Cars from the 1980s sucked. Well, for the most part, anyway. They were slow pieces of junk that could barely reach the stated 55 mph speed limit. There were, however, a few cars that made it through the cracks; able to achieve performance numbers that are still respectable by today’s standards.
Of course, the way of giant V8 powered muscle cars fell to the wayside long before the 1980s hit. This forced some car manufacturers to come up with out of the box ideas to make them faster. For example, car makers like Porsche and Buick realized that the best way to stay current with federal regulations, while still giving the speed junkies what they wanted, was to use power adders under the hood.
Here are some of the fastest cars of the 1980s, in no particular order:
Ferrari F40: 0-60 in 4.2 / ¼ mile @12.1 – The Ferrari F40 is a living testament to the fact that you can achieve a lot of performance, without a lot of engine. The twin turbo 2.9 liter V8 makes its maximum amount of horsepower at 7000 rpm, and is capable of thrusting anyone lucky enough to be in the cockpit to a top speed just shy of 200 mph. For 1987, that ain’t too shabby. This 80s era supercar was capable of making the trek from 0-60 in only 4.2 seconds, while covering the ¼ mile in 12.1 seconds.
Buick GNX: 0-60 in 4.7 – Listen, I’m an American. And for my own pride, I needed to stick a few American cars on this list. But seriously, in a sea of American sucky-ness, the Grand National sticks out as one of only a few cars from a US based auto maker worthy of this list. The turbo V6 powered Buick produced a decent 276 horsepower along with an astonishing 360 lb-ft of torque, which helped it travel from 0-60 in 4.7 seconds.
Porsche 911 Turbo: 0-60 in 4.6 / ¼ @13.1 – 6 cylinders of turbocharged and inter-cooled magic helped make the 1986 Porsche 911 stand out from most of the competition. Even without overly impressive power numbers (326 hp), some drivers were able to get this car across the 60 mph mark at just 4.6 seconds, with a ¼ mile time of 13.1 seconds.
Lotus Esprit: 0-60 in 4.9 / ¼ @ 13.5 – Capable of running the ¼ mile in only 13.5 seconds, this wedge shaped little car launched itself into super car territory. The Lotus Esprit came with a turbocharged 2.2 liter 4 cylinder that produced 264 horsepower. This power, coupled with its overall lightweight, helped launch the Esprit to 60 miles per hour in 4.9 seconds.
Porsche 959: 0-60 in 3.6 / ¼ @ 12 – If ever there was an ugly Porsche, it would be the 959. However, being hideous doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a bad performer. In fact, this is the fastest car on this short list. Unfortunately, until recently, they weren’t even allowed in America. The twin turbo 6 cylinder engine produced 444 horsepower, 369 lb-ft of torque and was able to run the ¼ mile in 12 seconds flat. Even better, this beast launched from 0-60 in only 3.6 seconds – the fastest from the 80s.
Lamborghini Countach LP5000 QV: 0-60 in 4.6 / ¼ @ 12.9 – Far from the curvaceous flowing lines of the Lambos you see driving around the street today, is the car that made Lamborghini famous. These things were pointy with sharp edges that forced even the most economically friendly eyes take a second glance. There were two poster-cars that were on every little boy’s wall, and this was one of them. At its height, the Countach came with a 450 horsepower V12 engine that smoked almost all of the competition with a 12.9 second ¼ mile time.
Ferrari 288 GTO: ¼ @12.7 – Although not “officially” imported into the American car market, I’d be remiss not to include the “former fastest car in the world.” Besides, there were quite a few of them that were imported on the down low. The 395 horsepower twin turbo V8 helped get this sultry 2500 pound car down the ¼ mile in only 12.7 seconds. And, this is the car that is usually credited with helping Ferrari get to where they’re at today.
Pontiac TTA: 0-60 in 4.6 / ¼ @ 13.4 – For one year only, just over 1500 Trans AMs received the turbo Buick setup. 1989 proved to be one of the fastest F-body cars ever produced, thanks to the turbo V6 placed in the Pace Cars of that year. These cars were dyno tested at over 300 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. Even by today’s standards, that ain’t bad. Some drivers were able to propel this Pontiac from 0-60 in just 4.6 seconds, which was faster than some of the supercars from this time period.
Dodge Viper Concept: 0-60 in 4.8 / ¼ @ 12.5 (simulated) – Another one of the few American cars on this list comes from red headed step child car maker Dodge. Eh. Never much of a Mopar fan, but the numbers do speak for themselves even if the rocker panels did fall off with each mash of the go-fast pedal. The massive V10 engine produced an impressive 400 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque, enabling this snake to scoot its booty down the ¼ mile in just 12.5 seconds. The standards of 1989 said, “that ain’t bad.” Even though the Viper wasn’t produced till three years later, they were working with 1989 technology.