Buy/Drive/Burn: The $13,000 Sporty Car Question of 1988

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

In the recent Shelby CSX Rare Rides entry, long-term commenter 28-Cars-Later suggested some sporty competitors to the Shelby, all of which cost the same according to the state of Michigan. Japan, Germany, and America are well-represented in today’s trio.

Which one sets your sporty-small-car heart aflame in ’88?

Volkswagen GTI

Volkswagen had a hot hatch hit on its hands with the original GTI, following it up with a second generation in 1985. Between 1985 and 1987, a lower-powered 1.8-liter GTI produced 110 horsepower. VW introduced a more powerful 16-valve version in 1987 that carried GTI through 1992. With lots of valves, the new 1.8 produced 137 Germanic horsepowers. Only the three-door hatch was available, and all 16 valves paired with a five-speed manual.

Toyota Celica

The Celica entered its fourth generation in 1986, donning front-drive as it moved further away from its former relationship with the Supra. The three base trims — ST, GT, and GT-S — were topped by a much more expensive Turbo All-Trac model that featured four-wheel drive. Competing today is the GT, in five-speed liftback guise. GT focused on additional power equipment over the base ST. From 1987 onward, the 3S-FE powered the GT. A 2.0-liter mill with 16 valves, it made 152 horsepower.

Shelby CSX

Produced only for the 1987 model year, we’ll assume there were some CSX examples left over in 1988. A product of the Shelby Automobiles company in California, the CSX started out as the sportiest Dodge Shadow turbo, then received additional modifications outside and underneath. The 2.2-liter Turbo II produced a trio-topping 175 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque, routed through a five-speed manual. Not for those fond of choice, all 750 examples were painted in the color scheme shown here.

Liftback, hatchback, two-door sedan (with a liftback). Three continents; one price point. Where do their fates lie?

[Images: VW, Toyota, Shelby, seller]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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  • THX1136 THX1136 on Sep 18, 2019

    Buy/Drive the Shelby - I've had a non turbo Shelby Charger and driven the intercooled GLHS's - fun cars to drive. Since I have no preference on the other two, I'd buy them to drive occasionally. No burn, no way.

  • Doug Dolde Doug Dolde on Oct 16, 2019

    I don't get the write ups for all these old crappy cars. Not of interest !

  • IBx1 Everyone in the working class (if you’re not in the obscenely wealthy capital class and you perform work for money you’re working class) should unionize.
  • Jrhurren Legend
  • Ltcmgm78 Imagine the feeling of fulfillment he must have when he looks upon all the improvements to the Corvette over time!
  • ToolGuy "The car is the eye in my head and I have never spared money on it, no less, it is not new and is over 30 years old."• Translation please?(Theories: written by AI; written by an engineer lol)
  • Ltcmgm78 It depends on whether or not the union is a help or a hindrance to the manufacturer and workers. A union isn't needed if the manufacturer takes care of its workers.
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