What Were the Best Cars of the Eighties?
The 80s was the most debauched of decades: single-minded, gluttonous ambition was encouraged, greed was good and excess was best.
Style was so much more desirable than substance. It was all about making a statement: the big hair, the painted faces, the pastel-coloured shoulder pads, the huge, brick-like mobile phones. Nothing about the 80s was subtle - and that included the cars.
They were loud, in your face and unapologetically show-stealing. The 10 years that taste forgot are seen as a damaging age for automobiles, yet they were responsible for some of the most distinct and abstractly beautiful car designs the world has ever seen. Here are the very best:
Sleek, speedy and powerful, the Ferrari Testarossa was the perfect tonic for the hungry 80s masses.
They wanted a car that screamed ‘look at me’, and that’s exactly what they got.
Very low and very wide, the Testarossa took its name, meaning ‘redhead’, from the red-painted cylinder heads on its 4.9 litre, 360bhp flat-12 engine. At nearly 2 metres, this behemoth featured twin, side-mounted radiators, a single nose-mounted unit and dramatic side-strakes.
The engine was located above the gearbox, which gave the iconic motor an unusually high centre of gravity and earned it a reputation for tricky, on the limit handling.
The Porsche 911 was the car that defined the Yuppie.
When development was put on the backburner to facilitate work on the 911’s intended successor, the 928, the Yuppie fought back. Sales soared through the roof as merchant bankers with pinstripe suits and red braces lapped up the iconic motor, choosing Guards Red to coordinate with their outfits.
Admired for its pose more than its performance, it was most commonly seen sporting the whale-tail spoiler and wide wheel arches. Even the interior was stylish, with pinstripe upholstery.
In 1983, Porsche released a version which was every yuppie’s dream; a full convertible 911.
Ford Sierra RS Cosworth
If the 911 and the Cosworth are anything to go by, then big wings were a theme of the 80s, the automotive equivalent to the shoulder pads their drivers were sporting.
Co-designed by legendary engine builders Cosworth, Ford based their super saloon on the unpopular three-door Sierra body shell, allowing Cosworth to drop in a 2.0-litre DOCH four cylinder, which combined with a Garrett turbocharger to feed 204bhp to the rear wheels.
In true 80s style, they then added unique alloys, extravagant flared wheel arches and a rear wing that screamed speed.
Named after the girlfriend of the company’s then owner, the TVR Tasmin took a break from the curvaceous form of the brand’s coupes and droptops, instead channelling a style as sleek and elegant as an Italian greyhound.
The model was a chic, severe interpretation of the square-edged shape popularised by the Lotus Esprit and Aston Martin Lagonda, and just like its style inspirations the Tasmin oozed high-class allure.
The streamlined exterior housed a steel space frame chassis and a 2.8-litre V6 producing around 150bhp. This was later substituted for the classic Rover V8, which produced 190bhp and cut the 0-60mph dash to five seconds.
Any car wearing a ‘BMW M’ badge is guaranteed to be a mighty machine, but the M3 was the very best of the best.
Originally built with race winning in mind, BMW homologated the car to bring it in line with FIA Group A Touring Car Championship regulations. Hidden beneath the bonnet of this behemoth was a 2.3-litre four cylinder 195bhp engine.
The car was finished with truly 80s styling, and featured massively flared wheelarches, a deep front airdam and a big wing on the boot.
On the racetrack, the motor annihilated its main competition, the Mercedes-Benz 190 2.3-16V, storming to victory in the 1987 Group A Championship, before taking the European Touring Car Championship the year after.
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