Buy/Drive/Burn: Early Eighties Converted Convertibles From Japan

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

Think back to the Eighties, that optimistic decade when automakers hired aftermarket companies to create convertible versions of their two-door models. The big three Japanese brands each offered their own aftermarket “sports themed” convertible in the first half of the decade.

Which masterpiece is worth a Buy?

1982 Honda Prelude

1982 was the final model year for the first-generation Honda Prelude that debuted in 1978. Honda farmed out the conversions of its high-priced Celica competitor to various coachbuilders. Under hood was the CVCC engine from the Accord, making 72 horsepower out of 1.8 liters. Between 1981 and 1982, around 150 convertibles were sold. Dealers weren’t shy about asking prices, demanding around $41,000 (adjusted for inflation).

1983 Datsun 200SX

This Datsun is the most luxurious and broughamic of today’s trio. The 200SX convertible was available one last time for 1983, as the aged, square design made way for a new model that was a bit more sporty. A company called ACC in California handled at least some of the Datsun’s conversions. The 200SX (nee Silvia) entered production in its original form in 1979. In 1982 the engine was upgraded from a 2.0-liter inline-four to a 2.2-liter unit with fuel injection. 103 horsepower were shifted through a three-speed automatic in these convertibles.

1984 Toyota Celica

The Celica is the newest offering today. It was offered in convertible format and sole GT-S trim for the first time in 1984. ASC handled the third-generation Celica’s roof surgery. Introduced in 1981, Toyota made small changes to the Celica each year as emissions regulations shifted around. For 1982, the standard engine became the 2.4-liter 22R (105 hp) mill from the Hilux, paired to a five-speed manual. The first-year Celica convertible was very limited in production — only 200 were made. 1985 was this generation’s final year, as the fourth-gen soap bar Celica was ready.

Three obscure Japanese convertibles, each of them Rare Rides even when new. Which one’s worth buying?

[Images: Toyota, sellers]

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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  • Thomas Kreutzer Thomas Kreutzer on Nov 14, 2019

    My sister had an 200SX coupe of this model and it was a kicking little car for the era. I rode in preludes of that era as well, and they were nice enough but I never saw the attraction, honestly. Although these cars were built into the 80s, there were both really late 70s cars and, as such, are a generation behind the Celica. The Celica GTS is no Supra, but has enough in common that it would be pleasant to own and use. I think that would be my choice.

  • Slow_Joe_Crow Slow_Joe_Crow on Nov 15, 2019

    I'd go for the drop top Quaalude for pure weirdness, although the second generation Preludes were much better cars. That said my ideal Japanese convertible would be a 70 series Landcruiser

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