1984 Honda Civic CRX

“Are you using the right car for your gasoline?”

Even for the 1980s, the 1984 Honda Civic CRX two-seater was absolutely tiny, with a length of a little over 12 feet and a weight of around 1,800 pounds. The CRX debuted as a new model included with the introduction of the all new third generation Civic line.

There were two engine choices for the CRX in 1984. The CRX HF (High Fuel economy) got a carbureted 1.3 liter inline 4 cylinder with all of 60 bhp – but this got you 46 city/52 highway by the standards of the day (still 38/47 by today’s standards). It also got you a 0-60 time of about 12 seconds.

Moving up to the DX got you the EW1 carbureted 1.5 liter inline 4 cylinder with 76 bhp – enough to reduce the 0-60 time to a little over 10 seconds and still get 32 city/38 highway by the eighties standards (28/35 by the current standard).

Standard was a five-speed manual, but you could get a three-speed automatic with the DX – though I’m not at all sure why you’d want one.

The first generation CRX found its markets and sold quite well, with over 48,000 in 1984 and a total of 218,000 over four years. In 1985, the fuel injected 91 bhp Si would come along – but that is a topic for another blog post.

I see early CRX’s occasionally, but they’ve become rarer and rarer on the roads in the northeast. I have yet to see one at an auto show, but I’d love to.

Make my 1984 CRX a DX in blue (with the standard metallic gray lower rocker panels), please.

1985 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z

“Make the earth move.”

In 1985, Chevrolet kicked the third-generation Camaro up a notch (or more) with the release of the IROC-Z, inspired by the International Race Of Champions race series. The IROC-Z was an option package (B4Z) for the Z28 and cost $695.

Suspension upgrades specific to the IROC-Z were Delco/Bilstein shock absorbers for the rear wheels and 16-inch wheels all around with Goodyear Eagle GT P245/50VR16 tires—big for the day.

The IROC-Z also included louvered hood inserts and more aggressive ground effects and spoilers than the Z28. Finally, it was lowered half an inch compared to the Z28.

1985 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z, courtesy of M62 from the Wikimedia Commons.

Three engines were available in 1985 for the IROC-Z, all 305 cubic inches: standard was the LG4 carbureted motor at 155 bhp. The optional engines available depended on transmission—if you chose the 5-speed manual you could get the High Output carbureted L69 with 190 bhp (not available on the garden variety Z28) while if you went with the 4-speed automatic you could choose the Tuned Port Injection LB9 at 215 bhp.

If you cared (and I think most of the target market did not), mileage wasn’t great: the EPA  ratings of the day were 16 city/22 highway for the LG4, 15/24 for the L69, and 16/22 for the LB9.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for an 1985 IROC-Z in #1 condition is $19,400. IROC-Zs make regular appearances in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds. As I write this in November 2013, there’s a red 1986 with 89,000 miles for sale for $8,000. Please make mine Blaze Red, with the optional and expensive when new ($821) t-tops. I know they often leak, but I like the look.

Interestingly, Hemmings also has a white 1985 IROC-Z for sale. It has 765 miles and the seller wants $50,000 for it. At first this seems ridiculous, but then this particular IROC has special provenance: it is one of the two Live Aid cars from July 1985, with almost 100 signatures of folks such as Mick Jagger, Bette Midler, and Jimmy Page preserved in clear coat.

1986 Porsche 944 Turbo

“Keeping Up with a Porsche 944 Has Just Gone from Difficult to Impossible”

Porsche released its Turbo version of the 944 for the 1986 model year, marking yet another step in the evolution from the original 95 bhp (!) 924 “almost a Volkswagen” design, which dated from 1976.

The 944 Turbo featured a turbocharged and intercooled version of the standard 944’s 2.5 liter inline 4 that produced 217 bhp. New forged pistons were included along with a strengthened gearbox and standard external oil coolers for both the engine and transmission.

Despite some major turbo lag, performance was quite good for the mid-1980s: Car and Driver managed to get a 0-60 time of 6.1 seconds and a top speed of 157 mph, though they noted that the price of almost $30,000 might freeze out some previous 944 customers.

Looks weren’t sharply different from the “civilian” 944, which stayed in production. The nose was somewhat simplified with an integrated front bumper and the rear had a fairing fitted to clean up the appearance of some underside components. Wheels resembling those on the “big brother” 928 were fitted. The result looked quite good in commercials.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for an 1986 944 Turbo in #1 condition is $24,300. I’m beginning to see 944s at judged car shows and they maintain a reasonable presence in the Hemming Motor News classifieds. Make mine Guards Red, please.

1984 Nissan/Datsun 300ZX

“Every move you make, every turn that you make confirms you are in the most technologically advanced Z car ever made.”

This Nissan/Datsun 300ZX is not the one with all the glamor—that 300ZX was the one that followed in the 1990s. For 1984, Nissan moved from the inline 6 of the 280ZX to two V6s, one naturally aspirated (160 bhp) and one turbocharged (200 bhp). The styling was completely and controversially revised for the first time in the history of the Z car—a massive revision akin to that of the Chevrolet Corvette for the same year. Base price was $15,800 for the base coupe and $18,200 for the turbo.

The 300ZX to have in 1984 was definitely the 50th Anniversary Edition (released to celebrate Nissan’s half-century) which was an absolutely loaded turbocharged model with a Light Pewter Metallic and Thunder Black color scheme. All Anniversary Editions came equipped with in-car 3-way electronically adjustable shocks, Bodysonic bass speakers in the seats (individually adjustable for driver and passenger from the console), mirror-finished t-tops, leather seats, sixteen-inch aluminum wheels, and flared front and rear fenders. Other equipment included a digital dash with MPG and compass readouts and steering wheel controls for the cruise control and the radio.

The only option available on the Anniversary Edition was the choice of a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic transmission.

1984 Nissan/Datsun 300ZX 50th Anniversary Edition, courtesy of Mercennarius at the wikipedia project.

5,148 out of the 75,351 300ZXs produced for the US market were Anniversary Editions at a non-trivial list price of $26,000 (about $58,800 in 2014 dollars).

300ZXs make regular appearances in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, though you have to be careful to check under both Datsun and Nissan. As I write this in November 2013, there’s a 50th Anniversary Edition with 86,000 miles for sale in Hemmings for $9,000.



1988 BMW 750iL

“Enter into a new world.”

After a year in production with just the straight 6, the second generation of BMW’s top of the line 7-series sedan got a V12 option in 1988. This engine, BMW’s first production V12, made a fairly effortless 296 bhp from its 5.0 liters and was designated M70.

BMW’s M70 V12, courtesy of Sv650k4 from the Wikimedia Commons.

This was, of course, back when BMW number and letter designations still meant something, so the breakout of the 7-series with the V12 was this:

7 – series

50 – 5.0 liters

i – fuel injected

L – long wheelbase

Of course, at the eye-popping base price of $69,000 (a little over $140,000 in 2013 dollars) the purchaser also got almost every piece of equipment BMW could put in the car. Anti-lock brakes, ZF’s Servotronic power steering, driver’s side airbag, trip computer, and a leather interior were all standard.

Beyond this, there were a few options available such as a limited slip differential. In addition, the buyer of a 750iL was paying the dreaded $1,850 gas guzzler tax—the original EPA estimate was 12 city/17 highway (the modern equivalent would be 11 city/16 highway).

I remember being in one of these cars when it was new and I felt it accelerated like a LearJet: weighing in at about 4,250 pounds, it still could do 0-60 mph in about 7.5 seconds and hit 155 mph—respectable sports car numbers in the late 1980s. At the time Car and Driver called it “the sedan of choice when money is no object”.

On What Cars Become Collectable

Hemmings Motor News is keeping me busy this week. Today, one of the articles in their Hemmings Daily blog asks “Will some cars never be collectable?” [emphasis added] At the top of the article is a picture of (of course) a car of the 80s – in this case it is a 1980 Oldsmobile Omega.

It is an interesting thought. I own an eighties car that is at least somewhat of a collector car – a 1985 Corvette. There has always been aftermarket support for my car and there is increasing restoration support for it, though very little existed 10 years ago. At the various times in the Corvette hobby, there has been heated discussion on what defines a collectable Corvette. Once the cutoff year was 1962, because the Sting Rays were “just used cars”. Then, the cutoff year was 1967, because the sharks were “too new to be judged”. After that, the cutoff year was 1982, because the C4s were “late model” Corvettes. You get the idea – rinse, repeat.

Of course it depends on what you mean by collectable. I wrote last month about seeing a lovingly preserved/restored first generation Chrysler minivan at a fairly serious local judged show. I’m not sure that a minivan is collectable (though I do think they were significant) but I am sure that I like seeing one in beautiful shape and I am happy that the AACA has provision for judging them once they hit 25 years old.

I think one of the things that makes seeing the not easily defined cars really cool is the degree of difficulty. I know that the folks who restored that Chrysler minivan didn’t have access to the wide range of suppliers that I do and I know that there isn’t (for example) a Minivans at Carlisle show for them to search for parts.

So here’s what I’ll say: every older car that is lovingly restored by its owner is collectable (at least to she or he). There may not be a big market for the results, but, in the end, one more car from a certain era has been saved.

By the way, there is an X-car for sale in Hemmings Motor News as I write this, so folks are at least trying to sell them. It is not a 1980 Oldsmobile Omega, but rather a 1983 Buick Skylark T-Type with 112,000 miles going for $5,000.

1982 Cadillac Cimarron

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

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

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

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

The only engine available for 1982 was the 88 bhp L46 1.8 liter/112 cubic inch inline four cylinder with Rochester 2-barrel carburetor. When paired with the standard four-speed manual transmission, mileage was an impressive 26 city/42 highway by the standards of the day but the car was slow, slow, slow—0-60 mph took a little under 16 seconds. A three-speed automatic transmission was optional and presumably even slower.

The $12,181 base price (about $29,600 in today’s dollars) included standard exterior and mechanical features such as power brakes, power steering, power mirrors, intermittent windshield wipers, and 13-inch aluminum wheels. Air conditioning, leather seating areas, a leather steering wheel, a tachometer, and an AM/FM stereo radio with four speakers were all standard in the interior.

Options included a sunroof ($261), cruise control (about $150), power door locks ($12—why bother making it an option?), power windows (yes, the base 1982 Cimarron came with roll-up windows—power windows were an extra $216), six-way power seats ($366), tilt steering wheel ($88), and an AM/FM stereo radio with cassette ($153). It wasn’t hard to load a Cimarron up to almost $13,500—real money in 1982 and about $35,100 in 2015 dollars.

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

So, the Cimarron remains a spectacularly easy target—routinely making those “worst 10 cars of all time” lists and suchlike.

I have yet to see a Cimarron at a serious antique car show, but I’m betting some intrepid soul will save one and bring it back. I can’t remember ever seeing one for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds—they’re treated by Cadillac folks like Ford folks treat the Mustang II from the 1970s. You do occasionally see them on eBay Motors.