If you were to pick one decade that was better than all others for cool, quick cars, it has to be the 80s. The decade had all the right ingredients: aggressive boxy styling and countless motorsport homologation specials, not to mention some of the most incredible supercars ever seen.
We asked you on Facebook to nominate your favourite cars of this fantastic motoring decade, and from the 400+ comment response, we’ve compiled this list.
This car not only revolutionised rallying with its four-wheel drive system, but paved the way for the hot four-wheel drive Audis we know and love today. One of the most evocative scenes in the history of the World Rally Championship is the sight of a rally Quattro charging through forests, accompanied by the gorgeous warble of its turbocharged five-pot engine. Road-going versions had anything from 197bhp to 302bhp in the rare Sport Quattro.
Ford Sierra RS Cosworth
Ford churned out some legendary fast cars in the 80s, one of the most memorable being the Sierra RS Cosworth. With the gigantic ‘whale tail’ on the back of the three-door it looked the business, and with motorsport experts Cosworth turning Ford’s Pinto engine into a 204bhp belter, it was quick too. It was built to allow Ford to go Touring Car racing; something the Sierra was pretty damn successful at.
Lancia Delta Integrale
Like the Quattro, the rally version of the Delta Integrale cleaned up in the WRC, winning every constructor’s championship between 1987 and 1992. The road-going version is an incredible car to drive, particularly the last hurrah Evo II model. With 215bhp from its 2.0-litre engine and four-wheel drive, the Evo II launched from 0-62mph in just 5.7 seconds. As much as we love this car, though, it makes us sad that Lancia hasn’t really made a desirable car since.
Toyota Corolla AE86
Partly due to its appearance in Japanese Manga series Initial D, Toyota’s rear-drive coupe of the 80s is now a proper cult car. It has much more substance than just being a celebrity car, however. It had a great chassis known for its oversteer antics, a limited-slip differential on some versions, low weight, and a peppy 1.6-litre four-pot engine.
BMW E30 M3
Built to take the fight to the Mercedes 190E 2.3-16 ‘Cosworth’ on the race track, the road-going version of the hardcore E30 M3 was arguably a better car than the Merc. Originally powered by a gutsy 197bhp 2.3-litre four-pot, final editions of this Touring Car for the road had a larger 2.5-litre engine with a meaty 235bhp.
Built as a big brother to the much criticised 924, the 944 was a proper Porsche. While its little brother sported a weedy four-pot VW/Audi engine, the 944 had a Porsche-developed engine: a 2.5-litre 16-valve unit that was essentially one half of the 5.0-litre V8 found in the 928. More powerful versions followed, notably the 944 Turbo, which kicked out a healthy 250bhp.
Ford Mustang SVO
Thanks to the fallout of the 1979 oil crisis, V8s really weren’t an attractive ownership proposition in the 80s. As a result, Ford did something radical for the high-performance, ‘SVO’ version of the third-generation Mustang: it ditched the V8 in favour of a turbocharged 2.3-litre four-pot. It wasn’t exactly a sales success, but it remains an intriguing riposte to the usual V8-powered muscle cars. In some ways, the 2.3-litre Ecoboost version of the 2015 ‘Stang could be considered a spiritual successor to the SVO.
Despite countless incredible supercars emerging in the decades following this car, the F40 is still considered by many to be the greatest of all time. The 471bhp churned out by its 2.9-litre turbocharged V8 doesn’t sound much these days, but that was a serious figure when this car was released, and with just 1100kg to haul about it’s devastatingly fast.
Like the Lancia and the Audi, the RS200 is a car steeped in rallying history, only its story isn’t one of success. 200 road-going examples of this mid-engined, four-wheel drive machine were built to homologate the Group B rally-spec beast, but in the World Rally Championship, it didn’t do well. Its competition history came to a tragic end in the 1986 WRC season: one accident with the RS200 claimed the lives of three spectators, while another RS200 crash killed co-driver Michel Wyder. These events heavily contributed towards Group B being canned at the end of the season. Despite the unenviable history, this incredibly rare car has remained a cult classic.
Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R
We usually think of the Skyline GT-R as a car of the 90s. But let’s not forget that the R32 version – which revived the GT-R name after an absence of 16 years – arrived in 1989. In the unlikely event that you come across a standard version of this four-wheel drive coupe, you’ll find a 2.6-litre twin-turbo straight-six under the bonnet producing 276bhp.
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