1983 Chevrolet Cavalier CS sedan

The inspiration for this blog entry is a loaded 1983 Chevrolet Cavalier CS sedan that one of my frequent readers owned back in the day.

“one of today’s most advanced front-wheel-drive cars”

1983 was the second year model for Chevrolet’s Cavalier compact. The biggest news was likely in the powertrain; a 2.0 liter inline four with throttle-body fuel injection was the new standard engine along with a newly optional five-speed manual transmission. A convertible version of the coupe was a mid-year announcement.

The only engine available was the LQ5 86 bhp 2.0 liter/122 ci inline four with throttle-body fuel injection. The LQ5 had two less horsepower than the previous year’s L46 1.8 liter engine, but notably more grunt—an additional ten lb-ft of torque. The result was a meaningful half-second improvement in 0-60 times, though the Cavalier remained slow (even by 1983 standards). A four-speed manual remained standard, while a five-speed manual ($75) and an automatic ($395) were available. Fuel economy ratings were 25 mpg combined by the measures of the day. With a 13.6-gallon fuel tank, a Cavalier driver could expect a range of about 305 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard equipment on the 1983 Cavalier was far sparer than it had been in 1982, when many had blanched at the sedan’s $7,137 base price. Still, exterior and mechanical features on all Cavalier sedans did include front-wheel-drive, a front stabilizer bar, rack and pinion steering, power front disc/rear drum brakes, and P175/80R13 radial tires on 13 x 5 inch steel wheels. Inside, vinyl reclining front bucket seats and side window defoggers were included. For 1983, the sedan started at $5,999—about $15,800 in today’s dollars and just a little under what a 2020 Chevrolet Sonic sedan goes for.

Page from 1983 Chevrolet Cavalier brochure
CS sedan page from the 1983 Chevrolet Cavalier brochure

Moving up to the $6,484 CS added a glove compartment lock, a colour-keyed instrument panel, a cigarette lighter, an ashtray light, and an AM push-button radio with dual front speakers.

Only available with the CS, the CL package added Sport mirrors, a Custom interior with Custom reclining seats and adjustable head restraints, a three-spoke steering wheel with a black leather rim, and a right-hand visor vanity mirror.

Exterior and mechanical options for the CS sedan included tinted glass ($90), a removable sunroof ($295), Custom two-tone paint with pin striping ($176), halogen headlamps ($10), power steering ($195), and an F41 sport suspension ($49). Inside, power door locks ($170), power windows ($255), automatic speed control ($170), a six-way power driver’s seat ($210), a Comfortilt steering wheel ($99), and air conditioning ($625) were among the many options.

The 1983 Cavalier sold well, with 215,585 exiting Chevrolet showrooms, making it the most popular model in the Chevrolet model line. Of all Cavalier variants in 1983, the CS sedan was the most popular, at almost a quarter of the total—the convertible was, of course, the rarest, with a mere 607 sold. Despite this popularity when new, Cavaliers of this generation have now almost vanished, except for the convertibles and the higher-performance Z24 versions. Amazingly, there is currently a white 1986 CS hatchback with blue cloth bucket seats and 66,000 miles for sale on eBay Motors.

Make mine a Light Briar Brown over Dark Brown two-tone—just like my reader’s car.

The other J platform cars I have written about are the 1982 Cadillac Cimarron sedan, the 1984 Pontiac 2000 Sunbird S/E hatchback coupe, the 1985 Oldsmobile Firenza ES sedan, the 1986 Chevrolet Cavalier Z24 coupe, and the 1988 Cadillac Cimarron sedan. Some day, I will write about the Buick Skyhawk.

1982 Pontiac Phoenix SJ coupe

In this post, we’re once again revisiting interesting versions of mass-market eighties vehicles that just about nobody bought. This one is a sporty version of Pontiac’s X platform entry and means I have now treated every GM marque’s X car entry at least once.

… for people who absolutely love to drive.

For the 1982 model year, the sporty SJ version of Pontiac’s Phoenix compact became its own model, instead of the trim option it had been for the previous two years. Aside from being a specific model, the biggest news was almost certainly that the 2.8 liter High Output V6 was standard for the SJ.

That new standard engine was the GM corporate LH7 135 bhp 2.8 liter/173 ci V6 with a Rochester E2SE two-barrel carburetor. It was paired with either a standard four-speed manual or an optional three-speed automatic. With the manual, 0-60 came in about 9 seconds—respectable for 1982.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on all Phoenix coupes included body-color front and rear bumpers, front-wheel-drive, single rectangular halogen headlamps, rack-and-pinion steering, front disc/rear drum brakes, and 185/80R13 tires on 13-inch wheels with hubcaps. Inside, Pontiac included a full-width front seat, a Deluxe steering wheel, and a Delco-GM AM radio with dual front speakers.

The mid-range LJ coupe included custom wheel covers, additional acoustical insulation, a Luxury cushion steering wheel, and a full-width luxury notchback front seat with center armrest.

1982 SJ pages from the Pontiac Phoenix brochure
SJ pages from the 1982 Pontiac Phoenix brochure

For $8,723 (about $24,100 in today’s dollars), the top-of-the-line SJ coupe added two-tone paint and specific graphics, a front air dam, power brakes, power steering, a special suspension, and 205/70R13 tires (now essentially unavailable) on 13-inch cast-aluminum wheels. Inside, additional standard features for the SJ included gauges (rally cluster, clock, tachometer, and trip odometer), a Formula steering wheel, and bucket seats.

Exterior and mechanical options for the SJ coupe included a removable glass sunroof, tinted glass, and a rear deck spoiler. Inside, Custom air conditioning, an electric rear window defogger, power door locks, power windows, a six-way power driver’s seat, a tilt steering wheel, and a Delco-GM AM/FM stereo with a cassette stereo tape player were among the many options available.

Of course, the SJ designation had been around a long-time and not just for Pontiac. Duesenberg had used SJ in the early 1930s to describe the supercharged versions of their spectacular cars. By 1969, Pontiac had started (shamelessly—no surprise) using SJ for the top-of-the-line version of their Grand Prix coupe. The SJ designation for the top-of-the-line Grand Prix continued through the 1980 model year.

Despite Pontiac’s evident efforts to market the Phoenix SJ, it simply did not sell. With 994 produced, it was less than 6% of Phoenix coupe sales, with the vast majority going to the base version. Obviously, Pontiac has other things going on in 1982, including the introduction of a brand new Firebird and Trans Am. Front-wheel-drive Phoenixes of any sort are now almost completely vanished from the nation’s roads, and they rarely show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds or eBay Motors.

Other X platform cars I have written about include the 1980 Chevrolet Citation hatchback sedan, the 1981 Chevrolet Citation X-11 hatchback coupe, the 1983 Buick Skylark T Type coupe, the 1984 Oldsmobile Omega sedan, and the 1985 Chevrolet Citation II hatchback sedan.

1983: What Cars Are Collectible?

The question often arises: what eighties cars that were available in the United States are considered collectible? One way is to look at the slowly expanding list what Hagerty tracks with their valuation tools. For 1983 vehicles, the current full list is below—as usual, I have added a few comments in parens.

question mark graphic

Alfa Romeo; GTV-6 hatchback coupe, Spyder convertible

Alpine; A310 coupe

Aston Martin; Lagonda sedan, V8 coupe and convertible

Audi; GT hatchback coupe, Quattro hatchback coupe

Avanti; Avanti II coupe

Bentley; Corniche convertible, Mulsanne sedan

Bertone; X1/9 coupe

Bitter; SC coupe

BMW; 320i coupe (why no 633Csi or 733i?)

Bristol; 412 convertible

Buick; Regal T-Type coupe, Riviera coupe and convertible

Cadillac; Cimarron sedan, DeVille coupe and sedan, Eldorado coupe, Fleetwood coupe and sedan, Seville sedan

Chevrolet; C10/K10 pickup truck, C10/K10 Blazer SUV, C10/K10 Suburban SUV, C20/K20 pickup truck, C20/K20 Suburban SUV, C30/K30 pickup truck, Camaro hatchback coupe, El Camino pickup truck, Monte Carlo coupe (no 1983 Corvettes, of course)

Chrysler; Imperial coupe

Clenet; SIII coupe and convertible

Datsun; 280ZX hatchback coupe

Delorean; DMC-12 coupe

DeTomaso; Deauville sedan, Pantera coupe

Dodge; Ramcharger SUV

Excalibur; Series IV convertible

Ferrari; 308 GTBi/GTSi coupe, 400i coupe, 512 BB coupe, Mondial coupe and convertible

Ford; Bronco SUV, F-100 pickup truck, F-150 pickup truck, F-250 pickup truck, F-350 pickup truck, GT40 coupe and convertible, Mustang hatchback coupe and convertible, Thunderbird coupe

GMC; C1500/K1500 pickup truck, C2500/K2500 pickup truck, C3500/K3500 pickup truck, Caballero pickup truck

Jaguar; XJ6 sedan, XJ-S coupe

Jeep; Cherokee SUV, CJ-5 SUV, CJ-7 SUV, CJ-8 Scrambler pickup truck, Wagoneer SUV

Lamborghini; Countach coupe, Jalpa coupe

Lancia; Beta coupe and station wagon, Gamma coupe and sedan

Land Rover; Defender SUV, Range Rover SUV

Lincoln; Continental sedan, Continental Mark VI coupe and sedan, Town Car sedan

Lotus; Esprit coupe

Maserati; Quattroporte III sedan

Matra; Murena coupe

Mazda; RX-7 hatchback coupe

Mercedes-Benz; 230G SUV, 230GE SUV, 240D sedan, 240 GD SUV, 280 GE SUV, 300CD coupe, 300D sedan, 300GD SUV, 300SD sedan, 300TD station wagon, 380SEC coupe, 380SEL sedan, 380SL convertible (so, basically the entire 1983 Mercedes-Benz line)

Morgan; 4/4 convertible, Plus 8 convertible

Oldsmobile; Cutlass Hurst coupe

Panther; DeVille convertible and sedan, Kallista convertible

Peugeot; 504 convertible

Pininfarina; Azzura convertible

Pontiac; Firebird hatchback coupe

Porsche; 911 coupe and convertible, 928 hatchback coupe, 944 hatchback coupe

Puma; GT coupe, GTC coupe and convertible

Renault; Fuego hatchback coupe, R5 hatchback coupe

Rolls-Royce; Camargue coupe, Corniche I convertible, Phantom VI sedan, Silver Spirit sedan, Silver Spur sedan

Stutz; Bearcat convertible, Blackhawk coupe, IV-Porte sedan

Subaru: BRAT pickup truck (why just the BRAT?)

Toyota; Celica Supra hatchback coupe, Land Cruiser SUV

TVR; 280i coupe and convertible

Volkswagen; GTI hatchback coupe

Hagerty casts a wide net with their valuation tools, except when they don’t—the only BMW listed is the 320i. Coupes are dominant; 29% of 129 models listed with an additional 11% being hatchback coupes. Unsurprisingly, the rarest body style is a station wagon, at 2%. I have covered seven of the 1983 vehicles they track.

1987 Ford Thunderbird standard coupe

The inspiration for this blog entry is a 1987 Thunderbird standard coupe one of my frequent readers owned. As I was fairly deep into writing it, the Hemmings blog just happened to re-publish an article that ran in Hemmings Classic Car earlier this year—also about the 1987 Thunderbird (though mostly about the Turbo Coupe). Luckily, I have a slightly different view, in what looks to be a rather long-form entry.

“In step with the times”

For 1987, Ford significantly revised the Thunderbird—even though it didn’t look that different, the late mid-life update of what had been a 1983 model year debut cost approximately 250 million dollars. Few exterior parts carried over from the 1986, with composite headlights, a more pointed nose, flush-fitting side glass, and full-width taillamps being among the notable changes. There were few differences inside—all of the money had been spent on the exterior and mechanical revisions.

The standard engine for the 1987 Thunderbird was an Essex 120 bhp 3.8 liter/231 ci V6 with throttle-body fuel injection. Optional power on the base coupe and LX (and standard on the Sport) was a $638 Windsor 150 bhp 4.9 liter/302 ci V8 with sequential fuel injection. Both engines came with a four-speed automatic transmission. The most powerful engine available on any Thunderbird remained the Turbo Coupe-specific Lima 2.3 liter/140 ci inline four with a turbocharger and fuel injection. With the new for 1987 addition of an intercooler, this engine made an impressive 190 bhp with the five-speed manual, but only 150 bhp with the automatic—something that was common with many Ford performance cars in the 1980s.

1987 Ford Thunderbird brochure page
Standard coupe page from the 1987 Ford Thunderbird brochure

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment for 1987 on every Thunderbird standard coupe included dual aerodynamic halogen headlamps, tinted glass, power rack and pinion steering, power front disc/ rear drum brakes, and P215/70R14 tires (a size still readily available) on 14 x 5.5 inch wheels with Luxury wheel covers. Inside, the standard coupe included a reclining cloth split bench seat with a consolette, a quartz electric clock, and an electronic AM/FM stereo radio with four speakers. All of this cost $12,972—approximately $30,400 in today’s dollars or about what a 2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Premium Hatchback goes for.

Exterior and mechanical options for the standard coupe included two-tone paint ($218), a power moonroof ($841), and cast aluminum wheels ($343). Inside, dual power seats ($302), a digital clock ($61), and a range of audio options including the Premium Sound System were available. There were three different upgrades from the standard version of the Thunderbird, each with a distinctive personality:

  • For an additional $2,411, the luxury-oriented LX included everything in the standard coupe and added dual remote-control electric mirrors, styled road wheels, an electronic digital clock, speed control, interval windshield wipers, power windows, and an electronic AM/FM stereo radio with a cassette player and four speakers. LX upholstery included a Luxury cloth split bench seat in a special sew style and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
  • The Sport included everything in the standard coupe and added a heavy-duty battery, a Traction-Lok axle, styled road wheels, an electronic digital clock, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, speed control, and individual cloth seats with a full console. The Sport came standard with the 4.9 liter/302 ci V8 that was optional in the standard and LX versions, which Ford stated was it’s “driving force.” It cost $2,107 more than the standard coupe.
  • The top-of-the-line Turbo Coupe included everything in the standard coupe and added dual remote-control electric mirrors, Hella fog lamps, four-wheel disk brakes (newly anti-lock for 1987), a Traction-Lok axle, dual exhaust, and P225/60R16 Goodyear performance tires on 16 x 7 inch cast aluminum wheels. Inside, full analog instrumentation, interval windshield wipers, power windows, and adjustable articulated cloth sport bucket seats were standard for Turbo Coupe buyers. The Turbo Coupe cost $16,805—about $39,300 in today’s dollars and almost 30% more than the standard coupe. Ford stated confidently that it was “one of the most complete performance cars on the road today.”

Some in the automotive press were impressed by the Thunderbird’s substantial refresh for 1987, with Motor Trend giving it their Car of the Year award. Popular Mechanics was a little more even-handed; they liked many of the exterior changes but were unimpressed by the acceleration of either the V8 or the turbo four. Whatever the opinions were from the buff books, sales still slid substantially—dropping by almost 22% from 163,965 for 1986 to 128,135 in 1987.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1987 Thunderbird standard coupe in #1/Concours condition is currently $12,700, with a more normal #3/Good condition car going for $4,600. Turbo Coupes are worth a little more, garnering $20,000 for a #1/Concours example.

These 1987 and 1988 Thunderbirds frequently show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. As I write this blog entry in April 2020, there’s a Dark Cinnabar Clearcoat Metallic 1988 coupe with cinnabar cloth bucket seats, the 302 ci V8, and 26,000 miles up for auction. Make mine Medium Canyon Red, please.

Other Thunderbirds I have written about in this blog are the 1980 coupe and the 1983 Turbo Coupe. A sampling of the many other Fords I have written about includes the 1981 Escort hatchback coupe, the 1982 Mustang GT hatchback coupe, and the 1986 Taurus sedan.

1987 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale Brougham coupe

This entry is yet another post inspired by a car one of my frequent readers owned.

“It’s a good feeling, having this Olds around you.”

1987 was the second model year for the ninth generation of Oldsmobile’s Delta 88. New features were relatively few but included composite headlamps, a new grille, new “aero” side-view mirrors, and a revised taillamp design. For coupes, front automatic safety belts were standard throughout the year—they were a mid-year introduction for sedans. Finally, Oldsmobile bailed on even offering the 125 bhp 3.0 liter/181 ci V6 that had been the base engine for 1986.

The only powertrain available for any Delta 88 Royale in the 1987 model year was the LG3 150 bhp 3.8 liter/231 ci V6 with fuel injection mated to a four-speed automatic. 0-60 mph came in a little over 11 seconds in the 3,203-pound car. EPA fuel economy ratings were 18 city/27 highway by the standards of the day (16/25 by today’s standards). With an 18-gallon fuel tank, a Delta 88 owner could expect a range of between 330 and 365 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

1987 Oldsmobile brochure
Delta 88 Royale Brougham pages from the 1987 Oldsmobile brochure

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $13,639 Delta 88 Royale coupe (about $31,900 in today’s dollars) included Soft-Ray tinted glass, power rack-and-pinion steering, power brakes, and P205/75R14 tires on 14-inch wheels with Deluxe wheel discs. Inside, all cars included Lucerne knit velour seats, Four Seasons air conditioning, side window defoggers, and an AM radio with dual front speakers.

Among the many exterior and mechanical options were a tinted glass sunroof, a full vinyl roof ($200), and a Level III (FE3) suspension. Inside, power door locks, power windows, power seats, a tilt steering wheel, leather seats, an electronic instrument panel, an electronic day/night mirror, and a Delco/Bose Music System were all available.

The Delta 88 Royale coupe sold acceptably for a big coupe in 1987—of the 12,943 made, approximately 65% were the Broughams. Oldsmobile would build the coupes through the end of the 1991 model year, by which point sales had declined to a mere 692 examples. The final Delta 88 of any kind came off the production line on January 6, 1999.

Hagerty’s valuation tools do not track any Delta 88 after 1975 convertible, and Delta 88s of this generation rarely show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors. Make mine Dark Garnet Red Metallic, please.

One other H-platform car I have written about is the 1987 Buick LeSabre T Type coupe. Other Oldsmobiles include the 1981 Cutlass Supreme coupe, the 1982 Toronado Brougham coupe, the 1984 Omega sedan, the 1985 Firenza ES sedan, and the 1985 Ninety-Eight Regency sedan.

1985 Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck

One of my frequent readers once owned the Maxi-Cab version of the 1985 Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck. So, here you go.

“America’s ideal pickup.”

For 1985, Chevrolet offered seven distinct versions of the S-10 pickup truck, divided up by cab style (short, Maxi-Cab/extended cab, or chassis cab), engine (gas or diesel), and drive (2WD or 4WD). Beyond that, three of the versions offered a choice of a long or short box, which resulted in a different wheelbase.

Changes for 1985 were few, with the most significant news probably being improved corrosion protection. Also new was an updated version of GM’s “Iron Duke” inline four, which replaced 1984’s LQ2 2.0 liter inline four.

Only the absolute base truck (short cab, short wheelbase, gas, 2WD) came with the smallest engine, which was the Isuzu-built LR1 82 bhp 1.9 liter/119 ci inline four. That engine also was not available in California. Far more common—and standard on all gasoline configurations except the absolute base truck—was the LN8 “Iron Duke” 92 bhp 2.5 liter/151 ci inline four with throttle body fuel injection, which did have 31 more ft-lbs of torque than the smaller four. Optional “power” for all the gasoline trucks was the LR2 110 bhp 2.8 liter/173 ci V6 with a two-barrel carburetor. The single diesel available was the LQ7 62 bhp 2.2 liter/137 ci inline four, which could only be specified with 2WD.

All four engines came standard with a four-speed manual transmission. Every version but the chassis cab could upgrade to a five-speed manual, while all but the two diesel models could option a four-speed automatic.

Maxi-Cab pages from the 1985 Chevrolet S-10 brochure

Standard equipment on the base $5,990 S-10 (about $14,700 in 2020 dollars) was pretty spare. Still, it included P195/75R14 all-season steel-belted radial tires on 14 x 6 inch painted argent wheels with bright metal hub caps, a color-keyed instrument panel, an upshift light, a locking stowage box, a full headliner, and a vinyl bench seat. At $7,167 (about $17,600 in today’s dollars and well under what a base 2020 Chevrolet Colorado costs), all Maxi-Cab S-10s included tinted glass, vacuum power brakes, and a dome lamp. 4WD versions of the Maxi-Cab included a front stabilizer bar and P195/75R15 tires on 15 x 6 inch wheels.

Among the many exterior and mechanical options available for the Maxi-Cab were two different two-tone paint treatments, a sliding rear window ($107), a heavy-duty radiator ($53), and a 20-gallon fuel tank ($49). Inside, a tachometer, power windows ($190), power door locks ($135), electronic speed control ($195), air conditioning ($740), Custom vinyl high-back bucket seats, folding rear jump seats ($215), and an array of stereos were available.

In addition to individual options, there were also three equipment packages for the Maxi-Cab, which definitely made the S-10 ownership experience more comfortable.

  • The $334 Durango package included a black and chromed grille, black and chromed headlight bezels, a Deluxe chromed bumper with rub strip, wheel trim rings, reflecting lettering on the tailgate, and (of course) Durango nameplates on the front fenders. Inside, Durango purchasers received a side window defogger, a Deluxe vent system, a courtesy lamp, stowage box and ashtray lamps, a headlamp warning buzzer, a cigar lighter, and a Durango nameplate on the stowage box door. Upholstery included a Deluxe color-keyed steering wheel, a color-keyed floor mat, a color-keyed jack cover, and either a Custom cloth/vinyl bench seat or a leather-grained Custom vinyl bench seat.
  • The $605 Tahoe package included everything in the Durango package. Additions and changes to the Durango package included a black grille, color-keyed door handle inserts, black body side and bright wheel opening moldings, a chromed taillight molding, and Tahoe nameplates on the front fenders. Inside, the Tahoe added a full instrument cluster with brushed metal trim, a right hand visor mirror, and a Tahoe nameplate on the stowage box door. Upholstery included color-keyed carpeting, two vinyl jump seats, and a choice of either leather-grained Custom vinyl bucket seats or dual-tone woven Custom cloth bucket seats. The Tahoe required either Special Custom or Custom trim.
  • Finally, the top-of-the-line Sport package ($868) included everything in the Tahoe package. Additions and changes included a black chrome grille and headlight bezels, two-tone paint, painted argent styled wheels, and Sport nameplates on the front fenders. Inside, the Sport included a color-keyed lockable center console and a Sport nameplate on the stowage box door. Upholstery included a color-keyed Sport steering wheel with a bright shroud, door trim panels with cloth inserts, and high back Sport cloth front bucket seats.

S-10 pickup trucks from the eighties make regular appearances in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, though many have been heavily modified (small block Chevrolet V8s are common).

Make mine Apple Red, please. If it’s got the Sport package, I’d like it with the Silver Metallic secondary color.

Much of the detailed information for this post—including any hope I had of getting the options packages correct—comes courtesy of the GM Heritage Center. I’ve also written about the 1983 Chevrolet S-10 Blazer SUV.

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.

1988 Mercury Cougar XR-7 coupe

For 1988, Mercury’s Cougar personal luxury coupe received relatively few changes after 1987’s substantial restyling. For one year only, the XR-7 received a distinctive monochromatic paint scheme, available only in Oxford WhiteMedium Scarlet, and Black. Creating this look involved changing the wraparound bumper and body-side moldings from black to body color, and deleting the Medium Smoke lower-body accent used in 1987.  The sportiest Cougar also received 15-inch cast-aluminum wheels that had previously been seen on contemporary Ford Mustang GTs. Finally, analog instruments returned to the XR-7 after one year with a digital dashboard.

Though the Cougar LS made do with an Essex 140 bhp 3.8 liter/232 ci V6 with fuel injection as standard power, all XR-7s came with a Windsor 155 bhp 4.9 liter/302 ci V8 with sequential fuel injection. Both engines received power increases in 1988, with multi-port fuel injection and a balance shaft for the V6 being worth 20 bhp, while split dual exhaust brought another 5 bhp for the V8. No matter what the engine, all Cougars came with Ford’s corporate AOD four-speed automatic transmission with overdrive.

Recorded 0-60 mph times are spare for the 1988 XR-7, but would likely have been a little under 10 seconds in the 3,485-pound car. Fuel economy ratings are more readily available; the XR-7 was rated 18 city/25 highway by the standards of the day (16/23 by today’s standards). With a 22.1-gallon gas tank, a Cougar XR-7 owner could expect an impressive range of 390 to 430 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on all Cougars included tinted glass, aero halogen headlamps, a front air dam, dual outside power mirrors, power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, and power-assisted front disc/rear drum brakes. Inside, air conditioning, cloth upholstery, and an electronic AM/FM stereo with four speakers were included. The Cougar’s base price was $14,134—about $31,700 in 2020 dollars.

XR-7 pages from the 1988 Mercury Cougar brochure

With a base price of $16,266 (about $36,500 in today’s dollars or about what a 2020 Ford Mustang GT fastback goes for), the XR-7 added a Traction-Lok rear axle, a Quadrashock suspension, and P225/60R15 performance tires (a size still easily available) on 15-inch body-color cast-aluminum wheels. Inside, a sport steering wheel, articulated sport seats with power lumbar support, and a full-length center console were included.

Exterior and mechanical options for the XR-7 included a power moonroof ($841), an electric rear window defroster ($145), an engine block heater ($18), and Argent versions of the standard body-color cast-aluminum wheels. Inside, automatic temperature control ($162), power windows ($222), fingertip speed control ($182), and a tilt steering wheel ($124) were all available. Upholstery options included a leather-wrapped steering wheel ($59), leather seating surfaces ($415), and six-way power seats (either driver’s side only [$251] or driver and front passenger [$502]). A range of audio options included an electronic AM/FM stereo with a cassette player and four speakers ($137), the Premium Sound System with a power amplifier, two additional door-mounted speakers, and premium rear speakers ($168), a graphic equalizer ($218), and a power antenna ($76).

The 1988 Cougar sold well—Mercury moved a total of 113,801 units, with 14,488 (almost 13%) being XR-7s. For unclear reasons, Hagerty’s valuation tools do not track any Cougar after 1973, though they do value Ford Thunderbirds through their entire production history. Eighties Cougars occasionally show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. As I write this blog entry, there’s a Black 1987 Cougar LS with gray cloth seats and 33,000 miles listed for $6,900. Make mine Black, please.

Thanks to COOL CATS (a site devoted to the 1983-1988 Mercury Cougar) for providing helpful context for this post.

Other Mercurys I have written about include the 1983 Grand Marquis sedan, the 1986 Capri hatchback coupe, and the 1987 Lynx XR3 hatchback coupe. Regarding the Cougar’s Ford Thunderbird sister, I’ve written about the 1980 coupe and the 1983 Turbo Coupe.

1981 Triumph TR8 convertible

“Test drive the incredibly responsive TR8 today”

In its final year, Triumph’s TR8 gained Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection for all fifty states (in 1980, fuel injection had been California-only). The original “the shape of things to come” TR7 design from 1975 remained, but the internals had come a long way.

Though the TRs had always been the “big” Triumphs since their introduction in 1953, big was a relative term. With a length of 160.1 inches, the TR8 was about six inches longer than today’s Mazda Miata convertible.

The standard powertrain was the Rover 148 bhp 3.5 liter/215 ci aluminum block V8 with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection paired with a five-speed manual transmission (a three-speed automatic was optional). That V8, of course, had a basic design that dated from the 1961 model year and originally came from Buick.

The TR8’s performance was good in comparison to many sporty cars in 1981; 0-60 mph came in about 8.5 seconds in the 2,654-pound car. Fuel economy was rated at 16 mpg by the standards of the day. With a smallish 14.6-gallon fuel tank, a TR8 driver could expect a range of about 210 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

1981 Triumph TR8 advertisement

Standard exterior equipment on the rather dear $13,900 TR8 (about $42,400 in today’s dollars) included a central hood bulge and tinted glass. Mechanical equipment included dual exhausts, power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, power front disc/ rear drum brakes, and 185/70HR13 steel-belted radial tires (a size still readily available) on 13 x 5.5 inch alloy wheels. Inside, full instrumentation, a heater/defroster with a three-speed fan, multi-adjustable bucket seats, and a center console with a storage bin and lockable glovebox were included.

Optional equipment included fog lamps, a luggage rack, air conditioning, and three different radios. Of these, only the air conditioning was an option from the factory—all other options were dealer-installed.

Reviews of the TR8 in the automotive press were reasonably complementary, which may have been at least partially because convertibles had become so rare. The V8 drew a lot of positive mentions, as did the roomy cockpit. Observed faults included the steering wheel blocking some gauges, the tiny ashtrays (it was indeed a different age), and the rear-mounted battery’s intrusion into the otherwise reasonably capacious trunk.

The 1981 TR8 was an unusual car—a mere 415 were sold, compared to, say, the 40,408 only slightly more expensive Corvettes that Chevrolet managed to move in that same model year. Like all Triumphs, TR8s have a following and make regular appearances in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1981 TR8 convertible in #1/Concours condition is $24,600, with a far more typical #3/Good car going for $9,600.

Many TR8s and TR7s had colors and color names that were very much of their age; examples are Aran Beige, Champagne, French Blue, Mimosa, Topaz, and Vermilion. Make mine the a little more conservative Poseidon Green Metallic, please.

1982 Porsche 928 hatchback coupe

“the finest Porsche ever built”

1982 was the final model year for the first-generation Porsche 928, which would be replaced by the slightly more powerful Porsche 928 S for 1983. Despite the aerodynamic look of Wolfgang Möbius’ exterior design, the 928’s drag coefficient was a middling 0.41.

The standard powertrain remained the 228 bhp M28 4.5 liter/273 ci V8 with Bosch L-Jetronic port fuel injection mated to either a five-speed manual transmission or a Mercedes-Benz sourced three-speed automatic. To the eternal horror of many enthusiasts, the automatic was ordered about twice as often as the manual.

In a car that weighed 3,197 pounds with the manual transmission, 0-60 mph came in approximately 7 seconds, with a top speed of just over 140 mph. Fuel mileage was rated by the EPA at a class-competitive 16 mpg—with a 22.7-gallon gas tank, the proud new owner of a 928 could expect a range of about 325 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

1982 Porsche 928 advertisement

The 928 came well-equipped—a good thing considering it had a base price of $39,500 (about $109,400 in today’s dollars or a little more than a 2020 Porsche 911 Carrara 4 costs). Standard exterior equipment included halogen headlamps, a headlight washing system, and a rear window defogger with a rear wiper. Mechanical equipment included power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, four-wheel disc brakes, and P225/50VR16 tires (a size still readily available) on 16 x 7 inch wheels.

Inside, automatic cruise control, adjustable pedals, power windows, a central door locking system, and automatic full climate control were all standard. Bucket seats with a driver’s side power seat, a partial leather interior, a leather-covered steering wheel, a steering column that adjusted along with the instrumentation, and an AM/FM stereo radio with a cassette player and four speakers and a power antenna were also included.

Exterior and mechanical options included an electrical sliding roof, protective side moldings ($195), and pressure-cast alloy wheels ($795). Inside, options included a front passenger power seat, sports seats (either leatherette/cloth or leather), an alarm system ($300), and a Hi-Fi sound system with eight speakers.

There is excellent club support for the Porsche 928, as there is for all Porsches. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1982 Porsche 928 in #1/Concours condition is $48,300, with a more normal #3/Good condition car going for $18,500. Porsche 928s frequently show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. As I write this in April 2020, there’s a Medium Metallic Blue 1982 with dark blue leather seats, an automatic, and 36,000 miles available on Hemmings for $36,500.

Other eighties Porsches I have written about are the 1986 Porsche 944 Turbo hatchback coupe, the 1987 Porsche 911 3.2 Carrera coupe, and the 1988 Porsche 944 hatchback coupe. Other sports cars from the 1982 model year that I have written about include the Chevrolet Corvette coupe and the Fiat X1/9 coupe.