Everything, it must be said, is currently terrible. This naturally leads to a feeling of nostalgia among people. Perhaps someone in your life pines for a time when cars had pop-up headlights, unhinged turbo engines and stereo equalizers with sliders; a time when big hair and shoulder pads ruled the day, when people listened to synth music without irony because it was just music; a time when Donald Trump was merely another dipshit New York real estate developer and not the person with the nuclear codes. If so, this guide is for them.
Of course, not everything about the 1980s was good. But in a time when our autonomous and electrified future seems intent on both killing sports cars and fucking poor people, it is fine to look to this decade and its stylish, mechanical cars as a shining example of what driving ought to be.
The following gifts—which include watches, apparel, automotive accessories and other items as part of the Gizmodo Media Group’s desperate and shameless annual e-commerce cash grab—are scientifically proven to be the only things that fill the gaping void in your empty life.
You should buy all of them, and immediately.
I’ll tell you what people had in the ‘80s—goddamn style. Not like today, where... actually now that I think about it people wear a lot of the same stuff today because fashion tends to go in cycles, but still. They don’t go far enough. They don’t go King of Pop far enough.
You, however, can! For about a hundred bucks you can own this delightful and zipper-filled faux leather jacket, perfect for showin’ how funky and strong is your fight during T-top open cruising in your IROC-Z or MR2.
Now, when you’re zipping around in your 205 GTI or your 190E or your Renault Alpine GTA V6 GT (everyone has at least one of those cars in their garage) you could rip out the factory stereo for a Best Buy head unit with Bluetooth and rock out to your Spotify playlists. But that’s a cop-out. Real car enthusiasts keep the tape deck, and they scour thrift stores for copies of Stop Making Sense and No Jacket Required on cassette.
Problem is, cassette tapes—and their dirty cousin, the VHS tape—were a horrible garbage technology that no one really misses. These stereos require a bit more TLC than we’re used to today. So you should keep your heads clean with these cleaner cassettes, just under $15 on Amazon. A must-have!
Here’s a fun one! So when you go to buy that Datsun 280ZX or Mercury Capri RS, the guy on Craigslist expects you to be a sucker when he says the air conditioning “just needs a recharge.” It never just needs a recharge. Odds are the whole A/C system has to be updated to use the more modern and environmentally friendly R-134a refrigerant, and the last four fools who owned your car were too lazy to do it and just rode around with the windows down instead.
It’s time to get your hands dirty and do it yourself. This $56 kit from Amazon and ones like it can get you not only wrenching properly, but driving around with a cool R-134a breeze on your face in no time. Get the kids involved, make it a weekend project; use this time to lecture them about when Eddie Murphy still had a career and how everything was somewhat better when Reagan was president.
Perhaps you are a Big Serious Car Driving Man or Woman and you like taking your car to the track to see if you and/or your vehicle are faster than your Big Serious Car Driving friends. That is fine, even admirable. You are doing the Lord’s work when you do this. And many of these people are into expensive hand-jewelry. This is fine too.
But while there are an endless number of “racing-inspired chronographs” you can buy, should you really bring a four- or five-figure Hublot, Rolex Daytona, Omega Speedmaster, Tag Heuer Carrera or some other “timepiece” to the track where it can get smashed or burned or destroyed?
No. That is stupid, and insane, and wasteful. The only watch you’ll ever really need is the original G-Shock from 1983. G-Shocks are designed to be punished and still work. They are superb tool watches—don’t let the snobs say otherwise.
This one is digital and also made to take thorough amounts of abuse, and if you do manage to destroy one (you won’t) you’re only out $50 or $60 at most. I own one of these and I’ve banged it up against walls, dropped it off tall shelves and even sprayed hot motor oil all over it. It takes a licking and keeps on ticking. It has an ‘80s retro charm while still being functional; a kind of intentional middle finger to the expensive timepiece crowd. There are many variants of this watch, but the original is the best value.
Plus, it has lot of special features, like a stopwatch for timing your laps, and a backlight so you can check your times at night. Now that’s a “smart watch”!
Perhaps the only downside is you can’t wear it with a suit. At least, I’ve never met anyone who could pull that off.
If you do demand something with a bit more class, consider the Group B, from Autodromo. They’re a relatively new New York-based company helmed by an industrial designer friend of ours named Bradley Price, and in recent years they’ve become kind of famous as an upstart maker of car- and racing-inspired watches that don’t cost thousands of dollars to own. In addition to being a great business success story, their watches are cool as shit.
The Group B is, as you might have guessed, inspired by the legendary 1980s rallying class where the cars all had a billion horsepower and everyone died all the time. It was unhinged, it was dangerous, and it was awesome. The Autodromo Group B likely won’t kill you, but it does go with almost everything. And at $925 for an automatic movement and coming in a variety of colors, it’s a good deal for something interesting and different and tastefully retro.
Listen, there’s a chance your dream R31 Nissan Skyline or DeLorean will totally shit the bed when you’re out driving it. Cars from the ‘80s are known for their driver-focused dynamics, but they are often complex. That’s why it pays to be prepared.
Here’s a useful roadside assistance and first aid kid on Amazon for just $42. It includes rope, a triangle, a vest, some basic tools, a flashlight, a razor knife, a rain poncho, a tire pressure gauge, zip ties and much more, almost certainly for cheaper than these items would be individually. Really, this should be in every car, but it’s especially important to have it in an older car.
This one is just for older BMWs, like the E30 I used to own. But it’s an example of stuff you can buy for your car if it applies. A lot of older cars had electronic diagnostic systems, but had proprietary pin setups instead of the standardized OBD-II that all cars use now. Get an adapter like this one for just $15 on Amazon and you can do all the code reading you want.
OK, these aren’t really from the 1980s. But they also never really go out of style. Get a pair (or some knockoffs, I don’t care) and go driving in style, because every car person needs a good set of sunglasses.
This is another tool that should be in every toolbox! But it’s especially useful on cars from this era and onward, where you may find yourself searching for weird electrical gremlins. Here’s one for under $20 on Amazon. Highly recommended.
This is just a really fucking great album. That’s all.