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.

1984 BMW 325e Coupe

Murilee Martin of The Truth About Cars posted a Junkyard Find on a BMW 325e recently, so I’ve updated this two-year old post.

“High technology dedicated to heightening your pulse rate.”

I see BMW’s 325e as a rare misstep for BMW in the eighties, a decade where BMW generally could do no wrong.

The e stood for efficiency and the engine was BMW’s torque-optimized M20B27 2.7 liter inline 6 with Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection, making 121 bhp and 170 lb-ft of torque with a fairly low 4,700 rpm redline. Mileage by the standards of the day was pretty good: 21 city/28 highway (18/26 by 2016 standards) with the standard five-speed manual transmission. Proud new owners of a 325e could expect about 320 miles of range with a 10% reserve.

0-60 mph with the five-speed manual took between 8.5 and 9 seconds and the top speed was 116 mph—not exactly the kind of numbers one would expect from the “Ultimate Driving Machine.” As Car and Driver wrote, “the 325e is less of a goer than you would imagine.”

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment on the $19,700 325e (about $47,700 in 2016 dollars) included power four-wheel disk brakes, bumper-mounted fog lights, and 195/60R14 tires (the same size as those on the Isuzu Impulse). Inside, the 325e came well-equipped: power steering, cloth or leatherette manual sport seats, a power sunroof, power windows, power mirrors, power door locks, cruise control, air conditioning, a three spoke leather sport steering wheel, and a BMW/Alpine four-speaker AM/FM stereo with cassette and power antenna were all included.

Available options for the 325e were relatively few: a four-speed automatic transmission, leather seats, many choices of metallic paint, and a limited slip differential.

BMW did their best to present the 325e as a legitimate part of their overall product line.

BMW would continue with the 325e as the top of the line 3 series until 1987, when the 325i and 325is were released with the 2.5 liter M20B25 inline 6 featuring a much more sporting 168 bhp. Horsepower for the 325e would climb just a little in 1988, but by 1989 it would be gone, replaced completely in the 3-series model line by the 325i.

Hagerty does not follow 325e values and the 325e is rarely seen in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds. Examples do show up on eBay Motors—as I update this post in August 2016, there is a Bronzit Beige 1984 with a tan leatherette interior, an automatic transmission, a sunroof, and 49,000 miles available for $9,850.

1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI

“Affordable German Performance.”

The 1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI three-door hatchback defined the “pocket rocket” for the US market, just as it had defined it in Europe since 1977. The Giorgetto Guigiaro-designed Rabbit was a small car by modern standards—the 155.3 inch length puts it squarely in modern Mini territory and makes it more than a foot shorter than a 2016 Golf GTI.

Under the blacked-out, red-lined, and badged hood was a 90 bhp 1.8 liter Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injected in-line four which VW dared to declare was “brawny.” A five-speed manual transmission completed the rest of the powertrain—there was no optional automatic transmission.

Car and Driver recorded a 9.7 second 0-60 time (Road & Track managed a 10.6 second 0-60) in the 1,918 pound car—faster than the same year’s BMW 320i and many other sporting cars of the era. Top speed was 104 mph. Fuel economy was rated at 26 city/33 highway; a 10 gallon fuel tank gave a 265 mile range with a 10% reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment in the $7,990 GTI (about $19,700 in 2015 dollars) included vented front disc brakes, rack and pinion steering, halogen headlights, a urethane front air dam, and Pirelli P6 185/60HR-14 radial tires mounted on 14 x 6 inch alloy wheels. Inside, a sport steering wheel borrowed from the Scirocco, heavily bolstered sports seats, a center console with additional gauges, and a golf-ball shift knob were included.

Options included air conditioning, a sunroof, and an AM/FM stereo with a cassette player and four speakers ($450).

1983 Rabbit GTIs sold like hot cakes when new and first-generation GTIs definitely have a following. Many were driven hard when no longer new, so there’s a paucity of cream-puffs out there. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1983 Rabbit GTI in #1 condition is $11,900, with a more normal #3 condition car going for $4,400. GTIs sometimes show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors.

Make mine black, please.

1980 Datsun 280ZX

Yutaka Katayama passed on February 19th, 2015, after a long and full life—he was 105. “Mr. K” was the person most responsible for bringing the Z car to market. It is beyond the purview of this blog to head back to the original and groundbreaking 240Z, but we can take a look at the second generation 280ZX.

“It’s Black. It’s Gold. And it is awesome.”

For 1980, the Datsun 280ZX received optional T-tops, but otherwise mostly stood pat for the standard car. Power continued to be provided by the L28E 135 bhp 2.8 liter V-6 with multi-port fuel injection. With the standard five-speed manual transmission, EPA fuel economy ratings were 21 city/31 highway by the standards of the day (19/28 by modern standards). Moving to the three-speed automatic transmission significantly impacted mileage—ratings on the sticker were 19/26.

0-60 times in the 2,800 pound coupe were a little over 9 seconds with the manual; reasonably competitive in the early 1980s. The top speed was about 125 mph.

Standard equipment on the $9,899 280ZX (about $28,400 in 2015 dollars) included four-wheel disc brakes and an independent suspension. Stepping up to the $12,238 GL added power steering, cruise control, and air conditioning.

For 1980, there was also a 10th Anniversary Edition (auto manufacturers were beginning to become aware that anniversary cars could really bring the buyers) available in two different two-tones: either Thunder Black and Rallye Red or Thunder Black and Golden Mist Metallic.

Standard equipment on the loaded $13,850 10th Anniversary Edition (about $39,800 in today’s dollars) included the aforementioned T-tops and two-tone paint, along with leather seats, Hitachi AM/FM stereo radio with cassette, special badging, power windows, headlamp washers, alloy wheels, and P195/70R14 Goodyear Wingfoot radial tires (that’s a size last seen on the 2002 Honda Accord).

There is good club support for the 280ZX, though not to quite the level of the original 240Z. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1980 280ZX coupe in #1 condition is $18,400, with a more normal number #3 condition car going for $5,700. 280ZXs  often show up in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds—as I write this in February 2015, there’s a dark charcoal car with a gray leather interior with 142,000 miles available for $18,000. Lord help me, I would like one in the black and gold two-tone …

1984 Chrysler Laser

“The competition is good. We had to be better.”

The 1984 Chrysler Laser was intended to be the upscale complement for the Dodge Daytona. Equipment was not notably different from the Daytona, but the Laser had more of a luxury emphasis with a slightly softer suspension.

Two engines were available. The base engine, Chrysler’s 93 bhp 2.2 liter inline four, was available with a standard five speed manual transmission or a three speed automatic transmission ($439). Mileage with the manual was 22 city/32 highway by the standards of the day (19/29 by today’s standards). Moving to the automatic helped city mileage a bit but dropped highway mileage significantly – 23/27.

The more interesting engine was the optional 2.2 liter turbocharged inline four cylinder with 142 bhp and the same transmission choices as the base engine. Depending on whether you were adding the turbo to the base Laser or the XE, the extra cost was either $934 or $872. Mileage with the hot setup (turbo and manual) was 20 city/27 highway by the standards of the day (18/25 by 2015 standards) while the 0-60 time was about 8.5 seconds. Moving to the three speed automatic once again killed highway mileage, making the ratings 20 and 23.

Standard equipment on the base Laser (priced at $8,648 or about $19,700 in today’s dollars) included a leather-wrapped steering wheel, intermittent wipers, and an AM radio with digital clock.

Moving up to Laser XE ($10,546 or about $20,400 in 2015 dollars) added features such as an electronic instrument cluster, tilt steering wheel, driver’s side sport seat, dual power side mirrors, and an AM/FM stereo radio.

Optional equipment included air conditioning ($737), cruise control ($179), rear defroster ($168 base/$143 XE), power windows ($185), power door locks ($125), and AM/FM stereo cassette ($285/$160). With all the trimmings, a Laser XE could fairly easily get to $12,900 or so or about $29,500 in today’s dollars—about what a 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT costs.

The Laser sold decently in its first year, with almost 34,000 base coupes and almost 26,000 XEs crossing dealer lots. This was actually more than its Dodge Daytona sister car (with a total of almost 50,000 sold).

However, Chrysler must have been disappointed—this was an era where the Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang, and Pontiac Firebird were routinely selling in the hundreds of thousands (the three models combined for 530,000 sold in 1984).

Chrysler would never see these first year totals again—by 1987 the Laser would be gone, with the Daytona hanging on through the 1993 model year after a few pretty good years in the late 1980s.

DaytonaLaserSales

Lasers rarely show up in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds or on eBay. You see some Daytonas on eBay, but even they are relatively uncommon.

Not surprisingly, allpar.com has an interesting and detailed article on the front-wheel-drive Lasers and Daytonas—it is here. Make mine Black, please.

1982 Ford Mustang GT

This was one of my early posts in this blog. I’ve updated it to reflect both changes in my posting style and substantial improvements in available data.

“If excitement is your master key, this one opens all the doors.”

The 1982 Ford Mustang GT marked the return to form of America’s definitive pony car and ignited a second round of the power wars with the then brand new third generation Camaro and Firebird. Along with the new GT trim level, the new high output (H.O.) version of the venerable 302 was up to 157 bhp—quite an upgrade from 1981’s 4.2 liter engine.

Mustang GT page from the 1982 Ford Mustang brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

157 bhp feels quaint in 2014 (the lowest horsepower engine for the 2015 Mustang is the 300 bhp 3.7 liter V6), but the 1981 Mustang had topped out at (oog…) 115 bhp and as tested 0-60 times in the 2,600 pound GT dropped by over 3 seconds for 1982.

You could get the H.O. engine with any Mustang, but the hot setup was with the GT, which offered a four-speed manual transmission and a 3.08:1 rear axle ratio with Traction-Lok limited slip differential. Other options that were standard with the $8,308 GT (about $20,500 in today’s dollars) with the 302 were power steering and traction bars. The GT also received cast aluminum wheels, dual fog lamps, a forward-facing hood scoop, and the same spoiler originally featured on the first-year for the Fox-body Mustang 1979 Pace Car.

Options for the Mustang GT included air conditioning ($676), snazzy Recaro high-back bucket seats ($834), power windows ($165), and an AM/FM stereo with either 8-track or cassette player ($178)—it seems that 1982 was Ford’s crossover year for 8-track versus cassette.

The Mustang GT shows up often in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds.  As I write this in August 2014, there are no 1982s, but there is a white 1985 with 28,000 miles on sale for $11,500. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for an 1982 Ford Mustang GT in #1 condition is $14,700, with values sliding up.

I only have four exterior color choices with a 1982 Mustang GT – make mine Bright Red, please.

1984 Lincoln Continental Mark VII LSC

This was one of my early posts in this blog. I’ve updated it to reflect both changes in my posting style and substantial improvements in available data.

“The ultimate American road car.”

The Lincoln Continental Mark VII was all new for 1984, along with a new LSC trim level that added about $2,000 to the base Mark VII’s non-trivial $21,707 price (making the LSC start at about $54,400 in 2014 dollars). Standard power in 1984 was provided by the Windsor throttle-body fuel-injected 5.0 liter V8 engine with 140 bhp connected to a four-speed automatic transmission. Despite the LSC’s 3,600 pound weight, 0-60 still came in under 9 seconds.

LSC-specific components included a stiffer air suspension, dual exhaust, leather seats with six-way power on the driver’s side, fog lamps, and forged aluminum 15-inch wheels. A limited slip differential was optional. All Mark VIIs got the first composite headlights available in the United States.

Continental Mark VII LSC page from the 1984 Lincoln brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

Ford wanted the LSC to compete with the big BMW and Mercedes-Benz coupes, but it seems more likely that most LSC buyers were cross-shopping cars like the Buick Riviera T-Type, the Cadillac Eldorado Touring Coupe, or (horrors!) the Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe.

I always liked the look of the LSC—I think the stylists combined  “traditional” Mark traits such as the rear spare tire hump with Ford’s new aerodynamic direction very effectively. People complained at the time about the limited interior room for such a large car and the period of the big coupe was definitely beginning to fade, but the LSC was certainly an interesting approach.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for an 1984 Continental Mark VII LSC in #1 condition is $9,100, with a more “normal” #3 condition LSC fetching $4,200. Lincoln Mark VIIs show up in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds fairly regularly—as I write this in July 2014,  there’s a Sandstone 1988 LSC with 55,000 miles listed for $8,000. Make mine Platinum Clearcoat Metallic, please.