Buy/Drive/Burn: Economical American Compacts From 1982

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
buy drive burn economical american compacts from 1982

Our recent Rare Rides coverage of the Chevrolet Citation made one thing very clear: We need more Citation content. Today’s 1982 Buy/Drive/Burn lineup was

The Citation is in its third model year for 1982, and sales have already fallen far from their initial peak of 800,000. The bloom is off this rose, but GM is still on track for six-digit sales this year. Sticking firmly to economy and utility, today’s Citation is a five-door hatchback equipped with the 2.5-liter Iron Duke inline-four and paired to a four-speed manual. Throttle-body injection is new this year and means 90 horses are underfoot. There’s also a new horizontal slats grille.

Dodge Aries K

The Dodge Aries is still new and is in its second model year for 1982. Chrysler started out strong last year with over 300,000 sales, and will likely reach that number again in ’82. Today’s Aries is the four-door wagon, as Chrysler does not offer a hatchback K-car at this level. Underhood is the base 2.2-liter Chrysler inline-four, which uses a two-barrel carb. Eighty-four horses are at the driver’s command, shifted through a four-speed manual. New this year: rear windows roll down on sedans and wagons, replacing the fixed glass.

Ford Escort

Ford’s Escort is also in its second model year for 1982. The American market Escort was supposed to be very similar to the European one for parts sharing purposes. However the respective design teams each headed their own direction, and the two cars share only an engine and transmission. Today’s five-door Escort hatchback is new for ’82, along with a new grille and presence of the familiar Ford Blue Oval. The base 1.6-liter CVH engine gets a high output version this year, which increases power by about 10 horses, to 80. Power is delivered to the front via a four-speed Ford MTX manual.

Economy and cheap driving are available to you, and they’ll probably hold up for at least three years before falling apart. Which gets the Buy?

[Images: GM, Chrysler, Ford]

Join the conversation
2 of 51 comments
  • Hydromatic Hydromatic on Sep 11, 2021

    I'd go against B/D/B orthodoxy and buy a 1979 Chevy Nova. Used, yes. Likely to be more reliable and comfortable than any of the above-mentioned B/D/B fodder of the time? Most definitely.

  • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on Sep 11, 2021

    I'll take the bus, thanks Seriously, Drive the Citation because those who don't learn History are doomed to repeat it. Buy the K car. I was always partial to Lee Iacocca pointing at the camera in those ads doing the "If you can find a better car, buy it.". There were plenty of better cars for sure, but I respect that. Burn the Escort. My High School girlfriend had one of these crap boxes. Burn it.

  • Pig_Iron Another great article. It puts the development into context. The early fox T-birds seem like a continuation of the Mustang-II Ghia styling.
  • Spectator Mustang at M4 money is a tough sell (and I owned an S550). That said, I like the GT mostly loaded in the high 50s over the M2.
  • Spectator Manual transmission appears to be a theft deterrent from what I’ve read…save the manuals for safety!
  • Spectator It’s impressive that Tesla has reached market with an electric semi before any existing semi manufacturer, and the only issue thus far is this. It will be interesting to see how these units fare after 500k miles in retail operations.
  • JMII I had the sedan version of this same car... same engine, same tranny. I have NO idea how this owner managed to keep it looking so good. The interior on ours literally fell apart after about 4 years: I'm talking about peeling plastic and fabric sagging on the door trim and roof, while various parts simply broke off with no warning - including the glove box handle and the power window regulators failed multiple times (a typical VW problem as noted in the listing). I've never seen an interior disintegrate like this, parts snapped or scratched like they were made out of cheapest, thinnest plastic on the planet. Not just interior parts either: the left turn signal housing just feel off one day and the windshield wipers gave up the ghost. It leaked coolant and any parts/service for it were way overpriced, a prime example was a replacement antenna cost $300! WTF? Guess that was one of those high end Audi parts! At around the 8 year mark the trip computer display faded to point where you could only read it at night which was a real shame. Then the tie rods and suspension gave out along with the ABS system. It was almost like the car was only designed to survive for 60K miles. With each passing mile more random parts broke, for example one day a spring fell out from under the drivers seat. How does that even happen? By 80K (in 9 years) this car was a complete mess, it looked like it had been trashed on the inside despite being garage kept and only driven my wife (no kids either). Since there was nothing wrong with the engine I drove it to 100K but the last year of ownership was down right painful as the car shook and squealed constantly as it crumbled to pieces. I refused to put any money into it, I just kept driving it. On the way to trade it in (for my Nissan 350Z) the cruise control stopped working and the sunroof controls fell off in my hand! I've never been so happy to get rid of a car in my entire life! Don't walk RUN AWAY.