Best 1980’s cars According To Reader’s (one American car and one almost American)
Europeans made really rad cars in the Eighties
Published December 14, 2017
Eighties. There was hardly a more colorful decade ever. Electronic devices everywhere, hip-hop, breakdancing, and graffiti. It all became the hallmark of the Eighties. How did this translate to cars!? In many shapes and forms. Finally taking a bolder styling direction, cars flirted with shapes never seen before. The best of them?
Road and track readers voted and here are the best ten cars from the Eighties. I am positive you will like them all too.
Created for homologation purposes, the Ferrari 288 GTO was the most extreme interpretation of Ferrari ethos before the F40. Its racing version was destined to appear in the Group B Circuit championship, but as the competition never really took off, all 272 produced cars became road-worthy. 2.9-liter Twin-turbo V8 was the most powerful at the time developing 400hp and 336 lb-ft of torque. With a weight of only 2,555 lbs, such a powerful engine did not have a lot of problems making the 288 GTO the fastest car ever. It was the first car to reach the top speed of 186+ mph (300+ kph).
As far as Ferrari cars go this one started the supercar frenzy which bloomed to fruition with the F40, the F50, the Enzo, and the LaFerrari. This was their granddad.
Peugeot 205 GTi
With only a handful ever imported to the US, the Peugeot 205 GTi is not actually the best known hot hatch here. Yet, it is a car you should know about and it is definitely worthy to be on a list about best 80’s cars. In its top spec, the car featured a 1.9-liter engine developing close to 130hp. Remember, I am talking here about a car tipping the scales at less than 2,000 lbs. Definitely a hot hatch.
62 mph in 7.6 seconds and 120+mph top speed. The lesser version had a 1.6 liter with 105hp. That one, when it appeared back in 1984, was a serious contender for entry on the US market. But it never happened. This car was as close to pure driving simplicity as one might get. It’s astounding.
This is a joyful car. Small, simple two-door with pop up headlights, RWD and raspy little engine with 112hp, the Corolla GT-S became an icon. With optional LSD, the car was more than capable of giving all kinds of fun to drivers all across the country. No wonder many of them became tuning favorites, getting far more powerful engines and, ultimately inspiring the latest of Toyota fun simple cars – the Toyota GT86.
The car was in production since 1983 to 1987 in two basic shapes – 2-door coupe and 3-door hatch.
The Audi mythos started here. With the massive success of the Audi Quattro at the rally stages of the Group B, the Germans successfully crafted a brand rooted in sports success which was successfully translated to the roads. The Audi Quattro with astounding all-wheel drive system, five-cylinder turbocharged motor and thrilling performance inspires Audi cars of today. What do you think why the S and the RS lineup even exist? It can all be traced to this car and its rally version which dominated the infamous Group B.
2.2 liter turbocharged five-cylinder with 4 valves per cylinder and top power of 220hp. Unfortunately, cars sold in the US had a detuned version of the WX 2.1 liter engine producing 160hp. It was fun nonetheless.
Small, fun, pop-up headlights and mid-engine layout. What could anyone ask for from a car from the 80’s? This is the Toyota MR2, possibly the most astounding representation of the fun factor Toyota once had.
In its top trim, the Toyota MR2 tiny 1.6 liter engine gained a low boost Roots turbocharger improving the power to 145hp. With reinforced transmission, the car was a bit heavier compared with the previous versions, but with more power it was easily the one to have. The MR2 was produced from 1984 to 1989 giving birth to a successor.
Thanks to its low weight and raspy engine, the car could manage sub 7 seconds 0-60 mph runs. Quite an achievement back in the day.
Nissan R32 Skyline GT-R
Almost every Eighties and Nineties “best whatever” list article features one of those. The Nissan R32 Skyline GT-R is the third generation of possibly the most famous car name. Starting production in 1989, this car barely fits our list, but it had to be included. It was, after all, developed in the Eighties.
Its 2.6 liter six cylinder rated at 276hp (more in real life, mind you), was a backbone that gifted it its legendary status. With the all wheel drive setup and all the imaginable driving tech that Nissan engineers could come up with and integrate inside, the R32 Skyline GT-R is the perfect JDM car to have and is possibly a car best suited for this list. We do not say it is the best of all, but it really is close to being the winner.
Chevrolet C4 Corvette
This is the Corvette that introduced us to the new modern shape all the ‘Vette cars seem to cherish ever since. While not everybody actually like it, the Corvette C4 was the top end of the offering at GM at the time. Massive V8 engines, sturdy drivetrain and cool looks (c’mon, it screams Eighties) made the ‘Vette C4 one of the most recognizable cars in the world.
In production from 1984 to 1996, the engine lineup in the Corvette of this generation ranges from the entry 205hp V8 from 1984, to 405hp of the Lotus tuned engine in the latter version of the Corvette ZR1. Just admit it, you secretly do like this car.
Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2
This is definitely one of the most desirable Porsche 911 cars of all time. As the ultimate representation of the original Porsche 911 architecture, the Carrera 3.2 gained a modern engine, modern electronics and new suspension components in 1984. For the US market the car came with an engine developing 207 hp. It was plenty enough to accelerate it to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds and up to a top speed of 150 mph.
Porsche produced 76,473 units of the 911 Carrera 3.2 in coupe, cabriolet and targa guises. In 1986, the car gained a bit bump in horsepower output. Now, the 3.2 liter developed 220hp.
Its RS version is considered to be one of the best cars in the world.
Volkswagen Mk2 GTI
First Golf GTI launched a hot-hatch craze in the Seventies. However, it wasn’t until the second generation with the Golf Mk2 GTI that things really took of. Although starting its market upbring with a 1.8-liter motor developing 112hp, the latter version – the GTI 16 valve had a 139hp motor (without catalytic converter – with it, the engine developed 129hp). Distinguished with the 16V badges, the most powerful GTI of the day became such a big icon only a handful of cars could match.
Volkswagen continued hard with making exceptional GTI cars latter on. Even now, these cars are some of the most popular out there. Yet, it is hard to imagine any of them be as iconic as the Mk2 version.
Ford Sierra Cosworth
You know about that car with a massive, strange rear spoiler with a Ford badge on it? Yes, that one. This is it – the Ford Sierra Cosworth designed and produced by Ford Europe as the most extreme version of the Sierra.
This is a fun car with its all wheel drive or rear wheel drive setup and engines developing more than 200 hp. Back in 1986, Ford noted that the Sierra could do 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, it could hit 149mph as well. Numbers worthy of a machine considered one of the best cars from the 1980s.
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