The Eighties Club
The Politics and Pop Culture of the 1980s
Automobiles of the 1980s
American Motors was formed in 1954 with the merger of Nash-Kelvinator Corporation and the Hudson Motorcar Company. At the time, it was the largest corporate merger in history. In 1957, AMC introduced America's first factory hot rod -- the Rebel -- and in 1963 the Rambler was named Motor Trend's Car of the Year. In 1968 the legendary Javelin sports car was unveiled. In April 1970, America got it's first subcompact, the Gremlin, courtesy of AMC. That year, AMC bought Jeep from the Kaiser Corporation. In 1975, sales of the new Pacer were double what had been expected, and the mid-Seventies proved to be the best years for AMC, as the company also produced postal jeeps, military trucks and transit buses. In 1980, AMC introduced America's first SUV, the Eagle; Renault acquired a 25% interest in the company and sold their Fuego sports car and LeCar through AMC dealerships. In 1986 the Jeep Wrangler and Comanche pickup debuted. By mid-decade the Sportwagon Cherokee had become the most popular SUV and AMC negotiated a deal to build a Cherokee plant in Peking. But AMC was facing a financial crisis. In 1987, Chrysler bought Renault's share, then 49%, added 2% more, and acquired a controlling interest in AMC (at a total cost of about $1.1 billion). Chrysler built the Eagle Premiere for five years in their own plants. The J-model trucks were discontinued in 1988. The Kenosha. WI assembly plant, which had been turning out automobiles since 1897, was torn down in 1988 as well.

The 1982 AMC Eagle Series 30 had a  6-cyl.engine, tilt, cruise, power steering and brakes, bucket seats. TheEagle offered standard or automatic transmission, 2 or 4WD, and 2 or 4 doors. It was called the first sports utility vehicle. Sells now for $1000-$2500.

The 1984 AMC CJ7 had a 258 4.2L, 6-cyl. engine, 5-speed manual transmission and a hard or soft top. Considered something of a collectible now, the mid-80s CJ7's bring anywhere from $5000-$11000, depending on condition and extras. The CJ7 was replaced by the Wrangler in 1987.

The 1985 AMC Eagle Limited Wagon was 4WD and had a 4.2L engine, auto transmission, A/C, power steering, power windows, power door locks, cruise control, tilt steering wheel. Currently sells for $1500-$2500.

This 1987 AMC Grand Wagoneer 4WD boasted an 8-cyl. engine and 3-speed automatic transmission (standard was also available), all power accessories, rear window defroster, fog lights. '80s Wagoneers sells for $5000-$10000, with the older ones bringing the higher prices if they're in great condition.

The 1985 AMC Cherokee 4-door sports utility had 4WD, a 4 cyl. engine, 4 or 5-speed manual transmission, Am/FM stereo, power steering and rear-window defroster. Also came in a 2-door model. Not much different from the Cherokees of today. Currently selling for $2000-$3000. In 1984, AMC cut a deal with China for a Cherokee plant in Peking.

The 1989 AMC Eagle Premiere ES had a 3.2L V-6 engine and automatic transmission, power accessories, tilt, cruise. Currently retails at about $3000.

The 1986 AMC J20 Townside 3/4 ton pickup was 4WD and sported an 8-cyl. engine. The J10 was the lighter truck. Current value unknown.

The 1986 AMC Renault Alliance GTA sported a 2.0L, 95 horsepower engine and 5-speed standard transmission. It originally retailed for $11,500. There was a hatchback model. Renault had purchased 25% of AMC in 1980, and owned 49% of AMC stock in 1983. Motor Trend chose the Alliance as its Car of the Year in 1983.

The Renault LeCar. Interestingly, the engine was installed backwards, with the transmission next to the radiator.

Chrsyler Corporation was founded in June, 1925. It produced the first Plymouth in 1928, and that same year acquired Dodge Brothers, Inc. By 1929, Chrysler was ranked one of the Big Three automakers (with Ford and General Motors.) During World War II, Chrysler contributed to the war effort by producing 18,000 Sherman tanks. In the Fifties the company contracted with the U.S. Army to produce the first Jupiter space exploration missiles and also introduced the first all-transistor car radios. Though Chrysler enjoyed record sales in 1972 and 1973, by the mid-Seventies it was in financial straits, thanks to high inflation, a severe gasoline shortage, competition from foreign imports, and waning consumer confidence. In 1979, the same year that Lee Iacocca became chairman of Chrysler, the U.S. Congress passed the Chrysler Corporation Loan Guarantee Act, signed into law by President Carter in January 1980. This provided Chrysler with $1.5 billion in guaranteed loans. Under Iacocca, Chrysler cut inventory, reduced staff,  and introduced the K-cars (Dodge Reliant and Chysler Aries, etc.) in an attempt to turn things around. By 1983, Chrysler had paid off the loans (and the federal government earned a profit of $350 million). That same year, the minivan (Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager) were introduced -- and played a key role in restoring the company to health. 1984 was Chrysler's best earning year ever. That year, Chrysler acquired a 15.6% equity in Maserati -- a relationship that ended in 1988. And in 1987 Chrysler acquired American Motors Corporation (the fourth largest automaker) in an $800 million deal. Chrysler became the first company to offer airbags as standard equipment (1988) and the first to convert it's entire fleet to front-wheel drive.

The 1981 Chrysler Imperial 2-door sedan had a V-8 engine. Currently sells for $1200-$4000, with the upper end being the cars with all power accessories and leather seats. There was a "Frank Sinatra" edition that is collectible.

The 1984 Chrysler LeBaron 2-door coupe sported a 2.6L, 4-cyl. engine and automatic transmission. Convertible available. The mid-80s LeBaron also came in a GTS 4-door hatchback model. Currently sells for $1500-$5500, while the woody convertible is considered a collectible and can go for $7500.

A 1983 Chrysler LeBaron "Woody". Photo courtesy of Ted Gottry of Fellsmere, FL.

The 1987 Chrysler Conquest TSI sports coupe hatchback had a turbo 4, 5-speed transmission, stereo, all power accessories and cruise control. Currently sells for $6000 in excellent condition.

The 1989 Chrysler TC by Maserati was a sporty 2-door with a 2.2L 4-cyl. engine, power accessories, AM/FM stereo, and (usually) leather seats. Only 7300 were made between 1989-1991. Currently sells for $5000-$6500.

The 1983 Chrysler Fifth Avenue had a V-8 engine, automatic transmission, all power accessories, AM/FM stereo, with leather seats available. '80s models currently sell for $3000-$4000.

The 1988 Chrysler New Yorker came with a V-6 engine, 3-speed automatic transmission, all power accessories and many extra touches like map lights, climate control, deluxe wheel covers, leather interior etc. Currently retails at about $4000.

The 1989 Chrysler LeBaron came with a turbo 4-cyl. engine, automatic transmission, all power accessories, leather seats and convertible top available. Currently sells for about $4000.

The 1983 Chrysler Cordoba sported a V-8 engine, automatic transmission, all power accessories, a carriage roof, corinthian leather seats, and cruise control. Currently sells for about $2500-$3000.

The 1985 Chrysler Laser (Daytona) came with a turbo 4-cyl. engine, 5-speed manual transmission and t-tops were available. Currently sells for $2000-$2500.
Chrysler's K-cars is a term that technically encompasses all Chrysler, Dodge and Plymouth front-wheel drive autos made throughout most of the 1980s and up through 1995, with the exception of the LH series (Intrepid family), L series (Omni family), Cloud Cars, Neons and imports. K-car models included a 2-door coupe, a 4-door sedan and a 5-door wagon. The '80s K-cars were powered by a new 2.2L "Trans Four" motor (a Mitsubishi 2.6L was optional) and had a 3-speed automatic or 4-speed manual transmission. In 1985 the K's were redesigned to appear less "boxy" and got a 2.5L engine to replace the Mitsubishi 2.6L.