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.

1986acuralegend
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.

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 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).

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

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

1982 Chrysler LeBaron Convertible

“No other car is causing so much excitement.”

The Chrysler LeBaron convertible was a mid-year introduction, becoming available in the spring of 1982. It was the first factory convertible available for sale in the United States since the 1976 Cadillac Eldorado.

All LeBarons were all-new for 1982. Based on the more plebian Dodge Aries/Plymouth Reliant front-wheel drive K cars that had been on sale for a year, the LeBaron (sometimes described as the Super-K) was a move at least slightly up-market. Most exterior body panels were the same as the K. Notable styling differences were a waterfall style grill (somewhat resembling that of the previous year’s rear-wheel-drive LeBaron), quad headlamps, relocation of the parking lamps and turn signals to the front bumper, and a full-width tail-lamp housing.

Chrysler used almost all of the standard K pieces inside the LeBaron. Recessed door handles and rocker type door locks were one of the few changes, along with a different style of armrest and door pull. There was less vinyl trim and the carpeting and other fabrics were of somewhat higher quality. A significant difference was the attention paid to noise, vibration, and harshness: between soundproofing, better parts, and suspension tuning, the LeBaron was upgraded from the base K in 26 separate ways.

Two-door LeBaron coupes were heavily modified by Cars & Concepts in Brighton, Michigan on their way to becoming convertibles—the process included 32 steps. They installed a boxed-in backbone along the center of the car and welded a three-piece windshield header to the A-pillars. Next, Cars & Concepts installed new door glass and added door wedges. Finally, they added a new fiberglass panel to hold the rather small rear seats and mounted the convertible motor on the floor pan behind the rear bulkhead.

The convertible top itself had a plastic rear window and broad rear quarter panels; Car and Driver wrote that this created “a sort of Conestoga-wagon effect.” The top was actuated from a button on the console, and a padded top boot snapped into place when the top was lowered.

A K 2.2-liter inline four with a two-barrel Holley carburetor producing 84 bhp was the base engine. A two-barrel carbureted Mitsubishi G54B 2.6-liter inline four with 92 bhp and 20 additional ft-lbs of torque was available for an added $171. Both engines were paired with a TorqueFlite three-speed automatic transmission. Mileage with the base engine was 25 city/36 highway by the standards of the day. The optional engine was rated at 23 city/31 highway and brought the 0-60 time down from about 17 (aargh!) seconds to about 15 seconds.

The LeBaron convertible’s base price was $11,698 (about $28,900 in today’s dollars and about 44% more than a LeBaron coupe). For that money, you got dual outside mirrors (actually taken from the Dodge Omni 024), power brakes, power steering, and P185/70R14 whitewall tires. Inside you got vinyl bucket seats with a folding center armrest, digital clock, and an AM radio. 76% of convertible drivers moved up to Medallion trim, which boosted the price to $13,998 (about $34,600 in 2015 dollars) and added halogen headlamps, better gauges, and snazzier wheel covers.

The Mark Cross package cost an additional $861, moved the sticker to a non-trivial $14,859 (about $36,700 in today’s dollars) and added the 2.6-liter engine, air conditioning, power windows, power door locks, and attractive Mark Cross leather/vinyl seats. Other options included cornering lamps ($57), cast aluminum wheels ($344), automatic speed control ($155), and an AM/FM stereo radio with electronic tuning and cassette player ($455).

1982 Chrysler LeBaron convertible advertisement.
1982 Chrysler LeBaron convertible advertisement.

First-year sales of LeBaron convertible were a respectable 12,825, especially considering the shortened year and the relatively high price. These cars are being collected and shown. You see them for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors: as I write this in July 2015, there’s a Mahogany LeBaron with 39,000 miles for sale on Hemmings for $6,500.

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 exited only a couple of years ago with the demise of the Chrysler 200 convertible.

I still like what Chrysler was trying to do, and I appreciate how these cars look, at least with the top down. Make mine Mahogany Metallic, please, with the Mark Cross package.

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1983 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe

“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 huge change from the boxy and unloved eighth-generation 1980-1982 models, though the underlying components were still based on the Fox platform. For 1983, the Thunderbird came in base, Heritage, and Turbo Coupe models.

The $11,790 Turbo Coupe ($27,800 in today’s dollars) used Ford’s 145 bhp port fuel injected and turbocharged 4-cylinder Lima 2.3 liter engine and came with a standard five-speed manual transmission. Other upgrades included the Traction-Lok limited-slip differential, Goodyear Eagle P205/70HR tires on 14-inch cast aluminum wheels, Marchal foglamps, and a sportier interior with analog gauges.

Fuel economy ratings for the Turbo Coupe were 22 city/33 highway by the standards of the day. 0-60 came in around 9 seconds in the 3,140 pound car. The car didn’t just look aerodynamic—the drag coefficient was a very competitive 0.35.

Standard mechanical features on the Turbo Coupe included power steering and power brakes. 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).

Reviews were generally good 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

Hagerty’s valuation tools do not track any Thunderbird after 1982. 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.

1983 Ford Mustang Convertible

I was driving westbound on the Schuylkill Expressway in Philadelphia this morning and saw a Fox Mustang convertible (red exterior, black top). A good enough reason to write a blog entry about these attractive cars.

“It’s not just a convertible … it’s a Mustang.”

For 1983, the big news for the Ford Mustang was the return of the convertible for the first time since the 1973 model year. Introduced on November 5th, 1982, the convertible was available only in the luxury GLX trim and the performance GT trim—lower end L and GL trims remained with the notchback coupe (L and GL) and the hatchback coupe (GL). The GLX was also available only with V-6 and V-8 engines (no inline 4—turbo or not—would sully the droptop experience).

The V-6 engine choice for the GLX was the 112 bhp Essex 3.8 liter with two-barrel carburetor. Optional on the GLX ($595 additional) and standard on the GT was (of course) the 175 bhp Windsor 4.9 liter V-8 with four-barrel carburetor.

Starting at $9,449 (about $22,500 in today’s dollars) and rising significantly during the middle of the model year to a non-trivial $12,467 (about $29,600 in 2015 funds, which is almost exactly what a 2015 Mustang V6 starts at), the GLX did come fairly well equipped. Standard external and mechanical features included power front disc brakes, tinted glass, and an automatic transmission. Standard interior equipment included light group and AM radio.

The GT version of the convertible listed for $13,479 (about $32,000 in 2015 dollars). Standard external and mechanical features included power front disc brakes, power steering, rear spoiler, and a five-speed manual transmission. Standard interior equipment included an AM radio.

The Mustang option list was long. Inside, air conditioning ($724), speed control ($170), power locks ($160), tilt steering wheel ($105), and AM/FM stereo radio with cassette player ($199) were all available.

All 1983 Mustang convertibles came with a power top and all windows rolled down—an emphasis Ford frequently made in reference to the Chrysler K car convertibles.

Page from the 1983 Ford Mustang brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

The 1983 Ford Mustang convertible sold fairly well considering its expense (the GT convertible stickered for 45% more than the GT hatchback). For that year, it probably saved total Mustang sales from dropping below 100,000—helping hold that off until 1991. Between 1983 and 1993, Ford would sell over a quarter of a million of the pony car convertibles.

FoxBodyMustangSales

There is strong club support for the 1983 Mustang, as there is for all Mustangs except the mid-seventies Mustang IIs. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1983 Mustang GT convertible in #1 condition is $17,800, with a more normal number #3 condition car going for $6,700. 1983 Mustangs often show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds—as I write this in February 2015, there’s a well equipped red V-6 GLX with a black top and a black vinyl interior with 11,000 miles available for $10,000.

Make mine Medium Red, please.

1984 Chrysler Laser

“The competition is good. We had to be better.”

The 1984 Chrysler Laser was intended to be the upscale complement for the Dodge Daytona. Equipment was not notably different from the Daytona, but the Laser had more of a luxury emphasis with a slightly softer suspension.

Two engines were available. The base engine, Chrysler’s 93 bhp 2.2 liter inline four, was available with a standard five speed manual transmission or a three speed automatic transmission ($439). Mileage with the manual was 22 city/32 highway by the standards of the day (19/29 by today’s standards). Moving to the automatic helped city mileage a bit but dropped highway mileage significantly – 23/27.

The more interesting engine was the optional 2.2 liter turbocharged inline four cylinder with 142 bhp and the same transmission choices as the base engine. Depending on whether you were adding the turbo to the base Laser or the XE, the extra cost was either $934 or $872. Mileage with the hot setup (turbo and manual) was 20 city/27 highway by the standards of the day (18/25 by 2015 standards) while the 0-60 time was about 8.5 seconds. Moving to the three speed automatic once again killed highway mileage, making the ratings 20 and 23.

Standard equipment on the base Laser (priced at $8,648 or about $19,700 in today’s dollars) included a leather-wrapped steering wheel, intermittent wipers, and an AM radio with digital clock.

Moving up to Laser XE ($10,546 or about $20,400 in 2015 dollars) added features such as an electronic instrument cluster, tilt steering wheel, driver’s side sport seat, dual power side mirrors, and an AM/FM stereo radio.

Optional equipment included air conditioning ($737), cruise control ($179), rear defroster ($168 base/$143 XE), power windows ($185), power door locks ($125), and AM/FM stereo cassette ($285/$160). With all the trimmings, a Laser XE could fairly easily get to $12,900 or so or about $29,500 in today’s dollars—about what a 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT costs.

The Laser sold decently in its first year, with almost 34,000 base coupes and almost 26,000 XEs crossing dealer lots. This was actually more than its Dodge Daytona sister car (with a total of almost 50,000 sold).

However, Chrysler must have been disappointed—this was an era where the Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang, and Pontiac Firebird were routinely selling in the hundreds of thousands (the three models combined for 530,000 sold in 1984).

Chrysler would never see these first year totals again—by 1987 the Laser would be gone, with the Daytona hanging on through the 1993 model year after a few pretty good years in the late 1980s.

DaytonaLaserSales

Lasers rarely show up in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds or on eBay. You see some Daytonas on eBay, but even they are relatively uncommon.

Not surprisingly, allpar.com has an interesting and detailed article on the front-wheel-drive Lasers and Daytonas—it is here. Make mine Black, please.