1980 Plymouth Volaré station wagon

“Value were it counts.”

For 1980, Plymouth’s Volaré got a new grille but was otherwise little changed aside from a few new options. 1980 would be the Volaré’s last year—the Reliant would replace it in 1981.

The Volaré’s standard engine for 1980 continued to be Chrysler’s evergreen 3.7 liter/225 ci Slant Six with a Holley one-barrel carburetor, making 90 bhp and giving a 0-60 time of a little over 16 seconds. Optional power was (of course) the 5.2 liter/318 ci V8 with a Carter two-barrel carburetor, making 120 bhp and costing an additional $211. A three-speed manual was standard with the six, but a TorqueFlite automatic was required with the V8. Mileage with the three-speed manual and the six was (ooog) 16—with the 18-gallon fuel tank, a Volaré driver could expect a 260-mile range with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $5,422 Volaré station wagon (about $18,200 in today’s dollars) included power front disc/rear drum brakes, a torsion bar front suspension, and P195/75R14 glass-belted radial-ply tires. Inside, a heater, a defroster, a three-spoke steering wheel, an all-vinyl bench seat, and an AM radio were included.

Exterior and mechanical options included halogen headlamps ($37), a power liftgate ($24), a luggage rack ($91), a rear wiper/washer system ($64), and cast aluminum road wheels ($287). Inside, air conditioning ($543), automatic speed control ($106), electronic digital clock with a fluorescent display ($55), carpeting in the rear ($69), lockable storage bins ($24), and a range of stereos were available.

A Premier package ($831) added woodtone trim on the body sides, rear gate, instrument panel, and glove box door, along with a hood ornament, deluxe wheel covers, and 60/40 individually adjustable vinyl seats. You could also get (but few did) the $721 Sport Wagon package, which included fender flares, front air dam, tape stripes, black grille highlights, dual sport mirrors, Tuff three-spoke color-keyed steering wheel, and eight-spoke road wheels with trim rings. Finally, the Handling/Performance package ($385) included heavy-duty shocks, Firm-Feel power steering, and FR70x14 Aramid-belted radial tires.

Station wagon pages from the 1980 Plymouth Volare brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages

Like almost every Chrysler product in 1980, sales of the Volaré station wagon were not good. At 16,895, they were well less than half of 1979’s total of 44,085. Sales would recover substantially with the release of the Reliant station wagon in 1981.

Plymouth Volarés and Dodge Aspens were once common on American roads, but have virtually disappeared by now. You do occasionally see them for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, but there are no Volaré station wagons out there as I write this in August 2018.

1985 Chevrolet Citation II hatchback sedan

“One car that does it all.”

1985 was, mercifully, the last year for the Chevrolet Citation. It was also, in a sad General Motors tradition, the best Citation (the 1985 Citation had no recalls after the nine that the 1980 had). Half-heartedly renamed Citation II in 1984, the X-car would be replaced by the Nova in 1986. There were some changes: new colors were available, and the dashboard was revised, allowing the “normal” horizontal radios.

For 1985, the Citation II’s standard powertrain remained the LR8 “Iron Duke” 92 bhp 2.5 liter/151 ci inline four with throttle-body fuel injection paired with a four-speed manual (the Citation never got a five-speed). With the standard powertrain, 0-60 came in a little under 12 seconds in the 2,500-pound car with a theoretical top speed of 101 mph. Mileage was competitive: 24 city/34 highway by the standards of the day (21/31 by today’s standards).

Powertrain options included two different 2.8 liter/173 ci V6’s (why?): the LE2 112 bhp version with a two-barrel carburetor ($260) and the LB6 130 bhp type with fuel injection ($435). A three-speed automatic was (of course) available ($425). The V6 in general, and especially the fuel injected version, made the Citation II substantially more spritely: 0-60 times of about 9 seconds and a top speed of about 118 mph. You paid a mileage price for that performance: 19 city/26 highway by the standards of the day (17/24 by today’s standards).

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $7,090 Citation II hatchback sedan (about $17,000 in 2018 dollars—about what base Chevrolet Cruze sedan goes for) included halogen headlamps, rack-and-pinion steering, front disk/rear drum brakes, and P185/80R-13 radial tires (now a trailer size) on 13-inch by 5.5-inch steel wheels with full wheel covers. Inside, sliding door locks, a lockable glove box, a folding rear seat, and an AM/FM radio with two speakers were included.

Exterior and mechanical options included tinted glass ($110), two-tone paint ($176), power brakes ($100), power steering ($215), and the F41 sports suspension (acknowledged to be a bargain at $33). Inside, a quiet sound/rear decor package ($92), air conditioning ($730), cruise control ($175), comfortilt steering wheel ($110), an electric rear defogger ($140), and an electronic-tuning AM/FM stereo radio with cassette, clock and seek/scan ($319) were all available.

1985 Citation II brochure cover, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

The 1985 Citation II did not sell—overall sales in this last year fell to 8% of the first year sales. At an average Chevrolet dealership, you could expect it to be outsold by the Chevette, the Cavalier, the Camaro, the Celebrity, the Monte Carlo, and the Caprice Classic.

I haven’t seen a Citation in years—the last one was an X-11 in early 2014. They rarely show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds or eBay Motors. I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen one shown, though I’m not betting against that at some point.

1987 Mercury Lynx XR3 hatchback coupe

“… the sporting side of Lynx.”

1987 was the last year for Mercury’s version of Ford’s Escort. The Escort would soldier on for many more years (through model year 2002), but from 1988 on the smallest American-built Mercury would be the Topaz. For 1986 and 1987, the top of the line Lynx was the XR3 hatchback coupe.

The Lynx XR3’s standard 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 spritely: 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 from 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, aerodynamic front air dam with built-in fog lamps, wide wheel flairs, 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, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and locking fuel filler door with remote release were included.

Standard equipment on every Lynx included front wheel drive, rack-and-pinion steering, independent four-wheel suspension, aero halogen headlamps, low-back individual reclining seats, and folding rear seat.

Exterior and mechanical options included tinted glass ($105), rear window wiper/washer ($126), and engine block heater ($18). Inside, air conditioning ($688), speed control ($176), and tilt steering wheel ($179) were available.

1987 Mercury Lynx XR3, from the 1987 Mercury Lynx brochure.

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 Lynx’s were once so prevalent on American roads, but have virtually disappeared by now. You do occasionally see Lynx’s for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, but there were none out there as I write this in July 2018.

1980 MG MGB convertible

Writing a blog entry on cars from 1980 that Hagerty considers to be collectible reminded me that I should probably do an entry on the last of the MGBs.

“The Classic Breed”

1980 was the final year for MG’s MGB convertible, which had been in production since 1962.

Changes for 1980 were minimal. The standard powertrain remained the 62.5 bhp (not 62 or 63!) 1.8 liter/110 cubic inch inline four with Zenith 150 CD4T carburetor paired with a four-speed manual transmission. 0-60 mph came in a leisurely 16 seconds in the 2,400-pound car. Mileage was pretty good by the standards of the day: 16 city/30 highway. With a 13-gallon fuel tank, an MGB driver could expect a range of about 270 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $7,950 MGB (about $27,100 in today’s dollars) included rack and pinion steering, power front disc and rear drum brakes, and 165/80-14 radial tires on 14-inch wheels. Inside, vinyl bucket seats, a center console, a locking glovebox, and a clock were standard.

Optional equipment included an electrically-operated overdrive for the transmission, center-lock wire wheels, a luggage rack, and various radios with either 8-track or cassette players included.

1980 MG MGB advertisement.

The Limited Edition that had debuted in 1979 remained available and popular, with 6,668 produced over the two years. In addition to black paint, the Limited Edition included silver body stripes, 5-spoke alloy wheels, air dam, boot and tonneau covers, chrome luggage rack, leather padded 3-spoke steering wheel, Limited Edition dash plaque, and Limited Edition thresholds.

Like all MGs, MGBs have a following and make frequent appearances in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and eBay. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1980 MGB in #1/Concours condition is $20,700, with a far more typical #3/Good car going for $7,300.

Make mine Brooklands Green, please.

Auction Favorite: 1985 Mercedes-Benz 380SL

The Mercedes-Benz 380SL is a common vehicle at the auctions I follow—since starting this blog in late 2013, I’ve seen almost 40 of these convertibles go across the block, mostly at the Barrett-Jackson and Mecum events. I chose to go with 1985 as the model year to write about because it and 1982 have been the two most common years I have seen.

“What do you get when you blend a Mercedes-Benz with a sports car? The incomparable 380SL.”

1985 was the final year for the 380SL—from 1986 on, the heavier and more powerful 560SL would be the only option in North America. There wasn’t much change for 1985; all cars got anti-lock brakes, and later cars got a drivers-side airbag. About 11,100 buyers took home this last of the line example.

Motive power was provided by a 155 bhp 3.8 liter/234 ci V8 with Bosch Jetronic fuel injection, connected to a four-speed automatic transmission. As with all R107 models, mileage for the 3,600-pound car wasn’t very good—the ratings of the day were 16 city mpg/18 highway (14/17 by today’s standards). With the 22.5-gallon fuel tank, a 380SL driver could expect a range of between 310 and 350 miles with a 10% fuel reserve. 0-60 came in about 10.5 seconds; the 380SL was closer to a grand touring car than to a sports car.

The 380SL’s base price for 1985 was $43,820 (about $102,200 in today’s dollars—neatly spaced between what an SL 450 and an SL 550 cost in 2017). For the money, exterior and mechanical standard features included the aforementioned ABS controlling power disk brakes, power steering, a steel hardtop, and 205/70VR14 tires (now a rare size) on 14-inch forged light-alloy wheels. Inside, power windows, power door locks via a vacuum locking system, cruise control, and an AM/FM stereo with cassette player were standard. Air conditioning was also included in the electronic automatic climate control system, though most say it wasn’t that effective. Heated leather seats were optional.

1980 Mercedes-Benz 380SL Roadster

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1985 380SL in #1/Concours condition is $28,200, with a more typical #3/Good car going for $13,600. There is decent club support for the 380SL, as there is for almost all Mercedes-Benz’s. 380SLs maintain a substantial presence in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. As I write this in September 2017, there are 66 advertised on Hemmings, including 14 of the 1985 models.

Make mine Astral Silver Metallic, please. Dealer advertising image courtesy of Alden Jewell, linked from Flickr.

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1981 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am coupe

“Soul Survivor”

1981 was the last year for the second-generation Firebird and thus also the last year for the second-generation Trans Am. With the third-generation cars on the way, Pontiac’s eleven-year-old F-car got only minor changes. The “screaming chicken” decal on the hood was now two colors, compared to the four color decal from 1979 and 1980. Not much could be done about the general lack of space efficiency (the EPA rated the Firebird as a subcompact car), the relatively high weight (about 3,300 pounds when the Mustang weighed about 2,800), and the fairly primitive technology.

The standard Trans Am powertrain was the L37 150 bhp 4.9 liter/301 ci V8 with four-barrel carburetor matched with an automatic. The only choice for Trans Am purchasers who wanted a manual transmission was the Chevrolet-built LG4 145 bhp 5.0 liter/305 ci V8 with four-barrel carburetor, but you did get a $147 credit.

The top engine was the $437 LU8 200 bhp 4.9 liter/301 ci V8 with four-barrel carburetor and turbocharger, which included a new hood-mounted boost gauge. A Turbo Trans Am would accelerate from 0-60 in a little over eight seconds. Fuel mileage was predictably bad—14 mpg by the standards of the day for the combination of the turbo engine and the automatic. With a 21-gallon fuel tank, Trans Am owners could expect to travel about 260 miles before refueling.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment included in the $8,322 base price of the Trans Am (about $24,300 in today’s dollars) included black accent grille and headlamp bezels, dual rectangular headlamps, wheel opening air deflectors, side-split tailpipe extensions, shaker hood, power brakes, and P225/70R15 blackwall tires on Rally II wheels. Inside, power steering, air conditioning, console, bright engine-turned dash plate, and rally gauges with tachometer were standard.

The Trans Am Special Edition package cost $735 additional—$1,430 bundled with t-tops. There was also a special edition of the Special Edition—the NASCAR Daytona 500 Pace Car, resplendent in oyster white with a black and red interior. It included the LU8 turbocharged engine, the WS6 special performance package, four-wheel power disc brakes, and limited slip differential. Inside, the most notable upgrade from other Trans Ams was Recaro seats—among the best available from any manufacturer in 1981. All this extra content was a good thing because the NASCAR Daytona 500 Pace Car listed for $12,257; about $35,700 in 2017 dollars.

Options available for the Trans AM included the WS6 special performance package, limited slip differential, tungsten quartz halogen headlamps, white-lettered tires, cast aluminum wheels, four-wheel power disc brakes, power antenna, electric rear window defroster, and custom bucket seats.

Firebird pages of the 1981 Pontiac brochure, linked for the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

Long neglected by the collector market and with most now used up, late second-generation Trans Ams in good or great shape are starting to get interesting numbers at auctions. A black and gold 1981 Trans Am went for $19,000 at Mecum’s May 2017 auction in Indianapolis. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1981 Trans Am in #1 condition is $38,200. A more normal #3 condition version is valued at $13,600.

Make mine the black and gold Special Edition, of course. The NASCAR Daytona 500 Pace Car is tempting, if only for those Recaro seats.

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1985 Mazda RX-7 GSL-SE hatchback coupe

This post was one of my first twenty in this blog, which I’ve updated to reflect both changes in my posting style and substantial improvements in available data. At this point, it’s changed enough to be considered a new post.

“… artfully appointed to raise the aesthetic pleasures of driving …”

The 1985 Mazda RX-7 GSL-SE was the last of the first generation RX-7s which had debuted in 1979, timing the market perfectly for a relatively low-priced and good-looking sports car. At $7,195 when released, it hit an attractive price point and entered a market with few natural competitors for such a pure sports car.

Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection and more power had come in 1984 with the 13B Wankel 1.3 liter/80 ci two-rotor engine. Power increased from 101 bhp to 135 bhp—respectable for a relatively lightweight (2,447 pounds) sports car and dropping 0-60 times more than a second to slightly under 8 seconds. Even with the five-speed manual transmission, mileage remained somewhat of the traditional rotary bugaboo that would eventually drive Mazda out of the rotary business. At 16 city/23 highway by the standards of the day, it was not as good as the Nissan/Datsun 300ZX (19/25) or the Toyota Celica Supra (20/24)—both of which had more power. Owners of a new RX-7 could expect to get about 290 miles of range from the 16.6-gallon fuel tank before starting to look for more gasoline.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on every 1985 RX-7 ($10,945 or approximately $25,500 in today’s dollars) included retractable headlamps, tinted glass, side window demisters, electric rear window defroster, and 185/70HR13 radial tires on 5 x 13-inch wheels. Inside, full gauges, reclining bucket seats with adjustable headrest, a full console with armrest, a digital quartz clock, and an AM/FM stereo radio with power antenna were standard.

By 1985, the fancier RX-7s had slid well up-market—the GSL-SE‘s package’s price was $16,125 (about $37,600 in 2017 dollars; more than a loaded 2017 Miata MX-5 RF Grand Touring). Exterior and mechanical equipment on the GSL-SE included halogen headlamps, ventilated four-wheel power disc brakes, power windows, electrically adjusted dual sideview mirrors, a removable steel sunroof, and “low profile” P205/60VR14 Pirelli P6 tires on 5.5 x 14-inch alloy wheels. Inside, every GSL-SE included air conditioning, cruise control, striped velour seats, and an electronically AM/FM stereo radio with a nine-band graphic equalizer and a separate auto-reverse cassette player sitting below.

Optional equipment for the loaded GSL-SE was limited to a leather package which included leather seats, leather door trim, and a leather steering wheel.

I followed a first generation RX-7 for a while a few months ago, and I was struck by how small it looked—smaller than I remembered these cars as being. They were small, of course: 170 inches long (shorter than a modern Honda Civic coupe) and less than 50 inches tall.

RX-7s have fairly solid club support and maintain a reasonable presence in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1985 RX-7 in #1/Concours condition is $16,200, with a more normal #3/Good question going for $3,900. As I write this in August 2017, there’s a Sunrise Red 1984 GSL-SE with two-tone gray cloth seats, a manual transmission, and 89,000 miles asking $12,995. Make mine Sunbeam Silver Metallic, please—I think light silver works best on these cars.