By on January 25, 2018

Image: 1980 Pontiac Bonneville CoupeWe introduced the new Buy/Drive/Burn series back in December via a QOTD post (read that first for the rules). Shortly afterwards, the inaugural post in the series tackled the destruction of one of a trio of new luxury coupes. Those powerful and modern coupes are at the higher end of the market, which is just about the only place one finds luxury coupes today.

It wasn’t always that way — there used to be personal luxury for the masses. Coupes in the finest brougham tradition, exuding class, elegance, and sophistication. One of the best years for the personal luxury coupe (PLC) was 1980, right at the height of malaise and the downsizing trend. All are superb vehicles, surely. Which one burns, and which goes in your driveway, and which do you simply borrow from a friend?

And no, the Bonneville isn’t in the running. Too easy.

Ford Thunderbird Town Landau

Image: 1980 Ford Thunderbird Town LandauStarting off our trio from the Big Three is the Ford Thunderbird Town Landau coupe. The new for ’80 eighth-generation luxury coupe from Ford showed new focus on being right-sized and fuel efficient. It was considerably smaller (17″ in length) than the prior T-Bird, which shared its underpinnings with the LTD II. Engine size shrunk from 6.6 liters to either the 4.2- or 5.0-liter Windsor V8. The ninth-generation Thunderbird couldn’t come fast enough.

Chevrolet Monte Carlo

Image: 1980 Chevrolet Monte CarloChevrolet brought a revised Monte Carlo to dealer lots in 1980, a modification to the downsized (and short-lived) third generation of 1978-81. 1980 saw the debut of more acceptable corporate GM styling with a more formal edge. Engines were plentiful: a 3.75-liter Chevy V6, the 3.8-liter turbo Buick mill, a 4300 V6, and a 5.0-liter V8 (5.7-liter diesels were added in the move to the G-body in ’82). At a tidy 200 inches in length, the Monte Carlo was the same size as the Thunderbird and considerably smaller than the Cordoba.

Chrysler CordobaImage: 1980 Chrysler CordobaAlso new for 1980, Chrysler’s Cordoba was now in its second generation. Shrinking just six inches over the prior generation, it was available with the slow and steady 3.7-liter Slant 6 engine (95 horsepower), or a 5.2-liter (318) V8 with 120 horsepower. The Cordoba’s days were numbered. While Ford and Chevrolet corrected their cars’ issues, Chrysler saw the way forward in front-drive K-Car models and left development of the rear-drive PLC off the table entirely. The Cordoba vanished from dealers after 1983.

There they are, contestants. Three PLCs from the age of brown, polyester, and California smog. Which of these is the Buy, Drive, and Burn?

[Images: General Motors, Ford, Chrysler]

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116 Comments on “Buy/Drive/Burn: Selecting a Malaise Coupe From 1980...”


  • avatar
    doctorv8

    “Chevrolet brought a brand new, fourth-generation Monte Carlo to dealer lots in 1980”

    Ummm, no, Corey. While the _1981_ car was a significant overhaul with all new sheetmetal, it still retained the A body platform from 1978, so even that was hardly “brand new,” though for some reason Wikipedia does list it as a “4th Gen.”

    As for the 1980 model you covered, since when does a new quad headlight front fascia pass as a “brand new” model? Mid cycle refresh, at best.

  • avatar
    cicero1

    burn them all. Done.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Buy: Monte Carlo

    Drive: Cordoba

    Burn: The ugliest Thunderbird ever

    Pretty easy choice.

  • avatar
    RedRocket

    All 3 are losers in their own way. The Fox-based T-bird was unspeakably ugly with its fat-hipped body and awkward proportions. The Monte was overdone style-wise with the swoops and bulges, and its rear end always looked to me like the rear section of the frame had let go (which these did with alarming regularity a few years along in the salt belt). The Cordoba suffered from Chrysler’s near-bankruptcy and resultant lack of development and engineering effort, along with its usual shoddy material and build quality.

    Of the 3, I would take the Cordoba simply for its clean styling compared to the others. It was a good design for the era, and you could still get Corinthian leather inside!

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Burn them all, I would not be seen dead in one of those baroque barges.

    The love of kitsch around here is baffling and a little bit icky.

    • 0 avatar

      Fail!

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      The reasons we love Brougham crap IMO –

      One: We’re old. I will admit to owning two of these (well, one was a Fairmont but essentially the same lump). They were used but not rusted and had less than 50k miles (the end of life for most engines at this era).

      Two: We grew up this side of Cali (most of us). My fathers truck was a Datsun, and anything for-een that wasn’t a Bug was strange. The one weirdo with the Volvo was looked at sideways.

      Three: The real ‘Merican cars pre-1972 were mostly off-limits to us. The prices on actual muscle were skyrocketing, and our parents didn’t want us playing Don Garlits. 100 brake horsepower (optimistically) was just fine with them. So, we bought used cars that made V8 noises and had chrome, stickers, and fat-exhaust tips. Then we raised the rear with air-shocks and cruised McDonald’s and tried to hide from the country kids that came to town with their hand-me-down big-block Chevelle. This was life pre-internet.

      Full Disclosure: I walked home a lot. A couple of my coupes (here’s lookin’ at you GM!) actively tried to kill me. Ever felt a brake pedal go suddenly to the floor? Mid-turn? Downhill in oncoming traffic? Exhilarating. We build excitement!

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Nostalgia’s a funny thing – it’s easy to be nostalgic for young-uns like Corey. They grew up in a time when there was a whole range of great cars to choose from.

        At the end of the day, they can admire something like a Monte Carlo that was built like crap, steered and handled like crap, and ran marginally better than crap, and say “well, isn’t that a cool blast from the past.” And then they climb into their $20,000 midsize car that would run rings around a top of the line early-’80s German luxury sedan.

        When all you have to choose from is junk, it isn’t that quaint a memory.

        We have it so damn good these days.

        • 0 avatar

          I am under no delusions that these are good! I think they’re relics from a time when it was *all* bad like you mention. The painful thing is having to purchase something which you knew wasn’t any good, because that’s all there was.

          You Malaise pioneers had it bad.

          • 0 avatar
            geozinger

            It sucked. At least for me, I hung on to my older (pre 1974) cars as long as I could, although that was no panacea, either.

            As with my 1980 Capri RS turbo, if you were lucky you got a year or so of good running. Then the repairs and other bills started. And best of all, you were paying 18% on your four year loan. And that was a pretty decent rate!

            I gotta agree with Freed Mike. We DO have it so damned good these days…

          • 0 avatar

            At least the piece of crap 2008 economy I was given to start a career had decent cars and low interest rates, and a bad housing market to make it easier to buy in.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            @Corey:
            Seriously! You lucked out if you bought in 2008. If I hadn’t been going through the end of my marriage and subsequent divorce from 2008-12 (better known as The Dark Times), I could have cleaned up on Denver real estate.

            Now, even if I could find something decent that I could afford comfortably, there’s no way in hell I’d buy it with this market. I sense way too much bubble going on.

            (Now, if we land Amazon, that’s another story – maybe I’d prostrate myself financially.)

            My girlfriend has it even worse – she got divorced around the same time I did, and had to sell her place. She got $190,000 for it in 2009. It’s now worth north of $400,000…and the neighborhood is anything but hot and trendy. This market around here is Looney Tunes.

  • avatar
    ccc555

    Were Regals, Cutlasses and Gran Prix coupes available in 1980? All looked better than the Monte Carlo and this time was really all about looks. I would own one of those 3 but not the Chevy.

    I would take a Cordoba with T Tops which at the time was probably pretty cool when they didn’t leak. Would borrow that one because Chrysler made really lousy cars around that time.

    Burn the Ford – looks awful.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    “Cordoba, as fine an automobile as I am an actor” – Somebody on SNL aping Ricardo Montalbán WOW, that 318 was down to nothing by 1980. I was a teenager when they came out and I drove a ‘77 that belonged to a friend. I was used to my 440 GTX so the Cordoba was underwhelming in the power dept. It was comfortable though and suffered from Mickey Mouse brakes, which wasn’t uncommon back then. And yes it had the soft (not “rich” btw) Corinthian leather. I would drive one if I had to, plus they still had hood ornaments!

  • avatar

    The Lincoln Mark VI Coupe was available ’80-’83 AND there was a Lincoln Town Coupe for 1980 and 1981! Using the uglybird isn’t very sporting. Then you have the 1984 Mark VII produced into the early 90’s. One of the members of GrandMarq.net that I know just got one of the Diesel Mark VIIes with the BMW motor in pretty good shape.

  • avatar
    4drSedan

    I had a 1981 Pontiac Grand Prix. It was as I recall a relatively nice looking car although the window regulators rattled from about the first month. It was also equipped with the 3800 V6 with the ‘whiplash’ 2 barrel carb. When you pressed the gas, nothing for a second until the carb caught up then it would snap your head back hence the name. Sold it quickly.

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      I’m glad to see this, as former 81 Regal owner. I thought my car was weird with the kickdown, but apparently…. in typical GM fashion….”they all do that”

      3spd auto, steep rear end ( not sure what it was, too lazy to internet it) and 110 ponies from the factory in 3.8 form. Through the newfangled electronic carb. Is it any wonder people ran from GM in the 80’s?

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      The first year of the Computer Command Control carbs was 1981, and they had issues! By 1983, the Regal Sedan my Dad drove only had a tendency to hesitate at the first takeoff from a “Stop” sign after the car had been cold-started. (The carb in his 1986 Century 2.8L which followed had a problem which eventually would have been addressed by a TSB, but he had defected to the Honda camp a few years prior, and hasn’t looked back!)

  • avatar
    deanst

    I like these cars more now than when they were first introduced. The overwrought styling of today makes them look clean and attractive.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    Tempting as it may be to burn the Cordoba, I think I would have to kill the T-bird with fire. It is simply horrendous to witness.

    Borrow the Cordoba

    Buy the Monte Carlo.

    As I recall from my childhood, my parents 1980 fleet was comprised of a Escort wagon and a mustang.

    Like the idea for this series. Tough with three cars we might like to burn. Probably tougher though with three cars we might like to buy.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Buy: Cordoba (esp. with 318)

    Drive: Monte Carlo (esp. with 305)

    Burn: Fat T bird

    • 0 avatar

      (This is the correct answer.)

      • 0 avatar
        MoparRocker74

        Cordoba (and Mirada, possibly the Imperial) was available with the 360 for ‘80 only. Insist on a so- equipped LS with buckets, floor shift, lack of all brougham nuggets and you have your correct answer!!

        • 0 avatar
          geozinger

          Remember how much gas cost in 1980? The Leaning Tower of Power wasn’t anymore and it struggled to move these things. At least the 318 wasn’t a total gas hog like the 360. My FIL had these as company cars back in the day, so I remember them pretty well.

          But yes, fuel prices aside, a 360 J body Mopar would have been pretty sweet.

          • 0 avatar
            MoparRocker74

            I was 6y/o in ’80 so that’s my perspective. That said, a 360 isn’t THAT much worse on gas than a 318…neither is a VW Rabbit.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    My god cars have improved immeasurably in the past 38 years. 120hp from 5.2 liters, yaaahooo! Even the “styling” is wretched.

    Burn the Chevy, it’s the worst looking of the homely lot. Absolutely disgusting.

    Drive the Ford. It would probably be fun to thrash until the undersized brakes gave out or the whole boat wallowed laterally into a ditch.

    Buy the Chrysler. The Montalban halo effect is probably the nicest aspect of this trio and the light tan interior is far preferable to the eighties blues and reds in the other two.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    Any other examples? We had a couple of Delta 88 coupes that weren’t bad although the ’80 was worse than the ’77. A bonus for Sajeev the ’77 was 70s brown. Any GM diesel or cylinder deactivation is an automatic burn.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Various Wikipedia articles refer to new sheetmetal for the ’80 B-bodies to make them more aerodynamic–the changes are almost imperceptible to me–but I’ve also seen message board comments to the effect that the cars were cheapened in terms of some mechanicals. If that was the case, your family’s experience may reflect it.

      C-body rather than B, but at a parking deck I occasionally use, I’ve seen a Ninety-Eight coupe several times over the past few months. It’s in “good driver” shape and appears to be getting at least semi-regular use.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        I would love a Ninety-Eight coupe, the last RWD from the early 80s. Those long thin tail lamps just look so awesome. I thought about putting an LED strip around the borders of those lights for running lights (similar to what present-day Charger and Durango have) and have an LED panel in the middle as brake/signal lamps.

        That car would look so sweet going by you at night with the running lights accentuating the shape of those classic taillights. The dual exhaust burbling from the retro-fitted big block Olds Rocket providing the perfect sound track. Maybe a little bump bump bump from the trunk too.

      • 0 avatar
        bufguy

        The 1980 restyle of the B body coupes was a failure in my mind…The previous 77-79 LeSabre with is sporty sloping backlight and the Caprice folded glass backlight were so much nicer than the GM corporate”formal” roofline they were applying to virtually all of their cars through the 80’s

        • 0 avatar
          Featherston

          I hadn’t remembered the coupes changed that much until I did an image search. It was the sedans that looked almost unchanged.

          My opinion is that GM designed the ’77 B- and C-bodies first and foremost as sedans, drawing on the ’75 Seville for inspiration. The proportions of neither the ’77 nor the ’80 coupes look quite right to my eye. Compare that to, e.g., the ’65 Impala. The 2-door hardtop is clearly the pick of the litter (putting aside convertibles for purposes of this discussion).

          https://ccco.s3.amazonaws.com/kb_photos/167/1321_1965_Chevrolet_Full_Size-20_low_res.jpg

  • avatar
    N8iveVA

    While I actually kind of like that body style of T-bird, what I would really love is a clean example of the Cordoba’s twin, the Dodge Mirada. Always loved the look of that car.

    https://autopolis.wordpress.com/2009/11/16/1980-1983-dodge-mirada/

    And burn that droopy butt Monte

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      And good luck finding a “clean” one…these were JUNK. My aunt’s family was all loyal Chrysler buyers until she got a Cordoba from this era. It fell apart as you drove it. Just awful.

  • avatar

    Fairmont/Zephyr & Monarch/Granada were still in production in coupe form, and you could option those way up too. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Fairmont & https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Granada_(North_America)

  • avatar
    incautious

    The coupe to buy in 1980 was the Dodge Mirada CMX With T tops and the 360!

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      Interesting. Still, ugly as it was, I wanted a white/red Magnum, this car’s predecessor.

      It was so disco you could feel chest hair sprouting as your chains blew in the wind from the open T-Tops.

  • avatar
    BunkerMan

    Buy: Monte Carlo. I just like the look of them. I had more than one friend in high school that had one.

    Burn: Cordoba. Every time I see one of these, a bit of vomit comes up in my throat.

    Drive: Thunderbird. Mostly because of how much I dislike the Cordoba.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    Buy the Cordoba for display in the “Last of the Old-School Chryslers” museum. Drive the Monte Carlo because the powertrain probably still operates even if the rest of it is crap. Burn the Thunderbird as well as all Ford products newer than 1959 with that stupid squared-off roof that Henry the Deuce loved so much.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I’ll go with this, with modifications (all are on the same platform):

    Buy: 1980 Regal Turbo (or the Grand Prix – either is WAY better looking than the Monte)
    Drive: 1980 Dodge Mirada with the T-tops (awful but sexy)
    Burn: T-bird

    But let’s be honest here – ALL of these cars were all pretty much pure crap, especially the Cordoba/Mirada. At least the A-bodies and T-bird were fairly reliable by the limp standards of the time.

  • avatar
    Blackcloud_9

    Buy: Cordoba – who can resist fine Corinthian leather.
    Drive: Monte Carlo – because I’m more of a GM guy than Ford
    Burn: Thunderbird – See above

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Acccccccccckkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk! Give me a B-body from 1979 when I could still get a 350 cubic in plus engine!

    Drive: Monte Carlo – make sure it’s the 4 barrel 305

    Buy: Cordoba – cause I ain’t Sinatra in his bustle back Imperial

    Burn: T-bird – no one will remember it existed in 30 years anyway

  • avatar
    paxman356

    Buy: Monte

    I owned a ’78 Monte, light blue, white Landau top, 305 V8. Delivered pizza in it, still got a respectable 19mpg all day long. This was my second car, my first was a Chevette Scooter. I think the rear speaker openings were 6×9, although they may have been 4×10. Still had a relatively cheap rockin’ system in it. Sure, nostalgia would be a factor, but t-tops are available… and how cool were you in the 80s if you had t-tops?

    Drive: Corinthian Leather

    I’d borrow it when I needed to go somewhere without my wife. She sticks to leather, so we never get a car with it.

    Burn: What comes before thunder? That’s right, lightning. One direct strike would do it. My father instilled in me growing up the three Fs of cars. They were, No: Fords, Front wheel drive, Foreign. This is down to two, since finding a non-front wheel drive car is near impossible, and he bought a Park Ave in the late 80s. So of course a Ford gets to help us make s’mores.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Buy the Cordoba. Something about its styling has always appealed to me (this is all about styling since none of them offer anything other than that to even look into). Plus you can make it look like the Hot Wheels Mirada stocker pretty easily.

    Borrow the Monte Carlo. I have no emotions one way or the other for this particular Monte. I’ve never really been a fan of any generation of the Monte Carlo.

    Burn the T-Bird since it had ventured so far from what it originally was that it should have had a new name.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Buy the Córdoba, but ONLY if it has T-tops. Then customize it. Drop in a computer-controlled 360 from a ‘90s Ram. Drop it just a bit and put on some properly gangster 20s. Shave a bunch of the trim and black it out. Stuff a couple of 15s and a couple of 10s into the trunk.

    Drive the Monte Carlo. Recklessly. Into a ditch where it just happens to overturn and catch fire.

    Just set the Bird on fire.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Don’t even have to get as radical as a 360 from a truck. Just get rid of the lean burn crap and put a proper 4 barrel intake and carb on the 318. It will go a long a way toward improving your opinion of the Cordoba.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Pre-electronically controlled engines all need to die in a fire. Computer control is awesome.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          lol I too dream of the day when I can ditch the carb on my ’67 Mustang and put an MSD Atomic EFI on it to match the MSD distributor that is already there.

          I was just trying to make it cheap and easy.

          I have heard that the V8 engine, transmission, and rear axle from a pre-Hemi 4×2 Grand Cherokee will fit in an M-body Chrysler. That would be a sweet setup.

    • 0 avatar
      MoparRocker74

      P-Dan is correct on jailbreaking that 318. I would go further with doing 360 heads, mild cam and full dual exhaust at minimum.

      20” dubs? NO. Taste is subjective but you have to really love the look of big rims (I despise that look) to put up with all of the drawbacks: they’re heavy as FUCK, killing your performance gains from the above mods, they tax your brakes, they ride for shit, the nonexistent sidewalls mean they are dinner for potholes, all the road imperfections transfer right to your suspension beating it to shit, and you’ll chew thru tires like bubble gum. That’s a BIG shit sandwich to eat just so your car can resemble a stagecoach or a steam locomotive.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Three awful choices.

    Buy the Monte Carlo and hope someone will be stupid enough to trade me for a Delta 88.

    Borrow the Cordoba once so I can pretend I’m KKHHHHAAAAAANNNNNNN!

    Burn the thunderbird because no. There were some good Fox body cars. This wasn’t one of them.

  • avatar
    2manycars

    None of the above. I’d go just a little earlier and get a Barcelona or Oleg Cassini edition Matador Coupe.

    https://barnfinds.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/071116-Barn-Finds-1978-AMC-Matador-Barcelona-Edition-1.jpg

  • avatar
    BrentinWA

    Buy, Oldsmobile Tornado w/ the 350, Burn Ford LTD, borrow Chrysler Cordoba.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    My eyes! The goggles do nothing!

    Buy a Cressida coupe (they existed!); drive whichever one manages to start that day; and firebomb Detroit to burn all three.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Buy: Monte Carlo Turbo
    Drive: Cordoba
    Burn: Thunderbird

  • avatar
    Numbers_Matching

    Buy: Monte Carlo (BTW: there was no 4.3L V6 in 1980, only a 3.8L V6, 4.4L V8, 5.0L V8 and of course the 5.7L V8 diesel)
    Drive: T-Bird (5.0L V8 was still available – plus a digital dash to show how advanced you are)
    Burn: Cordoba (Chrysler was on the ropes – bigtime, and it showed)

    My Version:
    Buy: Olds Cutlass 442 (most sporting G-Body at the time)
    Drive: Buick Regal Somerset Lounge Lizard Edition
    Burn: Almost everything else in this category

  • avatar
    Willyam

    My answers are forever tainted with actual experience. I was sullied.

    Buy: Cordoba – Never owned one but worked at a Dodge dealer in the 90s, and learned to love the simplicity of the Slant and 318. Still, stay away from reflective store windows. Ew.

    Drive: Monte Carlo – Will always still like the pimpin G-body, maybe the Chevy drove better than my Pontiac/Olds did.

    Burn: Thunderbird – Yes, the 302 could be great, but greatness was a few years away, and every Ford I owned until 1984 failed in bizarre, heretofore unheard of ways. Water in distributors, freeze plugs escaping to freedom, etc.

  • avatar
    matador

    Buy an AMC Concord, drive a Buick Regal, Burn the Thunderbird, watch the Chrysler catch fire on the back of the tow truck

  • avatar
    slawinlaw

    Buy the T Bird and roll like Charles Bronson in Death Wish 2!
    Borrow the Cordoba and return it to your friend for the inevitable costly repairs.
    Burn the Monte Carlo, because, well, its a Chevy.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    Although I am a sucker for the G-bodies due to owning an 81 Regal, I would not buy the Monte, I’d drive it, though. I thought the Buick was the best looking G-body by far, especially compared to the overdone swoops on this Monte.

    Buy the Cordoba. It’s so ugly it’s beautiful. In an ugly sort of way. But it owns its dying style whereas the burnable T-Bird looks tacked on and tacky.

    Burn the T-Bird. The ugliest and worst of the cars bearing the Thunderbird name. I wasn’t a huge fan of the personal luxobarge cars in the 70’s either, but this ‘Bird is all wrong. At least the ’02 redo tried to hark back to the original car in an odd way.

  • avatar
    Beelzebubba

    BUY- Monte Carlo (although I think the Olds Cutlass was the looker in the family, at least you get the Monte with a 305 4-bbl V8)

    DRIVE- Cordoba- ugly, dated-looking (even for the time) and slow, at least it had a solid powertrain

    BURN- Thunderbird- (hideous to look at and drive, 302 V8 topped out at around 131hp and the new Ford AOD transmission discouraged using any of those horses with harsh shifts, very reluctant downshifts and poor reliability).

    These cars remind me why the Honda Accord was in such high demand at the time. I didn’t start driving until 1990, but my first car was a 1980 Accord and I’d choose it over any of these.

  • avatar
    DM335

    The 80-82 Thunderbird was certainly not the pinnacle of Thunderbird’s success, but the deck is stacked against it with this hideous two-tone (which I think is White over Bittersweet). Someone must have thought it was pretty enough to choose for the brochure. My dad was a Ford dealer then, so I saw lots of good and bad examples. If the padded roof matched the paint, the roof and the rear fenders didn’t look so heavy. Silver with a Silver roof was the best bet. Let’s not think about one my dad drove that was a yellowish cream with a orangey carmel padded roof. Yikes!

    The odds of finding any example of these three that would be worth buying, borrowing or burning are pretty small. Since the Thunderbird shares a lot of parts with Mustangs and Fairmonts, from a parts standpoint it might be the one to buy (that was not a selling point in 1980). From there I would borrow the Monte Carlo and smell the embers of fine Corinthian leather.

  • avatar
    Prado

    Burn the Thunderbird

    Buy the Chrysler – if someone put a gun to my head and said you will buy this.

    Drive the Monte Carlo – to a Low Rider show and try to sell it for $1500

  • avatar
    tonyola

    I don’t care about the rules. Buy the Pontiac if it’s properly equipped – gauges, moonroof, handling package, etc.

    Drive the Chrysler – it’s not bad looking but i wouldn’t want the repair bills. After all, this is when the automaker hit bottom.

    Burn the T-Bird and especially the Monte Carlo – malaisey styling nasties.

  • avatar
    MoparRocker74

    Burn—T-Bird. No salvation for this turd.

    Drive—Monte, only because Im playing by the rules.

    Buy—Cordoba, conditions apply: MUST be the LS trim (with the crosshairs nosecone), slicktop, buckets, console with floor shift, alloys and the 360. YES, the 360 was available on the ‘80 J body coupes.

    I actually like the Doba LS and it’s cousin the Mirada, provided they’re fleshed out in a sporty, pseudo muscle car flavor, vs the usual gaudy gingerbread encrusted broughammed out luxo barge flavor that was more common in those days.

    • 0 avatar
      MoparRocker74

      http://www.curbsideclassic.com/blog/cc-capsule/cc-capsule-part-2-1981-chrysler-cordoba-ls-introducing-darlene/

      On the outside, this one is just a set of Keystone mags and a California rake away from the ‘Doba Id like to own.

  • avatar
    readallover

    Anything but the Thundermont, er, Fairbird.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    Although the Monte is probably the better car, I’d burn it just because they were so common, plus every other GM division had its near clone.

    I’d drive the Thunderbird, just because it would be an interesting survivor relic.

    The Cordoba I’d buy. That generation wasn’t all that common which would make it even more unique today. Plus soft Corinthian leather, etc. The Broughamiest, and the more imposing and classically proportioned of the 3.

  • avatar
    cbrworm

    Having driven all of these when they were relatively new and knowing people who owned them, I’ll have to remove myself from the competition. That being said, burn them all.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Having owned/leased/company supplied multiple PLC’s from each of the D3 during the mid 70’s to early 80’s I can say that Corey set this one up for us all to fail. Asking us to pick from a particularly ugly litter.

    That generation of T-Bird basically destroyed the cachet of that name. Perhaps for eternity? Yes my 7th generation was a brutally unreliable vehicle. But it still had what passed for elegance and good looks and a T-Bird was still an aspirational vehicle. The 8th generation was just awful and destroyed the reputation of the name. Burn.

    The Cordoba in this iteration lost what made it a success. Its lines and good (for that era) looks. The 1st generation Cordoba was considered exceptionally good looking for its time. And in the previous, better looking Cordoba you could get not only the 360 but also a 400 cubic inch motor. Flip the air filter cover and it also sounded pretty good. Unfortunately would choose this as a leased Drive.

    The Monte Carlo was the least desirable of GM’s PLC offerings. Hence I ended up with a Grand Prix, which was but a pale imitation of the 1976 SJ with the ‘big’ engine that I had had a few years earlier. But the GM would be running long after the other 2 and if not too rusty would still have a lot of people wanting to own one. So it’s the Buy.

    Thus ended my complete enthrallment with PLC’s, with the exception of a T-Bird Fila Edition.

    • 0 avatar

      I know you still have that Fila jacket, right?

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Ice ice baby.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Came with a FILA athletic bag with sundry swag. All now long gone.

        But still have a leather ‘bomber’ jacket with the Cadillac logo in gold over the left breast. Came with the least of an STS and The Old Man gave me the jacket as GM Canada did not have one that could fit him.

        Corey, I truly wish that you had picked ’75 or ’76 as those were peak PLC years. It would have allowed the younger members of the B&B to appreciate them in all of their Brougham glory.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      “…which was but a pale imitation of the 1976 SJ with the ‘big’ engine that I had had a few years earlier.”

      Worth watching: youtu.be/X0SM04kYKqA?t=486

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        @Featherston: Thanks for that link. Pure enjoyment. My SJ also had the white interior but a blue paint job. Could really ‘lay a patch’ on launch. Did not have the T-Roof but otherwise was ‘fully’ loaded. The instrumentation was considered quite exotic. The dashboard actually had a little plaque that said ‘Radial Tuned Suspension.

        Got rid of it after 2 of the Firestone 500 Radials blew out (not at once, two separate incidents) at highway speed. Yes once upon a time you could actually drive fast on the Don Valley Parkway.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        I went to my HS prom in one of those. My date’s mother graciously lent us her 76 GP SJ with 400 (IIRC?). Gold with white vinyl landau top, white leather interior, T-tops, all the toys. (Her mother really liked me…)

        As high school kids were prone to do back then, I stole a bottle of liquor from my folks’ cabinet, she had a few joints handy. We saw some other classmates on our way to the dance, we decided an impromptu drag race between the GP and a Lincoln Continental was in order.

        We blew their freakin’ doors off…

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Buy the T-bird and then stuff it with all the Mustang suspension goodies and a Coyote.

    Burn the Cordoba

    Drive the Monte off a cliff.

  • avatar
    427Cobra

    had a ’78 Pontiac Grand LeMans with the 305 in it… two-tone paint, factory mags, crushed velour interior… great car. Had 235k on it when I sold it in 1990… only ever minor repairs. Moved on to an ’81 Thunderbird Landau with the 302 in it… not my favorite car… lots of electrical (duraspark)problems. From there, moved on to an ’87 Taurus… MUCH better car, in every way.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Oh dear god. The only way to win is not to play. But if I have to, may as well go full brougham: Buy the Cordoba’s Corinthian leather to relive my Fantasy Island…fantasies.

    Drive the MC, because it will probably suck slightly less than the Bird.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I’ve owned two of the three, a Monte Carlo and the basically identical to Cordoba, a Mirada. The Monte was objectively the better car, but the Mirada was cool and unique. Were I do it again:

    Buy Cordoba
    Drive Monte
    Burn the hideous bird.

  • avatar
    Weltron

    Buy: The Chrysler

    Actually wanting to Drive: The Monte

    Burn: The Ford. Ugh, I like Broughams, but not that T-Bird…

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Bah! I owned a 1980 luxury coupe, a Buick Regal with the 3800 V6 and turbo Hydramatic. That was a hot car. It became hot when I reported it stolen! If the thieves hadn’t wrecked it, I’d have kept driving it a couple more years, at least.

    Oh. I have to pick one of the three? N-O. Burn ’em all. The Buick had comfortable seats and ice cold air.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I’d take the Cordoba LS or Dodge Mirada since they have the nicer looking “Endura” like nose. Plus the LS kept the 300 series crosshair nose.

    I came close to buying a Mirada in the early 90’s but a good deal on a 81 Monte Carlo, which is the refreshed G-Body came along.

    I’ve always been a Ford guy and have owned Fox body and MN-12 Thunderbirds but the 80-82 Fairbird left me cold though a convincing case can be made for the Town Landau and 25th Anniversary models which are very well equipped with power twin luxury seats and digital dash with premium audio which are similar to a 83-87 Continental.

    Moving up the personal luxury ranks in 1980 you can go wrong with most E-Body GM’s particularly the Riviera T-Type and Toronado XSC.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    Burn them all. I’m unfortunately old enough to have driven them all.

    The Monte Carlo would wobble and quiver climbing into a city driveway, its super rubber bushings all a-boing, the zero-damping on rebound $9.99 retail shocks the best GM could source for 23 cents. On the road it was like a 14 foot skiff in a cabin cruiser’s wake with a peculuar cyclic yaw. The 305 had no git up and go and any personal luxury was cheap carpèt and velour with a turn signal switch that felt as brittle as uncooked spaghetti.

    The Cordoba was the 1962 Plymouth chassis recycled for the umpteenth time powered by an asthmatic 318 lean burn. Noisy rattly ride after a few thousand miles. Only people who shopped in discount furniture stores would mistake the interior for luxury.

    The Thunderbird was a Fairmont/Mustang in disguise, before anyone at Ford even attempted to sort out the hopping rear suspension. If billowing seats meant luxury, the Ford would win for the usual inattentive driver. So given it actually worked, it was the least offensive.

    All fail. None worthy of even being looked at twice. I actively avoided these kinds of things when buying new cars in the late ’70s thru ’80s. Detroit low point. Even the sheet metal was poorly stamped, gaps were standard, little lined up, and hardware such as interior door handles, power door switches and window lifts were of the chintzy bent tin variety you couldn’t even find in a hardware store – nobody carried crap like that! A two-door Caprice outshone any of them by a country mile, while being burdened by similar switchgear.

    • 0 avatar
      ernest

      “Burn them all. I’m unfortunately old enough to have driven them all.”

      Same here- and I agree.

      ” A two-door Caprice outshone any of them by a country mile, while being burdened by similar switchgear.”

      So, for that matter, did a two-door Malibu IF you hit the right options.

  • avatar
    Cobrajet429

    These are all better than the FWD V8-less malaise they make now.

  • avatar

    Buy: Cordoba (w/318)
    Drive: Monte
    Burn: T-bird

    Kind of a toss up on my drive/burn choice. The only reason for my buy choice is I’ve had a positive experience with the 318. Very dependable engine for me. Like the styling of the Monte more than the T-Bird.

  • avatar

    That Berlinetta has too much sport and not enough brougham.

  • avatar
    amca

    Buy: Monte Carlo

    Burn: T-Bird

    Drive: Cordoba

    Style-wise, the T-Bird and Cordoba are aesthetically challenged. And style is all these cars ever had.

    T-Bird: dull and shabby. Cordoba: not flamboyant enough for the Brougham Era, except around the grill, which looks tacked on. But that Monte, with the extravagant swoops over the fenders . . . it’s a true Brougham.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    I’m pretty sure the final version of the passenger car edition Slant 6 dropped to 90hp, might have been after MY ’80 as it only survived another couple years or so in the Diplomat. And its torque rating was pretty lousy by then too.

    Burn: all of them and collect the insurance payout

  • avatar
    road_pizza

    The unrepentant Fox fan in me says the T-Bird. I look at that car and see a streetworthy Melling Bill Elliott tribute car powered with a Coyote.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Buy: Cordoba (I actually did.)
    Drive: Monte Carlo (liked the looks and not too different from the ’75 Cutlass Supreme I’d owned previously)
    Burn: Thunderbird (It lost its mojo when it grew into that huge body. Should have stayed on the “Falcon” platform like the early ’60s models or before.

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