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Hip To Be Square: The Top 33 Boxy Cars Of All-Time

Vukasin HerbezMarch 20, 2019

You probably remember the ‘80s car design full of flat surfaces, like those wedge-shaped sports cars and boxy vehicles. Even though boxy cars weren’t aerodynamically pleasing and sometimes even aesthetically boring, they were the trend in those days. Fortunately, the car industry moved forward, replacing boxy cars by those much sleeker and aerodynamically efficient cars of the ‘90s and 2000s.

However, there is still a place in many driver’s hearts for boxy cars and their irresistible charm. Think of them as a kind of automotive guilty pleasure. You shouldn’t like a car they’ve designed with a shoebox in mind, but somehow you still love it. Here is a list of the 33 most interesting boxy-shaped cars people fondly remember from the ‘80s. Read on to learn about these interesting automotive gems and several well-known models in this category.

33. Chevrolet Suburban

An interesting thing about the Suburban is that this is the longest-serving nameplate in car history. In fact, they presented the first model under this name back in 1935. Right from the start, the Suburban defined itself as a people carrier in a body style closer to a minivan than to a regular wagon or SUV.

This explains its boxy shape, which was its characteristic look from the start. The all-wheel-drive option proved popular during later generations. In fact, became an almost mandatory option for the famous, long-serving seventh-generation Chevy introduced in 1973 and discontinued in 1991.

32. BMW M3 E30

When most people think of BMW performance, they think of the “M” class cars. But among the dozens of models that wore the M badge, the M3 E30 is the most iconic. BMW produced them from 1985 to 1992.

The heart of the E30 M3 was the S14 straight-four engine with 2.3-liters of displacement and 195 and later 215 HP. BMW derived the design from the standard E30 model. However, it featured more boxy fenders, a big rear spoiler, and the formal sedan look that drivers still love today.

31. Volvo 240

The most iconic boxy car is the Volvo 240. No matter what body style you choose whether it’s sedan, two-door, or wagon, it’s basically a tin box with four wheels and an engine upfront.

Even with the turbocharged engine, the Volvo 240 wasn’t a fast car just because it looked so boring. However, the boxy shape proved to be practical and dependable, giving Volvo a stellar reputation.

30. Chevrolet Blazer

The Suburban’s younger brother, Chevy built the Blazer on a truck base. In fact, it featured the same engines and drivetrain with great off-road capabilities. Also, the boxy look soon became its signature design feature. The Blazer sold well, and not only in America but in the rest of the world.

 

 

However, Blazers with the 6.2-liter diesel V8 engine were the most popular. The Blazer was so desirable, the second generation stayed in production from 1973 to 1991 with minimal modifications.

29. Mercedes 500E

The W124 series of the Mercedes mid-size sedan was famous for its quality, elegance, and luxury, but also for its restrained looks. However, the flat sides, sober design, boxy-shaped roof, and rear end with straight lines and square headlights were boring compared to other cars from the period.

Even the 500E model, which comes with the 5.0-liter V8 engine that developed 326 HP looked boxy and dull. Regardless, it was one of the best performance luxury sedans of its era.

28. Jeep Cherokee XJ

Jeep introduced the Cherokee XJ in 1984 and it was an enormous success. With its boxy-yet-elegant looks, great build quality, and variety of usable features, the second-generation Cherokee was the SUV of the ‘80s as well as a globally successful model.

Despite being a modern and comfortable vehicle, the Cherokee XJ retained all the Jeep characteristics. They included the infamous rugged mechanics, dependable AWD drivetrain, and quality engines. And all that helped it claim the title of one of the best SUVs of all-time.

27. Dodge Spirit R/T

The Spirit was a Dodge economy model introduced in the late 1980s. But when Dodge presented the R/T version, things got interesting. The base 2.2-liter four-cylinder that produced only 90 HP got a turbo upgrade to put out an impressive 224 HP and 218 lb-ft of torque.

For the 1991 model year, this was a hefty power level from an economy car. It was fast, but it retained its ‘80s boxy look. Overall that made it an even more surprising performance sedan and unusual Mopar muscle car.

26. Ford Mustang Fox Body

Produced from 1979 to 1993, the Fox-body Mustang was a boxy muscle car with Euro-design cues. Also, it had better aerodynamics and a thumping 5.0-liter in front. However, some people think the Fox-body Mustang doesn’t look like a real Mustang since the design doesn’t resemble the look of the original model.

But the Fox-body is one of the most important Mustang in the model’s history since Ford kept it going through the dark times of American performance. They offered the Mustang in three body styles – the hatchback, notchback, and convertible. But most Mustang fans feel that the notchback is the most boxy-looking of all.

25. Land Rover Defender

They presented the original Land Rover in 1948. For decades, it was the ultimate off-road vehicle. However, they released its modernized variant, the Defender, in 1983. It came with some much-needed improvements and modernized components.

This model proved to be popular and that is why it stayed in production for 33 years, all the way up to 2016. During all those years, the recognizable boxy shape never changed, so the car basically stayed the same.

24. Bentley Turbo R

Although most people recognize the Bentley brand for its elegance, the ‘80s boxy styling was visible on their top-of-the-line model, the Turbo R.

It was a formal sedan with a square grille. And with its rear lights and contours, it looked like any other sedan on the market from a distance.

23. Chevrolet Caprice Classic

Following the modernization throughout the range, Chevrolet introduced the Caprice Classic, its full-size sedan in 1977. The combination of elegant boxy looks, tough mechanics, and all-around usability made this model one of the most popular and longest-lasting models on the market.

Everything on this car was square, the headlights, glass, even the taillights were square. With minimal changes, Chevy offered this sedan for a full 13 years up to 1990. Also, many law enforcement agencies as well as the government used the Caprice Classic.

22. Volvo 850 R Wagon

Is there anything more boring in the automotive world than a boxy old Volvo station wagon? Probably not. The typical suburban family car from the ‘90s came with loads of space for the kids and their stuff. It was slow but dependable and dead boring to drive. You can say all that for a regular Volvo 850 Wagon, but the R version they introduced in 1996 was something completely different.

After the success of the T5 version of the 850 series that featured a turbocharged engine, Volvo decided to go a step further and introduce an all-out sleeper machine in the form of the 850 R. Under the hood, the 2.3-liter five-cylinder engine featured a bigger turbo, different intake system, and electronics, all of which resulted in a respectable 250 HP output.

21. Ford Crown Victoria

The Ford Panther platform is one of the longest-serving platforms in the car industry. Ford first used it in 1978 and it served until 2011, underpinning many models like the Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis, and Lincoln Town Car.

This chassis proved so sturdy and durable in extreme conditions, so they used it as the base for many police cars and taxis. The design wasn’t special since it was just a plain old boxy American sedan. But even today seven years after they discontinued it, millions of Panther-based models are still on the roads.

20. Toyota Land Cruiser J60

Toyota introduced the Land Cruiser in 1980 and discontinued it in 1989. However, they sold the J60 all over the world and it was highly popular in America. The Land Cruiser was the perfect combination of the ruggedness of a classic FJ40 with a durable 4.2-liter inline six-engine.

It had a bigger, more comfortable body they designed as a big metal box. Back in those days, all SUV looked like big boxes since nobody paid attention to the design of vehicles mainly for tough off-road use.

19. Lada Riva

They presented the Lada Riva in 1980, basing it on an old Lada 1500, which was a copy of an old Fiat 124 Sedan. And they discontinued this model recently, in 2012.

However, over the decades the car hardly changed, retaining its recognizable boxy shape. Lada managed to sell it worldwide for over 32 years. But, the majority of production ended up on the domestic Russian market.

18. Maserati BiTurbo

Maserati started the BiTurbo lineup of cars with the 222 model. It was a handsome two-door coupe that continued with the 420 and 430 sedans they built on the same base. Even though this was an extremely boxy shaped car, it still looked cool.

Even today, this elegant Italian still turns heads. Unfortunately, the mechanics didn’t follow the design, so the BiTurbo was an extremely unreliable and problematic machine.

17. Audi Sport Quattro

The definition of a boxy sports car is the Audi Quattro. The Quattro Sport was born on rally tracks and they sold it as a road going model to homologate it for racing. The Quattro Sport featured 2.1-liter straight five-cylinder engine with a turbocharger and 306 HP in street trim.

It came with a short wheelbase, light body panels and short ratio gearbox. Also, it delivered 306 horses ready to jump in any moment. In fact, the road going Quattro Sport was capable of achieving 0 to 60 mph in just 4.8 seconds.

16. Hummer H1

This one is quite obvious. In 1992, they presented the civilian Hummer H1. It looked almost the same as the military version and it featured the same technology and engine. The power came from a 6.2-liter diesel V8 that produced just 165 HP, but it had loads of torque.

Basically, the only real difference between the military and civilian Hummer was the interior. The street-legal model had a plusher interior with air conditioning, leather upholstery, and a premium audio system.

15. Datsun 510

When Datsun unveiled the 510 in 1967, most people considered the boxy design to be modern and elegant. In fact, this little car was advanced, and not just by its looks, but also by its mechanics and independent rear suspension. The base engine was a 1.6-liter four cylinder with 96 HP.

However, thanks to the 1.8-liter unit with its twin barrel carburetors; this little car had some power and convincing performance. It was also available as a sedan, two-door coupe, and wagon. Soon, it became the popular base for lots of modifications.

14. Ford Flex

The Ford Flex is not exactly a classic car, but it has a place on this list. It features retro styling and enormous interior space with nice features. Also, it comes with powerful engines and even an optional all-wheel-drive system.

The Flex has the recognizable boxy shape, loads of usable space, a great options list and a two-tone exterior. For all the lovers of the station wagon form, this is one of the last true vehicles of this kind.

13. Nissan Pulsar NX Sportbac

One of the most unique ’80s cars was the Nissan Pulsar in the NX Sportbac package. The idea behind this car was to combine a regular two-door coupe with the wagon body style, but not in the “Shooting Brake” kind of way. Nissan decided to make a normal coupe, but add body extensions, which transformed the Pulsar into a wagon.

When Nissan presented it in 1986, the Pulsar Sportback received some positive attention from car consumers. But, eventually, people turned to the more conventional coupe styling. Soon, the wagon canopy addition was less desirable and popular. They discontinued the Sportbac model in 1990. And, it still remains one of the strangest production cars they ever made.

12. Nissan Pao

Even before retro was a thing in car design, Nissan presented an influential and crazy looking compact model they called the Pao. It was only for sale on the Japanese market, so it came in the right-hand-drive configuration.

But the design kind of resembled the Austin Farina or Mini. However, underneath the body, the Pao was an advanced car with an independent suspension and 52 HP engine. Nissan offered the Pao for just three years between 1989 and 1991, making over 50,000 of them.

10. Fiat Ritmo Abarth

The original Italian hot hatch was arguably the Fiat Ritmo Abarth 130. It was the ultimate version of the standard Ritmo compact model they introduced in 1983. In fact, the Ritmo Abarth 130 was one of the fastest, most powerful cars in its class on the European market.

Under the hood was a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with two carburetors, eight valves and 130 HP, which was more than enough for the 2,000-pound curb weight. Also, the power went to the front wheels over a five-speed manual transmission. And to top all that off, the Abarth racing department set the suspension for aggressive driving.

9. Honda N-Box Slash

If you are limited by government-proposed dimensions, engine size limits and various other safety regulations, you must find new ways of designing cars. And a good example of that is Honda’s N-Box Slash.

It brings an interesting design to the Kei Car class with its unique looks. Honda made a big effort to squeeze every last millimeter of usable space from this vehicle. Best of all, you could option it with red leather seats and even a modular interior, so you can turn it into a lounge.

8. Ford F-150 Lightning

The Ford F-150 Lightning is a legendary truck. It wasn’t the first of Ford’s limited-edition trucks but it was the best. Ford made the first generation they sold from 1990 to 1995 a true automotive icon. The basic idea was to make a muscle truck using a regular F-150. Ford put a lot of effort into designing and producing the first generation F-150 Lightning.

First, there was the engine, a 5.8-liter V8 unit with GT40 heads and a special camshaft. The power output was 240 HP with 340 lb-ft of torque. But, the Lightning had a revised suspension and transmission that translated to awe-inspiring acceleration times.

7. Suzuki Alto Turbo RS

Suzuki sold the Alto outside Japan as a compact car. But in Japan, it is still a Kei Car with one interesting version, the Alto Turbo RS. It is a hot hatch with five doors, three cylinders, aggressive looks, and an all-wheel-drive option.

Unfortunately, it comes with a lackluster 63 HP, 660 CCM turbo engine, which not many owners appreciate. The legal limit for modern Kei Cars is 63 HP, but most manufacturers offer tunable engines. They are easy to modify to close or over 100 HP, so owners can enjoy some real performance. And this is the case with the Turbo RS.

6. Chevrolet C/K Square Body

People colloquially called the C/K the “Square Body” for its boxy design. And in fact, the third generation C/K featured a computer-designed body with more space and comfort than ever before. Also, the truck was bigger and tougher due to the new platform, revised suspension, and tougher axles.

Customers had numerous cab configurations, special editions, engine options and details to choose from, too. All that made the third generation C/K one of the best trucks in the world at that time. Chevy produced it from 1973 to 1991 in the USA. However, also built this model in Argentina, Chile, Mexico and South Korea.

During the long production run, Chevrolet introduced the diesel engine as an option, which proved to be highly popular in Europe and South America. Today, most of the trucks are worn out, but those well-preserved examples are fetching high prices since people fondly remember those utilitarian trucks.

5. Ford Bronco

Ford started offering the Bronco in 1966, but in 1979, Ford introduced a new generation which they sold until 1986. Along the Chevrolet Blazer, the Bronco is the quintessential American compact SUV of the ’80s. Like all cars of this market segment, the Bronco was a tough and well-engineered SUV built on a truck chassis with heavy-duty components.

Customers used most Broncos as off-road vehicles or law enforcement transportation, which explains why well-preserved examples are so rare. And rare means expensive, so if you want to own proper Bronco, you should act fast.

4. Chevrolet Nova

This is not about the classic late ’60s Nova that’s a well-known, popular model. This is about the 1985 to 1988 Chevrolet Nova, which is a forgotten and obscure model. So, if you think you have seen this car before, you are probably right. You did see it, but with a Toyota badge on the grille.

The reason is that they built this Nova in California, in a plant Toyota and Chevrolet shared. In fact, the Nova was just Chevrolet’s version of the Toyota Corolla. And in fact, it was a clever plan. In an effort to fight those import cars, Chevrolet imported an import, selling it as their own model. However, despite the good initial sales and highly praised Twin Cam version, the market simply forgot about the Nova.

3. Dodge Raider

Dodge was always big in the SUV and truck market with various model offerings over the years. Since the Ramcharger SUVs and Ram trucks were popular, well-received cars, it is strange that the company decided to clone the Mitsubishi Pajero as a Dodge Raider in 1987. They produced the Dodge Raider in Japan, importing it to the U.S. as a Dodge.

In fact, the only real difference between the Raider and the Pajero are the badges. It was available as a shorter, three-door version with a 3.0 V6 engine. As expected, the Dodge Raider handled and drove identical to the Pajero, but the sales results weren’t that good. So in 1989, they discontinued the model and people soon forgot it.

2. Lincoln Town Car

The early ’80s brought some much-needed downsizing to American sedans. Those enormous cars with monster engines were a thing of the past. Lincoln responded by presenting the popular Town Car they built on Ford’s venerable Panther platform. They powered it with a 5.0-liter V8.

The Town Car was a recognizable boxy shaped sedan with a big chrome grille and bumpers. A comfortable ride, it was a typically-styled luxury model and buyers loved its proportions, soft ride, and plush interior.

1. Dodge Dynasty

The late ’80s Dodge Dynasty is an obscure Dodge model for a reason. It was nothing special with a front-wheel-drive platform, compact dimensions, boxy styling, and three engine choices. Under the hood, buyers could get a 2.5-liter or 3.0-liter V6 by Mitsubishi or a 3.3-liter V6 engine. The Dynasty was a mid-size model that replaced the Dodge 600 series yet it didn’t have much to offer to the customers.

Dodge introduced it in 1988 and discontinued it in 1993. Interestingly, the Dynasty appeared at a strange time during Dodge’s history. It was the end of the ‘80s, so Dodge was ready to introduce many new models for the upcoming decade. But even though the Dynasty was an economy car with some luxury details, it failed to hit the mark.

Yes, it is hip to be square thanks to the best boxy cars of all time. Did you find your favorite? Although not exactly aerodynamic, these cars are classics with a unique charm.

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