1981 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

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 cubic inch V8 with 4-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 cubic inch V8 with 4-barrel carburetor, but you did get a $147 credit.

The top engine was the $437 LU8 200 bhp 4.9 liter/301 cubic inch V8 with 4-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 included 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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Eighties Vehicles at the 2017 Mecum Portland

Mecum’s June auction in Portland was spare for eighties vehicles—they were about 3% of the lots that sold in this auction. I’ll concentrate on the at least fairly stock 1980s cars (and a few trucks) that sold (remember that this is not a no reserve auction—a sky blue 1980 Toyota BJ-41 Land Cruiser SUV with black seats was a no sale bid up to $30,000) and add some of my opinions—I’ll leave the motorcycles, tractors, and automobilia to others. Where I have covered the specific year and model of a car in this blog, I link to it.

Friday, June 16th:

  • 1988 camouflage AM General Hummer H1 pickup truck with a green interior, a 6.2 liter diesel V8, and an automatic—$14,000 hammer price.
  • 1983 signal red Mercedes-Benz 380SEC coupe with palomino leather seats, a 155 bhp 3.8 liter/234 cubic inch V8 with Bosch Jetronic fuel injection, an automatic, and a non-standard repaint—an ouch! at $4,500
  • 1989 black Mercedes-Benz 560SL convertible with a black convertible top, a black hard top, tan leather seats, a 227 bhp 5.5 liter/338 cubic inch V8 with Bosch KE-Jetronic fuel injection, and an automatic—$16,500
  • 1980 black and gold Pontiac Firebird Trans Am coupe with black cloth seats, a 150 bhp 4.9 liter/301 cubic inch V8 with 4-barrel carburetor, and an automatic—at $17,000 the first vehicle in this auction to meet my criteria for serious 1980s collectability of original cars or trucks: selling for equal to or above its original base list price. I’ll mark these vehicles in bold green.
  • 1985 light bronze metallic Chevrolet Corvette coupe with bronze leather seats, a 230 bhp L98 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection, an automatic, and 2,200 miles—$16,500
  • 1980 red Porsche 911 SC Targa coupe with black leather seats, a 180 bhp 3.0 liter/183 cubic inch flat six with fuel injection, a five-speed manual, and 48,000 miles—$38,000

    1980 Porsche 911 SC Targa, linked from Mecum Auctions.
  • 1987 red Alfa Romeo Spider Quadrifoglio convertible with gray leather seats, a 115 bhp 2.0 liter/120 cubic inch inline four with Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection, a five-speed manual, and 59,000 miles—$6,500

Only Mercedes-Benz had more than one eighties vehicle sold in Portland. What do you think of these results?

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Homologation Racing at Le Mans in the Eighties

The 24 Hours of Le Mans is going on today and tomorrow. It’s interesting, but I don’t have strong impressions of eighties Le Mans racing. The 1950s have the terrible Mercedes-Benz crash, the 1960s have Ferrari versus Ford, the 1970s have the Porsches, and the 1990s have the flying Mercedes-Benz prototypes. So, I did a little research on the cars racing that at least resembled cars you could purchase.

In 1980, the IMSA class winner was a Porsche 935, with another 935 in second, and a Ferrari 512BB in third. Further down the finishing list were many more Porsches and Ferraris, along with a few BMW M1s and a single Mazda RX-7.

In 1981, the IMSA class winner was a Ferrari 512BB, with a Porsche 935 in second, and another 512BB in third. More Ferraris and Porsches were also featured, along with a few BMW M1s, a single Mazda RX-7, and Chevrolet Camaro driven by Cale Yarborough that only completed 13 laps before the brakes failed.

In 1982, the IMSA class winner was once again a Porsche 935, with another 935 in second, and a Ferrari 512BB in third. Further down the list were more Porsches (both 935s and 924s), more Ferraris, two Chevrolet Camaros, two BMW M1s, and two Mazda RX-7s.

The classes changed in 1983, and the results were that Porsche 930s filled all three podium spots in the then new Group B class. Further down the list were more Porsche 930s along with a single 928S and a single BMW M1. The Ferraris, Camaros, and Mazdas were all gone (Mazda had moved to the prototype class).

Two separate street car-based classes raced in 1984. A BMW M1 won the Group B class inaugurated in 1983, with a Porsche 930 and Porsche 928S filling the other two podium spots. However, IMSA/GTO was back; a Porsche 911 won, with Porsche 930s in second and third place. Other cars in the field included a BMW M1, a Ferrari 512BB, and another Porsche 930.

Le Mans moved back to a single and small Group B class in 1985. A BMW M1 won again, with another M1 in second, and a Porsche 911 SC in third. One more M1 was further down the finishing order.

Things were even thinner in 1986. A single car participated in the GTX class: a Porsche 961. It was the same story in Group B—a BMW M1 won.

By 1987, Group B no longer existed. Once again, a single car participated in the GTX class: a Porsche 961. There would not be any street-based cars in 1988 or 1989—they would not return until 1993.

Eighties Vehicles at the 2017 Mecum Indianapolis

As usual Mecum’s huge May auction in Indianapolis provided much interesting fodder for commentary. I’ll concentrate on the at least fairly stock 1980s cars (and a few trucks) that sold (remember that Mecum auctions are not a no reserve auctions—a gold, green, and white 1989 Porsche 962 race car was a no sale bid up to $2,000,000) and add some of my opinions. Eighties vehicles were about 7% of the 963 vehicle lots sold in this auction.

Tuesday, May 16th:

  • 1980 silver metallic Chevrolet Corvette coupe with oyster interior, a 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8 with Rochester Quadrajet 4-barrel carburetor, and an automatic—$6,500 hammer price.
  • 1980 white GMC K10 custom pickup truck with a red/white interior, a 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8, and a four-speed manual—$5,000
  • 1989 blue Lotus Esprit Turbo coupe with a blue interior, a 215 bhp 2.2 liter/123 cubic inch turbocharged inline four with Bosch KE-Jetronic fuel injection, and a five-speed manual—$6,900
  • 1984 silver Pontiac Fiero coupe with gray cloth seats, a 92 bhp Iron Duke 2.5 liter/151 cubic inch inline four with fuel injection, a four-speed manual, and 80,000 miles—$4,000
  • 1987 maroon Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS coupe with maroon cloth seats, a B4V 180 bhp 5.0 liter/305 cubic inch “H.O.” V8 with Rochester Quadrajet 4-barrel carburetor, and an automatic—$8,000
  • 1985 maroon Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS coupe with maroon bench seat, a B4V 180 bhp 5.0 liter/305 cubic inch “H.O.” V8 with Rochester Quadrajet 4-barrel carburetor, and an automatic—$7,000 indicates that the bench seat takes $1,000 out of the value of an SS.
  • 1988 red Dodge D150 pickup truck with a red interior and an automatic—$3,250
  • 1982 red Porsche 928 coupe with a black interior and a 231 bhp 4.5 liter/273 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection—$1,750 for this barn find.
  • 1981 bright blue metallic Pontiac Firebird Trans Am coupe with blue cloth seats, a 150 bhp 4.9 liter/301 cubic inch V8 with 4-barrel carburetor, and an automatic—$8,500 for this T/A not in its original color.
  • 1987 white Mercedes-Benz 560SL convertible with a black convertible top, a white hard top, a red interior, a 227 bhp 5.5 liter/338 cubic inch V8 with Bosch KE-Jetronic fuel injection, and an automatic—$10,000
  • 1981 black and gold Pontiac Firebird Trans Am coupe with black interior, a 150 bhp 4.9 liter/301 cubic inch V8 with 4-barrel carburetor, an automatic, and 39,000 miles—at $19,000 the first vehicle in this auction to meet my criteria for serious 1980s collectability of original cars or trucks: selling for equal to or above its original base list price. I’ll mark these vehicles in bold green.
  • 1989 black Jaguar XJS convertible with tan leather seats, a 262 bhp 5.3 liter/326 cubic inch HE V12 with fuel injection, an automatic, and 41,000 miles—$9,250
  • 1985 red Porsche 944 coupe with black cloth seats, a 150 bhp 2.5 liter/151 cubic inch inline four, and a five-speed manual—$6,500
  • 1985 black Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz coupe with red tufted leather seats, a 135 bhp 4.1 liter/249 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection, and an automatic—$5,000
  • 1985 red Chevrolet Corvette coupe with red leather seats, a 230 bhp L98 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection, an automatic, and 51,000 miles—$7,500
  • 1985 white Lincoln Town Car limousine with a blue interior, a 4.9 liter V8, and an automatic—$7,000
  • 1982 metallic blue Chevrolet Monte Carlo custom coupe with blue cloth seats, a 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8, and an automatic—$6,000
  • 1985 white Buick Riviera coupe with red cloth seats, a 140 bhp 5.0 liter/307 cubic inch V8 with Rochester 4-barrel carburetor, an automatic, and 55,000 miles—$4,750
  • 1981 red Mercedes-Benz 380SLC coupe with a tan interior, a 155 bhp 3.8 liter/234 cubic inch V8 with Bosch Jetronic fuel injection, and an automatic—an ouch! at $1,250.
  • 1981 white Jeep CJ-7 Renegade SUV with tan seats, a 11o bhp 4.2 liter/258 cubic inch inline six with Carter 2-barrel carburetor, a four-speed manual, and 94,000 miles—$12,000
  • 1983 red Mercedes-Benz 380SL convertible with both tops, a tan interior, a 155 bhp 3.8 liter/234 cubic inch V8 with Bosch Jetronic fuel injection, and an automatic—$3,500

Wednesday, May 17th:

  • 1984 black/silver two-tone Chevrolet Silverado custom pickup truck with a gray interior, a 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8, and an automatic —$13,500
  • 1986 silver Pontiac Grand Prix 2+2 Aerocoupe with gray cloth seats, an LG4 165 bhp 5.0 liter/305 cubic inch V8 with 4-barrel carburetor, an automatic, and 400 miles—$21,000 is all the money for one of these NASCAR specials.
  • 1982 silver metallic/charcoal metallic two-tone Chevrolet Corvette coupe with silver gray interior, an L83 200 bhp 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch “Cross-Fire” V8 with throttle-body fuel-injection, an automatic, and 43,000 miles—$11,000
  • 1981 silver metallic Chevrolet Corvette coupe with medium red leather seats, an L81 190 bhp 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8 with Rochester Quadrajet 4-barrel carburetor, an automatic, and 60,000 miles—$14,000
  • 1984 red Pontiac Fiero custom coupe with a tan interior, an unknown engine, and an automatic—$7,000 for this Fiero with a Lamborghini-esque body kit.
  • 1981 silver metallic Chevrolet Corvette coupe with medium red leather seats, an L81 190 bhp 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8 with Rochester Quadrajet 4-barrel carburetor, an automatic, and 60,000 miles—$14,000
  • 1980 blue Chevrolet Camaro Z28 coupe with a tan interior, an LM1 190 bhp 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8 with Rochester 4-barrel carburetor, a four-speed manual, and 36,000 miles—$24,000
  • 1988 black/orange two-tone Ford Econoline Harley-Davidson Edition conversion van with charcoal cloth seats, a 4.9 liter/302 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection, an automatic, and 55,000 miles—$16,000
  • 1980 bright silver metallic Chevrolet Camaro Z28 custom coupe with a black interior, a 383 cubic inch V8, and an automatic—$14,000
  • 1988 orange Volkswagen pickup truck with a black interior, a 75 bhp 1.7 liter diesel inline four, and a five-speed manual—$7,750
  • 1989 maroon Volkswagen Westfalia camper van with gray cloth seats and a 2.1 liter inline four—$16,500
  • 1987 red Porsche 944 coupe with a black interior and a 150 bhp 2.5 liter/151 cubic inch inline four with fuel injection—$5,500
  • 1986 gray/blue two-tone Rolls-Royce Silver Spur sedan with black leather seats, a 6.8 liter/412 cubic inch V8, and an automatic—$15,000
  • 1984 black Buick Regal Grand National coupe with black/silver cloth seats, a 200 bhp 3.8 liter/231 cubic inch turbocharged V6 with fuel injection, an automatic, and 55,000 miles—$19,000
  • 1989 white Pontiac 20th Anniversary Turbo Firebird Trans Am coupe with saddle leather seats, a 250 bhp (at least) 3.8 liter/231 cubic inch turbocharged V6 with fuel injection, an automatic, and 13,000 miles—$24,000
  • 1980 black Chevrolet Camaro coupe with black interior, an LG4 155 bhp 5.0 liter/305 cubic inch V8 with 4-barrel carburetor, an automatic, and 62,000 miles—$8,500 for this sport coupe with the best engine available to it.
  • 1983 black Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler Laredo pickup truck with a black interior, a 112 bhp 4.2 liter/258 cubic inch inline six with Carter 2-barrel carburetor, and a five-speed manual—$20,000
  • 1987 flame red Pontiac Firebird Trans Am GTA coupe with camel cloth seats, an L98 210 bhp 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection, an automatic, and 33,000 miles—$14,000

Thursday, May 18th:

  • 1981 white Chevrolet Corvette coupe with medium red leather seats, an L81 190 bhp 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8 with Rochester Quadrajet 4-barrel carburetor, an automatic, and 49,000 miles—$13,000
  • 1988 ivory Rolls-Royce Silver Spur sedan with tan leather seats, a 6.8 liter/412 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection, and an automatic—$16,000
  • 1982 blue Datsun 280ZX coupe with blue cloth seats, an L28E 145 bhp 2.8 liter/168 cubic inch inline six with fuel injection, a five-speed manual, and 59,000 miles—$16,500
  • 1983 black/silver two-tone Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais Hurst/Olds 15th Anniversary coupe with burgundy cloth seats, a 180 bhp 307 cubic inch V8 with Rochester four-barrel carburetor, an automatic attached to that famous lightning rod shifter, and 28,000 miles—$26,000
  • 1987 blue Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme 4-4-2 coupe with blue cloth seats, a 180 bhp 307 cubic inch V8 with Rochester four-barrel carburetor, an automatic, and 1,600 miles—$19,500
  • 1980 white Chevrolet Corvette coupe with red leather seats, an L48 190 bhp 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8 with Rochester Quadrajet 4-barrel carburetor, an automatic, and 35,000 miles—$12,500
  • 1986 medium gray metallic/silver metallic two-tone Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme 4-4-2 coupe with gray cloth seats, a 180 bhp 307 cubic inch V8 with Rochester four-barrel carburetor, an automatic, and 1,700 miles—$22,000 makes this three of Oldsmobile’s rather mild-mannered eighties muscle cars at this auction.
  • 1986 yellow Chevrolet Corvette Pace Car Edition convertible with medium gray leather seats, a black convertible top, an L98 235 bhp 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection, an automatic, and 788 miles—$45,000 for the very first Corvette convertible built since 1975.

    1986 Chevrolet Corvette convertible, linked from Mecum’s site.
  • 1986 yellow Chevrolet Corvette Pace Car Edition convertible with medium gray leather seats, a black convertible top, an L98 235 bhp 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection, an automatic, and 36,000 miles—$21,000
  • 1988 white Chevrolet Corvette 35th Anniversary Edition coupe with a white (Cadillac) leather interior, an L98 240 bhp 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch fuel injected V8, an automatic, and 3,300 miles—$24,000
  • 1982 silver beige Chevrolet Corvette Collector Edition coupe with silver beige leather seats, a 200 bhp L83 Cross-Fire 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8 with throttle body fuel injection, an automatic, and 291 miles—$33,000
  • 1989 white Chevrolet Corvette custom convertible with black leather seats, a black convertible top, an L98 240 bhp 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection, and an automatic—$5,500
  • 1985 indigo blue/frost white two-tone Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck with a blue cloth bench seat, a 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8 with four-barrel carburetor, and an automatic—$17,ooo
  • 1985 red Porsche 930 Turbo coupe with black leather seats, a turbocharged flat six, and a four-speed manual—$73,000 for this perhaps European-spec car (the 930 didn’t return to the US market until 1986).
  • 1982 white Buick Riviera convertible with a white top, red leather seats, a 150 bhp 5.0 liter/307 cubic inch V8 with Rochester 4-barrel carburetor, an automatic, and 59,000 miles—$9,000
  • 1986 white Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z coupe with cloth seats, an LB9 190 bhp 5.0 liter/305 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection, an automatic, and 8,300 miles—$15,500
  • 1987 maroon Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS coupe with maroon cloth seats, a B4V 180 bhp 5.0 liter/305 cubic inch “H.O.” V8 with Rochester Quadrajet 4-barrel carburetor, and an automatic—$6,500

Friday, May 19th:

  • 1986 creme Toyota pickup truck with beige cloth seats, a 22R-E 105 bhp 2.4 liter inline four with fuel injection, an automatic, and 119,000 miles—$18,500

    1986 Toyota pickup truck, linked from Mecum’s site.
  • 1988 white Lamborghini Countach LP5000S Quattrovalvole coupe with rosso leather seats, a 420 bhp 5.2 liter/316 cubic inch V12 with Bosch KE-Jetronic fuel injection, a five-speed manual, and 8,500 miles—at $255,000, the top eighties vehicle sale of the auction. Hagerty’s valuation tools see this as below #4 money for a 1988 Countach.
  • 1985 black Chevrolet El Camino SS pickup truck with gray cloth bench seat, a 5.0 liter/305 cubic inch V8, and an automatic—$20,000
  • 1987 black Buick Regal GNX coupe with black/gray cloth seats, a 276 bhp LC2 3.8 liter/231 cubic inch V6 with turbocharging and fuel injection, an automatic, and 42 miles—$115,000
  • 1984 blue Chevrolet Silverado custom pickup truck with a black bench seat, a 5.0 liter/305 cubic inch V8, and an automatic—$17,000
  • 1988 gray Ford Mustang LX custom coupe with smoke cloth seats, a 4.9 liter/302 cubic inch V8 with a supercharger and fuel injection, a five-speed manual, and 18,000 miles—$10,500

Saturday, May 20th:

  • 1980 beige Mercedes-Benz 450SL convertible with a hard top, brown leather seats, a 160 bhp 4.5 liter/276 cubic inch V8 with Bosch Jetronic fuel injection, an automatic, and 90,000 miles—$15,000 for this car originally owned by Kim Basinger.
  • 1981 citrus green Chevrolet Camaro Z28 custom coupe with a black interior, a 6.2 liter V8 with fuel injection, and a six-speed manual—$50,000
  • 1981 carbon flash metallic green Chevrolet Camaro Z28 custom coupe with a black/orange interior, a 5.3 liter V8 with fuel injection, and an automatic—$24,000

I found it striking how General Motors (especially Chevrolet) dominated the eighties vehicle sales at Mecum Indy—all told, GM vehicles marked 64% of eighties sales. What do you think of these results?

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1985 Mazda RX-7 GSL-SE

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 attractive 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 cubic inch 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.

Eighties Vehicles at the 2017 Mecum Houston

Mecum’s April auction in Houston provided some interesting fodder for commentary. I’ll concentrate on the at least fairly stock 1980s cars (and a few trucks) that sold (remember that this is not a no reserve auction—a guards red 1985 Porsche 911 Speedster with black leather seats was a no sale bid up to $160,000) and add some of my opinions. Eighties vehicles were about 8% of the lots in this auction.

Thursday, April 6th:

  • 1980 black Chevrolet Corvette custom coupe with burgundy leather seats, a 350 bhp 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8, and a four-speed manual—$4,000 hammer price.
  • 1987 crystal/gray two-tone Lincoln Town Car Cartier Edition sedan with gray leather seats, a 150 bhp 4.9 liter/302 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection, and an automatic—an ouch! at $5,000.
  • 1983 red Ford Mustang GLX convertible with a white top, white vinyl seats, a 175 bhp Windsor 4.9 liter/302 cubic inch V8 with four-barrel carburetor, and a five-speed manual—$6,500
  • 1989 maroon/white two-tone Chevrolet 1500 Silverado pickup truck with red cloth seats, a fuel-injected V8, and an automatic—$6,750
  • 1987 red Porsche 944 coupe with a 150 bhp 2.5 liter/151 cubic inch inline four an five-speed manual—$5,500
  • 1985 black BMW 318 Baur TC2 custom convertible with a black top, a 295 bhp 3.0 liter inline six, and a five-speed—$5,500
  • 1986 blue Jeep CJ-7 Renegade SUV with an inline six—$7,500
  • 1983 blue Mercedes-Benz 380SL convertible with a blue top, blue leather seats, a 155 bhp 3.8 liter/234 cubic inch fuel injected V8, an automatic, and 86,000 miles—$14,000
  • 1983 red/white two-tone GMC Jimmy SUV with a 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8 and an automatic—$15,000
  • 1985 white Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz convertible with a white top, white leather seats, a 130 bhp HT-4100 4.1 liter/249 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection, an automatic, and 86,000 miles—$14,000
  • 1985 red Porsche 911 Carrara custom coupe with black leather seats, a 3.2 liter/193 cubic inch flat six with fuel injection, and a five-speed manual—$24,500
  • 1987 camouflaged AM General Hummer SUV with a green interior, a 6.2 liter diesel V8, an automatic, and 3,600 mile—$17,500
  • 1986 black Mercedes-Benz 560SL convertible with a black top, beige leather seats, a 227 bhp 5.5 liter/339 cubic inch fuel injected V8, and an automatic—$12,000
  • 1981 beige Chevrolet Corvette coupe with cinnabar leather seats, a 190 bhp L81 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8 with Rochester four-barrel carburetor, and an automatic—$10,000
  • 1986 medium blue/dark blue two-tone GMC Sierra Classic 1500 custom pickup truck with a blue cloth seat, a 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8, and an automatic—$21,000
  • 1982 white GMC Jimmy mild custom SUV with blue seats, a 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8, and an automatic—$18,500

Friday, March 24th:

  • 1986 silver Chevrolet Silverado custom pickup truck with a black seat, a 7.4 liter/454 cubic inch V8, and an automatic—$30,000
  • 1984 black/silver two-tone Jeep CJ-7 Laredo SUV with a black/silver interior, a 115 bhp 4.2 liter/258 cubic inch inline six with Carter two-barrel carburetor, and an automatic—at $20,000 the first vehicle in this auction to meet my criteria for serious 1980s collectability of original cars or trucks: selling for equal to or above its original base list price. I’ll mark these vehicles in bold green.
  • 1983 light blue/medium blue two-tone Chevrolet El Camino pickup truck with blue cloth seats, a V8, and an automatic—$8,000
  • 1986 black Porsche 911 custom coupe with a black interior, a 3.2 liter/193 cubic inch flat six with fuel injection, and a five-speed manual—$45,000
  • 1987 black Buick Grand National coupe with a black/gray cloth interior, a 245 bhp LC2 3.8 liter/231 cubic inch turbocharged and fuel injected V6, an automatic, and 46,000 miles—$23,000
  • 1987 red/white two-tone Chevrolet Silverado custom pickup truck with a red interior, a 7.4 liter/454 cubic inch V8, and an automatic—$14,000

Saturday, April 9th:

  • 1981 black Jeep CJ-7 Laredo SUV with a black top, a black interior, a 110 bhp 4.2 liter/258 cubic inch inline six with Carter two-barrel carburetor, and an automatic—$41,000
  • 1985 black Buick Grand National coupe with a black/gray cloth interior, a 200 bhp LC2 3.8 liter/231 cubic inch turbocharged and fuel injected V6, and an automatic—$18,500
  • 1988 white Land Rover Defender 110 pickup truck with a black interior, an 85 bhp 2.5 liter diesel inline four with turbocharger, and a five-speed manual—$45,000
  • 1988 white Lamborghini Jalpa coupe with white leather seats, a 255 bhp 3.5 liter/213 cubic inch V8 with four two-barrel Weber carburetors, a five-speed manual, and 18,000 miles—$74,000. Hagerty’s valuation tools see this as #3 money for a Jalpa.

    1988 Lamborghini Jalpa, courtesy of Mecum Auctions.
  • 1989 red Ferrari Testarossa coupe with cream leather seats, a 380 bhp 4.9 liter/302 cubic inch V12 with Bosch fuel injection, a five-speed, and 1,500 miles—at $162,500, the highest stock eighties vehicle sale of this auction
  • 1988 red Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet (either a factory custom or a custom) with black leather seats, a 217 bhp 3.2 liter/193 cubic inch flat six with fuel injection, and a five speed—$39,000

What do you think of these results?

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Eighties Vehicles at the 2017 Mecum Kansas City

The March auction at Mecum Kansas City provided some interesting fodder for commentary. I’ll concentrate on the at least fairly stock 1980s cars (and a few trucks) that sold (remember that this is not a no reserve auction—a black 1987 Buick GNX coupe with black/gray cloth seats was a no sale bid up to $42,500) and add some of my opinions. Eighties vehicles were about 9% of the lots in this auction.

Friday, March 24th:

  • 1983 brown/tan Datsun 280ZX coupe with a tan interior, seats obscured by seat covers, a 145 bhp 2.8 liter/168 cubic inch inline six with Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection, an automatic, and 75,000 miles—$7,500 hammer price.
  • 1980 red Chevrolet Camaro Z28 mild custom coupe with a black interior, a modified V8, and an automatic—$13,000
  • 1982 white Chevrolet Corvette coupe with red leather seats, a 200 bhp L83 “Cross-Fire” 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8 with throttle-body fuel injection, and an automatic (no other engine or transmission options in 1982)—$13,000 for this car in the Corvette heritage colors.
  • 1989 blue/gray two-tone Ford F150 pickup truck with a blue cloth bench seat, a 150 bhp 4.9 liter/300 cubic inch inline six with fuel injection, and a five-speed manual—$7,500
  • 1988 black Ford F250 XLT Lariat pickup truck with a gray interior, a 7.5 liter/460 cubic inch V8, and an automatic—$8,000
  • 1981 wine red metallic Porsche 928 coupe with black leather seats, a 231 bhp 4.5 liter/273 cubic inch V8 with fuel injection, and an automatic—$9,000
  • 1984 red Chevrolet C10 pickup truck with a red vinyl bench seat, a 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch V8, and an automatic—$13,000
  • 1985 white Buick Riviera convertible with a red top, red leather seats, a 190 bhp 3.8 liter/231 cubic V6 with a turbocharger and fuel injection, an automatic, and 61,000 miles—$18,000 for this rare car, one of 49 Riviera convertibles built with the turbo engine in 1985. This was the highest eighties vehicle sale of Friday.

    1985 Buick Riviera, courtesy of Mecum Auctions.
  • 1983 gray Chevrolet Suburban custom SUV with a black and gray interior, a 350 cubic inch V8, an automatic, and 67,000 miles—$6,000
  • 1981 gold Pontiac Firebird Trans Am coupe with a light sandstone interior, a 150 bhp L37 4.9 liter/301 cubic inch V8 with Rochester four-barrel carburetor, and an automatic—at $14,000 the first vehicle in this auction to meet my criteria for serious 1980s collectability of original cars or trucks: selling for equal to or above its original base list price. I’ll mark these vehicles in bold green.
  • 1988 red/cream two-tone GMC Suburban 2500 SUV with red cloth seats, a 7.4 liter/454 cubic inch V8, and an automatic—$6,750
  • 1989 red Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z mild custom convertible with a black top, gray cloth seats, a 305 cubic inch V8, and an automatic—$8,000

Saturday, March 25th:

  • 1983 dark blue Chevrolet K10 Silverado custom pickup truck with a gray interior, a 350 cubic inch V8, and an automatic—$21,500
  • 1988 black Nissan Safari Patrol SUV with beige cloth seats, an 80 bhp SD33 3.2 liter/185 cubic inch diesel six, and an automatic—$21,000 for this right-hand drive vehicle imported from an unstated location.
  • 1982 guards red Porsche 911SC very custom coupe with black leather seats, a 180 bhp 3.0 liter/183 cubic inch flat six with fuel injection, and a five-speed—at $31,000, the highest eighties vehicle sale of the auction. Hagerty’s valuation tools see this as strong #3 money for a stock coupe.
  • 1980 cameo white Pontiac Firebird Trans Am coupe with blue cloth seats, a 150 bhp W72 4.9 liter/301 cubic inch V8 with Rochester four-barrel carburetor, an automatic, and 6,400 miles—$25,000
  • 1987 blue Toyota pickup truck with blue vinyl seats, an unstated engine (likely an inline four of some sort), a five-speed, and 14,000 miles—at $15,000, perhaps the most interesting eighties vehicle at this auction.
  • 1981 white Pontiac Firebird Trans Am coupe with blue leather seats, a 145 bhp LG4 5.0 liter/305 cubic inch V8 with Rochester four-barrel carburetor, a four-speed, and 36,000 miles—$14,000
  • 1986 matte black Chevrolet K10 custom pickup truck with a tan vinyl bench seat, an unstated engine, and an automatic—$8,500

Late second-generation Trans Ams and SUVs were fairly strong, but Mecum Kansas City once again lived to its bargain reputation. What do you think of these results?