Cars of the 1980s

I remember when my mother bought her first car- around 1985- we were so excited to get into that little red Ford Escort. For some reason I envisioned spots on the roof and called it the Ladybug. This officially made us a 2-car family, a huge leap from the powder blue Chevy truck of my dad’s that still boasted an 8track. It was life-changing- mum and I could get into her car and drive the 5 hours to visit my grandparents with a boombox propped between the seats and my dad could still go to work. (Lol, as I write this my husband and I are a 1 car family- he got his driver’s license 4 years after we married and I don’t have one at all.)

After the late 70s recession, car production boomed, peaking in 1984. British imports were scarce and Japan leapt onto the scene exporting some of the biggest names in transportation. Japanese factories sprung up like mushrooms over here, taking in some of the hoardes of factory workers laid off in the early part of the decade. Foreign and performance cars became more popular and designs were much boxier than today’s models which started rounding out in the mid-90s.

There are several in depth histories of this volatile and exciting time in automotive history but we’re just going to  look at the big names that defined the decade.

General Transport Cars

Audi 5000S, 100
Mazda 121, Festiva, RX7
Toyota Cressida, Space Cruiser
Nissan Maxima 810, Micra, Cherry
Ford Thunderbird, Escort, Fiesta, Sierra, Capri, P100
Hyundai Excel
Subaru Brat
Citroen 2CV, CX, Dyane
Mini Cooper 1000

Saab 99, 9000
Honda Civic CRX, Prelude, Acty
Chevrolet Impala, Lumina, Caprice Classic, Caprice Classic Brougham, Safari Station Wagon, Malibu, Malibu M80, El Camino, Celebrity, Citation, Citation II, Monza, Sprint, Sprint Metro, Geo Metro, Nova, Cavalier, Corsica, Beretta
Pontiac G8, Parisienne, LeMans, Grand Am, Bonneville, Sunbird, Tempest
GMC Caballero
Reliant Robin
Volkswagon Golf, Polo
Range Rover
Oldsmobile Omega, Starfire
Buick Skylark, Skyhawk
Suzuki Cultus, Swift, Swift GA, Khyber, Forsa, Holden Barina
GM Chevette
MG Metro
Isuzu I-Mark, Trooper
Renault 19, 11
Land Rover Defender
BMW 3 Series
Peugeot 205, 505, 305, 405
Volvo 240

Luxury Cars
Mercedes-Benz 190E, SL, SLC
Porsche 944, 911
Ford Mustang II, 5.0, LTD Crown Victoria
Lexus SC400
Volvo 740

Sports Cars
Alfa Romeo Giulia, GTV-6
Aston Martin DBS
AM Vantage
Jaguar XJS
Maserati Khamsin, Merak, Kyalami
Morgan 4/4
Toyota MR2
Mazda RX-7
Alpine Renault A310, GTA
Datsun 280ZX
Fiat Bertone X1/9, 124 Sports / Spider 2000
BMW 6-Series, M1, 5 Series, E30
Nissan 300ZX, 240SX, SR20DET, RB20DET, Skyline
Pontiac Fiero S/E, GT
Ferrari 288 GTO, F40
Triumph TR7
Chevrolet Corvette C3, C4
Morgan Plus 8
Lamborghini Countach
Lotus Espirit
Mercedes- Benz R107 SL, 350, 450, 380 SL, 500, 560 SL, R129 SL
Chevrolet Camaro IROC-Z
Mistubishi Eclipse GD Turbo, GSX, Starion ESI-R
Monte Carlo Turbo, SS Aerocoupe, Turbo Hydramatic 200-4R
Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, cutlass Ciera
Buick Regal, Century
Pontiac Grand Prix, 6000

HowStuffWorks — excellent info on sports car history from the 80s
Popular Mechanics– obscure 80s cars
Honest John – great info and photos on UK cars