Earlier this month, my wife and I visited the small but excellent BMW Zentrum Museum in Greer, SC. Of course they had a first-generation M3 on display—time to write a blog entry about this game-changing little coupe.
“Created for the race track, destined for the road.”
It took the M3 two-and-a-half years to make it to the United States following its debut in Europe, but most agreed that it was worth the wait. Reviews were enthusiastic; Car and Driver exclaimed that “This is a car for us.”
The powertrain was the thing: an S14 192 bhp 2.3 liter/141 ci 16-valve inline four with four valves per cylinder and Bosch Motronic fuel injection mated to a five-speed manual. In a car with a curb weight of 2,734 pounds, this meant impressive acceleration—0-60 times were in the seven-second range. Given this, fuel economy wasn’t bad: 17 city/28 highway on premium gasoline by the standards of the day (15/26 by today’s standards). With a 14.5-gallon gas tank, the proud new owner of an M3 could expect a range of 265 to 295 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.
Standard exterior equipment on the pricey $34,000 M3 (about $75,500 in 2019 dollars or a little over what a base 2020 M4 coupe goes for) included boxed-out fender flares, a unique front bumper, and a cap over the C-pillar which helped to feed air onto the large for the day rear wing. Mechanical features included a limited-slip differential, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, and 205/55VR15 tires on 15 x 7 inch cast light alloy BBS wheels.
Inside, the M3 was comfortably equipped; leather sport seats, full instrumentation, power door locks, power windows, cruise control, air conditioning, a trip computer, and an AM/FM stereo cassette were all included.
Over the last decade or so, the first-generation M3 has become one of the definitive eighties collector cars. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1988 M3 in #1/Concours condition is an astounding $142,000, with a more normal #3/Good car going for $59,700. Some M3s come up for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors, but many are now sold at auction.
1982 was the final model year that the X1/9 coupe that had debuted in 1974 was sold under the Fiat name—after that, it would be marketed under the Bertone name as Fiat withdrew from the United States. The X1/9 was small; at 156.3 inches in length, it was more than three inches shorter than today’s Fiat 124 Spider.
With its wedge shape, the X1/9 was part of a design trend in inexpensive sports coupes that included the Triumph TR7/TR8, the Pontiac Fiero, and the Toyota MR2.
The only powertrain available on the X1/9 continued to be a 75 bhp 3.5 liter/91 ci inline four with Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection paired with a five-speed manual. An X1/9 owner could expect a 0-60 time of a little over 11 seconds in a coupe with a curb weight of 2,209 pounds.
Mileage wasn’t as good as you would think: rated at 26 city/37 highway by 1982 standards (20/26 by today’s calculation). With a 12.7-gallon gas tank, the driver of an X1/9 could expect a range of between 265 and 360 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.
Standard equipment on the $10,900 X1/9 (about $29,400 in today’s dollars or about what a 2019 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth convertible goes for) included pop-up headlights, a removable targa roof, rack-and-pinion steering, four-wheel disc brakes, and Pirelli Cinturato P3 P165/70R13 tires (a size still available thanks to Vredestein) on 13 x 5.5 inch wheels. Inside, bucket seats, a four-spoke padded steering wheel, a lockable glove box, and full instrumentation were included.
Options included metallic paint, tinted glass, air conditioning, and an AM/FM stereo radio.
The X1/9 has a following in both its Fiat and Bertone versions. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1982 X1/9 in #1/Concours condition is $19,800, with a more normal #3/Good car going for $6,300. X1/9s come up for sale every once in a while in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors. As I write this in February 2019, there’s a 1979 Black Metallic X1/9 with tan/black vinyl seats and 83,000 miles available for $10,500.
“For the North American continent the Merkur XR4Ti represents an innovative, new total performance machine.”
The Merkur XR4Ti never had a chance.
There, I’ve said it. Though the redoubtable Bob Lutz was involved, I can’t even imagine the combination of decisions that made Ford think that selling a Karmann-assembled version of the European Ford Sierra at Lincoln-Mercury dealers in the mid-1980s was ever going to work out. By early 1989, the XR4Ti was gone.
Because the Cologne 2.8 liter V6 the Sierra used in Germany could not clear US emissions, the engine the XR4Ti received was Ford’s Lima 2.3 liter/140 ci turbocharged and fuel injected inline four also seen in the Ford Mustang SVO and Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe. In its Merkur guise, it made 175 bhp with the standard five-speed manual transmission and 145 bhp (ouch!) with the optional ($427) three-speed automatic transmission. 0-60 mph came in about 9 seconds with the manual, and top speed was a little under 130 mph. Fuel economy wasn’t very good: with the manual, it was 19 city/24 highway by the standards of the day (17/22 by today’s standards). With a 15.1-gallon gas tank, a Merkur owner could expect a range of 265 to 290 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.
Base price for the 1985 XR4Ti was $16,361 (about $39,200 in 2018 dollars). Standard exterior and mechanical features included flush headlamps, power front disc/rear drum brakes, nitrogen pressurized shock absorbers, variable ratio power rack-and-pinion steering, and the famous (and polarizing) biplane rear spoiler derived from the one on the Probe III concept car Ford had shown in 1981. Pirelli P6 195/60HR14 tires (a size still readily available) were fitted on 14-inch “phone dial” wheels. Inside, standard equipment included air conditioning, variable ratio power steering, power mirrors, a 60/40 folding rear seat, and an AM/FM stereo with cassette player.
Options other than the automatic transmission were relatively few: a $470 Convenience group (power door locks, power windows, and cruise control), tilt/slide moonroof ($549), leather seats ($890), heated seats ($183), and metallic paint ($274).
According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1985 Merkur XR4Ti in #1/Concours condition is $6,500, with a more normal #3/Good car going for $2,400. I find it interesting that Hagerty tracks them at all—there are many of what I think would be equally interesting cars that they don’t track. You rarely see them for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds—they are at least a little more common on eBay Motors.
Make mine Paris Blue Metallic with the optional Gray leather interior, please. The real question is how many are left.
“Once again, other manufacturers will be forced to return to their drawing boards.”
The Honda Accord was all new for 1986, with a brand new body and upgraded engines—the standard powertrain was the A20A 98 bhp 2.0 liter/120 ci inline four with two-barrel carburetor paired to a five-speed manual transmission (a four-speed automatic was optional). Acceleration was acceptable: 0-60 came in a little under 11 seconds in the approximately 2,400-pound car. Mileage was good: 27 city/33 highway by the standards of the day (about 23 city/30 highway by 2018 standards). With a 15.9-gallon fuel tank, Accord drivers could expect a range of from 380 to 430 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.
By modern standards, the 1986 Accord was not a large car: with a 102.4-inch wheelbase and a 178.5-inch length, it was four inches shorter in both wheelbase and length than a 2018 Honda Civic and was classified by the EPA as a subcompact car (the modern Accord is classified as a large car). What’s even more striking is the height or lack thereof: at 53.3 inches, the Accord was only three inches taller than the same year’s Camaro. The 1986 Accord had a six-inch longer wheelbase, three inches more of length, and was almost an inch shorter than the 1985 version.
Standard equipment on the base Accord DX sedan included front wheel drive, double wishbone front and rear suspension, power brakes, variable-assist power steering, pop-up halogen headlights, hidden wipers, and P185/70R13 tires (a size still available) on 13-inch wheels with full wheel covers. Inside reclining front bucket seats, an adjustable steering column, and cruise control were included. The DX went for $9,299—about $21,600 in 2018 dollars.
Moving up to the LX added air conditioning, power door locks, power windows, and an AM/FM stereo with cassette player and power antenna. The top of the line LXi went for $12,675 (about $29,400 in today’s dollars or about what a 2018 Accord EX-L sedan goes for) and added the 110 bhp fuel injected engine, cast aluminum alloy wheels, and a power moonroof.
The 1986 Honda Accord was well received. It was present on Car and Driver‘s 10 Best list and got good reviews. Honda sold 325,000 in the United States, making it the fifth best selling car model that year.
Third-generation Accords were once prevalent on American roads, but have virtually disappeared by now. You do occasionally see these Accords for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, but there were no sedans out there as I write this in July 2018.
For 1989, a full convertible version of the Jaguar XJ-S finally became available after five years of the little-loved targa convertible. The power top, which could go up and down in as little as 12 seconds, was padded, lined, and included a heated glass rear window.
The only powertrain available for any XJ-S continued to be the 262 bhp H.E. 5.3 liter/326 ci V12 with Lucas-Bosch fuel injection paired with a three-speed automatic transmission sourced from General Motors (a powertrain that had been around since 1982). Performance was respectable for the almost 4,200-pound convertible: 0-60 mph in a little under 10 seconds. Mileage remained what you might expect from a thirsty V12—12 city/16 highway by the standards of the day (11/15 by today’s standards). With a 10% fuel reserve, an XJ-S owner could expect a range of between 250 and 275 miles.
Standard equipment on the $56,000 car (about $116,700 in today’s dollars) included a four-wheel independent suspension, power steering, and four-wheel anti-lock power disc brakes. 15-inch alloy wheels were paired with Pirelli P600 235/60VR15 tires—which are still available!
Inside, the buyer received air conditioning with automatic temperature control, power windows, heated power mirrors, power door locks, intermittent windshield wipers, cruise control, and an AM/FM stereo cassette with Dolby and metal tape capability. New sport-contoured seats featured power-variable lumbar support and electric heating elements.
The Jaguar XJ-S has good club support, and there are some restoration parts available. There’s also a free 738 page (!)ebook written by an XJ-S owner named Kirby Palm available with much hard-earned advice. Keeping an XJ-S at 100% is non-trivial—as it is with so many high-end eighties cars.
Like all Jaguars, XJ-S convertibles have a following and make frequent appearances in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and eBay. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1989 XJ-S convertible in #1/Concours condition is $31,000, with a far more typical #3/Good car going for $14,100. As I write this in June 2018, a white 1989 XJ-S with 70,000 miles is for sale for $15,000.
On this Easter Sunday, I filled up our modern sedan at one of the local Sunocos. Across from me: an Alfa Romeo GTV-6. So, here you go.
“… an extremely exciting machine”
For 1985, Alfa Romeo’s GTV-6 stood mostly pat. The shift linkage was modified to address some complaints of stiffness and some standard equipment was removed to reach a more approachable price.
The engine continued to be the star: a 154 bhp 2.5 liter/152 ci V6 with aluminum block and heads and Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection paired with a five-speed manual. Performance was respectable—Road & Track recorded an 8.5 second 0-60 time in the 2,955-pound car. Fuel mileage was 19 city/26 highway by the standards of the day—17/24 by today’s standards.
Standard equipment in the $16,500 car (about $39,000 in today’s dollars or almost exactly what a 2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia goes for) included an independent front suspension, a deDion rear suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, and 195/60HR15 tires (a size still easily available) on 15-inch wheels. Inside, there was an adjustable steering column and cloth seats. Power windows were standard, but with a back-up mechanical crank.
Optional equipment included rear spoiler ($395), sunroof ($500), leather seats ($750), and an AM/FM stereo with a cassette player ($395). A very uncommon option was the Callaway Twin Turbo package ($2,095), which include a 230 bhp engine, along with upgraded BBS 16 x 7 wheels and Goodyear Eagle 205/55VR-16 tires.
Potential collectors of a GTV-6 are warned that they are highly susceptible to rust—even in states where that isn’t usually a problem. These cars have a following, and make appearances in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and eBay. Values are sliding up: according to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1985 GTV-6 in #1/Concours condition is $24,700, with a far more typical #3/Good car going for $12,900.
The Mercedes-Benz 380SL is a common vehicle at the auctions I follow—since starting this blog in late 2013, I’ve seen almost 40 of these convertibles go across the block, mostly at the Barrett-Jackson and Mecum events. I chose to go with 1985 as the model year to write about because it and 1982 have been the two most common years I have seen.
“What do you get when you blend a Mercedes-Benz with a sports car? The incomparable 380SL.”
1985 was the final year for the 380SL—from 1986 on, the heavier and more powerful 560SL would be the only option in North America. There wasn’t much change for 1985; all cars got anti-lock brakes, and later production SLs got a drivers-side airbag. About 11,100 buyers took home this last of the line example, which benefited from having very little real competition.
Motive power was provided by a 155 bhp 3.8 liter/234 ci V8 with Bosch Jetronic fuel injection, connected to a four-speed automatic transmission. As with all R107 models, mileage for the 3,600-pound car wasn’t very good—the ratings of the day were 16 city/18 highway (14/17 by today’s standards). With the 22.5-gallon fuel tank, a 380SL driver could expect a range of between 310 and 350 miles with a 10% fuel reserve. 0-60 came in about 10.5 seconds; despite the claims of Mercedes-Benz, the 380SL was closer to a grand touring car than to a sports car.
The 380SL’s base price for 1985 was $43,820 (about $102,200 in today’s dollars—neatly spaced between what an SL 450 and an SL 550 cost in 2017). For the money, exterior and mechanical standard features included the aforementioned ABS controlling power disk brakes, power steering, a steel hardtop, and 205/70VR14 tires (now a rare size) on 14-inch forged light-alloy wheels. Inside, power windows, power door locks via a vacuum locking system, cruise control, and an AM/FM stereo with cassette player were standard. Air conditioning was also included in the electronic automatic climate control system, though most say it wasn’t that effective. Heated leather seats were optional.
According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1985 380SL in #1/Concours condition is $28,200, with a more typical #3/Good car going for $13,600. There is decent club support for the 380SL, as there is for almost all Mercedes-Benz’s. 380SLs maintain a substantial presence in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. As I write this in September 2017, there are 66 advertised on Hemmings, including 14 of the 1985 models.
Make mine Astral Silver Metallic, please. Dealer advertising image courtesy of Alden Jewell.
The Chrysler LeBaron convertible was a mid-year introduction, becoming available in the spring of 1982. It was the first factory convertible from an American manufacturer available for sale in the United States since the 1976 Cadillac Eldorado.
All LeBarons were all-new for 1982. Based on the more plebeian Dodge Aries/Plymouth Reliant front-wheel drive K cars that had been on sale for a year, the LeBaron (sometimes described as the Super-K) was a move at least slightly up-market. Most exterior body panels were the same as the K. Notable styling differences were a waterfall style grill (somewhat resembling that of the previous year’s rear-wheel-drive LeBaron), quad headlamps, relocation of the parking lamps and turn signals to the front bumper, and a full-width tail-lamp housing.
Chrysler used almost all of the standard K pieces inside the LeBaron. Recessed door handles and rocker type door locks were one of the few changes, along with a different style of armrest and door pull. There was less vinyl trim, and the carpeting and other fabrics were of somewhat higher quality. A significant difference was the attention paid to noise, vibration, and harshness: between soundproofing, better parts, and suspension tuning, the LeBaron was upgraded from the base K in 26 separate ways.
Cars & Concepts in Brighton, Michigan heavily modified two-door LeBaron coupes on their way to becoming convertibles—the process included 32 steps. They installed a boxed-in backbone along the center of the car and welded a three-piece windshield header to the A-pillars. Next, Cars & Concepts installed new door glass and added door wedges. Finally, they added a new fiberglass panel to hold the rather small rear seats and mounted the convertible motor on the floor pan behind the rear bulkhead.
The convertible top itself had a plastic rear window and broad rear quarter panels; Car and Driver wrote that this created “a sort of Conestoga-wagon effect.” The top was actuated from a button on the console, and a padded top boot snapped into place when the top was lowered.
A K 2.2 liter/135 ci inline four with a two-barrel Holley carburetor producing 84 bhp was the base engine. A two-barrel carburetted Mitsubishi G54B 2.6-liter inline four with 92 bhp and 20 additional ft-lbs of torque was available for an added $171. Both engines were paired with a TorqueFlite three-speed automatic transmission. Mileage with the base engine was 25 city/36 highway by the standards of the day. The optional engine was rated at 23 city/31 highway and brought the 0-60 time down from about 17 (aargh!) seconds to about 15 seconds.
The LeBaron convertible’s base price was $11,698 (about $31,200 in today’s dollars and about 44% more than the 1982 LeBaron coupe). For that money, you got dual outside mirrors (actually taken from the Dodge Omni 024), power brakes, power steering, and P185/70R14 whitewall tires (a size still readily available, though finding whitewalls might be tough) on 14-inch wheels. Inside you got vinyl bucket seats with a folding center armrest, digital clock, and an AM radio. 76% of convertible drivers moved up to Medallion trim, which boosted the price to $13,998 (about $37,400 in 2018 dollars) and added halogen headlamps, better gauges, and snazzier wheel covers.
The Mark Cross package cost an additional $861, moved the sticker to a non-trivial $14,859 (about $39,700 in today’s dollars) and added the 2.6-liter engine, air conditioning, power windows, power door locks, and attractive Mark Cross leather/vinyl seats. Other options included cornering lamps ($57), cast aluminum wheels ($344), automatic speed control ($155), and an AM/FM stereo radio with electronic tuning and cassette player ($455).
First-year sales of LeBaron convertible were a respectable 12,825, especially considering the shortened year and the relatively high price. I would characterize In a piece of general eighties trivia, the first commercial cell phone call in history was made from a LeBaron convertible in October 1983.
These cars are being collected and shown—I see them often at AACA judging meets. You see them for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors: as I update this blog entry in December 2018, there’s a Morocco Red LeBaron with 24,000 miles for sale on Hemmings for $10,800.
These convertibles also started Chrysler’s long traditionof making convertibles that might occasionally be sporty but were not sports cars—a market niche they exited in 2014 with the demise of the Chrysler 200 convertible.
I still like what Chrysler was trying to do, and I appreciate how these cars look, at least with the top down. Make mine Mahogany Metallic, please, with the Mark Cross package.
1986 was the last model year for the Berlinetta semi-luxury version of Chevrolet’s Camaro, and they were by far the rarest of the three Camaros types available. With only 4,579 Berlinettas built in 1986, Chevrolet sold more than eleven times as many IROC-Zs alone. There were few changes for the 1986 Berlinetta—among them the appearance of the federally mounted center high mounted stop lamp, new colors, updated interiors, and a new automatic closure for the large and heavy rear hatch.
The base powertrain for the Berlinetta was the LB8 135 bhp 2.8 liter/173 ci multi-port fuel injected V6 with a five-speed manual transmission. Optional power was the $450 LG4 155 bhp 5.0 liter/305 ci V8 with a Rochester Quadrajet four-barrel carburetor which was paired with a $425 four-speed automatic transmission (the five-speed manual was not available with the V8 on the Berlinetta).
Fuel economy with the base powertrain combination was 17 city/26 highway by the standards of the day (15/24 by modern standards). Moving up to the V8 dropped mileage ratings only slightly—to 17/25, and reduced the 0-60 mph time to a respectable 9 seconds in a car that weighed approximately 3,065 pounds. With a 16.2-gallon fuel tank (for some reason 0.7 gallons larger than with the V6), a V8 Berlinetta owner could expect a range of 275 to 305 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.
Your $11,902 base price (about $27,500 in today’s dollars—just a little less than what a decently-equipped 2019 Chevrolet Camaro 2LT hatchback coupe goes for) bought standard mechanical and exterior equipment including power brakes, power steering, dual horns, and P205/70R-14 blackwall steel-belted radial tires (a size still readily available) on 14 x 7 inch wheels with Berlinetta-specific full wheel covers. Inside, custom cloth reclining seats with adjustable headrests, a Berlinetta-only steering wheel, intermittent windshield wipers, a roof console with a removable flashlight, a fold-down rear seat, a locking rear storage cover, Quiet Sound Group, and an AM/FM stereo radio with clock and four speakers were included.
Of course, the most notable interior component in the Berlinetta was the “Welcome aboard Starship Camaro.” (yes, that was a real advertisement) electronic instrument cluster with dual adjustable control pods, a vacuum-fluorescent digital speedometer, and a bar graph tachometer. To an aspiring young audiophile, the killer feature of this interior was the optional (an extra $242) AM/FM stereo on a swivel with a “proper” upright (no slot) cassette deck and a five-band graphic equalizer. For 1986 only, the stereo received substantially improved backlighting.
Among the many exterior and mechanical options were four-wheel disc brakes ($179 and only available with the V8), t-tops ($846—ouch!), a rear spoiler ($69), halogen headlamps ($25), electric rear window defogger ($145), and nice looking Berlinetta-only aluminum finned wheels ($225). Inside, you could add cruise control ($185), Comfortilt steering wheel ($115), power door locks ($145), and Berlinetta-specific electronically-controlled air conditioning ($775). The Berlinetta could get expensive: I had no trouble getting getting a V8 version up to $15,400—about $35,600 in 2019 dollars or about what a loaded 2019 Camaro 3LT/RS hatchback coupe goes for.
According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1986 Berlinetta in (rare) #1/Concours condition is $13,400, with a more normal #3/Good condition car going for $6,200. In general, third-generation Camaros have good club support and are often available in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and eBay Motors. However, Berlinettas of any year (Chevrolet first brought them to market in 1979) are rare—though a couple showed up at auction in early 2019. There was a Bright Red 1984 Berlinetta with tan cloth seats, a V8, and 34,000 miles available for sale in Hemmings for $11,000 when I last checked in February 2019.
Make mine Black, please.
Thanks to the GM Heritage Center for some really specific information on the 1986 Berlinetta.