By on March 7, 2018

Image: 1989 Chevrolet Beretta GTUEarlier this week, our Junkyard Find was a totally rad 1989 Chevrolet Camaro RS, complete with interesting personal touches applied by an owner who was quite familiar with taste and elegance.

In the comments, things quickly turned to the nature of the automobile during a dark and Malaisey period — 1979 to 1989. A question bubbled to the surface for me: Were there any lustworthy American cars made in that period? Let’s find out.

This question came from an assertion made by frequent commenter Krhodes1.

“There were plenty of lust-worthy cars in that era. But none of them were American.”

Of course, the truth in this statement depends on which sort of characteristics you find lustworthy (YMMV, as Krhodes said). I’ll start the ball rolling with a vehicle that, while not an obvious choice where lustworthiness is concerned, is a very relevant one nonetheless.

Image: 1984 Dodge Caravan

Majestic, isn’t it? It is of course the Dodge Caravan, introduced to the world in 1984. Built on the ever-versatile K-car platform that saved Chrysler’s bacon, this (tiny, in modern terms) minivan was a new way to cart children and their auxiliary equipment around the country. Up to that point, van offerings were not of the mini variety. Rough, thirsty, based on trucks, and rear-drive, those vans were cargo haulers first, and forced into people-carrying service after. The Chrysler vans were more comfortable, more practical, and much more efficient in times of gasoline Malaise.

The Caravan defined the segment, prompting Ford to follow with the rear-drive Aerostar in 1986 and General Motors to create its Dustbuster vans for 1990. For the reasons above, these minivans were lustworthy to a whole generation of parents. People who, until then, were forced to drive their large families around in a modified cargo van, or perhaps a baroque, wood-sided station wagon.

The Caravan showed North America there was a different way to travel — a better way. And for that reason, it’s a lustworthy vehicle of our selected period.

What are your picks for lustworthy American rides from ’79 to ’89?

[Image: Fiat Chrysler]

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171 Comments on “QOTD: Were There Any Lustworthy American Cars Built Between 1979 and 1989?...”

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    There were Americans cars people lusted after in the ’80s. Whether or not they were deserving of that lust is another matter.

  • avatar
    Dirty Dingus McGee

    1987 Shelby GLHS

    • 0 avatar

      I with you on that one. I had an 84 Shelby and my brother had a GLHS. Very cool car imo.

    • 0 avatar

      The only problem was when I test drove it I lost interest. It in no way matched the off the line grunt of an older cammed V8 that could be built for less, and while nimble it got smoked in twistys by an early 70s pony with even half competent suspension tuning.

  • avatar


    • 0 avatar

      Yes, both the Grand National and the GNX. It’s gone from YouTube now, but I still remember the video from back in the day, of a GN spanking a C4 Corvette in a drag race.

  • avatar

    I was a kid in the 80’s, so this is the period of cars that as an almost 40 year old adult actually lust over.

    -early production Dodge Dayotnas (Shelby?)
    -Grand National
    -IROC Z29
    -AMC Eagle Wagon
    -’83-86 Thunderbird turbo
    -’83-’87 Olds Cutlass Supreme Coupe
    -Grand Wagoneer

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll second the Eagle and Grand National, and give the Cutlass an honorable mention. Not lustworthy, but a fairly handsome car, especially compared to everything else coming out of Detroit. As I recall the T-bird turbo got a lot of hype from the trade mags but it really wasn’t all that, turbo lag was bad and the bird was too much car for the 4-banger until the turbo kicked in. But I never drove one, feel free to correct me.

    • 0 avatar

      Man those Cutlass Supremes were so cool, especially the ones with the T Top Roof! The IROCs and Trans Ams were highly desirable among my high school buddies and myself as well!

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    Corvettes 1985-89
    Tuned-port F-bodies
    V6 Fieros
    5.0 Mustangs 1986-89…maybe ’83-’85 too, if you can stand tinkering with a carburetor
    Chrysler “Turbo II” cars
    Buick Grand National/GNX
    Cadillac Brougham (post-HT4100)
    Lincoln Town Car
    Lincoln Mark VII

    • 0 avatar
      Jean-Pierre Sarti

      excellent list!

      i am in particular partial to the Trans AM with the mesh wheels. Family friend had a red one with gold mesh wheels, i still think fondly about it to this day.

      also I’ve always been partial to the Turbo T when it came to the boosted Buick. something about the car still looking like the grandma special inside and out but having the turbo engine that always appealed to me.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m with Matt Foley on nearly all on the list…I’m a bit shaky on the Mopars and the Caddy but I see where you are coming from. I would add the late-’80s T-birds to the list.

      • 0 avatar

        Other than an Omni GLH or a Shelby turbo, were there any “lust worthy” Mopars in that era?

        I lusted after an M-body 5th Ave or a police Diplomat with 360 V8, but I’m weird.

        • 0 avatar

          Spirit R/T and Daytona IROC would fit in the same category as the GLH/GLHS. Decent handling ad good power for the day.

        • 0 avatar

          Shelby Lancer
          Turbo anything really at the time.
          Dakota Shelby
          Conquest (captive import)

          • 0 avatar
            Brent Bubba Mazur

            I’ll include the 1989 Dodge Spirit ES with the 2.5L turbo in the ‘turbo anything’ category. :)

        • 0 avatar

          Been there done that on the Fifth Avenue. Most comfortable undependable car I ever owned. Three trannys later I became a Honda and Toyota fan. Presently cramped in an 2010 Corolla since new. Total repair cost $0.00. Brakes and exhaust only real out of pocket expense and quarterly oil changes.

          The 92 Camry XEL was the cats ass and low maintenance too. I miss that one but retirement and the wife won on downsizing. We will be going up to RAV 4 Limited shortly . Egress and Entrance so easy for old folks.

        • 0 avatar

          The Diamond Star (Plymouth Laser anyway ad Eclipse) went on sale six or so months before the “1990” model year commenced. Might they count?

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll vote Yes for the V6 Fiero.

    • 0 avatar

      Add to this the Merkur XR4ti

  • avatar

    Buick GNX. Ford Taurus SHO.

  • avatar

    Man, these are some tough parameters. Closest I could think was the C4 ZR-1, which conveniently came out in 1990. Viper came out in ’92. There were some pretty cool looking W-bodies towards the end of that period… Taurus SHO was pretty cool as well. But lust worthy? Maybe I am focusing too much on aesthetics, because I’m drawing a blank on what from that period was lust worthy from Germany or Japan either. Some phenomenal cars, but I can’t say an E30 M3 or FC RX-7 are cars I’d “lust” over.

  • avatar

    88 Fiero GT.

  • avatar

    HECK YES: THE PANTERA! were there many more lustworthy cars?

    How can we ignore the De Tomaso Pantera? That was the heyday of the pantera, and thats a car so lustworthy you often see it besides ferraris and lambos in car collections.

    Now someone is going to say “But wait- the Pantera is not from America” at which point I call your bluff and say “But wait- it is. South America (Argentina) to be precise. Plus they were sold through FORD dealers.

    Therefore I believe we can all agree the Pantera is both: lustworthy and: American.

  • avatar

    2nd gen camaros are one of the best looking cars ever, and they were out until 82… and the 88 fiero gt is a real special car that I still lust after today.

    • 0 avatar

      2nd gen Camaros are lust-worthy right up until you own one. I had an ’81 Camaro with a 305. Worst car I ever owned. Nylon timing gear, inaccessible spark plugs, inaccessible bolts on the heater core, and other maintenance pains. It was every bit as long and wide as my mom’s minivan, but I could pack more crap in my RX-7. All the sound, fury, and gas mileage of a V8, but all the power of a V6. I did manage to sell it for $800 with no engine and a blown transmission, but that’s only because all the rest of them out there on the market had bondo in the rear quarters.

      The 3rd gen Camaros with the RS body kit are the ones I lust after now, but I’m not stupid enough to own another Camaro.

  • avatar

    Building on the ones already mentioned, I’d list the GNX, the IROC-Z, and the C4 ‘Vette.

    I’d add the Lincoln Mark VII LSC (after they put in the Mustang engine and fixed the interior).

    And…the malaise-era Imperial. Becuase, Imperial.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Buick Grand National and GNX come to mind.

    Z28/IROC Camaros are apparently garnering strong prices. Though I would suspect the early ’90s models are the most desirable.

    The last year of the Fiero GT were pretty great.

    Some might argue the DeLorean is lust worthy.

    And of course 4x4s of the 80s are sure to have a rabid following: Jeep Wrangler, Wagoneer; Ford Bronco; Chevy K10 Blazer.

  • avatar

    85 Chevy Caprice… Maybe an 88 Mustang GT convertible .

    If we’re including Vans , can why not the SUV’s of the day ? I’m thinking 85 Yukon two door .

  • avatar

    Auto Trader would suggest that the GNX is the lone unicorn.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I will go a different route, as I feel their are quite a few I will head over to the truck department.

    Mid 80’s K5 Blazer was and still is absolutely fantastic and the Bronco was a close second. I have ridden in both and find that I like the Blazer better, but the Bronco was pretty great as well. The Ram Chargers were great as well, and really are a unicorn anymore.

    I so want this segment to return, as I have labeled them the ‘Personal Luxury Utility Vehicle’ or ‘PLUV’. All the greatness of the PLC from the 70’s coupled with 4×4 year round use.

    Mid to late 80’s F150’s/F250’s and Silverados still bring decent money and forgetaboutit if you find a late 80’s D250 with a Cummins, I think gold is cheaper.

    Honorable mention to the Shelby Dakota Convertible pick up; who else but Dodge would have the onions to bring something like this to market. This is the rig that paved the way for the Viper and Prowler in terms of, why not.

    Finally, the conversion van offerings in 80’s were absolutely fantastic. You had several up-fitters and could get one in any of your choice; Ford, Dodge, & GM. For a family, this was the ultimate luxury travel and man was I jealous. We had a bench seat window van…though it was ordered with a 4 speed on the floor.

    • 0 avatar

      “Honorable mention to the Shelby Dakota Convertible pick up;”

      The convertibles were not Shelby Branded, they were initially offered as “Sport” only then were eventually offered as “SE”. The 3.9 V6 was standard power with a 5 speed (3 speed auto optional) and eventually the 2.5 I-4 and 5 speed was put out there for the “SE” model.

      1989 (2,842) and 1990 (1,039), and only 8 models in 1991.

      The only V8 powered one appears to be 1 built for the 1991 model year with the new front clip and 6 bolt wheels when Dodge made the 318 available for the Dakota line and was used as an officials car for the 1991 Indy 500.

    • 0 avatar

      I was thinking conversion van too. What about 79-85 Rivieras and Toronados? These seem to be garnering some collector attention.

  • avatar

    To me, much of the car lust of that era was, like it or not, image based.

    That being said, there are a few that I would have drooled over when new:

    – The Porsche 911 was still a thing of beauty, if a bit detuned
    – The Porsche 944 featured sexy curves and great handling (I briefly owned a used one)
    – While not perfect, the BMW 6-Series had the cachet of being Cybill Shepherd’s ride on Moonlighting (lust by proxy)
    – The Mercedes-Benz S-class (W126) was possibly the last MB built to a standard, and not to a price
    – While long in the tooth, the Mercedes-Benz SL (R107) was still a nice ride, and definitely made a statement
    – The Nissan Maximas of the time were wonderful, affordable sports sedans
    – Just because it resurrected affordable performance and fun, I’m partial to Mustang GTs and convertibles of that era

    Not nearly as exciting as other eras, and a reflection of the style and class consciousness of the times.

  • avatar

    What is an “American Car”?

    I made the argument the Pantera is an American car because of its origins in Argentina, and was sold through Ford (South American Input, North American output, clearly american) although someone else will argue that it was manufactured in Italy.

    Which is what makes things tricky. After all, the beloved redneckmobile, the camaro is manufactured in CANADA.

    This is the basis for my argument that Pantera is totally american. BMWs for example, are clearly German, despite the fact that BMW exports 9.6 billion vehicles FROM the united states to other countries, and manufactures many cars for the US Market. Hyundai is clearly korean despite the fact that the sonata is built and sold wholly in the US.

    It gets interesting when we talk about ownership though, because Most people I know would consider RAM, DODGE, and JEEP “American” Brands despite FCA’s official headquarters in the UK, registered in the Netherlands, and managed from Italy. heck, think about the Jeep Renegade. People consider it American but:

    Headquarters: UK
    Registration: Netherlands
    Management: Italy
    Parts: Majority from Italy (some from canada)
    Platform: Italy
    Manufacturing: Italy
    Drivetrain Design: Italy
    Body Design: American!

  • avatar

    The square body C10 pickups from 79 to 87 are beginning to have a following. The GMT 400 came out in 88 and was a game changer for GM.
    I’ve driven and owned some of both designs. The GMT 400 was a fine improvement, but the older C10 is a great truck also.

  • avatar

    I lived in a part of the country where there were no Grand Nationals, Corvettes were a joke, and we mercilessly made fun of my cousin when he moved from LA with an IROC-Z. But to this day I still go gaga over the Grand Wagoneer – and it looks like I’m not the only one:

  • avatar

    In 1989, I was all set to buy a 1989 Honda CRX SI (yellow, 5 speed). My newly minted brother-in-law asked me to go with him to a Ford dealership where he had just purchased a 4×4 Ranger. One of the salesman there was a retired teacher friend of his who said they had a Mustang LX 5.0 5-speed (white with red interior) for sale.

    Once I test drove the Mustang, my mind was made up. I loved that car and it treated me well the three years I had it. I beat on that car hard and it took everything I could dish out. When I traded it in at 60,000 miles, it was on it’s third set of rear tires.

    I was in the garage the other day and found the dealer brochure for the CRX as well as the owner’s manual for the Mustang. I always wondered what happened to the Mustang and what would it have been like to own the CRX. So, there were some cars in that era with redeeming value, at least for me.

  • avatar

    GNX for sure.

    How about the Vector W8? I think it was introduced in ’89, so it meets the criteria (even if just barely).

    (I take “lustworthy” to mean “worthy of a poster on my bedroom wall at age 17, but absolutely zero chance that I’ll ever have the opportunity to own one”.)

  • avatar

    Born in 1977 and got my license in 1993 – these cars were in the heart of the time when I was gaining automotive awareness.

    What did I lust after? Well I was born and raised in the heart of Ohio manufacturing and farm country and was surrounded by American cars. The only foreign cars I can recall in the church parking lot was the rare VW or the old Porsche 914 that someone bought for their midlife crisis.

    I lusted after the 80s Hurst Olds, 442, IROC-Z, Monte Carlo SS, Mustang 5.0, Buick Regal T-type (I liked the stealthy-ness of the T-type over the GN)… Those were my lust objects.

    You judge their worthiness. I had not been alive during the 60s to have a frame of reference but I was surely grateful when the LT1 stated showing up in Camaros and Firebirds.

  • avatar

    Despite being too young to remember the 80s, some of my most desired cars to own/modify come from the era. I love the Trans Am, Iroc, and Hurst Olds from the 80s. I also have a major fascination with the Fiero GT.

  • avatar

    Allante and Reatta. Duh.


    C4 Corvette.
    G-body (RWD) GNX.
    F-body Trans Am.
    Fox Mustang.
    Fox Mark VII.
    Fox T-bird Turbo Coupe.
    Fox Cougar with the half moon.

  • avatar

    1979 Ford Mustang Pace Car (turbo or V8)
    1983 Pontiac Trans Am WS6
    1985 Shelby Charger (turbo model)
    1986 Shelby GLHS
    1986 Ford Mustang SVO
    1986 Mercury Capri RS 5.0L
    1986 Chevrolet Camaro IRCO-Z (with 5.7L SBC)
    1988 Fiero GT V6
    1988 Pontiac Trans Am GTA (with Buick V6 turbo)
    1989 Dodge Daytona Shelby

  • avatar

    The Caravan is significant for sure – but LUSTWORTHY??? Come on now Corey.

    And even then, I’d rather drive a Vanagon.

    I can see people lusting after Camaros and Corvettes and the GNX, and the SHO and Fieros and the GLHs, but the Caravan??

    Still a dark, dank time for American cars – with the light at the end of the tunnel towards the end of the ’80s. The darker years were probably ’75 to ’85.

    • 0 avatar

      I think it was, considering we were pre-suburban SUV time. Most people didn’t want the weird and slow Vanagon with its engine at the back.

    • 0 avatar

      Must disagree with ’85; and pin it at ’81. The Chrysler K-Cars came out then; it may looked up as cheap now; but having owned several Chrysler products from ’74-80; it was a breathe of fresh air in terns of room combined with good mileage, impressive handling, and at least acceptable build quality.

      On the Ford side, the aero Thunderbird and the Tempo/Topaz were also released before ’85.

      It is easy to look BACK with disdain on the cars of the ’80s; but for us who lived through the cars of the ’70s; these new offerings were a breath of fresh air we looked FORWARD to. Turbos and fuel injection were gaining back the performance lost with air pollution controls; and the new aero styling made them look like spaceships in the era that gave us the Space Shuttle and Star Wars; a breathe of fresh air from the heavy chrome laden barges they replaced.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m old enough to have BTDT. I guess my issue is that because of where I grew up, I was surrounded by European cars that actually were GOOD in the late 70s and 80s. So even the decent American cars of the era seemed like utter crap. A Taurus was a revelation compared to a Granada, but it still wasn’t an Audi 5000, Saab 9000 Turbo or a Mercedes W124 by any stretch of the imagination. The American go fast(ish) cars like Corvettes, Camaros, and even the GNX just seemed like redneck trash to me. To this day straightline speed barely even registers for me. I just don’t care.

  • avatar

    GNX / Grand National / Regal T-Type
    Monte Carlo SS
    Olds 442
    Malibu 2-doors, or the wagon
    Fox body Mustangs
    F-body Camaro/Firebird
    Caprice/Impala – esp the 2-door aeros
    Cadillac Brougham

    Of these I’ve driven or owned the Caddy, the Mustang, the Caprice, a Malibu wagon, and the Monte Carlo SS (with a 355 swap).

  • avatar

    ’79 Lincoln Continental Town Car of course.

  • avatar

    Several people here list cars that were lust worthy to many, but I was always put off by the the major faults that almost all of them had, which were not present in the foreign competition.
    TPI V-8 F-Body – terrible build quality, huge body and no interior space.
    C4 Corvette – terrible interior, awful ride, rattles galore.
    GNX – all engine – rest of the car sucked.
    Turbo 2.3 Fords – terrible turbo lag, agricultural NVH
    GLH – terrible turbo lag, agricultural NVH, terrible build quality
    Fiero V-6 – terrible build quality, rattles galore.

    Audi Quattro, BMW E30 and E28, MB 190-16 and E300, VW GTI, Honda Prelude and CR-X, Toyota Supra and MR2, Nissan 240sx and Maxima, Porsche 944 and 911 are just some of the foreigners that always seemed to offer better build quality, better reliability, more sophisticated technology, and better resale value than their US counter-parts.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, something doesn’t have to be high quality to be an object of lust.

    • 0 avatar

      Resale value! Two 1987 regular Buick Grand Nationals just recently went for over 200K at an auction which means 100K plus for each. Considering that most of these sold for around 16-17K new I would call that very good resale value. And the rest of the car did not suck but yes they were a little outdated by this point as far as chassis and interior was concerned but who cares.

      • 0 avatar

        Poncho – I was referring to resale value at 3-8 year old “used cars”, but your $200,000 Buicks were delivery mileage only, and I expect you would also get very good money for a 911 Carrera, E30 M3, or Prelude Si with delivery mileage.

  • avatar

    Had a ton of fun dusting 5.0 Mustangs with my 89 SHO, but she was a love/hate kind of gal given the premature failure of many a component. She was my first four door and while she was a pain in the azz for repairs, she was a sweet ride when she wasn’t costing me at the parts counter.

  • avatar


  • avatar
    GS 455

    I’ll take an 87 Buick Regal Limited with the LC2 Turbo package. Same engine as the Grand National and actually a bit lighter and faster. You could order it with any Regal color (light sage!), vinyl roof, column shifter and a cloth bench seat. The ultimate sleeper, the only clues to its potency being the aluminum wheels and turbo bulge hood.

  • avatar

    I have to preface this by saying I graduated high school in 1989 so….

    Escort GT
    Jeep Wrangler (St Elmo’s Fire Trim)
    Jeep Cherokee Laredo (classic design and shape)
    Chevy El Camino (cause I was a teen and didn’t know any better)

  • avatar

    krhodes1 raises a subjective and semantic but not unfair point. If the standard of “lustworthy” is, say, a BMW 507, then you have leeway to define no American cars of ’79-’89 as lustworthy. Conversely, I also have no problem with someone else’s defining, say, a GNX as lustworthy.

    It’s easier to go with a broader standard of “appealing”, and I think the B&B have done a good job identifying those American cars of the era. To these, I’ll add/clarify:
    – 20th Anniversary Trans Am – stupid-good performance numbers for an ’89 car.
    – ’79 Cadillacs because of the “true Cadillac” 425 V8.
    – ’87-’89 LeBaron convertibles – I’m sure they had their flaws, but they were fun and had great styling.
    – various “sport” versions of the ubiquitous GM front-drivers. By “sport,” I mean steering & suspension, not appearance packages. Depending on model, year, and options, these could be fun, reliable, practical cars. The ’88 & ’89 Bonneville SE is an example of GM’s getting the recipe right in some cases.

  • avatar

    No need to make a long list, but yes there are many American cars from ’79-’89 that I consider lustworthy and many that I’d be willing to spend walking-around money on today in order to own.

  • avatar

    ’79-83 Jeep J10/J20 Pickups and of course the Full size SJ Cherokees! 2 door wide-track with the integrated (welded) wheel opening flares. Golden Eagle or Chief, Levi interior, Factory brush bar, AM/FM w/ built-in CB.

  • avatar

    1984 Chrysler Laser Turbo and Dodge Daytona Turbo.

    I only raced my Laser Turbo twice. I beat a V8 Mustang once (the Mustang driver was shocked and impressed), though I later lost a race to Maserati Biturbo.

    Mostly, I just loved looking at the car, with its deep metallic blue paint and pizza disc wheels.

  • avatar

    My love of the Rampage is no secret, so that’s top of my list, from this era and from all time. Also the Ford EXP, either version, is one of my most desired vehicles.

    I’ll echo some of the others, SHO, Capri RS, Mustang SVO Delorean Firebird, El Camino, Reatta, Allante, Dakota Convertible, Fiero, GLH, AMC Eagle, and add the XR4Ti which I would still consider American, the bizarre flying brick Cavalier Z24 hatchback (and I love the coupe also), the Trofeo, and really there’s too many to list for me. As long as it’s not a truck or a big sedan or coupe, I generally am in love with it and stop anyone I see driving one to compliment their vehicle. I don’t share the B&B’s love of the GNX or the general public’s love of G-Bodies.

  • avatar

    Jeep CJ5. As much of an Icon then as they are now, but back then you could get a V8. Owned two of them.

    Any Ford or GM pickup, Bronco, or Blazer. Trucks didn’t experience the downward slide the cars did during this era. Bought a ’89 Chevy short-wide, my first pickup.

    El Camino. Could still get a 350 in ’79.

    Any Cadillac up to 1980. It was a fast downhill slide after that. Special mention to the 1st Gen Seville and the Eldorado. Owned a ’84 Eldo- quickly realized I should have grabbed a used one with the 350/368.

    Buick GNX and Riviera.

    Any Chevy Caprice. Lost power over the years, but still a great car- especially with the right options. Owned 4 of them- a coupe, a sedan, and two wagons.

    Any Camaro or Firebird that didn’t crossfire. Owned an IROC Convert and later a Coupe.

    Corvette. ’84’s & 85’s were garbage, but the C4 improved by leaps and bounds after that.

    Thunderbirds, excluding the ’80-’82’s. Owned a ’83 5.0. Loved that car.

    Lincoln LSC. An underrated car, IMO.

    I’m sure there’s some I’m missing, time fades the memory.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Some of my favorites from 79-89

    79-88 AMC Eagle Wagon and SX4 Hatch
    79-85 Buick Riviera T-type 3.8 turbo
    87-89 Buick LeSabre T-type
    84-85 Cadillac Eldorado touring coupe
    86-89 Dodge Daytona turbo
    79 Dodge pickup-Little Red wagon and Warrior
    83-88 Ford Thunderbird turbo coupe and LX 5.0
    84-87 Ford Mustang SVO
    79-80 International Scout Traveler
    85-89 Lincoln Mark VIII LSC
    79 Olds Cutlass Salon Aeroback Coupe 260-5speed also the 442
    79-80 Olds Toronado XSC 350 rocket V8
    88-89 Olds Toronado Trofeo
    87-89 Pontiac Grand Am turbo and Quad 4
    87 Pontiac Grand Prix aero coupe

  • avatar

    Lustworthy may not totally apply to 80s American cars in general. But the cars that caught my eye back then were:

    F-bodies (had an ’85 TPI Trans Am and loved it)
    Mustang GT and SVO
    Lincoln MKVII LSC
    Fiero GT (especially 1988)
    Buick GN and GNX
    Shelby Omni GLH-S
    ASC McLaren Capri
    Corvette ZR-1
    Vector W2

  • avatar

    I think everything I would have said has already been mentioned except the Dodge Ramcharger.

  • avatar

    Yes there were several but the most significant one is the one that signaled the end of the Malaise era the 1982 Mustang which turned the tides by having more HP and displacement than its 1981 predecessor.

    The GNX certainly qualifies too.

  • avatar

    The C4 Corvette, especially after the switch from Cease Fire Injection, to TPI.

  • avatar

    Chrysler Conquest

    Does that count or am I cheating?

  • avatar

    Ford’s Fox cars in all its iterations. Especially the SVO Mustang and Turbo Coupe Thunderbirds.

  • avatar

    The Plymouth Caravelle, natch. Okay, it was a Canada only model in ‘83 and ‘84 but then the mighty 2.2L I4 Turbo came stateside. The coupe never made it though.

  • avatar

    The Cadillac Allante
    the Buick Reatta
    The Chrysler TC by Maserati
    the 1991 Dodge spirit just missed out on the list

  • avatar

    I didn’t lust after any cars of this period, but I did lust after Jeeps and pickups, especially the CJ7 and the Chevy shortbed pickup. My list:

    AMC/Jeep CJ7
    AMC/Jeep Cherokee (Golden Eagle package)
    Chevy Suburban or Blazer
    Ford F150
    Chevy C/K shortbed
    Chevy G20 Conversion van

  • avatar

    Buick Reatta. Between that and the GNX you could say the 1980’s were the Buick decade.

  • avatar

    Typhoon, GNX, Mustang 5.0LX,Ford LTD-LX, Firebid Firehawk,

    • 0 avatar

      Syclone and Typhoon. The first driver event I ever went to, GM showed off the AWD by putting down rubber mats with soap on them on one side of the car, then you got in with a pro driver, who then did things that showed off how well the AWD system worked along with the HP-one side on dry pavement and one on the slick mats. I was shocked that GM, who’d made the Supremely Gutless (odd fire 80’s V6 Cutlass Supreme, the car that kept GM out of the family driveway for over 20 years) could do this.

  • avatar

    Yep GNX blah blah blah, go buy one. Overrated for the price since day one. Fox prices bottomed and hanging there, ’cause ’80s. No crime buying one, beating on it, modding it, 3.73/410 gears etc.

    If you’re looking for an investment/longterm, look into four-eyed Saleens/Mclarens. Get a couple, three of them, one just to punish for the price of a precious GNX.

  • avatar

    The final year of the “little” Cadillac Seville, especially in black and silver Elegante trim.

  • avatar

    This question is such a personal thing. The top cars (IMO the GNX, Vette, and Mustang in that order) were good cars for the time but none of them inspire LUST in me. I’d take a period 911 over any of them.

    • 0 avatar

      Yep, the movie “No Man’s Land” with Charlie Sheen, 1987. That, and the “Success” posters we all had on our wall full of fat-a$$ed Testarossas, body-kitted Lambo’s and Whale-Tail 911’s. You bought them in tubes at the store and desperately tried to pin them up without…drat!

      Boy, reality hit by the early 90’s like a cold, wet blanket.

  • avatar

    All the american trucks of the 80’s are pretty awesome.
    S-10 Baja
    Grand National
    Dodge Shelby CSX
    Turbo Dodge Daytona’s
    Jeep XJ
    Dodge Rampage
    Dodge raider (captive import)
    Special shout out for the Cummins ram intro
    Grand Wagoneer
    Dakota Convertible
    Shelby lancer
    C4 vette
    Iroc convertible
    Escort GT
    Eagle SX4
    Eagle Sundancer

    Actually I think the 90’s may have been worse other then the viper

  • avatar

    Ohh in the just missed category the Dodge ram Rod Hall

  • avatar

    I agree with Krhodes. For the majority of the ’80s I was deployed in the Western Pacific for several long stretches and viewed cars manufactured in the US through advertising, some word-of-mouth, and “car mags” with little time on the ground to test drive or even closely inspect. The question was which were lustworthy in the ’79 to ’89 period. When viewed from afar, as my shipmates and I were forced to do, the only vehicles of the period were the C4 Corvette (which one of my buds bought in ’84 during one of our short returns to CONUS and regretted soon after), any eight-cylinder Mustang or Camaro, and not much else. Pretty much everything else was ignored or derided as junk and most of the interest was in either European (VW, Porsche, MB), Japanese (Toyota MR2/Supra, Datsun/Nissan Z-cars, but not Honda), or ’60s to early ’70s US high performance cars. More lust-worthy were US manufactured Harley Davidson Glides and large Japanese cruiser bikes rather than any American-made car. My sample size was a crew of around 1000 from various backgrounds with about two complete turnovers in eight years.

  • avatar

    I don’t think anyone’s mentioned the bent-window final-year 79 Caprice/Impala coupes. Get the 350 V8 with THM350.

    I also like the looks of the G-Body (A-special) GM RWD coupes after the 81 refresh, especially the Cutlass Supreme and variants.

  • avatar

    Grand National


    Actually I didn’t like many cars in the late 70’s to late 80’s.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Well those years pretty much mark the decline of the dominance of ‘domestic’ auto makers.

    Lincoln and Cadillac started losing their market to Mercedes.
    ‘Yuppie’ became a word and they discovered a manufacturer called BMW.
    Honda exploded on the North American market. The CRX and Prelude became objects of ‘desire’.
    Datsun/Nissan created the 4DSC. And the 300ZX turbo.

    As far as the domestic vehicles most had flaws, be it build quality, reliability, styling or performance.

    The ones that were at least ‘competitive’ would be:
    Lincoln Mark VII LSC
    T-Bird Super Coupe or FILA edition
    Taurus SHO
    Buick Grand National or GNX
    Fiero GT
    Dodge Little Red Express

  • avatar
    Matt Posky

    Good call on the Dodge Caravan. The 2.5-liter turbo came out in 1989 and could be had with a five-speed manual. Rare but mouthwatering. I also start panting when I think about the Omni GLH/Shelby GLHS.

  • avatar

    1982 Mustang GT 5.0. Weak sauce by today’s standards, but young teenage me thought is was glorious.

  • avatar

    I had two, both of which I sort of finally acquired and ruined the magic.

    I was only into 60’s muscle as a kid until in ’85 my Dad tried to get me involved in a deal on a 1981 Turbo Trans Am. Yes, it was black and gold. The steering column had damage from a theft attempt (as you may know, 2nd gen F-bodies had door locks which were mere suggestions). The turbo lights, houndstooth gold seats, T-Tops, turbo-edition wheels, and the deepest black paint I could imagine. No dice, way out of budget. The gray Firebird I eventually wound up with had the last Ivory interior I would ever intentionally own, and was bog slow and suffered malaise GM-era qwality. Magic over.

    The better one was also an F-body, my college dorm-mates ’87 IROC-Z. It was red and new, with T-Tops, the 5.7, and and all the stripes. Riding around campus in it was awesome.

    In the early 90’s I managed to acquire a couple of 3rd-Gen F-bodies, but nothing matched the shiny, loud, ballsy fun of that tomato-red IROC on those particular fall days in that place. Mustangs seemed like economy cars by comparison. Yes, the interior was made of kid-toy plastics and double-sided tape, and I’d imagine it started refusing to start randomly right after graduation, but while at its peak it ruled.

    Are there American cars like that today, that the rich kid in town drives to school and angers his classmates? Are they trucks?

    • 0 avatar

      I think now you mostly live in a town where the $ is sufficiently homogenous that everyone is mostly in the same place. My town, the HS kids drive the family’s beater, which is about 7-10 years old, but maintained…my brother lives in a place where the kids are Beverly Hills rich, all new cars, so my nephew wants a small pickup to stand out.

      I knew my college had changed, a lot, as the beater college kid cars I recall were now a long line of newer cars. Saw this again when touring campuses with college age daugther. One campus was all of dad’s off lease purchases-everything there was 4 years old-and given to “the kid”. Couldn’t afford that school. My girl is at a state school, where the fact she HAS a car is a big deal….

  • avatar

    I’m on my quest to find a J-body LeBaron worthy of restoration (up until ’92 before they revised the front end and went with standard headlights). I’m not opposed to an H-body either, even though the H-body (’85-’89) was before my time. I’d like to have both (and a few more Mopars) but I don’t have all the room in the world and I don’t want to get the side eye from my wife.

    As for my “collection” I have a ’93 Concorde, but that was a time capsule that didn’t need anything besides a mechanical look over. I want a project this time around, something I can get really involved in (I also bought an ’06 Ram 2500 Cummins MegaCab around the same time, but it’s not a classic and again, it was in great condition. I am thinking about replacing the tan leather seats with a brown-colored kit from Katzkin, doing the work myself).

  • avatar

    The Pacer just makes the cutoff. The coolest car of the 70’s

  • avatar

    I’m not sure these count, but I did lust after them (at the time)

    Dodge Colt Turbo (I know, not American)
    Chevy Cavalier Z-24 (That exhaust note is still one of my favorites)
    Pontiac 6000 STE (Again, exhaust sound)
    Dodge Conquest TSi (I know, not American)
    And finally the 1981 Camaro (the two hottest girls in my class each had one)

  • avatar

    Ford had plenty of lustworthy cars during the 80s. The SHO Taurus, Turbocoupe Thunderbird, and SVO Mustang come to mind. But I would add the Ford Tempo’s more unique models. The 1984-1986 diesels, the 1987-1991 All Wheel Drive models, and the 1992 only, 3.0L Vulcan/Mazda MTX-IV 5-speed equipped GLS models. Lightweight, quick, and fairly advanced for the time.

  • avatar

    1982-1985 Cadillac ‘Eldorado Touring Coupe.’
    1984 Buick Riviera T-Type

  • avatar

    One word: Chevette.

  • avatar

    Although ambiguously American: Merkur Xr4ti anyone?
    Otherwise Jeep Commanche Pickup.

  • avatar

    To hell with all of you…, my 86 El Camino. ; )

  • avatar

    Big 4WD trucks. Jeeps Wrangler and 4.0 Cherokee. LX 5.0 (I didn’t think the GT justified either the flash or cash).

  • avatar

    I’m late to this party but this is a profoundly silly QOTD.

    GMT400!!!! Snuck in under the wire.

    Thunderbird Turbo Coupe and (even more under the wire) Thunderbird Super Coupe.

    All of krhodes’ “white trash” cars:
    GN and GNX (and, hell, the Regal T-Type)
    IROC-Z: so poorly built, but so damn gorgeous!
    Post-refresh Mustang 5.0 (either LX or GT)

    4.5 and the first 4.9 Cadillacs (although only if equipped with ivory interior)

    Again under the wire: the first Grand Caravan with the Mitsubishi V6. Or pick the ludicrously modifiable 5-speed turbo version.

    Caprice Brougham LS. Thoroughly annihilates any dumb Panther.

    Now… a better question might be if there was anything before 1984. The answer may well be no. Unless you let the ’79 Mark V in.

  • avatar
    Geordie Guenther

    The USA came out with all sorts of lust-worthy cars from 89 to 99. Not perfect ones, of course, but ones with admirable style and/or personality.

    Celebrity Eurosport wagon.
    Ford Taurus
    Chevrolet Astro. These really were unique and cool.
    1988 W-bodies. These captured my 14-year-old imagination. I still think they were wonderfully-designed.
    Ford Mustang 5.0 fastback
    Even Chrysler’s Daytona became mildly lust-worthy in the late eighties.
    Jeep Cherokee
    S-10 Blazer. I’ve always liked these in some weird, masculine way.
    Pontiac 6000, especially the STE.
    Thunderbird, especially the mid-cycle refresh ones in 1986.

  • avatar


    Buick Roadmaster Wagon
    Thunderbird Super Coupe
    McLaren Grand Prix Turbo
    Bonneville SSEI
    LX 5.0
    Olds Cutlass (old and new)
    Turbo TA
    350 IROC
    TA Formula 350
    Thunderbird Turbo Coupe (88)
    SVO (87)
    Grand Wagoneer (84)
    Eagle Wagon (85)
    Sable Wagon
    F250 XLT 2D 4×4 300 two-tone w/dual tanks
    Cadillac Brougham
    Olds Trofeo

  • avatar

    88 Fiero…when it finally kind of lived up to the hype generated at the time of its introduction.
    GMC Cyclone, just for the sheer audacity of it. Had a co-worker that owned one (along with a Mk1 MR2). Took me out one day in it and we just grinned from multiple straight-line acceleration runs.
    81-88 GM (either Cutlass or Regal) coupes. It’s an unhealthy and unexplained fascination with these, but for some reason, I find myself often looking at them online. Why? Just why? Sure, there’s the GN/GNX, but even the “baser” versions appeal to me.
    Thunderbird TC, again…can’t explain why, but it just always looked “right” to me, especially the last two years (87-88).

  • avatar

    Lots of cool stuff offered in these years if you knew where to look and how to order these cars.

    GNX / GN/ Regal T-Type or T package
    Monte Carlo SS
    Olds 442/Hurst Olds
    Malibu 2-doors, or the wagon
    F-body Camaro/Firebird with special regard to 1989 Trans Am with buick 3.8 turbo
    Caprice/Impala coupes
    Mustangs 5.0’s
    B-body Delta 88 coupe with Holiday package
    Any Cutlass Supreme coupe with bucket seats and rally wheels
    Lincoln Marks with Mustang power (lSC)
    Riviera S or T Type with turbo power
    Pontiac 6000 STE
    T-Bird turbo coupes or with V8
    Allante with 4.5

    I still have 2 such cars in my collection to this day. One is a 1981 Trans AM Nascar edition and the other a two tone blue 1987 Cutlass coupe with 307, buckets, sport wheels and gauges. Love them both and each gets loads of attention wherever I go.

  • avatar

    A few from my blog, with comments:

    1982 Ford Mustang GT—The first of the GTs is still the one that gets me.

    1983—What an upgrade these cars where.

    1984 Buick Riviera T-Type—I love these big slightly sporty coupes

    1984 Lincoln Continental Mark VII LSC”—The eighties definition of Hot Rod Lincoln.

    1987 Chevrolet Caprice Classic

    1989 Cadillac Allante—Dave Hill’s baby gets an engine upgrade.

    1989 Pontiac 20th Anniversary Turbo Firebird Trans Am—The ultimate eighties Trans Am and by far the most collectible.

  • avatar

    (forgive my delusion that I could make links work)

    A few from my blog, with comments:
    1982 Ford Mustang GT—The first of the GTs is still the one that gets me.
    1983 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe—What an upgrade these cars where.
    1984 Buick Riviera T-Type—I love these big slightly sporty coupes
    1984 Lincoln Continental Mark VII LSC—The eighties definition of Hot Rod Lincoln.
    1987 Chevrolet Caprice Classic
    1989 Cadillac Allanté—Dave Hill’s baby gets an engine upgrade.
    1989 Pontiac 20th Anniversary Turbo Firebird Trans Am—The ultimate eighties Trans Am and by far the most collectible.

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