Now that the Supra has been revived, let’s bring these others back too!
The ‘Celica Supra’ became just the ‘Supra’ with the second generation A60 version in 1981 and a legend was born. That’s a car I actually owned and you can read my fond memories of it in a previous blog post.
I believe we may be on the verge of a resurgence of coupes and sports cars – which actually makes sense while both manufacturers and consumers continue to focus on SUVs or smaller city cars. What if you don’t desire either one of those?
For drivers that want their cars to make a statement that’s sportier and/or more prestigious than a hatchback, and don’t really need the bulk or practicality of an SUV, there’s a gap in the market. One that can be filled by sexy two-door sporty things. It’s no surprise that whilst Ford is killing off its saloons in the US, it will of course continue to produce the best-selling Mustang.
Seeing as the 1980s was the coolest decade ever for music, movies and motors, what other iconic nameplates from that era should be brought back into service? Well here’s my selection. Do let me know yours!
10. Toyota MR2
Well it only seems fitting to start with another Toyota – the Japanese company gave us the brilliant little GT86 sports car a few years ago (spiritually a successor to the AE86), and now the new Supra. Make it a hat trick guys – the Mister Two should be the next one up for revival.
Launched in 1984, the original MR2 heavily borrowed all its ideas from the Fiat X1/9 – a compact mid-engine sportscar that was way more accessible and affordable than a supercar. Except this car was of course better built and more reliable than the Italian. Whilst the first car even aped the Fiat’s shape, the second edition was more like a mini-Ferrari and my favourite – the last gen car – understudied the Porsche Boxster.
9. Subaru XT
A real oddity amongst oddities, it took everyone by surprise in the mid-80s, particularly coming from Subaru – remember this is before Subaru became interesting to car enthusiasts with the Impreza WRX rally legend in the early 90s.
The wedge-shaped wonder, that was the wacky XT, startled bystanders with its aircraft-style aerodynamics and low bonnet thanks to a the flat-six engine, plus it featured a cockpit-style interior. It was an eye-popping show-stopper that seemed to defy convention and any modern interpretation should do the same.
8. Honda Prelude
Full disclosure, I’ve got a Honda soft spot, so here’s the first of two on this list. The Prelude was introduced in 1978, but that was just a lengthened Civic, no bad thing. However it really came of age with the 1982 car – a much sleeker and modern looking car, and then absolutely blew me away with the super-svelte 87 car thanks to an incredibly low bonnet resulting from engine slanted backwards to lower the centre of gravity.
Being from an era when Honda was an innovator, it featured the first production four-wheel steer – mechanical instead of electronic – the choices of Nissan 300ZX and Mitsubishi 3000GT. Plus it had pop-up lights and was exquisite to drive!
7. Fiat X1/9
Yeah I know I’ve already had the Mister Two on this list, but imagine a cut-price Ferrari 488, lighter, slightly smaller, with a four-pot unit in the back and badged as a Fiat X1/9. How cool would that be? A genuine ‘poor man’s Ferrari’.
Frankly there needs to be a credible mid-engine rival to the Porsche 718 Cayman/Boxster and this could be the way to provide it, whilst reviving a nameplate for which there is still a lot affection. It would sit perfectly alongside the new Fiat Spider.
6. Porsche 944
Talking of Porsche, I’ve got to put the 944 on this list because that was a Pukka Porker back in the day, so to speak. I mean as much as I actually like the 718 siblings and consistently argue that they are sweeter handling and more accessible sports cars than the fabled 911, the duo can’t shake the impression that you only buy them because you can’t afford an actual 911.
The front-engined 944 however, employed a different formula, and set the standard for cars with the heart at the front and the drive at the rear. It had style and credibility that put it on almost equal footing as the 911. Yuppies didn’t have to make excuses for it, and it’s still desirable today. Porsche need to building SUVs and bring the 944 back.
5. Mazda RX7
Yeah okay it was actually introduced in 1978, but it lived through the 80s in first and second gen guises, and that first model has a placed firmly secured in automotive history annals thanks to its unique Wankel Rotary engine.
A unique car, with pretty looks, superb handling and undeniable character. Mazda are currently producing some great passenger cars and of course the MX-5/Miata, but I do feel the return of the Wankel as an all-new RX7 is sorely missing from their line-up.
4. Ford Capri
The Capri was to the UK what the Mustang was to America. A phallus on wheels, a star of road and screen, a must-have for all medallion men. The 80s saw it develop a really cohesive modern design and the hooded round headlights were winners. I really wanted a 2.8i and was saving up for one before being distracted by the ’84 Supra.
Yes okay the Mustang is on sale here now, but nobody wants a four-cylinder Mustang, even though that Ecoboost is a great motor. However re style it as a Capri, reduced the price and size, and suddenly it would make more sense as a 2.3, particularly in Europe. Do it Ford!
3. Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
Pontiac no longer exists, but that doesn’t mean the Trans Am can’t exist. For a while there have been kits available to make the Chevrolet Camaro look like a Trans Am, but having a real proper version with the phoenix on the bonnet would be a real lure.
It wouldn’t take much to do, the Trans Am name could live on its own merit – like Corvette or Viper – and arguably has more star-power thanks to everyone’s fond memories of KITT from Knight Rider and Smokey And The Bandit! We need this hero-car in our lives again.
2. Honda CR-X
I had one of these – an 1988 example and I sorely miss it. It was the epitome of compact, darty, laugh-a-minute, point-and-squirt hilarity. Whatever your mood, driving this around, even on a short slow-speed journey about town, would cheer you up. It was like a Japanese Mini Cooper (I mean the original Mini Cooper).
Despite only a brief drive in a Honda CR-Z prototype some years ago, and regardless of its similarity in terms of compact size and styling, it just doesn’t sit on the same lofty pedestal as the CR-X. Certainly not with its heavy hybrid powertrain. It weighed over 350kg more. I suspect the 2015 Honda S660 might fit the driving persona a bit closer, so wot say you reskin it in CR-X style and sell it to the rest of the world now Honda?
1. Lotus Esprit
And finally, number one spot had to be reserved for one of the most accessible supercars of the 1980s – the super-sleek, super-low and super-precise superstar – the Lotus Esprit. This car still looks utterly sensational today and is matched only by the ultimate poster car of them all – the Lamborghini Countach in its wedgetasticness!
From the Spy Who Love as James Bond’s Wet Nellie, to Pretty Woman, Basic Instinct and more, this superstar car is an effortless scene-stealer, and comes with the credentials of being the baby of one of England’s most innovative automotive engineers, Colin Chapman. Now with Geely money behind Lotus, it’s time to take up the challenge of beating Ferrari, Lamborghini and home rival McLaren, with a new Esprit that evokes the all the fond memories of the original.
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