Today I’m at home in front of my computer which can mean one thing. I’m searching for totally rad cars from the 80s and 90s that I want to buy! In this video I take a look at 11 vehicles that I love, from the wedge shaped Subaru XT, to the cute little Daihatsu Rocky, to the mostly forgotten Mercury LN7. And we see if we can find any for sale in the US.
If you’re familiar with my YouTube channel, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of the cars from the 80s and 90s, especially forgotten and unloved cars from that era. I gravitate towards vehicles that are not exactly collectable, valuable, or even desirable—meaning some of the cars I’d like to buy are very difficult to find.
Here are 11 vehicles from the 80s and 90s that I would like to own someday!
Let’s start with a wedge shaped wonder that has been on my wish list for years. The Subaru XT, also known as the Alcyone in Japan and the Vortex in Australia and New Zealand, was Subaru’s first-ever coupe, built from 1985 to 1991. This car is just dripping with weird, 1980s styling—an extremely aerodynamic wedge shaped body, pop up headlights, and a heckblende adorning the boxy rear end.
I’m also a huge fan of this super weird interior—complete with an asymmetrical steering wheel! Earlier models had a 97 horsepower 1.7 liter boxer four cylinder or 112 horsepower turbocharged version of the same motor. In 1988 the turbo was dropped in favor of a 145 horsepower H6 engine in the XT6. I want it!
Nissan Pulsar Sportbak
This is the Nissan Pulsar NX Sportbak, also known as the EXA in other markets. Built between 1986 and 1990, this funky vehicle was made back in a time when manufacturers weren’t afraid to try something really weird.
It’s modular! Want a shooting brake? Easy! Take off the rear hatch and drop in the optional wagon back.
Want a coupe? Great! Drop the hatch back on. Want an open air experience? Take off the roof!
Need to cart around some large items in the back? Leave off the hatch and now you’ve got a mini pickup truck bed.
Ford Mustang SVO
Let’s look back at one of the original turbo Mustangs. Three decades before the modern Ecoboost Mustang, there was the fox body Mustang SVO.
Mustang sales suffered due to the oil crisis in the late 70s, and Ford wanted to rethink the muscle car to better compete with the influx of Japanese and European sports car offerings in the US. The result? The turbocharged Mustang SVO.
While the Mustang GT received its motivation from a big ol’ 302 cubic inch V8, the SVO was powered by a 2.3 liter turbocharged 4 cylinder. It made 175 horsepower in 1984, 205 in 1985.5, and back down to 200 in 1986. Not only were they unique, they were actually quicker than their GT siblings! They reached 60 miles per hour in a quick for the era 7.7 seconds, versus about 9 for the GT.
Does anyone in the US remember Daihatsu? Anyone? Bueller? My friend and Hello Road podcast co-host Paul remembers them, as he owns a Daihatsu Charade. But anyone else? No? Daihatsu has a long history outside of the US, becoming primarily known for smaller kei cars in Japan. Their time in the States was brief, selling only two models from 1987 to 1992. You could get either the diminutive Charade or the cute little SUV called the Rocky.
This little baby SUV is adorable, but actually quite capable. I’d love to find one of these and take it off-roading!
I’ll admit, I had never even seen a photo of a JDM Mazda Lantis until a couple months ago. Isn’t this thing rad? This is just totally dripping with a 1990s vibe.
It was also sold as the 323F, Astina, Allegro and Artis outside of Japan, but it never made it to the States. Many of these cars came with the Mazda B6 engine (found in the Miata), but you could also get it with a 2.0 liter V6 that revs all the way to 7800rpm—one of the smallest V6 engines that has ever made it in a production car.
But I’d really like to import a Lantis Type R, which came with 168 horsepower and a limited slip differential.
Ever heard of the Mercury LN7? Most people haven’t, as it was introduced for the 1982 model year and quickly killed in 1983. The LN7 is the lesser known twin of the Ford EXP, itself a mostly forgotten car.
The EXP and LN7 were 2 seater, front wheel drive “sports compact” coupes. The LN7 differentiated itself with a “bubble back” hatch. Very few LN7s were sold—perhaps because a sports compact car was a bit out of place in a Lincoln/Mercury dealership.
With only about 70 horsepower, the LN7 is not a quick car, but the strange shape really stands out to me today. It is such a weird and unique looking car that not many appreciated much when it was new. And now, they’ve mostly all disappeared.
Pontiac Trans Sport
My first vehicle was a 1983 Ford Econoline van, and it’s high time I find myself another van to add to my stable. I’ve long had a soft spot for GM’s “dustbuster” minivans, and the pre-facelift Pontiac Trans Sport is my favorite of the bunch.
Back in the 80s, GM needed something to better compete with Chrysler’s hot-selling minivans. Instead of taking the safe route, GM decided to go with a completely futuristic look, with a very long sloped windshield and hidden A and C pillars.
The design proved to be a bit too forward thinking for the buying public, as GM facelifted these within a couple years. While I hated the plastic body cladding that Pontiac slapped on everything back in the 80s and 90s, I actually have a bit of fondness for it now. Looks pretty good on the Trans Sport.
And if you haven’t seen it, you should take note of the original concept version of the Pontiac Trans Sport. This thing is amazing. Obviously this design may not have been realistic or possible to manufacture, but imagine if GM could have built this instead? Would that have changed the course of minivan history?
The Ferrari Mondial often gets a bad rap, often referred to as the worst Ferrari, but I think they’re actually quite cool. Diehard Ferrari enthusiasts may not have much love for the Mondial, but I love its unusual shape and unmistakable 80s Ferrari aesthetic. Louvre grilles, pop up quad headlights, and a sleek yet boxy Pinanfarina design—what’s not to like? Okay, nostalgia might be influencing me a bit here, but I do really love this shape.
The Mondial was initially panned as not having enough power and being too slow “for a Ferrari”. It was also quite a bit more expensive than quicker offerings at the time. Though it did serve a purpose as a practical, everyday grand tourer—albeit an expensive one. Later Mondials got quicker and handled better, with years of refinement culminating with the Mondial T.
Many years later, the Mondial is often the least expensive Ferrari available. While it got derided for not living up to Ferrari standards at the time, it’s not a bad car. Especially by 1989, when they seem to have worked out most of the kinks. A totally rad 1980s Ferrari for under $35k? Sign me up.
How about a luxury car for our list? Calling this a luxury car is certainly debatable, but it does have a luxury badge. The Cimarron often shows up in worst car lists, being touted as a badge engineering disaster. But I think that’s a bit too harsh. Yes, the idea behind the car was a marketing mistake, but many years later this little Caddy is sort of endearing.
Looking back, it’s fun to laugh at GM a little bit—like they really thought a low-effort rebadge of a Cavalier would really sell that well as a Cadillac.
In defense of this car, I think itwas more of a product planning and branding blunder than it actually being a terrible vehicle. The J body cars, like the Chevy Cavalier, were decently acceptable vehicles for its era, especially for the price at which they were sold. Slapping on some gold trim and Cadillac badges on a basic economy platform and charging thousands more was never going to work. But it is an interesting piece of automotive history. And because of that, I kinda want one of these in my stable. It’s possible I’ll be disappointed in the driving experience, but it would be fun to drive something that takes me back to the weird mid-80s decisions of General Motors.
Chevrolet Beretta GTZ
The Chevrolet Beretta GTZ might not have been my first choice for a sporty coupe back in 1990, but it certainly was cool looking. The GTZ had quite a few aesthetic upgrades from the base Beretta, with a fantastic looking body kit and body colored wheels.
It also featured the Quad 4 engine pushing out 180 horsepower, which motivated the car to 60 miles per hour in about 7.5 seconds, decently quick for the era. The GTZ came with a high performance suspension package, and handling was good too. I want one!
Citroen BX GTI 16V
Let’s have a look at another car that was never available in the United States. How about we all take a moment to remember the fantastically weird Citroen BX GTI 16V. The BX is a delightfully strange and boxy family car produced by Citroen from 1982 to 1994. While I am a fan of the base model, I’m particularly interested in the 16 valve version of the BX GTi that was introduced in 1987.
The naturally aspirated 1.9L engine made an impressive 158 horsepower, allowing the car to hit 60mph in just under 8 seconds. And the look of this GTI 16V is just fire—I love all of it’s quirky and awkward lines!
Even if you’re not a fan of this car, you have to recognize its Group B rally heritage! Okay, so it didn’t do that well in rallies. But it has Group B rally heritage!
So there you have it. A collection of 11 totally rad 1980s/1990s cars that I’d like to own someday. Which one of these should I buy? Which one of these would you want to add to your stable?