1981 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Sport Coupe

It was a beautiful weekend in the Philadelphia area. Lots of people had their old cars out—one that caught my eye was an eighties Monte Carlo. However, it wasn’t the relatively glamorous SS of the mid-eighties; just a “normal” coupe.

“A matter of personal pride.”

For the 1981 model, the Monte Carlo that had been downsized in 1978 was significantly restyled, both to improve aerodynamics and modernize its looks. Much of the sculpting on the sides (which the middle-school aged me really liked) was flattened, the hood was lowered, and the trunk slightly raised.

The standard engine continued to be an LC3 110 bhp 3.8 liter/229 cubic inch V6 with a Rochester 2ME 2-barrel carburetor. Optional power included a $750 Buick-built LC8 170 bhp 3.8 liter/231 cubic inch V6 with a turbocharger and a Rochester E4ME 4-barrel carburetor and a $50 L39 115 bhp 4.4 liter/267 cubic inch V8 with a Rochester 2ME 2-barrel carburetor. California got an LG4 150 bhp 5.0 liter/305 cubic inch V8 with a Rochester 4ME 4-barrel carburetor as an option replacing the 4.4 liter V8. All engines were paired with a Turbo Hydra-Matic three-speed automatic transmission.

Mileage for the standard engine was 19 city/26 highway by the standards of the day (16/22 by today’s standards). With an 18.1 gallon fuel tank, a Monte Carlo driver could reasonably expect 310 to 365 miles of range with a 10% fuel reserve. Performance wasn’t exactly sparkling: 0-60 mph came in about 14.5 seconds with the standard V6 and 14 seconds for the 4.4 liter V8. The rare (about 2% of 1981 sales) turbo V6 was much faster—about 9 seconds for the 0-60 mph dash.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $7,299 sport coupe (approximately $21,300 in today’s dollars or about what a base 2017 Chevrolet Malibu costs—the Monte Carlo disappeared after the 2007 model year) included Computer Command Control, Delco Freedom II battery, power steering, power front disc/rear drum brakes, and P195/75R14 steel-belted radial tires. Inside a split cloth front bench seat, cut pile carpeting, and an electric clock were standard.

Exterior and mechanical options for the sport coupe (there was also a higher-content Landau coupe) included halogen high beam headlamps ($27), removable glass roof panels ($695), F41 Sport Suspension ($43), limited slip differential ($67), Rally wheels ($49), and attractive new aluminum wheels ($319). Inside, there were many options: air conditioning ($585), automatic speed control ($132), Comfortilt steering wheel ($81), power windows ($140), power door locks ($93), bucket seats ($118), gauge package ($55), and an AM/FM stereo radio with cassette tape ($264) were all available.

Back cover of the 1981 Monte Carlo brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures pages.

1981 Monte Carlo sales were astounding by modern standards for auto sales—Chevrolet sold 149,659 sport coupes along with another 38,191 landau coupes. For context, the combined Monte Carlo numbers would be enough to make it the 12th most popular car in 2016; and Chevrolet had four model lines that sold better in 1981 (Chevette, Citation, Malibu, and Impala/Caprice). Chevrolet was probably happy with the increased sales over 1980, but this would not last—1981 turned out to be the eighties high water mark for Chevrolet’s mid-size coupe.

Third-generation Monte Carlos have a following, though most of the interest is in the aforementioned SS, which is the only eighties Monte rated in Hagerty’s valuation tools. A 1986 maroon Chevrolet Monte Carlo coupe with a maroon interior and cloth bucket seats, an LG4 150 bhp 5.0 liter/305 cubic inch V8 with a 4-barrel carburetor, an automatic, and 60,000 miles sold for $9,000 at Barrett-Jackson’s 2016 Las Vegas auction.

These Monte Carlos do show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. As I write this, Hemmings is listing a 1985 Monte Carlo with a light brown metallic exterior, saddle cloth seats, an LG4 5.0 liter/305 cubic inch V8 with a 4-barrel carburetor, an automatic, and 68,000 miles for $8,250.

Make mine Green Light Jade Metallic, please. Those GM light greens from the early eighties have aged very well.

Other rear-wheel drive G-platform (designated A-platform before 1982) cars I have covered include the 1984 Buick Regal Grand National, the 1983 Chevrolet Malibu Sedan, the 1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, and the 1980 Pontiac Grand Am.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

1982 Oldsmobile Toronado Brougham

Barrett-Jackson’s second Northeast auction at the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut in late June 2017 included a 1982 black Oldsmobile Toronado Brougham coupe with a tan interior, a 140 bhp 5.0 liter/307 cubic inch V8 with Rochester 4-barrel carburetor, an automatic, and 12,000 miles. It sold for $10,000. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen an eighties Toronado up for auction, though the “sister” Buick Riviera and Cadillac Eldorado are often present. Time to write a blog entry, methinks.

“Nothing ordinary”

For 1982, Oldsmobile gave up on the (slightly) sportier XSC version and made the Brougham the only available version. Changes included a new chrome/argent grille with more horizontal bars, a new memory seat option with two memory positions, a revised instrument panel, and a new optional radio.

The standard engine was a 125 bhp 4.1 liter/252 cubic inch V6 with Rochester 4-barrel carburetor. Optional power included the 140 bhp 5.0 liter/307 cubic inch V8 with Rochester 4-barrel carburetor at no additional charge and the (don’t do it!) 105 bhp 5.7 liter/350 cubic inch diesel V8 ($825). A four-speed automatic transmission with overdrive was standard with all three engines. The Toronado was not light—curb weight was 3,705 pounds—so even with the more powerful V8, 0-60 mph took about 13 seconds. With the gasoline V8, mileage was rated at 16 city/27 highway by the standards of the day; with the 21.1-gallon fuel tank, Toronado owners could expect to travel about 400 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment included in $14,462 base price (about $38,000 in today’s dollars) included power disc brakes and P205/75R15 tires on 15 by 6-inch steel wheels. Inside, air conditioning, cruise control, tilt steering wheel, and divided cloth seats were standard. Options included Twilight Sentinel ($57), Tempmatic air conditioning ($50), power Astro Roof with sliding glass panel, and leather seats.

Oldsmobile sold 33,928 1982 Toronado Broughams, down from over 42,000 the previous year. In 1982, Buick sold 42,823 Riviera coupes along with another 1,246 convertibles while Cadillac sold 52,018 Eldorado coupes, so the Toronado was not holding up its end of the E-body platform bargain.

1982 Oldsmobile Toronado page from the 1982 Oldsmobile full-line brochure

Third-generation Toronados have a following, though models after 1980 are not rated in Hagerty’s valuation tools. These Toronados sometimes show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. As I write this, Hemmings is listing a 1983 Toronado Brougham with a champagne exterior and red cloth seats for $9,900.

I like these big coupes, though I think the Toronado may have too closely resembled the Eldorado for its own good. Make mine Medium Slate Firemist, please.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

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.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

1985 Ford LTD LX

“Because Mr. Bondurant shouldn’t have all the fun.”

Late in the 1984 model year, Ford added a performance-oriented model to the LTD line. The LX was loosely based on a few sedans that Bob Bondurant had cobbled together for use at his high performance driving school.

The engine was Ford’s 165 bhp 302 cubic inch Windsor V8 with electronic fuel injection. The only transmission available was a four-speed automatic transmission. 0-60 came in a respectable 9 seconds—faster than the Dodge 600ES and competitive with the Pontiac 6000 STE. Mileage was 19 city/23 highway by the standards of the day (17/22 by today’s standards). With a 16 gallon fuel tank, range was about 300 miles with a 10% reserve.

For 1985, the LX wore the updated nose and tail that came along with all 1985 LTDs. Standard exterior and mechanical equipment in the $11,421 LX (about $26,500 in 2016 dollars) included quad rectangular halogen headlamps, power brakes, a Traction-Lok rear axle, a rear stabilizer bar, and P205/70HR Goodyear Eagle tires on 14-inch styled road wheels. Inside, dual power mirrors, lumbar-support bucket seats, a center console with a floor shifter for the transmission, brushed aluminum trim on the dash bezels, a special instrument cluster with tachometer, a Tripminder computer, and an AM radio with dual front speakers (ah, the glamor!) were included.

Options included cast aluminum wheels ($224), air conditioning ($743), power windows ($272), power locks ($213), and an electronic AM/FM stereo radio with cassette ($409).

Page from the 1985 LTD brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochure pages.

Like some other interesting Ford performance cars from the 1980s, LTD LX’s did not sell well, with only 3,260 sold over the 1984 and 1985 model years (there would be no 1986 LX). Likely because of the limited production numbers, you rarely see them in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors.

Make mine Medium Charcoal Metallic, please.

Save

1980 Pontiac Grand Am

“One exhilarating road machine”

The last of the rear wheel drive Grand Ams came in 1980. Unlike in 1978 and 1979, the sedan was no longer available— only the coupe remained.

The standard engine in non-California cars was the 155 bhp 301 cubic inch L37 V8 with four-barrel Rochester carburetor and electronic spark control (California cars got the Chevrolet-sourced 150 bhp 305 cubic inch LG4 V8). The only transmission available was a three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic TH200 automatic transmission. Mileage was 17 city/25 highway by the standards of the day. With the 18.1 gallon fuel tank, range was about 340 miles with a 10% fuel reserve. Period performance tests of the Grand Am are hard to come by, but 0-60 likely came in around 9 seconds.

New features for 1980 included a revised soft-fascia front end with three sections per side, an Ontario Gray lower accent color for the exterior, a silver upper body accent stripe, larger wraparound black-out tail lamps, and larger front and rear stabilizer bars for the optional ($45) Rally RTS handling package.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $7,299 car (about $23,900 in 2015 dollars) included dual sport mirrors, dual horns, power steering, power front disc/rear drum brakes, and 205/75R14 black sidewall radial tires on Rally IV cast aluminum wheels. Inside, Grand Am purchasers could expect cut-pile carpeting, custom vinyl front bucket seats with center floor console, rally gages with clock embedded in a brushed aluminum instrument panel, and a custom sport steering wheel.

Available exterior and mechanical options included a power sunroof —either metal ($561) or glass ($773), dual remote sport mirrors ($73), Soft-Ray tinted glass ($107), and electric rear window defroster ($107). Inside, air conditioning ($601), power door locks ($93), power windows ($143), a six-way power driver’s seat ($175), a tilt steering wheel ($81), automatic cruise control ($112), and an AM/FM stereo radio with stereo cassette player ($272) were all available. A nicely configured Grand Am could easily push past $9,600—real money in 1980 and over $31,000 in today’s dollars.

Page from 1980 Pontiac full-line brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

Grand Ams didn’t sell at all well in 1980—Pontiac moved only 1,647 of them, after selling almost five times as many coupes only two years prior in 1978. Despite this, Pontiac would not give up on the Grand Am name—it would be back in 1985 as a small front-wheel drive coupe.

Most of the Grand Ams being collected are the larger and more powerful first-generation Colonnade versions sold from 1972 to 1975. You do occasionally see second-generation Grand Ams for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors.

Make mine Starlight Black, please.

Other G-bodies in this blog:

1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme coupe

1983 Chevrolet Malibu sedan

1984 Buick Regal Grand National coupe

1986 Chevrolet Cavalier Z24 Coupe

“Camaro Z28 Is Its Big Brother”

Chevrolet’s Cavalier Z24 was announced for the 1985 model year, but didn’t actually become available until the 1986 model year. The most important feature of the Z24 was definitely the engine—GM’s corporate LB6 120 bhp 2.8 liter V6 with multi-port fuel injection. Paired with the standard four-speed manual transmission, 0-60 came in about 8.5 seconds in the 2,450-pound car—decent for a sporty compact car in 1986 (the 102 bhp Volkswagen GTI hatchback of the same year was about as fast).

Mileage was 19 city/26 highway by the standards of the day (19/24 by today’s standards). The Z24’s range was an unimpressive 225 miles with a 10% fuel reserve—like all Cavaliers, the fuel tank was only 11.6 gallons (the same size as a modern Mini).

Standard equipment on the $8,878 Z24 (about $19,600 in today’s dollars) included the aforementioned engine and transmission, a ground effects package, black grille, dual black sport mirrors, the F41 sports suspension, and P215/60R-14 Eagle GT radial tires mounted on 14-inch Rally wheels. Inside, all Z24 buyers received digital instrumentation fed from “a 16K computer,” including a tachometer and trip odometer, along with reclining front bucket seats, a rear window defroster, and an AM radio.

Available options included 14-inch aluminum wheels ($173), tinted glass ($99), air conditioning ($645), cruise control with resume ($175), power door locks ($130), power windows ($195), Comfortilt steering wheel ($115), and an electronic-tuning AM stereo/FM stereo seek/scan radio with cassette player, graphic equalizer, and clock ($494). A comfortably optioned Z24 could easily reach almost $11,000 (about $24,100 in 2016 dollars or about what you’ll pay nowadays for a loaded Chevrolet Sonic RS).

Page from 1986 Chevrolet Cavalier brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

Handsome in a broad-shouldered sort of way, the Z24 coupe sold pretty well for 1986—about 36,000 units. The slightly more expensive hatchback added another 10,000 units: the two models accounted for about 11% of total Cavalier production.

There are a few folks collecting these cars, but they certainly aren’t common at shows. You do occasionally see Z24s for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors: as I write this in November 2015, there’s a white 1988 Z24 convertible with a gray interior and 52,000 miles listed on Hemmings for $7,000.

Other J cars in this blog:

1982 Cadillac Cimarron sedan

1988 Cadillac Cimarron sedan

1984 Buick Regal Grand National

Last Sunday morning, I saw a Grand National actually being driven. The silhouette was distinctive even from a quarter of a mile away. In a strange way, they look tall and even a little bit fragile in 2015.

“The hottest Buick this side of a banked oval.”

1984 was the first year that Buick offered a Grand National package for the Regal. The Regal T Types had debuted in 1983, but the Grand National definitely kicked things up a notch.

The star was, of course, the engine. For 1984, Buick’s 3.8 liter V6 gained sequential fuel injection, bumping horsepower up from 180 bhp to an even 200 bhp. Paired to a four-speed automatic transmission, 0-60 came in a little under 8 seconds. Mileage was 18 city/22 highway by the standards of the day (16/20 by 2015 standards).

Standard mechanical equipment on the $13,400 Grand National (about $32,100 in today’s dollars) included power brakes, power steering, dual exhausts, performance rear axle, Gran Touring suspension, and P215/65R15 blackwall tires on black-accented aluminum wheels. A Grand National’s exterior equipment included a turbo “power bulge” on the hood, dual mirrors, dual horns, front air dam, rear decklid spoiler, and that distinctive black paint with black accents—responsible for the “Darth Buick” nickname. Air conditioning, Lear Siegler cloth/leather seats, a tachometer, a turbo boost gauge, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel were all included inside.

Optional equipment included dual remote sport mirrors ($30), electric rear defogger ($140), touch climate control air conditioning ($150), tilt steering ($110), power windows ($185), Twilight Sentinel ($57), and electronic tuning AM/FM stereo radio with cassette and graphic equalizer ($605).

1984 Buick Regal Grand National flyer, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s wonderful brochures section.

Buick Regal Grand Nationals have a fanatical following. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1984 Grand National in #1 condition is an astounding $38,700, with a more normal #3 condition car going for $12,700. Grand Nationals frequently show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors. As I write this in July 2015, there’s a 1986 with 28,000 miles available for $28,000.

I don’t have to tell you what color I want mine in.