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Rob Griffin

The best and worst cars of the 1980s


The cars of the 1980s were just what you’d expect: glamourous, OTT but often totally naff. Journalist Rob Griffin sorts the winners from the losers.

best worst 1908s cars

The glitzy 1980s were a fabulous time of excess. Yuppies clutched their Filofaxes, comedian Harry Enfield brought his infamous Loadsamoney character to life, and millions of soap fans followed the mega-rich Ewing family in Dallas. Likewise, the decade’s motors were a mixture of the sublime and the ridiculous.

The best cars of the 80s

Ferrari Testarossa

80s car

Nothing screams "the 1980s" quite like a Testarossa. Impossibly wide with flared arches, this Ferrari epitomised the decade’s focus on flamboyance. This beautiful-looking two-door machine, which had a starring role in the hit US TV series Miami Vice, burst onto the scene back in 1984. Sporting eye-catching cheese-grater style grilles, this mid-engined sports car had Ferrari enthusiasts drooling for the seven years it was in production. The 512 TR replaced it in the early 1990s.

Peugeot 205 (GTI)

80s car

When you think of hot hatches, the chances are that the Peugeot 205 GTI will be one of the first that comes to mind. This car is one of the most iconic of its generation and provided an awesome combination of speed, style and agility. It still looks great today. In fact, it’s hard to believe that it’s been 30 years since it arrived on the scene, available in both 1.6 and 1.9 incarnations. Regardless of which you chose, you were guaranteed seat-of-your-pants performance. The good news is there are still plenty available. Expect to pay anything from £2,000 to £20,000 for a mint example.

Porsche 944

80s car

No list of top cars from this decade would be complete without at least one machine with pop-up lights. The 944 arrived in the early 1980s and went on to be produced for just over a decade. Better refined and equipped than the 924, this luxury two-door sports car not only looked the part, but also had the performance and handling to match. This made it hugely popular and gave a welcome boost to Porsche’s finances during this period. Tatty versions can still be picked up for under £2,000 but consider paying a bit more for a more loved example.

The worst cars of the 80s

Nissan Cherry Europe

80s car

Just a mess, quite frankly. This car was born out of a joint venture in the early 1980s that married a Nissan Cherry with an Alfasud engine and drive train. Critics claimed this combination produced something that was ugly and not blessed with the best reliability record. Even the respective dealers weren’t overjoyed. Nissan specialists disliked the fact it didn’t have a Nissan engine, while Alfa garages shunned it because it looked like a Nissan. Unsurprisingly, therefore, history doesn’t regard the Nissan Cherry Europe as a success.


80s car

No-one can deny that the Metro was popular – it was one of the best-selling superminis of its time - but this was motoring at its most basic. Despite the advertising agency charged with promoting the little car came up with the slogan "A British car to beat the world", the reality was slightly different. Reliability issues and suspect build quality mean there are relatively few Metros – it had numerous names down the years including Austin Metro and Rover Metro - still on the road.

Vauxhall Belmont

80s car

This car was just plain wrong. It looked odd with its massive boot at a time when most rival manufacturers were favouring the hatchback design. While not an inherently bad car – it had plenty of legroom, for example – it struggled to shake off the idea that it was just an Astra….with a large boot. With that in mind it does beggar belief that it was unveiled as being one of Britain’s most regularly stolen cars. In 2005, official figures showed 76 were stolen out of every 1,000.


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