Buy/Drive/Burn: American Malaise Sports Cars of 1982

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
buy drive burn american malaise sports cars of 1982

The year is 1982. You’re a lover of domestic sports cars, but also suffer from a distinct lack of funding in this era of American Malaise. Three updated, base model, fuel sipping rides are in your purview — all of them with four-cylinder engines.

Which one do you take home?

Today’s Buy/Drive/Burn trio was suggested a long time ago by commenter JohnTaurus, who was inspired by the Dodge Challenger Rare Ride. Thank him for these glorious choices.

Chevrolet Camaro

Brand new for the 1982 model year, the third generation Camaro was the new hotness. Fuel injection, four-speed automatics, and four-cylinder engines — all yours! Today’s Camaro was assembled in the city of Norwood, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Initial offerings included three trim levels: Sport Coupe, Berlinetta, and Z28. Our choice is, of course, the base model. Power for the Sport Coupe came from the 2.5-liter Iron Duke inline-four, like you’d find in a contemporary and fine Chevy Celebrity. All 90 horsepowers traveled to the hubcapped rear wheels via the four-speed manual transmission.

Ford Mustang

The Mustang was all new for 1979, in its third generation. It was at that point the Mustang moved to the now-famous Fox body platform. Offering more choice than Chevrolet, the Mustang was available in coupe, liftback, or convertible formats. We’ve selected the liftback version today. The base model gained an actual trim name for the ’82 model year — L. It accompanied the GL, GLX, LX, and GT trims (GT shown above). Like the Camaro, cylinder count ranged between four and eight. The engine of relevance here was the 2.3-liter unit shared with the Pinto, sending 88 Pinto horses through the four-speed manual.

Dodge Challenger

Dodge’s sporty Challenger was only in its second generation. The first generation bowed out after 1974, leaving a gap in the Challenger lineage until 1978. At that point Chrysler conducted a badging exercise with the Mitsubishi Galant Lambda, and birthed the Dodge Challenger and Plymouth Sapporo. Only one bodystyle was available: the pillarless coupe seen above. Chrysler’s coupe offered two different four-cylinder engines, limited to the larger one after a cosmetic refresh for 1981. The 2.6-liter “Hemi” inline-four utilized the latest NVH technology developed by Mitsubishi. Topping our trio, the Challenger offered 105 horsepower tethered to a five-speed manual (also the most gears).

Three sporty two-doors, their cylinder counts kept low in the pursuit of value and economy. Which goes home to the tri-level?

[Images: GM, Ford, Chrysler]

Join the conversation
2 of 78 comments
  • DweezilSFV DweezilSFV on Aug 23, 2018

    A "Pillarless coupe" is called a "hardtop". Leaders of the B&B should familiarize themselves with automotive terminology.

  • Road_pizza Road_pizza on Sep 19, 2018

    Buy the Mustang, drive the Challenger, and burn that Mulletmobile.

  • SPPPP It seems like a really nice car that's just still trying to find its customer.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird I owned an 87 Thunderbird aka the second generation aero bird. It was a fine driving comfortable and very reliable car. Quite underrated compared to the GM G-body mid sized coupes since unlike them they had rack and pinion steering and struts on all four wheels plus fuel injection which GM was a bit late to the game on their mid and full sized cars. When I sold it I considered a Mark VII LSC which like many had its trouble prone air suspension deleted and replaced with coils and struts. Instead I went for a MN-12 Thunderbird.
  • SCE to AUX Somebody got the bill of material mixed up and never caught it.Maybe the stud was for a different version (like the 4xe) which might use a different fuel tank.
  • Inside Looking Out Scandinavian design costs only $600? I mean the furniture.
  • Akear Lets be honest, Lucid will not be around in five years. It does not matter that it is probably the world's best EV sedan. Lucid's manufacturing and marketing is a complete mess. The truth is most EV companies are going under within the decade.