CC Collecting: Aaron’s 10 Favorite Cars of the ’80s


Last week, some comments about my 1966 Belvedere article gave me a moment’s pause–I had to examine my collecting philosophy.  Perry and Jason’s comments implied that the reason I didn’t inquire about the Plymouth was that I’ve already really done the ’60s thing.  It’s true!  My screen name is no lie–I own four 1965 model vehicles, with a ’53 interloper as my only real variety.  I’m not likely to sell any of my five any time soon, but what if I changed my whole collecting paradigm to embrace the cars from the decade when I was most impressionable…the 1980s?

I like making lists, so here are the 10 I’d scout out if we lived in a perfect world where I had unlimited space, money, and garage help.  I’ll alphabetize my list to avoid hard feelings.

1988 Buick Reatta-08-09

1. 1988 Buick Reatta: This was a tough one, because I’m not really in love with Reattas.  I’m more in like with them.  As an 10 or 11-year-old kid, however, the Driver Information Center was like discovering candy for the first time, and I couldn’t understand why my dad didn’t want one immediately just because of that.  There is a fairly strong collector following for Reattas, and they’re inexpensive, but I’d feel bad subjecting one to “Rust Belt” conditions after 26 years, and I don’t like them enough to make one a summer-only car…but in a perfect world?

1987 Hot Buick-09

2. 1987 Buick Grand National: Let’s face it…this is probably the only ’80s American car that is legitimately valuable right now.  You can argue all you want, but what other ’80s car brings decent money at auctions?  I love Buicks, and this is probably the baddest Buick of all–Darth Vader on wheels.  One doesn’t need to qualify its cool factor with the requisite “well, for the ’80s….” addendum.  It fits in among ’60s musclecars, and nobody will think you’re a weirdo for bringing a Grand National to an event.  I hate that they’re so expensive now.

1984 Buick Full Line-04-05

3. 1984 Buick Riviera: I’ve written about my appreciation for ’80s Rivs before.  They’re not quite to the level of ’60s Rivieras, but few cars are.  This is one example of a car where I prefer the “brougham” factor; I like them better with the vinyl top and cheesy wire wheel covers.  They just look a little naked with a bare roof.  I know some disagree, and many prefer the T-Type or the convertible, but I’ll take mine regular.

1984/5 Buick Riviera T-Type

1986 Chevrolet Camaro-02-03

4. 1986 Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z: As a youngster, my dad indoctrinated me into the Blue Oval mindset, so I viewed Camaros as enemies.  Today, I may actually like them better than the 5.0 Mustangs I was raised on. Mustangs were usually a bit faster, and they had better ergonomics, and they’re really bulletproof until you start adding lots of power, but lately I’ve been digging the stance of these ’80s “mullet” Camaros.  The wheels look good, and they don’t seem as cartoonish as I thought they might.  I’ll take a 305 TPI with a 5-speed and T-tops.  I don’t care if they leak.

1986 Chevrolet Cavalier (Cdn)-04-05

5. 1986 Chevrolet Cavalier Z24 Hatchback: I’m going to throw a wild card into the mix here.  Who wants a Cavalier?  Granted, this would be in Circle Seven of the list, but these boxy Cavaliers are a straight shot of nostalgia for me.  The digital dashboard takes me back nearly 30 years to when digital dashboards were not cheesy, and the standard Z24 wheels were on Cavaliers everywhere, cheap but effective.  The growl of the 2.8 wasn’t really annoying or pretentious back then.  I might like mine in red.

1985 Chevrolet Monte Carlo-05

6. 1985 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS: This is just a slightly less cool (and significantly less fast) version of the Grand National.  Unlike the GN, Monte Carlo SSs were everywhere in Michigan.  I think they’ve aged well.  They have as good a chance to be collectible as just about anything else from the ’80s.  The SS front end made the car, and the stripes were pretty tasteful.  The 305 would be fine for my driving style, but they’re easily modified if you need to go faster.  Who would know if you slotted a 383 under the hood?  An LS-motor may be even more fun.

1985 Dodge Performance-04

7. 1985 Dodge Shelby Charger: One of my favorite valve covers (cam covers?) of all time rests on the old Chrysler 2.2 Turbo.  I’d like to buy one just to hang in the garage, but in a perfect world, I’d just find one on a Shelby Charger.  Of course, most people would probably want the Daytona instead, but I had a model kit of this when I was a kid, and I prefer the Charger’s less “trendy” appearance.

1980 Ford Mustang-08-09

8. 1980 Ford Mustang Cobra: My dad’s influence is too strong to not include an ’80s Mustang.  My favorite has always been the first, an ’80 Cobra.  When was the last time you saw one?  I did a few weeks ago; there is one just like this collecting dust at the storage barn where I keep one of my cars.  The Cobra is so cheesy that I can’t help but like it.  The knock off Trans-Am copy “hood cobra” is almost too corny and derivative for words, but that’s what makes it great.  Green graphics on black is my color choice.  Of course, the engines make this a dead player out of the gate…turbo four or 255?  Ugh.  I’d slap a carb on a roller 5.0 with a T-5 and call it a day.

1985 Ford Thunderbird-17

9. 1985 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe: Now we’re getting into serious territory for me.  I love Turbo T-Birds.  This is the first of two on the list, because I cannot make up my mind whether I’d want an early one or a late one.  I could take or leave the engine; a 302 would be far better for most driving situations, but the look is perfect.  Color is almost immaterial for me; they almost all look good (except maybe white…I’m not a big fan of white cars, generally).  The 10-hole wheels are just right, and it has to come with a 5-speed.

1988 Ford Thunderbird-04-05

10. 1988 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe: More power, similar but different styling…I remember seeing some of these in a strange gold color that doesn’t quite seem to match the brochure.  Was it one of the “Sandalwoods?” Whatever it was, I’ll order my dream Turbo in that hue.  The fact that I drove a base ’87 as a kid might give this one an edge.

1989 Ford Thunderbird-18-19

Bonus Car: 1989 Ford Thunderbird Super Coupe: MN-12s don’t generally impress me (my dad owned one with the base 3.8), but we took a test drive in a silver SC just like the above example, and it rocked!  Tons of torque for 1989, and this exact car is probably the stylistic high point of the entire MN-12 run.

You may notice that there are no foreign cars at all on my list.  Well, I come from a family that has never driven anything that didn’t have an American nameplate, so I’ve stuck to my old favorites.  Don’t get me wrong, as a kid I loved the Countach and Testarossa, but I believe most of the above cars have aged better than those Miami Vice-era supercars.  Not to mention, in the end, I’m a down to earth guy.  I like what I like…anything on here that you like?