Why the 1980s had the Best Cars

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Having come up the ranks in a era that most remember as a time of excess and Wall Street, we remember it as time when purity was the focus of German auto manufacturers. Having both exploited and admired the Mercedes 190e 2.3-16 and the BMW e30 M3 on the street and track, this video does a good job of explaining their realities beyond the hype so prevalent in todays’ world of electronic pacification.

Specials thanks to founding Fuelfed member Don S. of DPS Motorwerks for reminding us of what was a great time to be a yuppie and a car guy.

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2 Responses to “Why the 1980s had the Best Cars”

  1. Alan Says:

    Wow! Provocative (maybe that was the intent). As someone born in the 50s, a car dealer for 40 years, and a successful SCCA road racer for 30 years, I’ve never thought of the 80s as an era of particularly great cars. Coming out of the “dark ages” of the 70’s cars, it might have seemed that way; but in reality there are spectacular cars from every era. The “best”? By what standard and for what purpose?

    I always chuckle when reading the letters section of car magazines, and someone claims his BMW (or Mustang or Mazda) is better than someone else’s fill-in-the-blank. In his eyes, it is. But is a 1973 Carrera RS “better” than a 1982 911SC? The answer is “it depends on what you’re going to do with it”. If you’re driving it as your everyday car, it might not be.

    This is further illustrated in the debate between manual gearboxes, and modern dual-clutch dsg type transmissions. Is the manual more involving, and more satisfying to drive? Maybe. But if I’m on a racetrack, and lap times are important, give me the dsg every time. Which one is the best? Is an E90 M3 better than my 2013 M3. When I take it to 8300 rpm and hear that V8 scream, I could argue for the newer car. The E90, on the other hand, is still absolutely wonderful.

    So the answer, to me, is that there is no best. The best for me, probably wouldn’t the best for you anyway. We don’t have to go back to the 80s, or even be nostalgic. We can celebrate driving and enjoying the great cars of every era right now.

  2. The Driver Says:

    We agree that we should celebrate driving all cars from every era, as each represents where culture and technology merged.

    “Why the 1980’s had the Best Cars” of course means so many things so many people. Our short quantification is that auto manufacturers conform to two things: government legislations and what will sell. Today, soulless eco friendly hybrids are the focus. In the late 1980s coming off the dark ages of the “K” car and Chevettes, the Germans still had peerless build-quality, but upped the power ante with special models either based on racing or executive transport, creating a new driver-focused “Q-ship” category still with us today.

    Yes the 1960’s had muscle cars, but the 1950s that spawned them was quite different than the early ’80s recession. In our opinion, the evolution from a ’57 Chevy to Impala SS is foreseeable, but an ’82 BMW 528e to M5 is that much more baffling considering the times, let alone how they actually drive.

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