1985 Merkur XR4Ti hatchback coupe

“For the North American continent the Merkur XR4Ti represents an innovative, new total performance machine.”

The Merkur XR4Ti never had a chance.

There, I’ve said it. Though the redoubtable Bob Lutz was involved, I can’t even imagine the combination of decisions that made Ford think that selling a Karmann-assembled version of the European Ford Sierra at Lincoln-Mercury dealers in the mid-1980s was ever going to work out. By early 1989, the XR4Ti was gone.

Because the Cologne 2.8 liter V6 the Sierra used in Germany could not clear US emissions, the engine the XR4Ti received was Ford’s Lima 2.3 liter/140 ci turbocharged and fuel injected inline four also seen in the Ford Mustang SVO and Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe. In its Merkur guise, it made 175 bhp with the standard five-speed manual transmission and 145 bhp (ouch!) with the optional ($427) three-speed automatic transmission. 0-60 mph came in about 9 seconds with the manual, and top speed was a little under 130 mph. Fuel economy wasn’t very good: with the manual, it was 19 city/24 highway by the standards of the day (17/22 by today’s standards). With a 15.1-gallon gas tank, a Merkur owner could expect a range of 265 to 290 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Base price for the 1985 XR4Ti was $16,361 (about $39,200 in 2018 dollars). Standard exterior and mechanical features included flush headlamps, power front disc/rear drum brakes, nitrogen pressurized shock absorbers, variable ratio power rack-and-pinion steering, and the famous (and polarizing) biplane rear spoiler derived from the one on the Probe III concept car Ford had shown in 1981. Pirelli P6 195/60HR14 tires (a size still readily available) were fitted on 14-inch “phone dial” wheels. Inside, standard equipment included air conditioning, variable ratio power steering, power mirrors, a 60/40 folding rear seat, and an AM/FM stereo with cassette player.

Options other than the automatic transmission were relatively few: a $470 Convenience group (power door locks, power windows, and cruise control), tilt/slide moonroof ($549), leather seats ($890), heated seats ($183), and metallic paint ($274).

1985 Merkur print advertisement.
1985 Merkur print advertisement.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1985 Merkur XR4Ti in #1/Concours condition is $6,500, with a more normal #3/Good car going for $2,400. I find it interesting that Hagerty tracks them at all—there are many of what I think would be equally interesting cars that they don’t track. You rarely see them for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds—they are at least a little more common on eBay Motors.

Make mine Paris Blue Metallic with the optional Gray leather interior, please. The real question is how many are left.

1983 Toyota Camry sedan

“Introducing the family Camry”

The Toyota Camry debuted in the middle of the 1983 model year, in four-door sedan and five-door hatchback models. Instead of being designed to compete with European manufacturers, the Camry was designed to compete with American cars—in fact, Car and Driver famously wrote that “the Camry drives as if Buick engineers had moonlighted on its development.” The Camry’s measurements ended up splitting the difference in size between the GM J-body (Buick Skyhawk, Cadillac Cimarron, Chevrolet Cavalier, Oldsmobile Firenza, and Pontiac 2000) and the GM X-body (Buick Skylark, Chevrolet Citation, Oldsmobile Omega, and Pontiac Phoenix).

Power for the first-year Camry was provided by a 92 bhp 2.0 liter/122 ci inline four with fuel injection, which was available with either a standard five-speed manual or an optional four-speed automatic. With the manual, 0-60 mph came in a little under 13 seconds in the 2,236-pound car. Mileage was good—32 city/44 highway by the standards of the day (25/31 by modern standards). With a 14.5-gallon gas tank, a Camry owner could expect a 365 to 495 mile range with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard equipment on the $7,988 (about $20,000 in today’s dollars—a 2018 Camry starts at $23,500) DLX sedan included front wheel drive, a four-wheel independent suspension, and 185/70R13 tires (a size still available from Kumho and Vredestein) on 13-inch wheels. Upgrading to the $9,698 LE made the four-speed automatic standard and added variable-effort power steering, rear window defogger, dual remote side mirrors, full instrumentation, reclining cloth bucket seats, and an AM/FM stereo radio with five speakers.

Individual options were relatively few and included air conditioning, sunroof, and a cruise control/power locks/power windows package.

The first-generation Camry was well received and got good reviews—the tagline in Car and Driver‘s test was “At home in America.” 52,651 were sold in that first model year, with sales increasing steadily throughout the decade.

Unlike other Toyotas that are deemed more collectible from the eighties (Land Cruisers, pickup trucks, Celicas, Supras, MR2s), first-generation Camrys rarely come up for sale for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors.

1988 Pontiac Grand Prix coupe

“… one of the most aerodynamic cars in the world.”

The Grand Prix was all new for 1988. Gone was the elderly G-body rear-wheel-drive (dating from 1978), replaced by an aerodynamic front-wheel drive W-body.

For 1988, the standard Grand Prix powertrain was the LB6 130 bhp 2.8 liter/173 ci V6 with fuel injection paired to a four-speed automatic (a five-speed manual was available). With a curb weight of 3,038 pounds, 0-60 took a little over 10 seconds with the standard powertrain. Mileage with the same powertrain was 20 city/29 highway by the standards of the day (18/26 by today’s standards). A 16.0-gallon fuel tank meant that a Grand Prix owner could expect a range of between 315 and 355 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

The 1988 Grand Prix came in base, LE, and SE forms. Standard exterior and mechanical equipment in the $12,539 base coupe (about $27,300 in today’s dollars) included composite halogen headlamps, dual sport mirrors, power steering, four-wheel power disc brakes, an independent rear suspension, and P195/75R14 tires (a size still available from multiple vendors) on 14 x 6 inch wheels with custom wheel covers. Inside, notchback front bench seats, an electronic digital speedometer, a glove box with a combination lock, and an AM/FM stereo radio were included.

Moving up a little to the $13,239 LE added power windows with illuminated switches, lamp group, 40/60 split reclining pallex cloth seats, rear folding armrest with pass through to the luggage compartment, and mechanical analog gauges with tachometer and trip odometer.

The top-of-the-line $15,249 SE (about $32,300 in 2018 dollars) added the Y99 Rally Tuned suspension, dual exhaust system, and P215/65R15 tires on 15-inch aluminum wheels and switched the standard transmission to a five-speed manual. Inside, air conditioning, leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, cruise control, power cloth front bucket seats with three-position lumbar controls, and rear bucket seats were all part of the SE experience.

Options included power door locks, an electric rear window defogger, a power antenna, and a UX1 AM stereo/FM stereo radio with seek, scan, auto-reverse cassette, five-band graphic equalizer, and digital clock.

The 1988 Grand Prix was relatively well received—it was Motor Trend‘s Car of the Year, and Pontiac sold 86,357 cars in slightly over half a model year (sales only began in January 1988), which marked more than five times as many as the last of the G-body versions in 1987. For 1989, sales would top 136,000 and would stay over 100,000 for every year through 1995.

Grand Prix’s of this generation are rarely seen in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. Sometimes you do see the ASC/McLaren or GTP versions, but rarely the “civilian” models.

Make mine red, please.

1983 Buick Skylark T TYPE coupe

“A road car with a very distinct personality.”

Buick offered five separate T TYPE models (their spelling) in 1983. One of the new ones was the Skylark coupe, Buick’s version of the X-car.

The Skylark T TYPE’s standard powertrain was the LH7 “high output” 135 bhp 2.8 liter/173 ci V6 with a Rochester E2SE two-barrel carburetor paired with a four-speed manual. The 0-60 time was a little over 9 seconds—respectable but not great in 1983. Mileage was 21 city/34 highway by the standards of the day (17/23 by today’s standards). With a 15.1-gallon fuel tank, a T TYPE owner could expect a range of 270 to 375 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard mechanical equipment on the $9,337 TYPE coupe (about $24,000 in today’s dollars or about what a base 2018 Regal Sportback costs) included a Sport suspension (stiffer rate springs, stiffer shock absorbers, a more rigid front stabilizer bar, and added rear stabilizer bar), a “special tuned” exhaust, a 3.65:1 final drive ratio, and P215/60R14 steel belted radial tires (a size still available from BFGoodrich and Riken) on 14-inch styled aluminum wheels. Exterior equipment specific to the T TYPE included a blacked out grille, smoked tail lamp lenses, and charcoal lower body accent paint. Inside, vinyl or cloth bucket seats with backrest recliner, full-length operating console, special sport steering wheel, and color-coordinated seat belt buckles were included.

Standard equipment on all Skylarks included front wheel drive, power rack and pinion steering, power front disc/rear drum brakes, tungsten-halogen high/low beam headlamps, a Delco Freedom II Plus battery, and an AM radio with two front speakers and a fixed-mast radio antenna.

Options included dual electric remote mirrors ($78), Vista-Vent flip-open removable glass sunroof ($295), air conditioning ($725), Cruise Master speed control with resume ($170), power windows ($180), tilt steering ($105), and an ETR AM/FM stereo radio with cassette player and graphic equalizer ($505).

Skylark pages from the 1983 Buick T TYPEs brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

Despite Buick’s commitment to extending the T TYPE line (they even went to the extent of creating a T TYPE brochure), sales were not impressive—about 3.5% of the sales of the Skyhawk, Skylark, Century, Regal, and Riviera. Of the T TYPEs, the Skylark was comparatively successful, with 2,489 sold—about 6.1% of overall Skylark sales.

I haven’t seen a Skylark T TYPE since they were new and I saw one parked outside of the long-gone Crown Buick on the Lincoln Highway in Ardmore, PA. Skylarks of this era are rarely seen in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors—when one does come up for sale Hemmings considers it worthy of a portion of a blog entry.

There were only four exterior colors available for the Skylark T TYPE: white, silver, dark red, and light sand gray. Make mine silver, please.

1982 Cadillac Cimarron sedan

Hemmings Motor News published an extended discussion on the Cadillac Cimarron in their always interesting Hemmings Daily blog, so I figured I’d bring one of my first posts up to a more current location.

“A new kind of Cadillac for a new kind of Cadillac owner.”

Ah—the poor Cadillac Cimarron, rushed to market for CAFE and other reasons without much thought as to who would actually buy it. When released in 1982, it was just a nice as possible, relatively well equipped Chevrolet Cavalier.

Inside page from the 1982 Cadillac Cimarron brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

The only engine available for 1982 was the 88 bhp L46 1.8 liter/112 ci inline four with Rochester Varajet II two-barrel carburetor. When paired with the standard four-speed manual transmission, mileage was an impressive 26 city/42 highway by the standards of the day (about 21/31 by modern standards), but the car was slow—0-60 mph took a little under 14 seconds. A three-speed automatic transmission was optional and likely even slower (estimates come to about 16 seconds). The 13.7-gallon fuel tank gave a range of between 330 and 420 miles with a 10% reserve.

The $12,181 base price (about $32,900 in today’s dollars—just a little under what a base 2018 Cadillac ATS sedan costs) included standard exterior and mechanical features such as power brakes, power steering, power mirrors, intermittent windshield wipers, and P195/70R13 tires on 13-inch aluminum wheels. Air conditioning, leather seating areas, a leather steering wheel, a tachometer, and an AM/FM stereo radio with four speakers were all standard in the interior.

Options included a sunroof ($261), cruise control (about $150), power door locks ($12—why bother making it an option?), power windows (yes, the base 1982 Cimarron came with roll-up windows—power windows were an extra $216), six-way power seats ($366), tilt steering wheel ($88), and an AM/FM stereo radio with cassette ($153). It wasn’t hard to load a Cimarron up to almost $13,500—real money in 1982 and about $36,400 in 2018 dollars.

In typical General Motors fashion, the Cimarron improved each year (sometimes significantly). However, the stench of that horribly failed initial release stayed with the car until Cadillac finally stopped selling them at the end of the 1988 model year. By that point, the Cimarron had upgraded from the fairly awful four-cylinder to a decent (and standard) V6 and had exterior styling that was at least somewhat more differentiated from Chevrolet’s.

So, the Cimarron remains a spectacularly easy target—routinely making those “worst ten cars of all time” lists and suchlike. I have yet to see a Cimarron at a serious classic car show, but I’m betting some intrepid soul will save one and bring it back.

Surprisingly, Hagerty does track the Cimarron with their valuation tools—according to them, all the money for a 1982 in #1/Concours condition is $6,100, with a far more typical #3/Good car going for $1,600. I can’t remember ever seeing one for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds—they’re treated by Cadillac folks like Ford folks treat the Mustang II from the 1970s. You do occasionally see them on eBay Motors.

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1986 Honda Accord sedan

“Once again, other manufacturers will be forced to return to their drawing boards.”

The Honda Accord was all new for 1986, with a brand new body and upgraded engines—the standard powertrain was the A20A 98 bhp 2.0 liter/120 ci inline four with two-barrel carburetor paired to a five-speed manual transmission (a four-speed automatic was optional). Acceleration was acceptable: 0-60 came in a little under 11 seconds in the approximately 2,400-pound car. Mileage was good: 27 city/33 highway by the standards of the day (about 23 city/30 highway by 2018 standards). With a 15.9-gallon fuel tank, Accord drivers could expect a range of from 380 to 430 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

By modern standards, the 1986 Accord was not a large car: with a 102.4-inch wheelbase and a 178.5-inch length, it was four inches shorter in both wheelbase and length than a 2018 Honda Civic and was classified by the EPA as a subcompact car (the modern Accord is classified as a large car). What’s even more striking is the height or lack thereof: at 53.3 inches, the Accord was only three inches taller than the same year’s Camaro. The 1986 Accord had a six-inch longer wheelbase, three inches more of length, and was almost an inch shorter than the 1985 version.

Standard equipment on the base Accord DX sedan included front wheel drive, double wishbone front and rear suspension, power brakes, variable-assist power steering, pop-up halogen headlights, hidden wipers, and P185/70R13 tires (a size still available) on 13-inch wheels with full wheel covers. Inside reclining front bucket seats, an adjustable steering column, and cruise control were included. The DX went for $9,299—about $21,600 in 2018 dollars.

Moving up to the LX added air conditioning, power door locks, power windows, and an AM/FM stereo with cassette player and power antenna. The top of the line LXi went for $12,675 (about $29,400 in today’s dollars or about what a 2018 Accord EX-L sedan goes for) and added the 110 bhp fuel injected engine, cast aluminum alloy wheels, and a power moonroof.

1986 Honda Accord advertisement.

The 1986 Honda Accord was well received. It was present on Car and Driver‘s 10 Best list and got good reviews. Honda sold 325,000 in the United States, making it the fifth best selling car model that year.

Third-generation Accords were once prevalent on American roads, but have virtually disappeared by now. You do occasionally see these Accords for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, but there were no sedans out there as I write this in July 2018.

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.