I Need A Car To Relive The 1980s! What Should I Buy?

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Photo: Justin Westbrook / Jalopnik

Mitch is longing to relive better times, and for him, that means a car from the 1980s. He needs something cheap that can fit four adults for road trips and such. He is flexible on the car and the body style as long as it is ‘80s awesome! What car should he buy?

 (Welcome back to What Car Should You Buy? Where we give real people real advice about buying cars. )

Here is the scenario -

I’ve been itching to celebrate the freedom of childless adulthood by making weekend couples retreats with my friends a thing. But the rub is, I’d like us all to share in the mid-life crisis together, so I plan on driving us around in a car from the ’80s (produced roughly between ’77 and ’89), wearing ’80s clothes, blasting whatever ’80s music we can find on tape, boning up on the lingo, etc.

The car needs to be able to fit 4 adults and their period-correct hair for road trips. Reliable enough that any of its issues are endearing rather than debilitating. I like Volvos and Saabs, due to their character and quirks. The 3rd Gen Camaro was my favorite non-exotic growing up. My life was once in danger at the hands of a guy driving a Nova, so that might be some interesting PTSD. I own a minivan today and am absolutely comfortable with that, but I’m not sure ’80s vans do it for me despite them being an obvious choice.

As for the budget, $10k would be my overall budget to get it out on the road, so a $9k Jag in immediate need of $5k’s work is no bueno.


Quick Facts:

Budget: up to $10,000

Daily Driver: Yes

Location: Northeast

Wants: ‘80s Awesome, four seats, reasonably reliable

Doesn’t want: Something too small

Expert 1: Tom McParland - Super Sport

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Image: Craigslist

Well, Mitch, as a kid of the ‘80s thanks for making me feel old today but those were good times. Since I was very young during that time I have a limited memory of what was going on but I do remember that the cars were cool. One of the first cars I fell in love with was a Porsche 928 that I passed every day on the way to school. That was just something about that car that looked awesome, I didn’t realize at the time that it was a Porsche with the motor in the wrong place.

I was also fond of anything with stripes and graphics (seriously, automakers need to bring those back), and a buddy of mine in high-school had a mid-1980s Monte Carlo SS that was just badass. One of those can be yours within your budget with a very reasonable 83,000 miles and it’s supposedly in “excellent condition.” While it’s only a two-door, the back seats were reasonably comfortable for an almost 6ft teenager, but back then we weren’t too picky. Trunk space is generous as well, and there is something to be said for an American V8 up front pushing power to the rear wheels.


Expert 2: Andrew Collins - [Removes Sunglasses, Raises Headlights]

The one you find might not be this mint, but...
The one you find might not be this mint, but...
Photo: Acura

Ah geez, once again, I read the headline here and got really excited to talk about Nissan Z31s! (And then read your “four-adult capacity” requirement so that one’s out the window.)


However, if you’re looking for ‘80s, I still think you should try to find something with pop-up headlights. And if you look hard enough, you might be able to find something with four doors too! What about a late ‘80s Acura Integra sedan, or even one of those odd flip-light Honda Accords?

Either of those would be tough to find in nice condition, but would definitely be doable in your budget and theoretically be fairly easy to keep alive once you found one. Here’s a somewhat sketchy listing for an ’88 Accord sedan with pop-ups in Connecticut. I can’t find any old Integra listings that are even worth sharing, but, “nice, ’80s, under $10,000” is going to take some searching. (Totally possible, you just need to be patient.)


Expert 3: Rory Carroll: It’s Big Boy Season

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Photo: AutoTrader (Other)

If you are like...most of the people who were alive in the ‘80s, you may discover, upon sitting in the average ‘80s hatch that you are now, somewhat larger than you were in the Regan-era. This is fine if it’s just you, but if you’re gonna try to stuff of your pals in too, you might want to go bigger. And since the Bronco has me thinking about the Blazer, let me suggest something like this.


Of course, there are plenty of other burly body on frame SUVs that are more quintessentially 80s, like maybe an FJ62 Land Cruiser, but look at those seats, man. A little detail and the Chevy would be looking mean, with plenty of room for your things.

Expert 4: David Tracy: Buy Two Fieros

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Photo: Facebook Marketplace (Other)

If you want one of the most iconic ‘80s American vehicles ever, you get yourself a Pontiac Fiero. It’s an amazing mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive sports car/economy car, and it has a special place in America’s hearts. Some hate it, some love it, but all respect it for what it could have been.

It’s got the classic 1980s wedge shape and squared-off dash with buttons to the left and right of the gauge cluster. It’s handsome, quirky, dirt cheap, and amazingly ‘80s.


But it only seats two, so you’ll have to snag a pair. Sure, it’ll double the probability of some sort of mechanical failure, but these Fieros are cheap (the beautiful one above is only $5,000) and awesome, so you should maybe even buy a third one for good measure. Why not?

Snag a walkie-talkie from the store so you can talk with the other couple, and this will be the greatest couples retreat ever. Possibly also the worst.


Okay, it’ll be memorable. I can promise you that.

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