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Whether you’re talking films, music, cars or clothes, the 1980s is firmly back in fashion.
That means many of the decade’s key cars have shot up in value: prices for impact-bumper 911s, Sierra Cosworths, early BMW M3s and hot hatch heroes such as the Peugeot 205 GTI have all exploded in the past few years.
But look beyond the obvious choices and there are still plenty of bargains to be found. Here’s a mix-tape of 19 value-packed ’80s classics.
1. Renault GTA Turbo
Target price: £5-12k
Renault’s plastic Porsche featured a six-cylinder engine slung way out beyond the rear wheels just like a 911, and in turbo guise it was 155mph quick.
Fragility and that Renault badge (Chrysler owned the UK rights to the Alpine name used elsewhere) hold prices down, meaning a good one is a bargain.
2. Bentley Turbo R
Target price: £8-13.5k
Criminally neglected for years, the Bentley brand rediscovered its sporting mojo in the 1980s and has been riding high ever since.
First came the fast but floppy 1982 Mulsanne Turbo, before Bentley remembered to improve the handling as well as the horsepower (298bhp, since you ask), resulting in ’85’s Turbo R.
3. Alfa Romeo 164 3.0 V6
Target price: £3-7k
The best looking and certainly the most tuneful of the Saab-Fiat-Alfa-Lancia Type Four brothers, the Pininfarina-penned 164 was Alfa’s first big front-wheel drive car.
Twin-spark ‘four’s are fun and affordable to run, but the V6 is the pick: prettier, cheaper and almost as quick as a Thema 8.32, for a stack less cash.
4. Ferrari Testarossa
Target price: £126-186k
You could easily sub the last of the Berlinetta Boxers into this spot; both are massively cheaper than their Countach rival and both feature Ferrari’s incredible ‘boxer’ (actually a 180-degree V12) engine.
But we’ll go for the uglier Testarossa. It’s not as pretty as the BB but it’s more usable, more powerful, more affordable – and with those side strakes, even more ’80s.
5. BMW E34 M5
Target price: £4.5-13k
We get it: the original E28 is rare, relatively light and has that cool shark-nose snout. The later E34 M5 isn’t, and doesn’t.
But it’s a more complete package, definitely easier to live with, and dirt-cheap by comparison. The world’s gone mad when an E28 M535i is worth as much as a fully-fledged, hand-built E34 M5.
6. Mercedes 190E 2.3-16
Target price: £8-20k
Benz’s little Group A touring car has shot up in value in recent years, but prices still lag far behind those of its BMW M3 rival.
The first cars featured a 2.3-litre Cosworth-topped engine with 185bhp and, unlike the BMW, a choice of auto or manual transmissions.
But a stronger, more powerful (204bhp) 2.5 with dual timing chains replaced it from 1988.
7. TVR wedges
Target Price: £5-25k
More Marmitey than a jar of yeast-infection-in-waiting, TVR’s 1980s wedges are often sidestepped in the rush to fawn over the later Griffith.
No, the styling hasn’t aged well, and the dashboard has fared no better, but they’re great to drive, mechanically simple, and, in V8 form, ferociously quick: the mighty 450 SEAC was good for 0-60mph in less than 5 secs.
8. Jaguar XJ-S convertible
Target price: £8-17k
It took Jag 13 years to make a proper XJ-S convertible (we’ll ignore the disappointing half-a-job XJ-SC) and it’s taking an eternity for the market to wake up to these elegant, open-top, V12 GTs.
They might never have the emotional appeal, or historical and cultural significance, of an E-type roadster, but at one tenth of the price for the very best, who’s grumbling?
9. Vauxhall Carlton GSi 3000
Target price: £2-10k
While its Lotus big brother was causing a stink in Parliament and the papers, the GSi 3000 was causing a stir of its own among BMW 5 Series drivers.
The original 177bhp, 12-valve straight-six is good, but the ’89-on 24-valve version should be top of your list. Your biggest problem is finding one that hasn’t rotted away.
10. Lotus Excel
Target price: £5-10k
This Lotus 2+2 definitely looks best from the front, which is where you’ll find the same twin-cam 2.2 that powers its Esprit brother.
SE cars get 180bhp instead of the standard 160bhp, but they all handle sweetly and the galvanised chassis and numerous Toyota parts makes them more robust than the older Eclat.
11. Renault 21 Turbo
Target price: £2-8k
France’s answer to the Sierra Cosworth wasn’t quite as powerful as its Ford rival (175bhp played 204bhp) and front-wheel drive meant it was a tad slower off the line.
But mid-range go was epic and the later four-wheel-drive Quadra version sorted the traction issues. They were rare when new, and are almost extinct today. Howmanyleft.co.uk says there are only 22 on the road.
12. Mercedes-Benz 300CE
Target price: £1.5-5k
Merc’s W124 mid-sized, mid-’80s saloons and estates have a reputation for being almost indestructible – a reputation their W210 successor squandered.
Porsche-fettled 500E aside, they were as racy as a Victorian swimsuit, but the coupé version’s suave, understated style more than compensates.
Choose from frugal four-cylinder 230 or muscular 300-badged straight-six.
13. Audi Coupé
Target price: £2-6k
Fire up the, er, front-driver! The cheap ür-quattro boat sailed so long ago it’s nearly coming past to start its second lap. But you can get 80% of the experience for 20% of the outlay by settling for its slim-hipped, equally understeery, little brother.
It came with a choice of four-cylinder Golf GTI 1.8, or burbly, naturally-aspirated five-cylinder power units, and yes, there was even a four-wheel drive quattro option.
14. Maserati Biturbo
Target price: £5-15k
The unloved, three-box Biturbo was never the prettiest Maserati, and the only thing reliable about it is owners’ tales of unreliability.
But they’re quick, quirky and surprisingly practical. Now that even a Ferrari Mondial costs as much as a new Porsche, this is one of the last ways to get into a big Italian name for little money.
15. Volkswagen Scirocco Mk2
Target price: £0.5-5k
Who doesn’t like the idea of Golf GTI with its oily bits wrapped up in a lower, sportier shell? Plenty of you, judging by how little you can still pick up these second-gen Sciroccos for.
Many are simple carb’d 1.6 and 1.8 jobs, but GTI-spec (and a handful of 16v) cars were available. And while Giugiaro’s second stab at the design wasn’t as neat as his first, it’s still a handsome, practical coupé.
16. Porsche 928
Target price: £8-15k
All 928 prices have risen over recent years, but sandwiched between the now-desirable early 4.5 cars and very late GT and wide-body GTS models are a whole swathe of 928s that are still criminally undervalued.
A nice S2 with the classic 928 looks but improved brakes – or still-futuristic S4 – at £15k is an absolute steal compared with double that for an absolute dog of an air-cooled 911.
17. Ford Sierra XR4i
Target price: £4-8k
Whale-tail three-door Cossies are strong money these days, and even the more common, less conspicuous, booted Sapphire versions don’t come cheap.
But the Cossie’s precursor, the naturally-aspirated 2.8-powered XR4i, is a rarer sight than either and still sensible money. Think of it as a big Capri with a bunch of O-levels.
18. Range Rover Classic
Target price: £5-15k
Prices for the early three-door Rangies have already gone stratospheric and the five-door classic-shape cars are on the rise too, meaning now is the time to move if you want one.
V8s from ’86-on gained fuel injection for better performance and economy, though these things are relative: Autocar’s ’86 Vogue test car averaged just 15mpg…
19. Jaguar XJ40
Target price: £1.5-6k
‘Best saloon in the world!’ claimed 1980s road testers wowed by the XJ40’s J-gate gear selector, new AJ6 engines and a digital dashboard that seemed to have been cobbled together out of an early 1970s calculator.
They’re uncool, so under-priced, but steer clear of the weedy 2.9 and head straight for a 3.6 (or the 4.0 that superseded it from ’88) in upscale Sovereign trim – if you can find one that’s resisted the slide to banger-land.
Images: Tony Baker, David Shepherd, Renault, What Car?