1981 Plymouth Reliant

I don’t know if he was serious, but one of the folks on Corvette Guru asked me when I was going to do a write-up on the K cars. So, here’s the Plymouth version.

“right for the times we drive in”

The 1981 Plymouth Reliant (along with its sibling the Dodge Aries) are the K-body cars often (and reasonably) credited with saving Chrysler in the early 1980s.

The first K cars were basic transportation, famously (like the GM X cars a year before) with no roll-down rear windows and just barely mid-size by the EPA’s classification. For $5,880 (about $16,900 in 2015 dollars), you got a Reliant coupe with rack and pinion steering and a front vinyl bench seat. Base tires were P175/75R13—a size that basically doesn’t exist any more. The upmarket tire was a P165/75R14—a size that fit the mid-90s Plymouth Neon compact just fine.

Spending another $500 or so moved you up to Custom trim, which added halogen headlights, a cloth front bench seat, a cigarette lighter, a color-keyed steering wheel, a digital clock, and an AM radio. Custom wagons also got power brakes.

The top-of the line Special Edition (SE) Reliants added power steering, power brakes, dual horns, deluxe wheel covers, and a snazzier steering wheel. An option only available to the SE was cloth bucket seats.

1981 Plymouth Reliant two door coupe, scan courtesy of Alden Jewell

All levels of trim were sold as four door sedans and two door coupes, but station wagons were only available in Custom and SE trims. In 1981, the 151,000 buyers split almost evenly between the three trim levels.

Options included air conditioning (which required tinted glass and power brakes—things were tightly engineered in the early 1980s), cruise control, power door locks, power front seats (said to be quite rare), along with a variety of radios.

Standard engine was a 84 bhp 2.2 liter inline 4 with two-barrel carburetor—a Mitsubishi built 92 bhp 2.6 liter inline 4 was optional. The standard transmission was a four speed manual, with a three speed automatic optional. Gas mileage with the standard combination was rated at 29 city/41 highway by the standards of the day.

Motor Trend managed to get a 2.2 liter with the automatic to do 0-60 in 12.5 seconds—they tried with another Reliant running the same combination and it took 14.0 (oog) seconds. Top speed (if you could call it that) ranged from 88 to 96 mph.

Thanks to the crazy folks at Allpar for much of the source material for this post.

1985 Buick Somerset Regal

I saw a fairly original Buick Somerset Regal with Dark Gray Metallic paint on a side road in Philadelphia about a week ago. It was the first one I’d seen in many years.

“There has never been a Buick quite like the Somerset Regal”

Buick’s Somerset Regal was a new model for 1985. Available initially in coupe form only, Buick’s version of the N-body (Oldsmobile had the Calais and Pontiac had the Grand Am) was designed to at least partially replace the Skylark. It failed miserably, only surviving for three years before being subsumed into the Skylark product line.

1985 Buick Somerset Regal Limited, courtesy of the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

The Somerset Regal was not a big car by today’s standards. With 180 inches of length and a 103.4 inch wheelbase, it is within shouting distance of a 2014 Honda Civic coupe, which is 177.9 inches long and has 103.2 inch wheelbase. Of course, cars in general have gotten a lot bigger in these thirty years—the Somerset Regal was notably larger than the 1985 Honda Accord.

The standard powertrain was a 92 bhp Tech IV 2.5 liter inline 4 with throttle body fuel injection (a slightly upgraded Iron Duke) paired with a five-speed manual transmission, but I believe most buyers went with the optional ($425) three-speed automatic instead. The hot set-up (if you could call it that) was the optional ($560) 125 bhp LN7 3.0 liter multi-port fuel injected V6, only available with the automatic.

Mileage for the inline 4 and five-speed manual combination was an impressive 24 city/34 highway by the standards of the day (21/31 by 2014 standards). Choosing the more realistic three-speed automatic cost 2 mpg while upgrading to the V6 dropped you all the way down to 20 city/26 highway.

For the Somerset Regal’s $8,857 base price (about $20,300 in today’s dollars), standard equipment included power brakes, power steering, tungsten-halogen headlights, and body-colored bumpers. The interior included bucket seats and electronic digital instrumentation (somewhat upmarket at the time). Moving up to the Limited trim added dual horns, chrome bumpers, and courtesy lamps, along with snazzier seats and steering wheel.

1985 Buick Somerset Regal interior, courtesy of the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

Standard features that date the Somerset Regal included the Delco Freedom II Plus battery, front and rear ashtrays in the console, and the P185/80R13 tires (now considered a trailer size).

Options included the $645 air conditioning (in the mid-1980s not yet standard on most cars), cruise control ($175), leather seats ($275 and only available with the Limited), power door locks ($130), power windows ($195), Vista-Vent sunroof, Delco GM/Bose Music System AM/FM stereo cassette ($995!), cast aluminum wheels ($229), and a Gran Touring suspension ($27).

Eighties Cars At The 2014 Mecum Kissemmee, Part Two

As always, the January auction at Mecum Kissimmee 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 this is not a no reserve auction) and add some of my opinions. Mecum Kissemmee is a huge event, so I’m going to separate my commentary into two posts—this second covers from Tuesday to Saturday.


  • 1988 red Chevrolet Corvette convertible—$6,000 hammer price
  • 1982 Silver/Charcoal two-tone Chevrolet Corvette coupe—$10,000
  • 1980 red Chevrolet Camaro Z28 coupeat $13,000 the first car in this part of the auction to meet my criteria for serious 1980s collectability of original cars: selling for equal to or above its original base list price. I’ll mark these cars in bold green
  • 1985 beige Mercedes-Benz 380SL convertible with 82,000 miles—$11,500
  • 1981 black Chevrolet Camaro Z28 coupe—$15,500 (more strong money for the last of the second generation F cars)
  • 1988 white Chevrolet Corvette 35th Anniversary coupe with 34,000 miles—$9,500 (the first of three 35th Anniversary’s sold)
  • 1984 beige Jeep CJ-7 Laredo SUC with 99,000 miles—$10,500
  • 1981 brown Cadillac Fleetwood sedan—$6,000
  • 1980 Silver Chevrolet Corvette coupe—$13,000
  • 1982 Silver Beige Chevrolet Corvette Collector Edition coupe—$20,000
  • 1986 white Mercedes-Benz 560SL convertible—$12,000
  • 1983 blue Jeep CJ-7 SUV—$10,500
  • 1982 orange Jeep Scrambler CJ-8 pickup truck—$24,000


  • 1984 red/white two-tone Ford Bronco SUV—$6,750
  • 1987 blue/silver two-tone Chevrolet C10 pickup truck—$8,000
  • 1981 black Jeep CJ-7 SUV—$9,000
  • 1982 red Chevrolet Corvette coupe—$15,000
  • 1986 red Jeep CJ-7 SUV—$17,500
  • 1981 black Lincoln Mark VI sedan with 27,000 miles—$7,500
  • 1987 red Ford Mustang convertible with 36,000 miles—$9,500
  • 1989 red Buick Riviera coupe with 10,000 miles—$12,000
  • 1981 silver (of course!) Delorean DMC-12 coupe with 10,000 miles—$29,000
  • 1981 silver Chevrolet Corvette coupe—$9,500
  • 1983 green Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler pickup truck—$20,000
  • 1987 red BMW 635csi coupe—$7,500
  • 1981 red Chevrolet Blazer custom SUV—$21,000
  • 1982 white Chevrolet Corvette coupe with 28,000 miles—$14,500
  • 1987 red Ferrari Testarossa coupe—$39,000


  • 1987 white Zimmer Golden Spirit coupe with 34,000 miles—$20,000
  • 1987 white Porsche 911 Cabriolet convertible with 44,000 miles—$37,000
  • 1980 red Chevrolet Corvette coupe with 31,000 miles—$13,500
  • 1987 blue Ford Mustang custom Saleen hatchback with 25,000 miles—$16,000
  • 1983 red Porsche 911 coupe—$31,000
  • 1981 Red/Dark Claret two-tone Chevrolet Corvette coupe—$15,700
  • 1987 black Buick Grand National coupe with 35,000 miles—$18,000
  • 1984 red Chevrolet Camaro Z28 coupe with 56,000 miles—$5,750
  • 1986 silver/gray two-tone Pontiac Grand Prix 2+2 Aerocoupe coupe with 250 miles—$37,000 (real money for a one year only NASCAR homologation model)
  • 1988 white Chevrolet Corvette 35th Anniversary coupe with 46,000 miles—$16,000
  • 1989 red Chevrolet Corvette convertible with 31,000 miles—$12,000
  • 1987 black Buick GNX coupe with 10,000 miles—$67,000


  • 1988 white Chevrolet Corvette 35th Anniversary coupe with 17,000 miles—$19,000
  • 1986 white Chevrolet Corvette convertible—$10,500
  • 1986 white Mercury Cougar convertible with 3,000 miles—$8,000
  • 1986 white Porsche Slant Nose Cabriolet convertible—$34,000
  • 1988 white Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet convertible—$60,000
  • 1987 silver Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS coupe—$13,000
  • 1984 white Datsun 300ZX Turbo coupe with 42,000 miles—at $14,000 one of the most interesting 1980s cars in this auction.
  • 1988 white Chevrolet Corvette Callaway convertible with 93,000 miles—$25,000
  • 1985 red Jeep CJ-7 SUV—$22,500


  • 1985 black Porsche 930 Turbo coupe with 36,000 miles—$63,000

What do you think of this year’s results?

1981 Chevrolet Citation X-11

I walked past a small junkyard in Philadelphia yesterday. A maroon Citation X-11 was recognizable though not really well-preserved, but it did encourage me to finally publish this blog post.

“It gives you goose bumps.”

Chevrolet’s Citation X-car is now known mostly for being constantly recalled, but there were some positive points. The X-11 sporty version was a definite glimmer of hope.

The Citation X-11 was built around a specific engine for its entire life. For 1981, the $1,498 X-11 package featured the LH7 2.8 liter/172 cubic inch “HO” V6 with Rochester two-barrel carburetor, making 135 bhp, instead of the 110 bhp that the “generic” LE2 V6 made in other Citations. Upgrades from the LE2 to the LE7 included a higher compression ratio (8.9:1 versus 8.5:1). The standard transmission was the four-speed manual with a three-speed automatic optional. The four-speed along with the X-11’s special axle ratio was good enough to give a 0-60 time of around 8.5 seconds.

Other changes for 1981 were the addition of a hood bulge and aluminum alloy wheels. The X-11 also received power brakes and the F41 Sport Suspension, which featured revised shock absorbers, stiffer anti-roll bars, and P215/60R14 tires. Inside was an instrument panel that included a five-gauge cluster, a leather-wrapped sport steering wheel, and cloth bucket seats. Exterior X-11 specific appearance items included a black grill and body accents, sport mirrors, and a rear spoiler.

X-11 page from the 1981 Chevrolet Citation brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

Options available included air conditioning ($585), cruise control ($123), intermittent wipers ($41), rear defogger ($107), and tilt steering wheel ($81).

X-11’s do sometimes show up in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds but, as I write this in February 2014, there are none for sale.



Eighties Cars At The 2014 Mecum Kissemmee, Part One

As always, the January auction at Mecum Kissimmee provides much 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) and add some of my opinions. Mecum Kissemmee is a huge event, so I’m going to separate it into two posts—this first covers from Friday to Sunday.


  • 1984 brown two-tone Cadillac Seville sedan—$6,000 hammer price.
  • 1980 brown two-tone Lincoln Mark VI Givenchy edition coupe—$5,500
  • 1987 red Chevrolet Corvette coupe—$7,500
  • 1980 red Chevrolet Corvette coupe—$11,000
  • 1986 yellow Pontiac Firebird Trans Am coupe—$4,500
  • 1984 yellow Alfa Romeo Veloce convertible—$6,000
  • 1983 red Jeep Scrambler CJ-8 pickup truck—$11,000
  • 1984 Firemist Red Buick Riviera convertible—$7,500
  • 1989 blue Jeep Wrangler custom SUV—$15,500
  • 1988 red Chevrolet Corvette convertible—$8,750
  • 1982 red Rolls-Royce Silver Spur sedan—$5,000
  • 1988 Astral Silver Metallic Mercedes-Benz 560SL convertible—$15,000


  • 1989 gold Nissan Pulsar NX coupe with 12,000 miles (is it the nicest Pulsar remaining in the world?)—$6,000
  • 1986 silver Mercedes-Benz 560SL convertible with 118 miles—at $84,000 the first car in this auction to meet my criteria for serious 1980s collectability of original cars: selling for equal to or above its original base list price. I’ll mark these cars in bold green.
  • 1985 red Chevrolet Corvette coupe with 39,000 miles—$7,500
  • 1986 black Buick Grand National coupe with 30,000 miles—$19,250
  • 1983 yellow Jeep CJ-7 custom SUV—$17,000
  • 1982 Silver Blue/Dark Blue two-tone Chevrolet Corvette coupe with 17,000 miles—$25,500 (interesting to see a non-Collector Edition 1982 hold its money)


  • 1982 Dark Blue Metallic Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 coupe with 7,000 miles—$9,500
  • 1986 white/blue two-tone Cadillac Eldorado coupe with 15,000 miles—$7,250
  • 1985 beige Ford LTD Country Squire wagon—$3,000 (is it worth more than that just for the metal?)
  • 1987 red Mercedes-Benz 560SL convertible—$11,000
  • 1985 beige Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia Camper van—$9,750
  • 1988 white Jaguar XJS coupe with 52,000 miles and a flood title—$4,250
  • 1986 red Porsche 944 coupe—$8,250
  • 1988 black  Rolls-Royce Silver Spur sedan—$11,000
  • 1988 beige Jeep Grand Wagoneer SUV with wood paneling—$11,500

What do you think of this year’s results?

1989 Cadillac Allanté

(talking with a loyal and enthusiastic Allanté owner at the AACA Annual Meeting last week inspired me to write this entry about the last of the 1980s Allantés)

“The only way to travel is Cadillac Style.”

For 1989, the Cadillac Allanté received its first engine upgrade, moving from the 4.1 liter HT-4100 V8 to the 4.5 liter HT-4500 V8 but remaining connected to the 4T60 4-speed automatic transmission. Power climbed to 200 bhp while mileage declined slightly to 15 city/23 highway by the standards of the day. Acceleration improved to about 8.5 seconds to 60 mph with a claimed top speed of 134 mph (probably with the aluminum top on) for Dave Hill’s baby.

1989 Cadillac Allante
1989 Cadillac Allanté, courtesy of the GM Media Archives.

For 1989, the Allanté’s base price remained non-trivial: $57,183 (about $107,000 in 2014 dollars) for the 3,296 buyers. However, just about everything came standard, including ABS, traction control, 16-inch alloy wheels, and the aluminum hard top/cloth convertible top combination. The interior included 10 way leather covered Recaro bucket seats, electronic climate control, and Symphony Sound System AM/FM stereo with cassette player. Because it was a Cadillac you also got air conditioning, power steering, power windows, and power door locks. You could choose either an analog or a digital instrument cluster at no extra charge.

Allantés have a good club following and consistently show up in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds. As I write this in February 2014, there’s a Pearl White Allanté with a Burgundy interior with 66,000 miles for sale for $10,000. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for an 1989 Allanté in #1 condition is $16,500.

I think the Allanté body style (by Pinanfarina, of course) has aged well. It certainly still looks like nothing else on road—which was definitely one of Cadillac’s goals.

Make mine Pearl White, please.

2014 AACA Annual Meeting

The Antique Auto Club of America’s Annual Meeting began this Friday morning in Philadelphia, PA. This is the first annual meeting of theirs that I’ve attended – the main AACA event that we’ve been to is the annual (and magnificent) Hershey national meet in the fall. There’s not a lot of content specific to eighties cars, but there is a lot of content that is relevant (all 1980s cars are now eligible for AACA judging).

AACA logo projected on a wall at the host hotel.

I’ve already attended a bunch of seminars, including ones on how to prepare effectively for an extended road tour, General Motors literature, the complete story of MG, and the AACA library‘s multimedia resources (including a 20 minute advertising video from 1984).

My wife and I skew young among the hundred of attendees here, but all of us here share a love of old cars and everybody has been really nice. We’re “auditioning” this event and we’ll see if we do it again.