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10 Domestic Car Designs From The 80s That Were Way Out There (And 10 That Still Look Good Today)

The 1980s saw domestic car makers implement changes in technology and design that yielded mixed results.

When it comes to battle of the decades, the 80s weren’t the greatest when it came to taste or anything for that matter. Admit it when you think of the 80s, not a whole lot of good things come to mind. To put it nicely, the 80s were known for pretty much being all around tacky. From the mullets, bad perms and shoulder pads right down to the car designs were all equally as bad, with very few exceptions. Perhaps some of the music and film was pretty good. Maybe that can be the decade's redemption after all.

The boxy designs, harsh lines and underpowered engines were a common denominator in the 80s vehicles. By the mid 80s muscle cars were just starting to make its way back into circulation after being virtually wiped off the map due to the oil crisis in the 70’s and the introduction of the catalytic convertor. Some car manufactures seemed to be a bit ahead of their time in the 80s, while some seemed to be stuck in the past and couldn’t let go of the 70s. Here we will take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly of the 80’s, a few models even make the list more than once.

20 The Elderly Ford Thunderbird

via thunderbird.com

The Ford T-bird was the car to have in the 50s and 60s, with styling then that resembled more of an import, it was was designed to according to Concept Car to compete with Chevys Corvette.  After the oil crisis in the early 70s a lot of cars designs changed, most not for the better.

The Ford thunderbird went through a serious ugly phase in the early 80s, resembling a huge boat that we might find one of our grandparents driving.

Luckily later that decade the Thunderbird had a serious glow-up and even later on makes the good looking part of the list.

19 The Slow Dodge Shelby Charger

via bangshift.com

When you mention a Dodge Charger, one might think of the new SRT’s, Hellcats or Demons. They might even think of the old style chargers, like the one the Vin Diesel totalled in “The Fast and the Furious.” The last Charger one would probably think of was the mid-eighties hatch back body style charger. Carrol Shelby couldn’t even make this thing fast. According to Shelby Dodge the 2.2-liter engine only made 107 hp and 127 lb/ft of torque, capable of doing a quarter mile in 16.8 seconds at a sad 82 mph.

18 The Unreliable Pontiac Fiero

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Introduced to the world in 1982 as a mid-engine sports car the Pontiac Fiero. Motor1 went to the extreme of labeling it as one the “worst sports cars” and inevitably the Fiero was put to rest after being manufactured for 5 years.

Known for its unreliability, the Fiero had a lot of issues when it came to the cooling and suspension systems.

Not to mention it was expensive to maintain. On top of all of this the Fiero wasn’t even fast, the base model Fiero was able to do zero-to-60 in an unimpressive 11.3 seconds.

17 The Ugly Duckling Ford Mustang

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The Fox body style was the third generation of the Ford Mustang, and was produced between the years of 1979-1993. When you think of a Mustang, the last thing you might think of is good fuel mileage, but according to Motor Authority, Ford offered their Mustang in a 2.3 four-cylinder model, which got up to 33 miles per gallon on the highway, up to 23 in the city. That was really the only selling point, as the Mustang was just plain ugly.

16 The Funny Looking Ford Pinto Rallye Cruising Wagon

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The only thing that is worse than the Ford Pinto, was the wagon version. The cruising wagon had a porthole window in the back that resembled one you would see on Ford’ Cargo Vans, which made it just that more creepy.

The Ford Pinto Rallye Cruising Wagon was produced for just four years.

It was an all around confusing car, as it was styled to look fast but it wasn't. The cruising wagon was a rear-wheel drive vehicle that has a 2.3-liter engine that was capable of making only 88 hp and 119 lb/ft of torque, capable of running a quarter mile time in and unimpressive 19.4 seconds.

15 AMC Eagle 4x4 Wagon

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Long before Subaru came out with their all-wheel drive sport wagons, there was a another four-wheel drive wagon that once existed. Eagle took a gamble and decided to try their 4x4 technology, that we now see in Jeeps in a station wagon; the AMC Eagle wagon 4x4 was born.The wagons intentions were to be trail worthy, according to All Par the wagon had seven inches of ground clearance, was rustproof and made 210 lb/ft of torque at just 1800 rpm. Even more rare is the diesel version, which according to Road & Track only 7 were sold in 1980 due to high price.

14 The Mustang's Ugly Sister, Mercury Capri RS

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Mercury was once a division of Ford, the Mercury Capri was nicknamed the Mustang’s sister. According to Jalopnik it was just basically a rebadged Mustang with a few minor differences, like the flared front fenders and different taillight design. In 1984 the Mercury Capri came in two engine options, a 5.0-liter V8 that made 175 hp and 245 lb/ft of torque that got 20 MPG. The turbocharged 2.3-liter engine that made 175 hp and 210 lb/ft of torque, and was a bit more fuel efficient getting 25 MPG

13 The Poor Buick Skylark

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The Skylark was an iconic car in the 50s and 60s often being showcased in movies like “9 to 5” or “My Cousin Vinny” .

When the 70s came around things started to get a bit weird, but when the 80s rolled around the Buick Skylark took a turn for the worse.

The X-body was to put it nicely ugly. The Skylark was not only ugly but it was slow, according to Automobile Catalog the 2.8-liter engine made 115 hp and 145 lb/ft of torque.

12 The Impractical DeLorean

via motor1.com

The DeLorean is a bit of a stretch when it comes to labeling it as a domestics car considering it was built in Northern Ireland, but since it was made only for the American market, we will let it slide. One thing a majority of the population can agree on, was the DeLorean was a fail, going bankrupt after designing just one car, the DMC-12. The DMC-12 was made famous after being in the movie “Back to the Future.” The DMC-12 may have looked like a time machine, but fact of the matter was the DMC-12 was slow, according to Car and Driver only capable of making 130 hp and expensive costing $25,000 in the early 80s.

11 The Cadillac Seville

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The Cadillac Seville was completely redesigned for the 80s. Ahead of it’s time the Seville has an electronic climate control system that allowed you to adjust the temperature by one degree, and was marketed boasting about its comfort and roominess. According to Auto Week, the Seville gained a “bustle-back” trunk in the 80s, now resembling the car that Cruella Deville drove in 101 Dalmatians, and making is just plain atrocious, no matter how comfortable it may have been.

10 The Still Rocking IROC Camaro

via learninherbie.com

One of the most iconic sports cars of the 80’s in the IROC Camaro, IROC standing for International Race Of Champions.

According to Hemmings, 1988 Chevy offered two engine options; a 305 V8 capable of making 220 hp or a 350 V8 capable of making 230 hp.

Not offered to the general public until 1992 was another option called the 1LE, that could only be ordered after ordering a combination of different options and knowing a secret handshake; and in 1988, the first year offered, only 4 1LE’s were produced.

9 The Timeless Ford Mustang GT Fox Body

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Another vehicle to make the list more than once is the Ford Mustang GT Fox Body style. In 1982 Ford brought back the redesigned Mustang GT, to replace the then Cobra model. The GT was equipped with a 5.0-liter engine, using the slogan “The Boss is Back” to market its comeback. According to CJ Pony Parts the 5.0 in 1982 was capable of making 157 hp at 4200 rpm and 240 lb/ft of torque at 2400 rpm, which we know Ford has improved on these numbers since then.

8 The Bossy Buick Grand National

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The Buick Grand National came one way, black on black with all black everything. The Buick Grand National had a turbocharged V6 that cranked out a still impressive 245 and 355 lb/ft of torque; running a quarter mile in 14.23 seconds. The GSX edition that was made in 1987, according to Road and Track only 500 were made, and made 276 HP and 360 lb/ft of torque According to Top Speed, and has recently been sold for as much as 165k at Barrett-Jackson, making it the most expensive Buick GNX ever sold. It had only 362 miles, and even still had the dealer sticker in the window

7 The Classic Monte Carlo

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The Chevy Monte Carlo was once the design Chevy used for their stock car racing. The Monte Carlo began its work in NASCAR back in the early 70’s and according to AutoSport, is responsible for at least 396 wins.

Back in 1983 the SS edition of Chevy Monte Carlo was reintroduced, after going on hiatus for a bit due to the oil crisis in the 70s.

The SS came standard with a LS 5.0-liter V8 engine that could produce 150 hp and 240 lb/ft of torque. Over thirty years later it is still a sought after vehicle.

6 The Sporty Shelby Daytona

Via motortopia.com

Carrol Shelby seemed to have a hand in building just about anything in the 80’s, even dabbling with the Mopar brand a bit. The Shelby Daytona Turbo was produced for just few years. The front wheel drive Turbo Z had a turbocharged 2.2-liter engine that made 142 hp and 160 lb/ft of torque, which may not seem all that impressive but considering how light it was, according to Hemmings, it was capable of doing zero to 60 miles per hour in just 8.5 seconds.

5 The Iconic Pontiac Firebird

via modernclassics.com

Back in the 80s the Pontiac Firebird was made famous by co-starring with David Hasselhoff in the hit show “Knight Rider.” The Firebird was an artificial intelligence, named “KITT” in the show and and helped make it one of the most desirable sports cars of the decade. According to Carfolio, the Firebird had the option to add a snotty 5.0-liter engine that made 150 hp at 4200 rmp and 239 lb/ft of torque at just 2200 rpm. The Firebird was always Pontiac's most iconic car.

4 The Cutting Edge Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe

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The Ford Thunderbird makes the list yet again, but this time for a good reason. Back in 1987 the Ford Thunderbird Turbo coupe seemed a bit ahead of its time, and was even crowned Motor Trend Car of the Year.

According to Jalopnik, the coupe came standard with a computerized suspension system, and the option to add a fun little turbocharged engine in lieu of the 5.0-liter V8.

The inline turbo 2.3-liter engine was capable of making 190 hp and 240 lb/ft of torque.

3 Pontiac Grand Prix 2+2

via motortopia.com

Back in 1986 Pontiac released a new edition of the Grand Prix calling it the 2+2, which was a more aerodynamic design. According to Hemming only 1,225 were built, and they were all built exactly the same way. According to Motor1 every 2+2 came painted two-tone silver and charcoal grey with a red accents decals, and with a set of Rally II wheels. Under the hood the 2+2 packed a 305 liter 5.0-liter V8 that made 165 hp at 4,200 and 245 lb/ft of torque at 2, 400 rpms.

2 The Still Cool Mustang Cobra

via hemmings.com

Developed in the late 70s Ford released the Cobra edition of their Mustang. According to CJ Pony Parts the early 80s Cobra’s design was inspired by the 1979 pace car. The Cobra was eventually replaced by the GT model, but made a return in the early 90s The Mustang Cobra had two engine options, according to Automobile Catalog 2.3-liter turbo 120 ho and 145 lb/ft of torque and the 4.2-liter V8 that made 119 hp and 194 lb/ft of torque, zero-to-60 in 12.4 seconds.

1 The Tough Oldsmobile 442

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Oldsmobile was in it’s prime in the 80s, which is was bragging rights as everything seemed to be terrible in the 80s. According to Hemmings, Oldsmobile stole the number two spot from Ford in production sales, when they produced almost 1.2 million cars in 1985. The 442 came with a 307 V8 that after a could years of tweaking could make 170 hp at 4000 rpm and 250 lb/ft of torque at 2600 rpm, and was capable of 0-to- sixty in 9.1 seconds.

Sources: ConceptCarz.com, ShelbyDodge.com, Motor1.com, RoadandTrack.com, Hemmings.com

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