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Will 70s-80s cars ever be "classics"?

Beginning in 1975, car design was dictated by emissions standards…The cars built between 1975 and 1990 offer few if any reasons to spend a fortune restoring them…The WORST cars built were the first “computerized” models, 1981 to 1988 or so…Why spend $10,000 on a car that at best is worth $2500 ??

Using texases’ yardstick, the 83-88 Toyota Tercel 4WD wagon must be on the interesting list. This car has a small but very dedicated group of followers and has the second most active dedicated web site (Miata is #1). Really good examples of the SR5 version are selling on ebay for about their original MSRP of $12k. There were only about 2000 of these made.

TieAFly, the cars on your list will never be collectable, but there are early '70s cars that are collectable. The early '70s Camaro and Trans Am, as well as some of the Dodge and Chrysler cars are. The 70-72 Camaro with the split bumper, before the '73 5MPH bumper mandate, is particularly nice.

The things that really killed the fun were emissions and 5MPH bumpers. Especially emissions.

As already stated, anything of thet era that’ll be collectable in the future is already collectable.

@keith - that’s a good example of a car that’s collectable because of a strong fan base. Two more are VW ‘Westies’ (Westfalia camper vans) and, maybe, the BIG Jeep Wagoneer of that era. There are companies that make their living restoring these two and selling the results for pretty big $$.

I think it depends on how much the person you’re talking to knows about cars. I think it’s fairly indisputable that there are several 80’s classics already - the CRX, the MR2, the Supra, the RX7, the Miata (1989 was its first year), the VW Corrado and the Scirocco, the Buick Grand National, the 280z, and those are only a few of the relatively common ones. Don’t forget the DeLorean, the Ford RS200, the Omni GLH and GLHS, the R32 Skyline, etc are also classics.

Those are popular and neat cars, sure, but most can be bought for less (often much less) than they sold for new (Corrado, Scirocco, 280Z, and the Miata). And I love Scirocco’s, I had a '79. I’d put the '83 GTI ahead of those two. So ‘classic’ is not a word I’d apply. And the RS200 and the Skyline were never sold here, right?

As far as cars from the mid 1970s thru early 1990s, most makes and models were quite un-interesting and mundane. However, to mention another exception (and one of my personal favorites from that time), the 1977 Pontiac Trans Ams were pretty cool cars, especially the black ones, thanks to Burt Reynolds driving one in the movie, “Smokey and the Bandit”. Trans Ams of the 1977 and, practically identical, 1978 model years sold very well, as I remember. The 1979 T/A’s didn’t have the same popularity, though, because the nose was re-styled, and the 403 c.i. Olds engine replaced Pontiac’s 400 c.i. engine that year. Now, the '79 T/A’s are still decent cars, and the Olds 403 was a strong engine, but it just wasn’t the same as the Pontiac 400, which had been around since first appearing under the hoods of GTO’s in the mid-1960s.

Also, though not one of my favorites, the 1982 Trans Am (preferably black) might have a cult following, because David Hasselhoff drove a modified one (named KITT) in the 1980s crime series, “Knight Rider”. The car looked like a MATTEL toy, but even so, I’d prefer having it instead of, say, a K-car, or a Chevy Citation, or a Ford Fairmont (I had the unfortunate experience of owning a 1980 Fairmont; owned it for 1 year, then bought a 1985 Chevy truck, and sold the Fairmont 6 months later after letting the insurance lapse).

I would say that from 1973 thru 1991was, with a few rare exceptions, better for pickup truck and SUV buyers than for car buyers. After all, practically any guy (especially young ones) can feel cool and manly behind the wheel of a truck, especially if it’s a 4x4.


Those are popular and neat cars, sure, but most can be bought for less (often much less) than they sold for new (Corrado, Scirocco, 280Z, and the Miata). And I love Scirocco's, I had a '79. I'd put the '83 GTI ahead of those two. So 'classic' is not a word I'd apply. And the RS200 and the Skyline were never sold here, right?

You could get the R32 here if you were willing to be… Creative with it’s registration.

I agree that none of them are worth more than they were new, but I don’t think “classic” is the same thing as “expensive.” You can get a 57 Chevy for a song because there are a ton of them (to the point where I almost wish they’d be banned from classic car shows because they end up being 90% of the show half the time), and no one claims it’s not a classic.


Also, though not one of my favorites, the 1982 Trans Am (preferably black) might have a cult following, because David Hasselhoff drove a modified one (named KITT) in the 1980s crime series, "Knight Rider".

There’s a cult following of Knight Rider fans who convert their early 80’s Trans Ams to KITT replicas. The hardest part these days is finding CRT screens for the computer displays, since everything’s LCD now.

Pretty much what has been said:

  1. “Flaming Chicken” T/A.
  2. “Mullet-moblies” like the Buick Regal/Chevy Monte Carlo
  3. “Disco Cruiser/Land Yachts” Like the Chrysler New Yorker.
  4. “AMC [whatever]” for the “so impossibly ugly it’s cool” factor.
    5.(More recently) Impala SS (up until the switch-over to FWD).
  5. Honda CVCC (Civic) as a dark horse (due both to historical significance and so few left that haven’t rusted through).
  6. Honda CRXs sell at a big premium to other Civics of the same era (49-state “lean-burns” especially so…one of the few cars collectible for fuel economy).
  7. Another dark horse: otherwise bland cars made famous from popular movies that suckers…hipsters might buy for “ironically hip” value. (e.g. Family Vacation Country-Squire wagon (AKA “Griswold-mobile”) or Garth’s AMC Pacer.)

I think KITT was a Cylon

I think it’s tough to predict what will and won’t be considered a classic in the future.

My very first car was a baby blue, 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, 2 door coupe. When I owned it and especially when I sold it, as much as I liked it, I never in a million years thought it would be a “classic”. But today, I’m seeing restored ones all over the place, so there must be some kind of cult following.

@VDCdriver “The only US cars from the '80s that I can envision as ever attaining “classic” status are the Buick Reatta and the Cadillac Allante”.
I drive past a used car dealership that has a Buick Reatta convertible on the lot and has had the car for a couple of months twice a week. I drool over the car every time I see it. It does have a distinctive appearance and there weren’t very many made. However, I think if I were to spend the money, I would buy a Mazda Miata even though the Miata is more common. I think the Miata would be more fun to drive than the Reatta.

Someone in Nashua has a DMC (DeLorean). I guess that would qualify as a 70’s “classic”.

Even the DeLorean is not yet selling for more than its original MSRP. They get bid to $12k-$20k typically, MSRP about $25k. But they do have a following. Wonder how popular they’d be without ‘Back to the Future’?

Unless you count the “new” DeLoreans which are built from original parts out of the DMC warehouse. They’re going for around 40, if I remember right, especially if you get the upgrades that give it a non-sucky engine.

I think without the movie, they’d be a sad note in “could’a been” automotive history. Great looks, dog engine.

Just looked at an 85 Hurst Olds here locally for $15K with 75K on the clock. I don’t think that is above MSRP but it isn’t in the dirt yet either. Some are coming along nicely.

The lines of the Reatta make it look like a 1st gen Eclipse/Laser/Talon

A lot of 70s cars can be considered classics, and are in high demand. 80s? A lot less, but they’re still there. There’s too many to bother listing as worth buying, but do some homework and pick what you like if you’re considering making a purchase. Since time is passing (way faster than anyone over the age of 30 ever expects it to), anything more than a couple decades old, with the exception of minivans and similarly lame vehicles, will likely be collectible.

Remember, unless you’re buying for a pure investment, get what makes you happy.

I own a '89 Allante. These are 2-seat roadsters built to compete with the SL series Benz cars. Bought it 10 years ago and it’s been a fun car. But is it a “Classic”?? The market says no…This was the first 100% computerized car (1987-1992 production run, about 3000 cars built a year) it has no electrical switches. Everything is controlled by keys like you find on a computer keyboard…The electronic and brake problems killed the car and destroyed any appreciation in value…They sold new for $55-$60K and today you can drive one for $3000 or less. The 1992 models had the NorthStar engine and greatly improved ABS system but few of them have the aluminum hardtop the earlier models came with…A “showroom” low mileage '92 will still bring $15-$20K…


It wasn’t electronics and brake problems that killed the Allante. It was that it was competeing pricewise against much better cars. No offense intended, but the Allante was both front wheel drive and underpowered with the HT-4100/4500. Not acceptable when you’re trying to compete with the best cars in the world (at the time). If the car had been rear wheel drive and had the Northstar V8 gotten there earlier, I think the car would’ve been remembered more fondly.