Ah, the 80’s…. MTV, neon colored sweatbands, and long hair. The 80’s may seem like a bad dream, but some of our favorite sports cars came from this era. Gas prices and emissions haven’t quite affected engines and technology was making advances in vehicles. Today, pricing for 80’s sports cars be as little as $700 on craigslist. And though the funky styling and large digital gauges may scare some, to us they are vintage and nostalgic. Here are some of our favorite sports cars from the 1980’s.
Mazda 1978-1985 RX-7 (SA/FB)
Mazda had first launched their rear-wheel-drive sports car – the Mazda RX-7. Lightweight, manual, and with the high revving rotary outputting 100hp. The SA/FB RX-7 can be had for as little as $900 in some cases, nicer vehicles run a mere 3-4k$. Aftermarket is plentiful with many engine swap engines. We’ve seen everything from 13b-rew’s to LSX engines. Though you can get a Miata for roughly the same money, nothing brings a unique factor quite like rotary powered sports cars.
1985-1992 Mazda RX-7 (FC)
For those wanting a little more updated feel (and probably the coolest RX-7 to-date) look for the FB RX-7. Initial D fanboys all over scream for this car. Again, lightweight, rear-wheel-drive, manual, and available is a turbo option! Naturally aspirated RX-7’s can be had for around $1500, or for a nicer car you can spend around $4000-$5000. The naturally aspirated model outputs a solid 160hp. Those searching for the coveted Turbo II model can expect to spend anywhere from $6000 to upwards of $8000. The Turbo II model outputs a nice 200hp.
Our recommendation is finding a clean shell which can be cost anywhere around $600-1200. You then can purchase a Turbo II engine to swap. Pricing for a low mileage JDM Turbo II engine can be anywhere from $1000-2000. This gives you the option to do a rebuild or some much-needed maintenance. Furthermore, the budget is stretched leaving room for many other car goodies.
1983-1989 Nissan 300zx (Z31)
The 300zx offers 80’s styling with a futuristic interior. Digital dashes and complex stereos are common finds. Yes, it does come in a turbo model! For hardcore Nissan fans, there isn’t a rear-wheel-drive sports car that is affordable as this. Pricing for naturally aspirated models are usually $2500-$4500. Naturally aspirated models come with a V6 outputting a familiar 160hp. Turbo models, also V6 and very rare, can be found around $4000-$6000. Turbo models output 200hp (see a trend?) My favorite feature is the small, offset hood scoop.
1986-1992 Toyota Supra (A70)
Yes, you read that right. A freaking SUPRA! My favorite vehicle of this 80’s sports cars list (total Toyota fanboy.) Commonly referred to as “MKIII’s”, the MKIII Supra offers slick styling with an available turbo powertrain. The MKIII is a little on the heavy side, but the larger inline 6 engine helps pull it along. Naturally aspirated MKIII Supra’s featured 200hp and Turbo models offered 230hp.
A common issue for the MKIII is the head gasket going. A slight error in the manufacturing plant led to head bolts not being tight enough. Toyota tried to recover by issuing a recall and having vehicles head bolts re-torqued but the problem was caught too late, plaguing the vehicle’s sales towards the end. The MKIII Supra prices have risen over the past 2-3 years but remain affordable. A decent naturally aspirated Supra can run $3000-$4500 with turbo models pricing around $4000-$6500. Though heavyweight, head gasket issues, and rising prices may seem unattractive; the sleek styling and Toyota name badge make it worthwhile for me.
1982-1991 Porsche 944
Believe it or not, you can have a Porsche for around the same cost as the other sports cars on this list. The 944 started out in life as a 924 (underpowered and less desirable) offering lightweight, rear-wheel-drive, and a turbo. The 944 came with 3 different inline 4 engines ranging 163hp-208hp (naturally aspirated) and 217hp-247hp (turbo). The power mated to a 5-speed transmission and an average curb weight of 2900lbs makes this a fun car to drive.
The Porsche name mirrors itself to words like “unfriendly DIY” and “deep pockets” reliability is very good. The key, according to Porsche forums, is changing the timing belt 30k-40k miles or every 4 years. Pricing for naturally aspirated 944’s run $4000-$7000, while turbo models range from $8000-$12,000. Though it may seem a bit more, nothing quite feels like the satisfaction of driving a Porsche.
1982-1991 Chevy Camaro
Out of all the available American Muscle sports cars, this is the vehicle to search for! The 3rd generation Camaro offers big bang for the buck if you compare it to the other sports cars. The Camaro came with either a 2.8L V6, 305 5.0L V8, or the IROC-Z 350 5.7L V8. By today standards, a 5.7L engine is huge! Though it doesn’t make the power of the same engine size today, it does make a respectable 245hp. The 305 V8 makes around 190hp, which is still decent. A huge benefit to the Camaro is the aftermarket parts and availability. The number of parts available clearly outclasses any vehicle on this list. And being domestic, you can walk into almost any part store with the high chance of them having what you need in stock. A V6 Camaro is on your local craigslist right now for as little as $600, for a premium IROC-Z expect to spend $5000-$7000.
A huge benefit to the Camaro is the aftermarket parts and availability. The number of parts available clearly outclasses any vehicle on this list. And being domestic, you can walk into almost any part store with the high chance of them having what you need in stock. A V6 Camaro is on your local craigslist right now for as little as $600, for a premium IROC-Z expect to spend $5000-$7000.
Other Sports Cars That Deserve An Honorable Mention
That concludes our list of our favorite 80’s sports cars. The 80’s really did pump out some cool cars, and as you’ll see in the list below there are plenty of them. I am leaving quite a few out, and to be honest I’ll probably update this list in the future. Here are some honorable mentions:
- 1981-1986 Toyota Supra (A70) – Very rare to find in clean condition today!
- 1982-1992 Pontiac Firebird – Sister to the Camaro, not as plentiful in the marketplace.
- 1974-1993 Ford Mustang (Fox Body) – Super popular, strong aftermarket, just not a fan.
- 1982-1994 BMW 3-series (E30) – Really sweet, hard to find, may add this one in the future?
- 1983-1992 VW Golf (MK2) – Need to do more research, very interesting though!
- 1983-1987 Honda Civic – Honestly, the aesthetics just ruin it for me.
- 1983-1991 Honda CR-X – Fun factor is lost in the FWD, but worth noting on this list.
- 193-1987 Toyota Corolla (AE86) – Might add this one, still debating if it’s cool enough, prices are high.
- 1984-1989 Toyota MR-2 (SW10) – Aesthetics ruin it, but is worth noting as a cool car.
- 1985-1989 Mazda 323 (BF) – AWD and Turbocharged? Expect to see this on the list in the future!