(first posted 10/3/2016) 1987 did not prove to be a big year for news or innovation from the domestic manufacturers. Nor did it turn out to be a great year for sales either, following the very strong 1986 model year. Car and Driver laid out all the updates (or lack thereof) in their “Charting The Changes” format, along with Tech Highlights and even some innovations that might occur soon (or not). Read on to see how the 1987s rolled out.
Don Sherman gave a smart encapsulation of the state-of-the-state for the American car makers. While rather bullish on Ford and Chrysler, the mess at GM was becoming increasingly evident. As for AMC, well it would make news that year, but not for bringing any more Renault products stateside…
While Oldsmobile and Cadillac often come to mind as epitomizing GM disasters in the 1980s (which they did), the worst carnage was actually at the Bowtie division. Whether it was the fact that GM had to look to Japan for how to best build a subcompact with the lazily rebadged Toyota Corolla-based Nova (or importing cars from Isuzu and Suzuki to sell in Chevy showrooms), or the continued flogging of decade-old designs (Chevette, Caprice) or even a core mid-size product that looked like yesterday’s box next to the new Ford Taurus, there just wasn’t much good news for Chevrolet in 1987.
Each and every line posted decreases. Total Chevrolet sales of 1,518,140 were off by 18% versus 1986. But even more troubling was a comparison to 1977–sales were down 33% in ten years, or worse still, down 46% if you compared domestic-only products and excluded the Japanese products offered in 1987. The “Heartbeat of America” needed a defibrillator!
Pontiac was one of the brighter spots for dim GM. At least some of Pontiac’s products were getting favorable press, like the 6000 STE or the better-late-than-never H-Body Bonneville. The Grand Am even showed a 10% increase versus 1986, one of the few domestic cars to achieve that distinction. Still, older products were withering on the vine, so the total sales results weren’t that pretty year-over-year.
|*1987 H-Body Bonneville compared to combined 1986 G-Body Bonneville and B-Body Parisienne|
Buick also took a big dip for 1987. The only saving grace for the division was the second-year success of the LeSabre. Buick’s H-body started vacuuming-up senior citizens, and showed the largest year-over-year increase of any GM product, though much of that success likely came from other Buick lines line the Century and Electra, or sister products like the Olds Delta 88.
1987 was the year that the collapse of Oldsmobile officially began. What caused the tipping point? For starters: old products that looked old, new products that looked old, yester-tech engineering for what was supposed to be GM’s “Guinea Pig” divisions. All tech “news” was a snooze for Oldsmobile and every other GM division in 1987, since it was all the same. So why buy an Oldsmobile? Good question, and buyers seemingly started asking just that, as these 1987 sales results will attest:
The only GM division able to tread water sales-wise for 1987 was Cadillac. Core lines dipped anywhere from a little (FWD DeVille/Fleetwood -2%) to a lot (pathetic Cimarron -41%). Of course, sales for the Seville and Eldorado had already plunged in 1986 thanks to the disastrous downsizing program, so further decreases were just icing on a bad cake. Biggest news was the Allante, an over-priced, underpowered attempt to challenge the Mercedes SL. The only bright spot at Cadillac was still a problem: a barge-like old-school car with a too-small “corporate” motor–the 11-year-old Fleetwood Brougham–was the only product to show a sales increase. Sadly, many buyers saw the Brougham as the only thing that came close to being a “real” Cadillac, even though it wasn’t remotely sophisticated (as a true luxury car should be), but rather just a big, blinged-out GM boat. Kind of reminiscent of the Escalade today…
The Roger Smith reign of terror at General Motors was becoming glaringly evident for 1987. Total GM sales were off 21% compared to 1986, and the company was losing market share to other domestics as well as imports. And as much as the press tried to get excited about GM offerings, there was just no hiding the fact that the cars were falling further and further behind in the marketplace.
Ford Motor Company, by contrast, had some genuine bright spots. Leading the charge were the Taurus and Sable, entering their second year and demonstrating conclusively that Americans were ready for modern, aerodynamic mainstream cars. The Taurus was FoMoCo’s best performer: it sold more cars and had a higher year-over-year sales increase than any other product in the Blue Oval stable.
|LTD Crown Victoria||128,878||4%|
Over at Mercury, the still-new Sable was also selling well, though it trailed its Ford sibling by a large margin. The opposite was true for the old-fashioned Grand Marquis–it posted a big year-over-year increase and was the best selling Panther for 1987. If only the “de Sade option” had been offered (still one of my favorite C&D lines–I laughed at that year after year), then the Grand Marquis could have “beaten” the competition even more aggressively.
Lincoln did not have a great year in 1987. The core sedan products were out-of-step with the new aerodynamic direction of Ford Motor Company, while the beautiful Mark VII offered nothing new to more effectively compete in a fickle segment. Plus, 2-door personal luxury coupes were rapidly falling out of favor with affluent buyers–sport sedans were the new “it” products for the 1980s, and Lincoln just was not there.
Lee Iacocca must have been happy about 1987, for two big reasons. First, Chrysler Corporation car sales only dipped 1%, less than the declines suffered at Motown rivals, and this was not including the phenomenally popular minivans, which were actually counted as light trucks. The second reason was that Chrysler acquired AMC from Renault, bringing the Jeep brand into Chrysler’s fold–undoubtedly Lido’s best purchase ever.
At Chrysler, the big news was the good looking new LeBaron Coupe and Convertible. Demonstrating amazing design dexterity, here was yet another K-Car variant, but for once it was fresh and fluid, rather than just being another little box. Buyers responded well, and Chrysler’s gained a strong convertible following as a result.
The big news at Dodge was the arrival of the Shadow, squeezed into the line-up between the Omni and the Aries. A fresh face for the Daytona was the other big update. Though not covered by Car and Driver in the “Domestic” new car issue, another strong player in Dodge showrooms continued to be the Colt models from Mitsubishi.
Shocking but true: Plymouth actually posted a sales increase of 11% for 1987, the only domestic brand to achieve that milestone. The new Sundance was the the driver of the success, though inexplicably the virtually unchanged Caravelle also showed an increase year-over-year.
While Chrysler made a smart deal on buying Jeep, the AMC/Renault car lines that came with the deal were duds. 1987 was AMC’s last, and it was an anemic end to a long-challenged company.
So those were the domestic highlights, and the sales, for 1987. Underwhelming, to say the least. Are you feeling like you missed something? Wasn’t there anything new or exciting? How about the technical highlights? Surely there was some hidden technical gem from Detroit that Car and Driver ferreted out.
“Detroit’s only all-new engine is actually built in Japan.” That line from Csaba Csere pretty much summed-up the sorry state of Motown engineering circa 1987.
Nothing to look at here, folks, please just move along…
So where was the good stuff from Detroit? Where was the Yankee ingenuity that would reclaim automotive dominance? How about for 1988 or 1989? Well, looking at these ideas, the answer would be no…
Depressing, right? Well imagine if you were a GM bean counter–in that case, 1987 was catastrophic. Chrysler at least had figured out how to make money off the K-Car and its variants, and was the lowest cost Detroit producer at the time. Ford had looked into the abyss in the late 1970s/early 1980s and realized it was “change or die.” Thus revolutionary new products like the Taurus/Sable were born. Even more conventional offerings like the Thunderbird/Cougar and Tempo/Topaz wore aerodynamic skins, making them feel fresh. Plus, the archaic products at Chrysler (Fifth Avenue et al) or Ford (Panther and Fox) were pretty fully amortized so any sales of these products were just gravy. The Full Size and Personal Luxury categories, which had proven to be so lucrative for so many years, were in a systemic decline. That spelled particularly bad news for The General.
Let’s look at the share of sales by product category, comparing the 1977 results we saw last week to 1987:
Full Size and Luxury had dropped once again, and the Personal Luxury phenomenon was waning. The biggest change was in the growth of small cars, especially subcompacts. Though that made sense as a reaction to the second oil shock, CAFE requirements and changing buyer tastes, subcompacts were not big money spinners for Detroit. Imported brands, however, were quite adept at successfully satisfying the market for smaller cars, and that led to the biggest issue: the real “gotcha” for the domestic cars in 1987 was market share. In 1977, domestic brands accounted for 87% of total U.S. car sales, and GM had 50% market share, followed by FoMoCo at 23%, Chrysler at 12% and AMC at 2%. For 1987, the domestic brand share of the total U.S. car market had dropped to 69%, and GM had market share of 40%, FoMoCo had 20%, Chrysler had 12% and AMC was less than 1%. As Scooby Doo would say: “ruh-roh.”
The only GM product of any note over here for 87 was the VL Holden Commodore with Nissan 3.0 and 2.0 (NZ market only) Litre engines the new Buick V6 wasnt quite ready for 87.
To me the best most note worthy cars from GM in 1987 where….
Pontiac Bonneville < I thought was even better than Taurus released in 86'
Buick Gran National GNX Turbocharged (All black Edition)
Chevrolet Celebrity VR6 < Awesome modification package
Buick Le Sabre Gran Sport Coupe (T-Type) < with the Single unit composite lights
Chevrolet Corvette with the ZR1 package/modifications
Chevrolet Baretta Gt < Poor mans sports cars
Pontiac Fiero GT < With the updated body modification GT package
“Chevrolet Corvette with the ZR1 package/modifications”
Do you mean the Z51 package? ZR1 wasn’t until 1990. Z51 was a performance/suspension package, and their was also a Z52 suspension package too.
The Lebaron GTS and the Lancer were K cars, but not boxes.
Man, they used that “de Sade” joke for a long time.
Beat me to it!
It wasn’t that funny the first time…
Nah, it’s still funny:
“If only the “de Sade option” had been offered (still one of my favorite C&D lines–I laughed at that year after year), then the Grand Marquis could have “beaten” the competition even more aggressively.”
Ugh Wheels in Australia used to say it was inappropriate that the top-of-the-line Holden Jackaroo (Isuzu Trooper) was called Monterey because it sounds like “Mount her, Ray”.
It was a dumb joke. I thought it was a dumb joke at age 12 and I still think it’s blisteringly stupid.
It was a running gag. Emphasis on the “gag” part.
Well, Mercury did end up being Ford’s “whipping boy”.
I can’t remember the exact year, but sometime in the (early?) 90s C&D took a brief respite from the de Sade jokes to instead, after listing every minor change to each rebadged Ford for that year…
“TURNPIKE CRUISER: Sadly unavailable since 1958.”
Wow, that Don Sherman piece: “a front-drive Camaro/Firebird for the nineties has been canceled”; I never knew about this plan. GM sure dodged a bullet there (as more famously did Ford with its planned FWD Mustang that instead became the Probe). Also, Ford tried to buy BMW? Sorta glad that didn’t happen. Wouldn’t have minded the Renault Alpine coming to America though.
The ’87 Bonneville shown at the top was an oddity – a boxy center section originally designed for the equally straight-edged Olds and Buick front and rear clips was mated to curvy new fenders for the Pontiac and they didn’t mesh well. The lack of Pontiac’s usual split grille made it not look like a Pontiac.
Apparently both Ford and Chrysler tried to buy BMW — And work with Fiat. Could anyone in 1987 foresee a world where Fiat buys Chrysler?
I have seen photos of the FWD F car on a car hauler, maybe being taken away for scrap. When our local paper ran the first photo I seen of the Turbo Coupe I was so enamored I cut it out and stuck it on the fridge for a month or so. I never thought this was a bad year for new cars, from what I remember it seemed every year got better during the 80’s.
Every year *did* get better during the 80’s. It’s just that they had to start from such an abysmally low level.
“The ’87 Bonneville shown at the top was an oddity – a boxy center section originally designed for the equally straight-edged Olds and Buick front and rear clips was mated to curvy new fenders for the Pontiac and they didn’t mesh well.”
Agree entirely. I was never a fan of the H body’s looks at Olds or Buick. When the Pontiac came out, the front clip in particular was attractive, but as a package the car was not cohesive.
For what it’s worth, a lot of auto writers at the time thought the Bonneville was the best looking H body, and I’d have to agree. Thirty years later, it looks more cohesive to me than it did back then.
I never really did accept the H body as a full-size car. A decent front drive mid-sizer for the time, but completely lacking the gravitas of a full-size car.
Different, sleeker (GM10 sedan?) door handles would’ve helped the Bonnie a lot. Those fridge-door grips with buttons just looked so ’60s to me, and not in a “retro” way, in a “hanging around in the parts bin since forever” way, and blacking them out didn’t help.
I’ve often wondered if the GM10 sedan design for the Lumina was in fact originally envisioned for a Chevrolet version of the H-Body. If so, that would have offered a more logical roofline and door handles, etc. for the Pontiac. Imagine the Bonneville front and rear clips married to a Lumina sedan mid-section–probably would have worked better.
To me, all the H-Body styling–including the Bonneville, really looks more early 1980s, and frankly, so too does the 1990 Lumina sedan. I’m willing to bet that at some point GM’s plan had been to replace all the B- and C-Body cars at the same time for all divisions in the early 1980s. After all, that had been their approach for decades–but by then GM was no longer able to pull off a big move like that, so the program was likely delayed, Chevy must have opted out (repurposing proposed design elements years later for the GM10 W-Body), etc. etc. So Pontiac was then told to share a roofline and doors with Buick and Olds. GM taking the cheap way out once again…
There was a lot of confusion at GM during the mid-1980s, most of it stemming from Roger Smith’s ill-fated reorganization of the company. Several programs were delayed, and I’m pretty sure that one of them was the GM-10 program. The cars were originally supposed to debut around the time that the Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable debuted.
Part of the problem with the styling of the H- and W-bodies was the switch from Bill Mitchell to Irv Rybicki as head of styling. Mitchell was constantly searching for the next big thing, while Rybicki was much more cautious. GM leadership, which had grown tired of Mitchell’s attitude and antics, picked Rybicki instead of Mitchell’s preferred successor, Chuck Jordan. Rybicki wasn’t necessarily looking to keep GM ahead of the completion in the styling department, and GM leadership supported his approach. The results were definitely showing by 1987.
Yeah, a planned Chevrolet H-Body was cancelled. I’m fairly sure the Lumina design was recycled from that project… I think I read about that on Autos of Interest or Dean’s Garage?
As I recall there were 2 reorganizations. The 1st one combined the car divisions into 2. Chevrolet, Pontiac, GM Canada. The other was Buick, Olds and Cadillac. Chevrolet and GMC trucks were merged with GM Truck and Bus.
The 2nd reorganization took all design and engineering away from the traditional divisions and they became marketing divisions only. And at that time Olds was moved from Lansing to Detroit, Buick from Flint to Detroit, etc. Cadillac marketing was separated as a marketing division. And all engine and transmission was moved to GM Powertrain Division. So those Chevy V8’s you read about today really are not Chevy V8’s GM spun off the bus division and sold it, and also sold off their medium and heavy duty truck division, as well as Delphi (the old Delco Remi). I’m sure I’m missing other spin offs (Terex and EMD).
So there was a LOT of turmoil within GM during this time and after. I didn’t even mention Saturn, Hummer, SAAB or the tie up with Subaru. And GM buying the assets of the old Daewoo Corporation from Korea. And selling off Vauxhall and Opel to what is now known as Stellantis. Until now. And dissolving Holden in Australia.
I invite anyone else to correct me. It was crazy then and I may have a few facts wrong.
“…that had been their approach for decades.” You have to wonder who- in the early 80s- approved of not replacing all of the B and C body cars all at the same time. Even more curiously, Chevrolet didn’t receive it’s own C body (now H body), leading to the question of what was the “real” Chevrolet going forward. The disarray in the Chevrolet division began here. Buick followed suit when it collapsed the Park Avenue and LeSabre into one model- the Lucerne. The 80s were no time for GM to sow confusion within and among the divisions.
Yes, I noticed those retro ’60s door handles too. Odd thing is that GM had nearly phased them out by 1980 – only Cadillacs and the Buick Riviera still used them by then. Early spy photos of the ’85 FWD Buick Electra/Park Avenue published in Car and Driver showed the usual GM liftbar handles (which the big Buicks had used since 1977), but at some point the Buick and Olds FWD C-bodies reverted to the handle-and-pushbutton door openers, which meant all the similar H-bodies would too. The higher-end sporty Bonneville SSEi in later years used a more modern looking version of this handle, which was also used on “touring” versions of the DeVille.
Strangely, after nearly all the American and Japanese, and some European manufacturers changed over to flush-mounted aerodynamic liftbar door handles by the late ’80s, a decade or two later protuberant exterior handles you could easily grip made a comeback.
IIRC – and this is a memory of reading these buff-books back in the day – the pushbutton handles were required by Cadillac for their version, and thus the other clones got them too. I also seem to recall these were the first production vehicles with a CHMSL, having them a year earlier than federally required.
la673: you may not have minded a Renault Alpine, but the people who had purchased AMC/Renault products at the time did. Alliance, Encore, Premiere….
They all look better in hindsight and on paper.
The project was pretty far along when it was cancelled. Platform code was GM-80. I believe there were talks of turbocharging and all-wheel-drive? At the very least, the GM 3.4 V6 that debuted in the W-Body and was originally supposed to produce a lot more power than it did.
One of these days, I’ll have to do another Cars That Never Were feature. There’s a bit of GM-80 info out there and definitely some spy photos.
Interesting to see an early tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) in production. One of those things I think about at this time of year, when cooler temperatures in this hemisphere tend to make the presence of these devices known.
And I’d forgotten about the buzz surrounding four-wheel-steering, which was touted as though it was the next big thing. I guess the reason why it never went beyond certain specialty vehicles (such as the Honda Prelude, but I’m sure there were others) is because the added cost and complexity wasn’t balanced by enough of a benefit in handling and maneuverability.
I have a 2005 Chevy Silverado with the Quadrasteer option. It had an extremely low installation rate in Silverados, around 1%, it was a little more common in GMC Sierras. It has proven to be quite a reliable, trouble free system, ( a bit of an anomaly for modern GM products. It does make the truck much easier to maneuver in parking lots, and makes trailer towing somewhat more controllable. When it first came out, it was about $2k option, but dealers did not seem to have a way to relate the benefits to the consumer so the option kind of withered on the vine until it was discontinued. Personally, I like the system, but I doubt that I would have paid the extra $ if I had factory ordered the truck. I have had several offers to sell the truck because of the 4 wheel steering.
I drove a Quadrasteer Silverado at a GM “Ride and Drive” event in DFW around 2004-2005. (Everyone else was standing in line to drive the C6 Vette.) A demonstration course had been set up with several tight turns, and the utter ease of maneuvering that seemingly ungainly truck around it was a revelation to me. It’s a shame that it never caught on.
Interesting to me how well comparatively the C body Deville and the H body Bonneville and Lesabre did in the face of the Taurus Sable onslaught. They were right sized with appropriate, durable drivetrains. These powertrains would quickly gain power over the next years while the Vulcan V6 would stagnate and the Taurus based Continental would bow having skimped on a V8.
At AMC, I wonder what they had in store for Alliance updates had Chrysler not come calling.
They probably would’ve followed the Renault 19 and Megane series fairly closely
I believe Renault also promised a minivan for AMC that was supposed to save the day. Obviously that never happened, I doubt it would have been too successful anyway. The new ZJ Grand Cherokee on the other hand…
Most of this is just sad…or delayed to the point of being sad.
For instance, the second page of “Maybe Next Year” does preview some GM innovations however long delayed they might be. Four-wheel steering? Not on an A-body, but you could get it on a 3/4 ton pickup in the early ’00s. A low riding, short bed 1/2 ton? Yep, courtesy of the 1993 454SS. A “Rodeo Drive” Blazer? Well, yes, they did later on, sort of, if that is your sugar stick.
It just took stinking forever for these to come to market at which time they landed with a profound thud. Delayed gratification, indeed.
This was when GM’s great blessing of being so strong in 1979-81 became a curse. Where Ford and Chrysler were both forced to face their mortality and make deep changes, GM had no reason to do so, and therefore did not.
Chrysler began building competent cars decently (becoming the low cost producer) and had a hit in the minivans. Ford revamped its processes as well, perfected fuel injection for the mass market and had a hit with the Taurus. GM kept throwing money at a muddle of new products that were not exciting anyone. By 1987, the results were beginning to show.
I always thought the Caprice Classic Brougham/LS was an oddball. It obviously was aimed at a more Oldsmobile/Buick crowd. They should have issued it as a Buick using the roof mod, but with the RWD LeSabre sheet metal and dash. (What the hell, Call it Roadmaster..) it would’ve been an upper middle class companion to the Cadillac Brougham and left the big Chevy to the police and cab companies.
1987 – I remember it well. It was the year that I tired of paying $271/mo for my 2 yr old VW GTI (the one with the thick warranty folder that was now out of warranty). Nothing out there really excited me. That was when I decided to revert to type and start checking out the old stuff. The 1966 Plymouth Fury III sedan with an honest 20K miles on it was just what I needed, and for the next four years I had a) no car payments and b) one of the most trouble-free ownership experiences of my life.
The next year, I met an attractive young lady who had recently bought a new 88 Honda Accord, an experience that taught me what I had been missing out on by not taking Japanese cars all that seriously.
Is there ANYBODY…
…who, faced with the choice of owning ANY GM product from ANY era in new condition, would pick anything from the 80s?
This Is How A Car Company With A 53% Market Share Descends Into Bankruptcy.
While the General is finally building great vehicles again, the transgressions of the past are still a little too fresh in the minds of too many people. There’s more work to do to fully overcome the 80s and 90s.
OTOH, is it better that BMW made their most desirable cars almost thirty years ago? Shouldn’t new cars have an edge on old cars? What about Ford having good design in the ’80s only to have a bunch of cars with JC Whitney Aston grilles today? I’m no GM fan, and if I had to have one of their products it would be older than I am. Still, at least they don’t make worse cars now than they did in the ’80s, which puts them ahead of the two other companies I mentioned.
BMWs and Fords of 2016 are hardly as uncompetitive in today’s market as these GM offerings were in 1987. And neither one makes worse vehicles now than they did in 1987.
A new Fiesta with an ‘automatic’ transmission is worse than anything Ford sold in the US in 1987. As a driving enthusiast, BMW has nothing to offer me now. Some of their ’80s cars would provide entertainment for as long as you maintained them.
Shouldn’t new cars have an edge on old cars?
Optimistic, but — if i may make a sweeping generalization of my own — NO.
At least, not in every sense. New cars totally have the edge in terms of passive and active safety, as well as fuel consumption. I’ll throw in the better-than-before sound systems and A/C as well.
But in terms of styling, visibility, reliability (sometimes), ability to be repaired / serviced by the owner, comfort, insurance premiums and individuality, the older cars usually have it. Especially cars built before the late 70s.
+1, although the comfort aspect is debatable.
I just took my E30 Cabrio on a ridiculous drive down PCH. I swear, that car outhandles anything. Coming to a COAL series at some point, just gotta finish my first one…
I’d still take a G-body Cutlass. Ah, nostalgia.
I’d take a 1987 Buick Grand National GNX. 0-60 in 4.6. 12.7 & 113 mph 1/4 mile. 300 hp and 420 ft.#
Alas they go for stupid money now.
Where did you get those figures? The GNX is quick but not that quick. Expect mid-high 13s @ ~104 with 6 seconds 0-60.
Still fast, even by today’s standards, but don’t let legend inflate it’s stature. I’d believe those times with some mods, but not off the factory floor.
I agree with you XR7 Matt. Your numbers are more what I have always seen from reputable sources.
Here is an old R&T article reprint that reflects your times.
Wheels, testing it in the USA believe it or not, clocked high 14s for the quarter with the Buick.They seemed a bit sceptic all of the U.S. testing, although they conceded altitude was an issue. It was still fast, faster than Winsor 5.0i Mustang and Holden V8 Commodore.
Buick GNX, anyone? It may not be the be-all/end-all of GM products but it’s a solid choice. Really, any G body coupe with 8 cans under the hood is a well sorted car and they have loads of potential as a platform for a build.
Also, ’87 was the last year for the ‘square body’ C/K trucks AND the only year TBI was available on these (w/ V8).. I have it on good authority that if you own a clean, relatively stock ’87 shortbed C/K so equipped, then in bow tie-friendly areas you can pretty much name your price.
I believe you have Lloyd Reuss to credit for pulling off this project. Under his tenure with Buick he turned the Buick nameplate into a performance division. That all went away when he left Buick.
Supposedly Lloyd raised a few eyebrows from the 14th floor when a GNX could beat a Corvette in the 1/4 mile.
I wanted to edit this. I think of Lloyd Reuss as a little bit of Ed Cole and a little bit of John Delorean.
A big part of it has to be GM’s lousy styling in the ’80s, which continued into the ’90s. Their best looking designs like the GNX came from their ’70s studios. The beautiful green Citation X11 that Paul posted the other day was designed around ’77.
A bright spot for sure was the ’84 Corvette, a knock-out in anyone’s book and revolutionary performance product. No Vette since then has looked as good if you ask me.
+1 I can’t give GM much credit for the GNX this year because, as per their GM’s usual approach, they made an absolutely great car and immediately decided to kill it off, followed by a 180 – “Let’s drop this Turbo nonsense, we need to cater Buick to the elderly!” It’s 1980 skin(over the basic 1978 shape) is definitely attractive as well, but besides the formal roofline it couldn’t look more removed from GM’s styling direction of 1987, that car was a dinosaur evoking what GM used to be able to come up with, savor it now for 87, because next year, and every year to follow is going to suck, big time.
I agree with the Vette somewhat, the kind technical leap from the C3 hasn’t been achieved since the C4, it’s all been a subtle evolution ever since. I’m not all that overly fond of the C4 though, the C3 was style over substance, sure, but what style it was! The C4 had all the bold American expression shaved away from it, it’s not unattractive but it’s a car where if you catch someone’s attention you’re guaranteed to be running through a memorized list of impressive sounding statistics to really drive the point home.
Hell yes! Off the top of my head, a Buick Grand National! Also, a last-year solid axle 4×4 truck.
1987 actually brought many changes…but not obvious ones. Off the top of my head, the Mustang became what it would be for seven years, with the new styling, upgraded 225HP engine, new interior, E7TE heads, and forged pistons, basically running away with the market.
The F bodies FINALLY got the 350 V8 back!
Gm’s trucks get TBI across the board (almost), a year ahead of the GMT400 debut for 1988.
The Cherokee gets the justly-legendary 4.0 six and AW4 automatic. (The FIRST electronic automatic transmission sold here.)
Debut of the Dakota and the new YJ Wrangler.
While the 80’s wouldn’t be my top choice for cars from GM, it wouldn’t be for Ford or Chrysler either. That said, like the already mentioned GNX, I’d also take a Monte Carlo SS or just a Grand National too. G-bodies, even the 4-doors, with the upgraded suspension and V8’s were great driving cars. Without a doubt though, I’d still take an ’87 Caprice (F41 of course) for a DD. The ’77’s had the more powerful 350 LM1, but the ’87’s had the high compression 350 LG4 and OD transmission that would make it much more economical without too much loss in power. Then again all of the above were designed and engineered in the 70’s.
For the 80’s designs I didn’t mind the Vette’s or the F-bodies, but they were so poorly put together that I don’t think I could ever own one. I do generally agree that GM’s more mainstream line-up was pretty mediocre and uncompetitive and that this decade was really bad for GM in the long run.
I always looked forward to the new car issues of the magazine, reading what was new, dropped, or otherwise different.
More composite headlamps appear on the scene. It was a big deal at the time. Designers loved it, and it made some new cars appear even more modern compared to cars that were stuck with sealed beam lamps. Of course, composites brought about their own problems that would soon become apparent – poor lighting performance, hazing/fogging, and much higher replacement costs. Sorry as a former lighting engineer I tend to get carried away with regard to lighting!
Interesting to see the ad for Tire Rack – I don’t recall those and at the time wouldn’t think of ordering tires or wheels through the mail. Michelin TRXs in stock!
Hey, lights are important. Drive at night in deer country, you’ll find out just how important.
I think Detlump meant was that good-ol round or
square sealed-beam glass-encased lights did the
job as effectively as today’s organically aero-shaped
composites, without the glazing or other issues.
Agreed. Quality 7″ rounds did a great job, putting light way out there where you needed it. but cheap ones were awful. Much the same as quality anything.
By 1987 I had already ordered my first set of tires through the mail. It was certainly a novelty I remember my friend asking why in the world would I mail order tires. Of course it didn’t hurt that at the time I worked part time at a proper service station. So in addition to saving money on the tires I mounted and balanced them myself saving another $20.
Tire Rack was big then already. I bought a set of +1 16″ BBS wheels with tires for my 300E in 1987. I mounted them right in the driveway.
But such a small ad compared to the multipage ones they run now! Their ad budget must be a major load-bearing support to Hachette’s continuing to keep both C/D and R&T print editions going.
I used to remove the sealed beams from my cars and replace them with Cibie or Hella euro-spec lights that were vastly better. Once composites came along, you couldn’t readily do that (actually you sometimes could, by obtaining a set of foreign-market lights if they fit, but this was difficult to do in the pre-Internet era).
The web has obviously been a huge boon to former “mail order” companies like Tire Rack. I recall Tire Rack would sometimes have several consecutive pages of ads with huge selections of tires with each available size shown – even with that much space they needed to use small print.
Biggest long term hit in ’87 was the Mustang getting aero look, which lasted until 1993. And started the 5.0 aftermarket industry. Yes, ’86 was the first year for the FI 302, and there is a cult for the old 4 headlight look, but the newer looking cars got attention.
GM’s G bodies went out of style this model year, virtually over night, and it was time.
One thing not mentioned, is that Big 3 truck models were taking some share from cars. Former personal lux coupe owners were getting Blazers/Jimmys, etc.
If not for trucks carrying them in the “bad times”, Big 3 would be pushing daisies.
I think Ford would have survived. Chrysler… well, they had the minivan and Jeep. I’m also not sure if their trucks were as popular, not until the ’94 redesign at least. GM for sure would have been toast. Saved on account of trucks and fanboys… er, loyal buyers.
I thought the Mustang’s aero restyle for ’87 was nothing short of fantastic. They took an 8 y/o body style that, in some versions (say, a brown, 1980 4-cylinder hatchback) looked like a generic, compact economy car, and made it look truly fresh, contemporary, and a little bit chic. The most irksome detail for me (and it wasn’t the plastic cladding on the GT, which I like) was that while the rear quarter windows were now flush-mounted, the window frames on the doors were not. It looked slightly unfinished. I lament that the ’87 restyle was left in production for so long as I feel it was a good one that didn’t deserve the oversaturation it faced by swan song ’93.
Those Permanent Magnet Gear Reduction starters were a godsend to us marine mechanics. When you are standing on your head in the bilge of a boat, changing a starter by braille, with only one arm, their lightweight and small size are a blessing.
I remember when AMC/Renault discontinued the Eagle AWD wagon. I remember being *incensed* that they would do that. However dated its design and appearance may have been, I found it more attractive than most cars of the time. I was hoping that someone else would take the Eagle and make improvements on it, and keep it for another year or two before discontinuing it. I also hated what Roger Smith was doing to General Motors. He was trying to destroy what was once one of the great car makers in the world. Sadly the same thing was happening to the whole damn American car industry. That’s damn unforgivable.
AMC didn’t discontinue the Eagle. After the Chrysler buyout they built as many cars as they could with the remaining parts and sold them as ’88 models. That’s why most ’88 Eagles are loaded with options. Chrysler sold 2306 Eagle wagons in ’88.
Before discontinuing the Eagle. I don’t know why, for I’ve always thought the Eagle would’ve made a good supplement for the Jeep. Someone who wants an AWD vehicle, but doesn’t want a truck, might like this.
I remember being surprised when I read AMC dealers were henceforce going to be called “Jeep-Eagle” dealers, and that would also be the name of the division. The AMC Eagle had fallen in popularity over the last few years, and by keeping it part of the division name I assume its life would be extended a bit, then replaced with a Chrysler-designed 4WD wagon and maybe a whole line of Eagle cars. The latter of course is what happened, except most of them lacked AWD and were a mishmash of AMC, Renault, Mitsubishi, and Chrysler cars that never seemed cohesive, and usually were clones of vehicles sold by other brands. Only the Talon and Summit Wagon (which was almost what’s now called a crossover) offered AWD.
The AMC Eagle has a cult following now and given that wagons of that sort have become quite popular (Subaru Outback, Volvo XC, Audi Allroad, and the new VW Golf Alltrack), I’d like to see FCA revive the Eagle name for a similar but updated car, probably badged as a Chrysler Eagle or something.
Some magazines did report a version of the 4WD Renault 21 wagon would make it to the US, badged as a Medallion. Alas, that didn’t happen. Would have been interesting! Renault also sold extended 21 wagons with more seats, too.
I definitely saw a Medallion wagon at the annual auto show (extended wheelbase IIRC with forward-facing 3rd row seat), and assumed these were in dealerships too.
Leaving the imports out of ’67 and ’77 didn’t change the essence of those years but leaving them out of ’87 makes it sound drearier than I remember. There were RWD Corollas, MR2s, pop-up headlamp Accords, Legends, Maxima 5-speeds. All of the BMWs and Mercedes were great that year. Even the Jag was pretty good. On the domestic side the new Taurus was still exciting news. What I remember most was the IROC-Z got the Corvette engine and the Buick GNX got introduced — it was cooler than all those imports. The mainstream lines were pretty dull though. A 4-door S10 Blazer would have helped a lot, what took so long? Lucky Lee with the Cherokee.
For those that wrote that ’77 was depressing during CC ’77 week, they had no idea what was coming for ’87.
But, I suppose that the real depressing news was GM. Geez, they were building practically every car that had been around since 1977, and a bunch more. A total hodge-podge of vehicles. I’d call the Sloane ladder officially dead after 1984, and that mess was taking a real toll on sales by ’87.
Ford was a probably the bright spot, the line was cohesive, even if lead by some old school cars – but at least they ran right and looked about as good as they ever did. With that opinion expressed, it may not surprise you that I left behind my GM loyalty, and my wife and I became an all Ford house within a few years.
Chrysler’s line-up just didn’t entice me at the time. An (almost) all four-banger K based line up just didn’t do much for me. I appreciated what they were doing, but it would take the LH cars six years later for me to appreciate them enough to actually buy something.
AMC, was of course, done for, especially for passenger cars. With the beginning of the Alliance, I had considered that to be the case. The buyout by Chrysler was probably the only merger / death of a make that I actually felt good about. There were no AMC cars to lament, on the other hand JEEP had a much more viable caretaker.
I don’t think there’s any automotive marque that’s changed hands more often than Jeep. At least eight companies have been their owner by now.
And each fell at some point, sold to or merged with another company.
As more of a Ford fan I found this selection vastly more appealing than 1977, The Tbird, Cougar, Mustang compared to their 1977 counterparts are night and day. And the Taurus and Sable compared to the LTD II and non-XR7 Cougar in the midsize category? Hell the worst would be the Tempo/Topaz, but are those really more dismal than the Maverick/Comet? How about the Pinto vs Escort? I’m going to call it a wash for Ford.
The rest are definitely more dismal, but there are few GMs that were appealing, even if they were short lived bright spots like the Turbo Buicks. I found it very difficult picking out cars that I found appealing to my tastes for 77, too many damn broughams.
You’re right, Dave. This is very depressing.
The ’77s were gaudy, but with beer goggles they could be passable.
The ’87s are just bland or ugly or both, with very few exceptions. The only bright spots for me would be the Pontiac Safari, the Caprice and the AMC Eagle – i.e. cars that were still stuck in the ’70s in terms of styling.
Even the old school GM cars were kind of depressing. The drivetrains had become relatively weak and underpowered, the 1980 refresh took a toll on quality in terms of trims and materials, and the minor refreshes during the ’80s usually meant slathering on more chrome or, yikes, that vinyl top treatment on the Caprice LS.
Outside of an unnatural love for the 1980-1984 Olds Ninety-Eight, if I were to buy a classic GM box B or C body, I’d stick with the ’77-’79 cars.
Back in the times, I’d moved from an ’82 Olds 88 307 coupe to an ’87 Mercury Grand Marquis 302. Unfortunately for GM, the ’87 Grand Marquis was generally a better built and more reliable car.
Point taken about the GM power trains and chintz, though on the latter, the 87 Caprice Coupes (final year, IIRC) were still relatively ok.
There’s somthing about the 80s Panthers that doesn’t work for me, in terms of looks. I haven’t seen one in the flesh in a very long time, but looking at photos, the proportions seem slightly off and the wheel cut-outs have a very strange squashed shape. The body doesn’t sit right with the chassis, making the car look both spindly and obese. It should be on a longer wheelbase and wider track. The 2nd generation Panthers look much better, IMHO.
Wow, I’m amazed you could get a Getrag 5-speed with the 2.8 V6 in a Celebrity as late as 1987. I wonder if any were actually built?
Having owned a 4 cyl Celebrity the fuel injected 6 and manual trans is just about the only factory combo I would call “entertaining” or at least “engaging”.
Pretty dismal domestic offerings in 1987. My family’s driveway that year had 4 Chrysler product and a Jaguar in it. 3 of those “Chrysler Products” were actually Mitsubishis. I’ll admit to a certain bias toward Mopars as domestics go, and certainly in ’87 they were putting out a fairly comprehensive lineup, especially just a few years after near-certain death, but…
This timeframe is EXACTLY when the domestic industry’s goose was smelling really cooked. As a 20 year old at the time I can remember that this was pretty much the time when you’d see a friend’s brand new Sundance or Tempo and think, “What kind of an idiot would buy that when they could have had a Civic or a Sentra?” And it’s that mentality that became ingrained.
I’m 34, and I still feel that way.
But now, 20somethings, who used to buy a small car, now get a compact CUV.
Speak for yourself, I buy old junk with my meager 20something cashflow!
I sure wish I was 20 something again, or maybe not? 😉
Should have said, the demographic who used to buy sub-compacts of yesteryear, are getting CUV’s instead.
Like he said–it’s become ingrained. The reality is that the gap now between the domestics and the Japanese competitors is much smaller than it used to be, to say nothing of the Koreans.
A Civic is still pretty much beyond reproach (with the exception of the retrograde 2012-2013 models) but the tables have turned somewhat otherwise–if I see someone in a new Sentra I tend to wonder why they bought that instead of, well, just about anything else in the segment.
I don’t know about the gap being that much different. We went from a base Highlander (6 years old/120k miles) to a loaded Ford Edge as my wife wanted to increase her style. Over 5 years the cooling system failed 3 times (2 of the times out of warranty); we fled back to the Japanese.
Style over substance. Seems to be the
zeitgeist in the 21st century…
Among the “genuine” domestics, one of GM’s few bright spots that wasn’t a ’70s holdover seems to have been that 2.8V6/Getrag 5 speed combo. Probably best in the lightest platform but if it was the day and special ordering was doable, a Celebrity Eurosport wagon with rear-facing third row and clutch pedal would be hard to resist.
Ford’s Taurus was really hot, my aunt had one and I thought it was the coolest thing even in that nonmetallic pale blue Ford used for sooooooo long.
Chrysler’s newly EFI (how did C/D miss that) and price-cut Omni/Horizon America was probably the best value for money out there, both on a space and speed per dollar basis.
In addition to the Mustang, I loved the LeBaron, the Bonneville, the Fiero’s freshened front and rear fascias (loved the fastback-look GTs), and the Dodge Daytona. I remember seeing the freshened Daytonas at the 1987 Detroit Auto Show as a kid and thinking Chrysler had completely redesigned (instead of restyled) the car. It got this then-adolescent all fired up… I remember thinking at the time that the ’87 Dodge Daytona Shelby Z was the first new, truly stunning, sporty Chrysler product introduced within my lifetime (born mid-70’s) and that Chrysler was no longer an also-ran.
The LeBaron is a nice looking car. I think George Costanza’s John Voight model poisened my perception a bit.
Was there ever an engine that benefitted less from going from a carburetor to multipoint fuel injection as the 300 / 4.9?
I had an ’80 and ’87 F150, both 300-4 speeds. The ’87 was just as hard on gas, just as rev-resistant, as tough as the ’80.
These articles make me miss car magazines as the forefront of automotive media though. C&D was always my favorite, their humor and legendary adventures were the best.
And yeah, except for a Grand National, 1987 sucked for American cars.
And somehow they failed to mention the Grand National (to say nothing of the mighty GNX) in their Buick section. Odd.
I miss old ‘C&D’….
The yearly new car issue was always my favorite (Marquis de Sade comments and all). Too bad they devolved into a graphics-intensive, pie-chart laden, short-attention-span mess. It makes me wish David E. Davis could rise from the dead and put his mark back on C&D once again…
I’ll be a dissenting voice here. The mid to late 80s are my peak period of interest in cars of just about any persuasion. You could still get the traditional style and layout of earlier decades (back to the 60s, in the case of Jeep), along with more modern technology (fuel injection, overdrive transmissions, etc.) and vastly improved interior appointments and options. Not to mention that performance was making a comeback (5.0, 350 TPI, 3.8 Turbo).
Factoring in that most haven’t yet become collectibles make 80s cars a winning formula for today, but had I been of buying age at the time I certainly would’ve considered a purchase. Most tempting for me would’ve been a Trans Am 305 TPI 5 speed, Mustang LX 5.0 5 speed notch, Regal Limited T (Turbo), Caprice Brougham (non LS), Century Limited 3.8 Sedan or Wagon, Omni GLH-S (if one was left over), Grand Am sedan 2.5/ 5 sp, Park Avenue, Diplomat SE (I’m sure I’m forgetting a few!). For trucks/vans: Ram /6 with A833, Chevy 4wd with FI 350 (K30 if possible), C10 short box 4.3/ Saginaw 3sp on column, Dodge or Chevy window van.
That said, my first car was a 1987: Buick Somerset 2.5 5sp. It was a very good car overall, but was afflicted with the Achilles’ Heel for the time: Rust. It was ugly as sin, but nothing would kill it. Finally left the family with about 185k in the early 2000s, neither motor nor transmission were ever opened and it still ran and drove fine.
As a side note, a big THANK YOU! to GN for running this series! It has been very interesting so far, and I’m excited to see it continue into the 80s!
Here comes my soliloquy…
I actually bought a leftover 1987 car in early 1988 (You know how thrifty a Bavarian can be…). My 1987 Dodge Lancer ES turbo that I’ve mentioned many times here. A friend had purchased a 1987 Dodge Shadow ES turbo which piqued my interest in these small Chrysler turbo cars. It lasted me 10+ years and 160K miles. One of the few I want back.
The domestic car makers had been re-badging various Japanese cars and trucks since the early 1970’s, during the mid-1980’s all they did was to ramp up the amount of cars marketed. This was about the time most folks stopped caring where their car (or most anything else for that matter) was made, I can’t say I blame them.
I was still very much “into” new cars back then; I owned a couple of fairly new cars at the time and if I had an unlimited budget, I would have had quite the selection. C&D was my favorite of the big three rags back then, I still have a subscription today. But it’s not the “must read” that it was back in the day. All of these magazines have devolved from real information sources to the print equivalent of Top Gear with an added “lifestyle” section.
In as much as GM was a hot mess in terms of what it was selling, I think it was reluctant to let go of the cars they knew would sell. They were not as quick to switch all of their fleet to FWD as Chrysler was and motor fuel got cheaper every year in the 1980’s. They knew their best laid plans from the late 1970’s and early 1980’s to downsize for fuel economy were thwarted. In addition, GM’s attempts to satisfy CAFE and their dealers (who really are their customers) ended up with the nearly identical A-bodies being sold at four of the five marques. Or, in the case of the J-bodies, five of the five marques.
Nostalgia aside, we’ve made astounding progress in the last 30 years of automobile technology. It was back then that domestic car makers just started to put six-digit odometers in cars; now we routinely expect 100K miles of regular service without a second thought. I have a 2009 Pontiac that is at 110,000+ miles; here in rust country the body looks fine and the mechanicals are near perfect. With the car being eight years old, I will probably be rid of it because of boredom more than any particular nagging mechanical or structural issue.
The technological improvements with regard to electronics is just phenomenal. I can remember my first car audio system with a CD player, it was rather expensive but now just seems quaint. I had rented a Buick Regal back in the spring for a couple of days, it was amazing to me just how far in car electronics has come. Oddly, I was happiest to be able to Bluetooth my phone to this car just because I could make truly hands free phone calls for once. All three of them.
There are so many other areas in which we have made incredible (compared to 1987) advances that I won’t even bother to list them. As much as I miss these cars, I think I would go for a new one these days.
This was the era of Mr Smith at GM and much of it didn’t make much sense to my 17 year old mind at the time. Why was a 4000-4200 LBS Cadillac Brougham saddled with a 140 Hp carbureted outdated Olds engine when a far Cheaper Caprice could have a 145 HP fuel injected 4.3 V6 or a 170 Horse 305? Similarly A G-body Cutlass, Grand Prix or Regal were stuck with the ancient 110 HP Buick carbureted 3.8 when the lower priced Monte Carlo came with a 145 HP 4.3 V6 with fuel injection. Worse they were still offering 3 speed 200 Metric transmissions in the Cutlasses and Regals with the extra cost 307 Olds motors but the cheaper Grand Prix and Monte Carlo came with only the 4 speed overdrive automatic when the 305 was ordered. Weird!
The A-body cars like the Century and Ciera made more sense. For the extra dough they were the only way to get the hotter Buick 3.8 engine with SFI as the Celebrity and 6000’s top engine offering was the 130 HP 2.8 Chevy V6.
The fact that the ancient Chevette was still being offered was telling but the tide was turning for performance fans with introduction of the 5.7 TPI V8 on the F-body cars as a readily available option.
I have a bit of 1987 GM history sitting in my driveway. It’s a beautiful mint two tone blue Cutlass Supreme coupe with but 26K original miles. The dealer ordered it 90% of the way I would have with the optional 307/4 speed automatic and upgraded 3.08 rear axle, rally gauges, buckets/floor shift, F-41 and tire upgrade and the usual bevy of options like A/C and power windows. The only things missed were seat recliners, a sport steering wheel, power trunk release and I would have chose the Olds rally wheels over the aluminum versions but I love this car nonetheless. Attached is a pic of her
Very nice Cutlass:-)
Stunning Cutlass! I think the ’87 benefitted from the composite lamps–they modernized the look of the car *just* enough. You don’t see the two-tone very often either, and those wheels–wow. I didn’t even realize those were an option on the Cutlass, but they’re fantastic.
And only 26K miles? Come on. That’s a heck of a car! Very, very nice.
I always remember 1987 as the year of the composite headlamps. Sooooo many cars got them first that year. Ford did a better job with the Aero Bird and the Aero Mustang. Quad sealed beams in 86, all new smooth aero noses in 87.
At GM, it just looked like quick Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V for the composite headlamps. Almost every car had side-by-side quad sealed beams and just were replaced with the same composite headlights. I often wondered if they were the same part across all the cars:
Olds Delta 88/98
Olds Custlass Ciera
Chevy Caprice Classic
Chevy Monte Carlo LS
Olds Cutlass Surpreme
Don’t get me wrong, I do love the look of these smoother composite headlamps on these cars… but couldn’t GM have put forth a little bit more effort?
With all CC’s commentary about how LONG IN TOOTH GM’s cars were, no mention of that about Mopars M Bodies or the fact that the warmed over J Cars were outselling everything else ????
The J-body LeBaron was warmed-over from an engineering standpoint, but it was quite lucid from a product standpoint: There was a still a modest niche for a convertible with a reasonably habitable back seat, the LeBaron was fresh-looking, it was priced to sell, and there was nothing terribly dire wrong with it. I said this before, but I think it was a lot like a piece of big box store electronics: You paid for what you got and you got what you paid for. Selling 144,000 units the first year still wasn’t setting the world on fire, but it made sense.
I think at the time, people were also still willing to cut Chrysler some slack given their fairly recent brush with death, and they were still doing enough interesting things that it was only starting to become clear that there wasn’t really a plan other than to keep stirring the same soup while pouring money into diversification and vanity projects (e.g., Chrysler TC by Maserati, q.v.). As for the M-bodies, I assume they were being propped up by fleet sales; I feel like the average 1987 C/D reader would have said, “Wait, they still make those?”
The difference with GM is that they WERE rolling out new products, lots of them, but each seemed more misguided or inexplicable than the last. Ford seemed to be moving the game on and Chrysler was making the best of things, but the GM lineup was like a warehouse store full of dubious ideas. Even the Corvette and F-bodies were a lot more appealing on paper than in person. (Memories of the C4 are rosier thanks to the later cars with the L98 and LT1 engines, tidied-up ergonomics, and changes to make the ride a little less like riding in a wheelbarrow full of junk.) There was still some expectation that GM would show the way forward, or at least codify it, but that was just plainly not happening.
The M-body platform had been around since the mid-1970s. I would assume Chrysler had amortized the costs of that platform by 1987.
The Chrysler Fifth Avenue was selling at twice the combined sales of the Dodge Diplomat and Plymouth Gran Fury. Based on what I saw at the time, those Fifth Avenues were sold to older buyers who were either Chrysler loyalists or who didn’t like the front-wheel-drive GM full-size cars. The Diplomat and Gran Fury were the ones that sold to fleet buyers.
We helped with that 1987 sales increase in Grand Ams. Mom upgraded from a 1978 Delta 88. I inherited it in 1990 when she got a Cutlass Supreme Sedan.
It was better than my 1986 6000 but only just, and by 1993 it was all used up. Composite headlights at last!!
Why is the Monte Carlo SS a “rolling identity crisis”? It was quite popular and had a strong image with its NASCAR ties.
Biggest surprise here for me is the big sales dropoff for the Mustang in the first year of the biggest facelift the Fox body would get throughout its long tenure.
These sales charts drive home the severity of the sales collapse of the Cadillac Seville and Cadillac Eldorado, Buick Riviera and Oldsmobile Toronado.
In the second year of an all-new body style, the Seville was barely outselling the Lincoln Continental, which had been using the same basic body since its debut in 1982. (Too bad Lincoln switched the Continental to a problem-plagued front-wheel-drive platform in 1988. It should have restyled the car to eliminate the bustle-back, and then refined the basic platform, as it did with the Mustang in 1994.)
The GM premium personal luxury coupes were down to the sales level of the Lincoln Mark VII, even though the GM cars were only a year old, while the Lincoln had been on the market since 1984.
GM was spending a boat load of money to bring out new models that weren’t selling as well as their predecessors, while Ford was making the most out of shared platforms. Even at those sales levels, I can’t believe that Ford wasn’t making some money on the Continental and Mark VII, given that they were based on the Fox platform and had been in production for a few years by 1987,