The majority of our parents grew up in the muscle car era. Ask your dad what the best cars were when he was in high school. Camaros, Mustangs, and Chargers were just some of the staples of the 1960s and 1970s. There are plenty of cars from that era that are now considered “Classic Cars.” A 1962 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL is probably one of the most iconic cars of all time. It’s hard to miss it with its gull wing doors and arrow-like lines.
But the Blast Cars audience grew up in the 80s and 90s. There have been plenty of wheels that rolled off the assembly lines since we all were born. Here are ten that are guaranteed to be classics someday.
10. 1985-1988 Lamborghini Countach LP5000 QV
The Lamborghini Countach is instantly recognizable for us kids that had a poster of it on our bedroom walls. This car offers jaw-dropping looks between its NASA-like air ducts, all the way to its famous scissor doors. Originally launched in 1974, the LP5000 QV (“Quattrovalvole” or four vales per cylinder) is the third installment of the Countach.
“Countach” isn’t a word, but rather an exclamation that Italian men shout when they see an attractive woman, and it is a perfect name for this car. A V12 that bangs out 455 horsepower is what powers this bull. Only 610 were built, and you could have gotten one new for $118,000 back in 1985. The Countach was the start of Lamborghinis unique styling that was passed onto the Diablo, Murciélago, and eventually the Avantador. If this was the dream car of your childhood, you can expect to pay up to $180,000 for one, but beware of the many replicas that are out there.
9. 1981-1982 DeLorean DMC-12
It may look like your refrigerator and in all honesty it probably has less power than your refrigerator, but the DeLorean DMC-12 or simply “The DeLorean” is a car that all kids want to take a ride in to relive the days of Marty McFly. Famous for the “Back To The Future” trilogy, The DeLorean is the product of John DeLorean starting his own shop after departing General Motors. The result was a “sports car” which was powered by a V6 that did the 1/4 mile in 18 seconds. He might want to go back in time and work on this car’s performance.
The DeLorean was only built in 1981 and 1982 for a price tag of roughly $25,000. Its quirky looks certainly got the car attention. About 9,000 DeLoreans were made and there are about 6500 still around today. This is a car we all loved as kids and you have to admit it is still cool despite being sluggish. The DeLorean Motor Company started to produce the DMC-12 again in 2007. With about 20 builds a year, DeLorean will customize each new car with modern features while retaining the classic style of the original. Expect to pay around $57,000 for a new one and about $30,000 for an original.
8. 1987-1992 Ferrari F40
$400,000. 478 horse power. Twin-turbo V8. It was the first road-legal car to break 200 miles per hour, and the only word to describe it is “outrageous.” Go ahead and YouTube some videos of it and see what I mean. First launched in 1987 to compete on the track with the Porsche 959, the Ferrari F40 quickly became one of the top super cars of its time. Speed was the main goal and it was built of aluminum, carbon fiber, and Kevlar to keep the weight down.
The F40 is growing in value each year with just 1,315 built, and it was actually the last Ferrari built under Enzo Ferrari’s supervision before he died. Ferrari originally wanted to build around 900 but ended up producing 1315 because they had received 1300 orders. Enthusiasts will look back on the F40 as Ferrari’s first super car. It was discontinued in 1992 and replaced by the F50 in 1995.
7. 1987 Buick GNX
This isn’t your grandmothers Buick. Believe me. Go ahead and look in the parking lot of the local retirement home and I can bet you that 80 percent of the cars parked there are Buicks. Park Aves and LeSabers are a few land yachts that Buick graced the roads with in the 1980s and 1990s. Meanwhile on dragstrips and empty streets, another car was lighting up the asphalt. Meet the GNX.
The Buick Regal got restyled in 1981, and by 1982 a high-performance model was offered called the Grand National. This was powered by a naturally aspirated V6 that produced 125 horsepower and 205 foot pounds of torque. Buick gave the Grand National a break in 1983 and it returned in ’84 with a more powerful turbo V6. The Grand National became quite popular in the 80’s, and was pretty impressive considering it was a muscle car with a V6 — quite different from its V8 predecessors of the 60s. 1987 was the last year for the Grand National and Buick went out in style by introducing a suped-up version called the GNX. Only 547 were produced, and you could have bought one new for $29,900. Each one was painted gloss black and powered by a V6 outfitted with a Garrett T-3 turbocharger. This ended up churning out 276 horsepower and a very generous 360 pound feet of torque. Buick showed us that you don’t need a huge V8 to get a power, and the GNX is still a highly sought after car today. You can expect to pay at least $50,000 for one nowadays.
6. 1988 BMW M3 E30
The 1988 BMW M3 was the first version of the high performance class of the BMW 3-Series, and in my opinion it is the greatest sports car of all time. You get the perfect sports car when you combine precise German engineering with an elegant body style. Like many other performance cars, the M3 was specifically designed to compete against the Mercedes-Benz W201 at the races.
Outfitted with aerodynamic body panels, tuned suspension, tuned brakes, a five-speed gearbox, and a 2.3 liter 4 cylinder under the hood, the M3 proved itself quite well at the race track earning 27 victories in the late 80s and early 90s. Automobile Magazine included the E30 in their “5 Greatest Cars of All Time List,” and it earned the spot. The M3 grew in performance and technology as the years went on, but the E30 is a favorite for any BMW aficionado.
5. 1986-1989 Porsche 959
Bill Gates had one of these sitting for 13 years at the Port of Seattle because the EPA and DOT would not approve it. That is how serious this car is. Porsche has and always will make a fine automobile, but the 959 was their greatest result. This is what a Porsche is meant to be. With only 337 made, the 959 will go down in history as a car made to compete in Group B rallies, and they got ideal traction with its four-wheel drive system
The 959 was one of the ultimate cars of the 1980s, but what made it really special was the technology it held. $225,000 got you a ton of goodies that were way ahead of its time. Much like a modern day Range Rover, the 959 had a switch to adjust the ride height, but the car automatically went to the lowest setting once you hit 50 mph. The four-wheel drive system was the most advanced in any production car at the time and had automatic adjustments as well. It was called Porsche-Steuer Kupplung or PSK. By default, 40 percent of the traction was given to the front wheels while 60 percent was given to the rear wheels. As you put your foot into the accelerator, 80 percent of the traction was given to the rear wheels. Traction was an even 50/50 when road conditions were slick. Praised for its performance, style, and advancements in technology, the 959 will go down in history as one of the best, if not the best, Porsches of all time. Check out this example that was recently sold at a Barrett Jackson auction
4. 1990 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1
The fourth generation of the Corvette, commonly referred to as the “C4”, was released in 1984 and discontinued in 1996. The Corvette was totally redesigned after its third generation, the C3, ran for 15 years. This new Corvette had more of an arrow like design compared to its curvy forerunner, but the performance numbers were not there. In all honesty, the C4 was a sled. 205 horsepower is what the L83 small block engine spat out and it wasn’t anything to write home about. A slightly more powerful engine was offered the next year but was still nothing special.
Fast-forward two years.
General Motors had acquired UK performance car maker Group Lotus in 1986. General Motors had it in their minds to build the fastest production car, based on the C4. Lotus completely rebuilt the C4 engine with help from General Motors and it was named the LT5. This was an aluminum block V8 that had the same bore centers as the current C4 engine but had 4 overhead camshafts. Lotus fashioned an exclusive engine air management system that provided a wider power band by shutting off half of the intake runners and fuel injectors while the engine was not fully throttling, and it gave it 375 horsepower. This new engine was quite complex and required special assembly because the Corvette plant could not handle the workload. General Motors subcontracted Mercury Marine to build the engine, which was then delivered back to the Corvette plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
The ZR-1 went on sale in 1990 for around $60,000, nearly double the price of a standard Corvette. The ZR-1 was a stellar performer on the track and set plenty of records. It is without a doubt my favorite Corvette of our generation and set the standard for many more high performance models to follow in its path.
3. 1995 Audi RS 2 Avant
Most people will think I am dense to include a station wagon in this write-up, but keep calm and read on. Audi is a company with a complex history. Sales were very poor and quality was questionable in the late 80s and early 90s. It was the introduction of the A4 in 1996 that saved the company. I’m not here to talk about their past though, but to talk about a crazy little grocery-getter. Like BMW’s “M Division” and Mercedes-Benz’s “AMG” division, Audi has its own line of performance cars known as “S Cars.” To take it to the next level, Audi takes their S cars, tunes them more and badges them as RS cars. The RS comes from RennSport, which translates from German as “racing sport”.
Audi built just less than 3,000 of these high-performance wagons between 1994 and 1995, and was actually their first RS vehicle. These were mostly sold in Europe with very little exportation. This is the car that moved Audi into the category of “fine crafter of performance vehicles,” and its numbers prove it. Its V5 turbo pounded out 311 horsepower, propelled it to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds, and could keep up with the Corvette and Porsche 911 on the track. Not bad for a station wagon. The RS 2 was a combined effort of Porsche and Audi. Porsche tweaked the engine, provided the wheels, and set up the braking system. You can look at the performance wagons that Audi assembles today and tilt your hat at the RS 2 for starting the trend. The RS 2 ceased production in 1995 and Audi came back with another crazy wagon in 2000 called the RS 4. Here is one for sale over in the United Kingdom, and it is a fine example.
2. 1997 Nismo 400 R
Kind of sounds like a vacuum cleaner or an electric razor. The 400 R. This car is as opposite as you can get from a grooming tool. The Nismo 400 R is pretty much the result of a 1997 Nissan Skyline GTR R33 taking speed. Nismo is the performance division of Nissan, and in 1997 they took the GTR R33 and made it better in every possible way. You name it, it was upgraded. Turbo, engine, exhaust, body panels, etc.
With just 44 built, there is a high likelihood you have never seen one of these. This was specifically built for the Japanese Domestic Market and it could have been yours for an even $100,000. With 400 horsepower, the 400 R could take you up to 186 miles per hour, but you could always opt for the less potent R33 if that is too much power for you to handle. This car is a diamond in the rough and there is little to no chance of ever owning one. So stick to playing Forza on your XBOX because that is the closest you will ever get.
1. 1995 Mercedes-Benz SL73 AMG
For Joe Schmo, it may look like any old coupe that Mercedes made back in the 90s. But it’s quite possibly the rarest Benz of the 90s and will be up in the ranks with the gullwing 50 years from now. This car is a sleeper. It looks like any ordinary SL280, but it is a completely different story once you prop open the hood. The SL280 is very slow with a 2.8 liter V6 that puts out just around 200 horsepower. The SL73 on the other hand has an outrageous 7.3 liter V12 that has 525 horsepower, and was the most powerful engine in an SL at that time. The motor was so intense, Pagani used it in its Zonda. Now you see the difference?
This body style of the SL is technically called the R129 and was produced between 1989 and 2002. Besides minor cosmetic differences, each variant of the R129 looks quite similar and that is why you might shrug it off if you saw an SL73. This is my equivalent of a golden ticket from Willy Wonka, and be sure to let me know if you ever happen to find one.