1988 Honda Civic sedan

There’s a white fourth-generation Honda Civic sedan routinely parked on the street about two blocks from my house. You can tell that it hasn’t led a particularly sheltered life, but it’s obviously still in regular use. That makes it time to add one of those sedans to my suite of eighties Hondas: the 1983 Civic 1500 S hatchback coupe, the 1984 Civic CRX hatchback coupe, the 1985 Civic CRX Si hatchback coupe, and the 1986 Accord sedan.

“That was then. This is now.”

For the 1988 model year, the Honda Civic was completely revised, with a brand new design with a lower hood line, an innovative four-wheel double wishbone suspension, and a wheelbase up almost two inches to 98.4 inches. All Civic sedans for the North American market were built in Honda’s still relatively new Marysville, Ohio factory.

The standard powertrain for the Civic sedan was the D15B2 92 bhp 1.5 liter/91 ci inline four with twin-injector fuel injection mated with a five-speed manual. Fuel economy was quite good—33 city/37 highway by the standards of the day (28/34 by 2018 standards). An optional four-speed automatic took mileage down to 28 city/33 highway. With an 11.9-gallon gas tank, a Civic owner could expect a range of between 330 and 375 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

The Civic’s performance was competitive for the class—0-60 came in about 11 seconds with the five-speed manual in a car whose curb weight ranged from 2,039 to 2,205 pounds. The sedan was almost a second slower with the automatic; common in many cars in the eighties.

For $8,795 (about $19,200 in today’s dollars), the base DX version of the sedan came with flush low profile halogen headlights, tinted glass, rack and pinion steering, front disc/rear drum brakes, and 175/70R13 steel belted radial tires (a size still readily available) on 13 x 5-inch wheels. Inside, an adjustable steering column, a rear window defroster, intermittent wipers, and full carpeting were included.

Moving up to $9,625 (about $21,000 in 2018 dollars or about $1,500 more than a 2019 Civic LX sedan goes for) LX added power brakes, a tachometer, power windows, power door locks, power side mirrors, and digital quartz clock.

Other than the choice of trim level, exterior and interior colors, and transmission, there were no options. Air conditioning was available only as a dealer accessory, as was a choice of various car stereos: Honda would continue to sell AC as a dealer accessory well into the 1990s.

The larger 1988 Civic was well received—it made Car and Driver‘s 10 Best list and sold like hot cakes; a 1988 Civic LX sedan marked the one-millionth car built at the Marysville plant in early April 1988. They were still small cars by modern standards—the 1988 Civic was only about five inches longer than the current Honda Fit.

In 2018, the Civic sedan rarely comes up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds. Some do show up on eBay Motors, but they’re often in sketchy condition.

Make mine Cardinal Red Metallic, please.

1987 Sterling 825 sedan

“… such effortless motion, …”

The Sterling 825 sedan was an interesting (perhaps desperate) attempt at re-introducing Rover cars to the North American market, but with different branding than the brutally unsuccessful Rover 3500 hatchback sedan from 1980. Based on the same platform as the acclaimed Acura Legend, the Sterling featured an angular exterior design and an interior with traditional British luxury cues such as Connolly leather seats and burled walnut trim. On the exterior, only the door handles were obviously shared between the Acura and the Sterling.

A Honda-built 151 bhp 2.5 liter/152 ci V6 with fuel injection combined with a five-speed manual transmission yielded mpg ratings of 18 city /24 highway by the standards of the day (16/22 by modern standards). The four-speed automatic transmission dropped mpg incrementally to 17 city/23 highway.

The $19,200 (about $30,700 in today’s dollars or about $6,000 less than the price of a base 2019 Jaguar XE sedan) 825 S came with remote locking, power rack-and-pinion steering, power brakes, and 195/65R15 tires (a size still readily available) on 15-inch alloy wheels. Inside, air conditioning, power windows, an electric moonroof, cruise control, velour cloth seats, and a Phillips AM/FM stereo cassette with six speakers were all included.

Moving up to the $23,900 (about $38,200 in 2018 dollars) 825 SL added a four-speed automatic transmission, Bosch anti-lock brakes, a trip computer, leather upholstery with a heated driver’s seat, and an eight-speaker stereo.

Advertised as “The inevitable British road car.” Sterling sold 14,171 units of the 825 in the 1987 model year—not a bad debut. But, trouble was brewing; in an attempt to generate more jobs in the United Kingdom, Rover had decided to use Lucas electronic systems instead of those from Honda. Predictably, those electronics weren’t reliable, and there were also issues with the interior plastics and the exterior paint. Finally, rust came much too quickly.

All this meant that sales dropped rapidly. In 1988, only 8,901 were sold, and every year following things got worse. In August 1991, Sterling announced they were leaving the North American market after selling a total of about 35,000 cars over five years.

In 2018, the Sterling 825 rarely comes up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors. I haven’t seen one in many years, but I believe I’d still notice that handsome styling if I did. Make mine silver, I think.

1983 Toyota Camry sedan

“Introducing the family Camry”

The Toyota Camry debuted in the middle of the 1983 model year, in four-door sedan and five-door hatchback models. Instead of being designed to compete with European manufacturers, the Camry was designed to compete with American cars—in fact, Car and Driver famously wrote that “the Camry drives as if Buick engineers had moonlighted on its development.” The Camry’s measurements ended up splitting the difference in size between the GM J-body (Buick Skyhawk, Cadillac Cimarron, Chevrolet Cavalier, Oldsmobile Firenza, and Pontiac 2000) and the GM X-body (Buick Skylark, Chevrolet Citation, Oldsmobile Omega, and Pontiac Phoenix).

Power for the first-year Camry was provided by a 92 bhp 2.0 liter/122 ci inline four with fuel injection, which was available with either a standard five-speed manual or an optional four-speed automatic. With the manual, 0-60 mph came in a little under 13 seconds in the 2,236-pound car. Mileage was good—32 city/44 highway by the standards of the day (25/31 by modern standards). With a 14.5-gallon gas tank, a Camry owner could expect a 365 to 495 mile range with a 10% fuel reserve.

Standard equipment on the $7,988 (about $20,000 in today’s dollars—a 2018 Camry starts at $23,500) DLX sedan included front wheel drive, a four-wheel independent suspension, and 185/70R13 tires (a size still available from Kumho and Vredestein) on 13-inch wheels. Upgrading to the $9,698 LE made the four-speed automatic standard and added variable-effort power steering, rear window defogger, dual remote side mirrors, full instrumentation, reclining cloth bucket seats, and an AM/FM stereo radio with five speakers.

Individual options were relatively few and included air conditioning, sunroof, and a cruise control/power locks/power windows package.

The first-generation Camry was well received and got good reviews—the tagline in Car and Driver‘s test was “At home in America.” 52,651 were sold in that first model year, with sales increasing steadily throughout the decade.

Unlike other Toyotas that are deemed more collectible from the eighties (Land Cruisers, pickup trucks, Celicas, Supras, MR2s), first-generation Camrys rarely come up for sale for sale in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors.

1985 Mazda RX-7 GSL-SE hatchback coupe

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 good-looking 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 ci 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 (15/22 by today’s standards), 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 275 to 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 (a size now tough to find) 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 condition car 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.

Updated February 2019.

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 hatchback coupe

“Affordable German Performance.”

The 1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI three-door hatchback defined the “pocket rocket” for the US market, just as it had established it in Europe since 1977. The Giorgetto Giugiaro-designed Rabbit was a small car by modern standards—the 155.3-inch length puts it squarely in modern Mini territory and makes it about a foot shorter than a 2019 Golf GTI.

Under the blacked-out, red-lined, and badged hood was a 90 bhp 1.8 liter/109 ci inline four with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection—an engine 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/36 highway (21/26 by today’s standards); a 10-gallon fuel tank gave a 210 to 280-mile range with a 10% reserve.

Standard exterior and mechanical equipment in the $7,990 GTI (about $20,500 in 2018 dollars—well under what a 2019 Golf GTI S goes for) included vented front disc brakes, rack and pinion steering, halogen headlights, a urethane front air dam, and Pirelli P6 185/60HR-14 radial tires (a size still readily available) mounted on 14 x 6 inch “Snowflake” 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 (dealer installed), a sunroof, and an AM/FM stereo with a cassette player and four speakers ($450).

The 1983 Rabbit GTI got good reviews (Car and Driver included it in their first 10Best) and sold well—Volkswagon built about 30,000 copies over two years at their Westmoreland County, PA plant. First-generation GTIs certainly have a following, but 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/Concours condition is $18,200, with a more normal #3/Good condition car going for $6,000. Values are also up notably; that perfect #1 car was only $10,700 five years ago. GTIs sometimes show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, but there were none for sale when I updated this blog entry in December 2018.

Make mine Black, please.

Updated in December 2018.

1980 Datsun 280ZX hatchback coupe

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/168 ci V6 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. With a 21.2-gallon fuel tank, an owner of a manual-equipped 280ZX could expect an impressive range of between 450 and 495 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

0-60 times in the 2,900-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 but still readily available).

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/Concours condition is $18,400, with a more normal number #3/Good 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 …