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30 1980s Cars That Changed The Automotive Industry

Vukasin HerbezNovember 22, 2018

7. Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe

The Ford Thunderbird isn’t a car you would normally consider a muscle car. However, in the ’80s, Ford introduced a couple of Thunderbirds that could have that designation. They were an interesting addition to the performance car scene in those days. Although the T-bird was available with a V8 engine, the best performing version was the Turbo Coupe, available in 1985.

The TC received a Mustang SVO, a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with a manual transmission, 190 HP, and a top speed of a whopping 143 mph. The top speed was enhanced by the relative lightness of the car and aerodynamic shape of the ninth-generation Thunderbird.

6. Cadillac Cimarron

Today, almost all American luxury brands have downsized their lineup, offering more affordable and compact versions of their big sedans. But, back in the early ’80s, this move was something still unheard of and hard to understand. In those days, Cadillac had somewhat of an identity crisis, so they sought a way to reinvent themselves to fight their foreign competitors.

After long meetings involving their product development managers, they decided to introduce a small Cadillac with a lower price to attract more customers. The problem was that Cadillac didn’t have a small platform, so they turned to Chevrolet. They borrowed the modest Cavalier chassis along with the small, slow four-cylinder engine. Although Cadillac dressed the Cavalier with unique trim, new colors, and a new name, the Cimarron wasn’t enough.

The sales were poor and Cadillac was under fire from their brand loyalists for ruining their image. All over the industry, the Cimarron was a laughing stock and remained until this day one of the worst examples of downsizing ever. For that reason, most people believe this model should remain forgotten. Even though it was visionary and influential.

5. Toyota 4Runner

Toyota’s answer to the Ford Bronco and Chevrolet K5 Blazer came quite late in 1984. It followed the same recipe as its competitors: a shortened Hilux truck chassis with a single cabin and a removable hardtop. The 4Runner came in time to battle with the second generations of the Bronco and the K5.

But while it couldn’t compete with the two due to a lack of V8 power, it gained recognition with its ruggedness and durability. In all honesty, even without the V8 under the hood, the 4Runner was a great SUV for the day and especially capable in off-road conditions. Today, the palette of inline four engines is considered the most reliable.

So the smartest way is to try and find these versions, despite the obvious lack of power compared to the V6 models. If you wish to go off-roading in the 4Runner, the models with smaller engines have better all-terrain capabilities than their big-engine counterparts.

4. Porsche 944 Turbo

This forgotten gem from Stuttgart is one of the best affordable sports cars you can still buy. And, they are still budget-friendly today. However, if you don’t act fast, the chances are that the prices will go stratospheric soon. They designed the 944 as an entry-level Porsche, giving it an interesting layout. In fact, it comes with a front-mounted engine and rear-mounted transaxle gearbox.

Best of all, the handling is sublime. Even though the base 170 HP engine wasn’t slow, the real treat is the turbo. It has a 2.5-liter turbocharged engine that puts out 250 HP. Due to being lightweight with a good transmission and aerodynamics, the 944 Turbo is a fast car. The 0 to 60 mph takes only 5.9 seconds and it can top 162 mph. So, even today, this little Porsche can outrun some modern sports cars.

3. Toyota Landcruiser J60

It is insane that quality examples of the J60 series Landcruiser are bringing north of $30,000 today but this is the reality of the collector car market. The classic ’80s SUV was affordable not that long ago, but now the prices are getting out of hand. However, most restoration projects are still somewhat affordable. So, if you have the means to perform it, you should consider finding an ‘80s Landcruiser.

Toyota introduced it in 1980 and discontinued it in 1989, selling the J60 all over the world. And it was especially popular in America. The Landcruiser combined the ruggedness of a classic FJ40 with a durable 4.2-liter inline six-engine and a bigger, more comfortable body. The combination proved so influential, the J60 is now the focus of collectors all over the world.

2. Lancia Delta HF Integrale

Lancia introduced its compact model, the Delta, in 1979. However, it was on the market for five years before the company started thinking about a performance version. Lancia was always big in rallying. And after the banning of their Group B model S4, they wanted something that could work well on the street and track, so the HF Integrale was born.

Initially, this model featured a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that produced 185 HP, but later it went up to 220 HP. It had a permanent, well balanced all-wheel-drive system. The Delta HF Integrale is an important hot hatch because it was the first with all-wheel drive. This marked the beginning of a transition from the front wheel drive, simple hot hatches, to the high-tech, all-wheel drive performance monsters we have today.

The combination of a powerful engine, sharp handling, great traction and low weight was intoxicating for magazine testers of the day. The Delta HF Integrale received nothing but praises. Over the years, the Delta HF Integrale has been a successful concept on rally stages all over the world and among hot hatch fans. They ceased production in 1994 after creating almost 40,000 of them.

1. Lamborghini LM 002

Lamborghini made the Urus, a superfast SUV with a twin-turbo V8 and impressive performance. Still, many car fans are not so impressed. Yes, the Urus is a mighty fast luxury cruiser, but it isn’t as wild and unexpected as the mid-80s Lamborghini LM 002.

This crazy creation debuted in the mid-80s as Lamborghini’s attempt to enter the world of luxury SUVs and widen its appeal. The LM002 used a special chassis and suspension as well as Lamborghini’s famous V12 engine. The 5.2-liter unit with 400 HP was the same one as you would find in the legendary Countach.

These are the 30 iconic cars from the ’80s that changed the car industry forever. Did any of them take you for a walk down Memory Lane? If you look hard and long, you may be able to find your favorite in mint condition. But, you should hurry before these classics are long gone.

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