

Buick piled on the bling for the Ultra—standard exterior equipment included Soft-Ray tinted glass, a unique grille texture, smoked tail lamps, chrome side pillars, a Sterling Silver lower accent paint treatment, and a silver accent body stripe. Mechanical equipment on the $26,218 (approximately $55,100 in 2020 dollars) car included a 4-wheel independent DynaRide suspension, power rack-and-pinion steering, power anti-lock front disk/rear drum brakes, and P205/70R15 whitewall tires (a size still readily available) on 15-inch aluminum wheels.

Inside the Ultra, air conditioning, an AM/FM stereo radio, burled elm trim on the doors and instrument panel, a tilt steering column, power door locks, power mirrors, and power windows were all standard. The all-leather seats were styled by famed Italian automobile designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, with the 55/45 front seats being 20-way for both driver and front passenger.

Optional items for 1989 included an electric sliding Astroroof ($1,230), a heavily-padded full vinyl top only available for the Ultra, cornering lamps ($60), Electronic Touch Climate Control air conditioning ($165), and Twilight Sentinel headlamp control ($60).

The Electra Park Avenue Ultra received good reviews, with one automotive writer comparing it favorably to the same year’s Mercedes-Benz 300 SE. First-year sales of the 1989 Park Avenue Ultra sedan were decent considering the short window of availability—Buick moved 4,815 examples.

These mid to late 1980s C-bodies had a stately look about them. Big and (I think) handsome, they had a lot of interior room despite the second round of downsizing—with 111 cubic feet, they had only one cubic foot less than the previous generation rear-wheel-drive cars. C-body Park Avenue sedans of this era rarely come up for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors—as I wrote this blog entry in March 2020, there were none for sale on either marketplace.

Make mine Claret Red over Sterling Silver, please. All Ultras came with two-tone exterior paint.

Other C-bodies I have written about in this blog are the 1989 Cadillac Sedan deVille and the 1985 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency sedan. Among the many eighties Buicks I have written about include the 1980 Riviera S TYPE coupe, the 1983 Skylark T TYPE coupe, the 1984 Regal Grand National coupe, the 1984 Riviera T TYPE coupe, the 1985 Somerset Regal coupe, the 1986 Century sedan, and the 1987 LeSabre T Type coupe.

1988 BMW M3 coupe

Earlier this month, my wife and I visited the small but excellent BMW Zentrum Museum in Greer, SC. Of course they had a first-generation M3 on display—time to write a blog entry about this game-changing little coupe.

“Created for the race track, destined for the road.”

It took the M3 two-and-a-half years to make it to the United States following its debut in Europe, but most agreed that it was worth the wait. Reviews were enthusiastic; Car and Driver exclaimed that “This is a car for us.”

The powertrain was the thing: an S14 192 bhp 2.3 liter/141 ci 16-valve inline four with four valves per cylinder and Bosch Motronic fuel injection mated to a five-speed manual. In a car with a curb weight of 2,734 pounds, this meant impressive acceleration—0-60 times were in the seven-second range. Given this, fuel economy wasn’t bad: 17 city/28 highway on premium gasoline by the standards of the day (15/26 by today’s standards). With a 14.5-gallon gas tank, the proud new owner of an M3 could expect a range of 265 to 295 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior equipment on the pricey $34,000 M3 (about $75,500 in 2019 dollars or a little over what a base 2020 M4 coupe goes for) included boxed-out fender flares, a unique front bumper, and a cap over the C-pillar which helped to feed air onto the large for the day rear wing. Mechanical features included a limited-slip differential, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, and 205/55VR15 tires on 15 x 7 inch cast light alloy BBS wheels.

Inside, the M3 was comfortably equipped; leather sport seats, full instrumentation, power door locks, power windows, cruise control, air conditioning, a trip computer, and an AM/FM stereo cassette were all included.

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1988 BMW M3 advertisement

Over the last decade or so, the first-generation M3 has become one of the definitive eighties collector cars. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1988 M3 in #1/Concours condition is an astounding $142,000, with a more normal #3/Good car going for $59,700. Some M3s come up for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors, but many are now sold at auction.

Make mine Salmon Silver Metallic, I think.