The 1980s are best remembered for big hair, parachute pants, pop music, and the Reagan administration. When it comes to cars, the industry was in a transition as boxy styling was evident nearly everywhere. Still, there were a number of standout models available, including these five memorable rides, made famous on TV or in the movies.
Dodge Daytona as seen in “Hunter”
Roughly based on the sedate K-Car platform that yielded the Plymouth Reliant and Dodge Aries, the sleek Dodge Daytona hatchback offered handsome sports-car good looks for a budget price. Available turbo and V6 power also made it a decent performance model for the era.
In 1984, the Dodge Daytona made its debut just as the television police drama “Hunter,” co-starring Stepfanie Kramer as Sgt. Dee Dee McCall, launched. During the show’s first two seasons, Sgt. McCall drove a garnet red and silver 1984 Dodge Daytona Turbo Z. For the third through fifth seasons, her ride was a 1987 Daytona Shelby Z. McCall’s partner, Hunter, routinely trashed his cars, but the sergeant usually kept hers intact despite the occasional airborne missions. However, her first Daytona caught fire at the end of season two, conveniently making way for the new model.
Lamborghini Countach – “The Cannonball Run”
The Cannonball Run, starring Burt Reynolds, Jackie Chan, Farrah Fawcett, and Roger Moore, was one of 1981’s top comedy movies. The movie’s plot features a cross-country race from Connecticut to California, based on a real event designed to protest the era’s federally-mandated 55 mph speed limit.
The movie features a number of cars, including a Chevrolet Chevelle Laguna, a Subaru Leone, and a Mercedes-Benz 280 SEL sedan. Among the more expensive models featured was a black Lamborghini Countach, perhaps also remembered for the Spandex-clad actresses inside, Adrienne Barbeau and Tara Buckman. The combination of a mid-engined V12 sports car and sexy women driving certainly helped this movie score at the box office.
GMC Vandura featured in “The A-Team”
Who knew a GMC van could be so exciting? The A-Team’s antics were a weekly feature during the mid-1980s, which meant lots of airtime for their GMC Vandura cargo van.
The featured 1983 model was powered by a 350-cubic-inch V8 engine with a two-barrel carburetor. Owned by master mechanic B. A. Barachus (played by 1980s legend Mr. T), the GMC was outfitted with fog lights, a front brush bar, quad-tip exhaust, and a custom rear wing. Heavy-duty shocks, white bucket seats, shag carpeting, and the requisite gun storage case were also present. Somehow, the van always managed to survive gun battles and epic crashes, with B.A. miraculously restoring it to its former glory each time.
Ferrari 308 as seen in “Magnum, P.I.”
Tom Selleck’s character in the crime drama television series “Magnum P.I.” had a life many of us envied – living rent-free in a Hawaii guest house on 200 acres of beachfront property. Oh, there’s also the matter of having access to a Ferrari 308 GTS.
The Ferrari 308 is a mid-engined, V8-powered two-seat sports car that was available in coupe and targa-top configurations. Not only did Detective Magnum perform his investigations with the Ferrari, a new model was conveniently rolled out at the start of all eight seasons of the show.
DeLorean DMC-12 from “Back to the Future”
“Back to the Future” gave us Marty McFly, a teenager played by Michael J. Fox whose life is turned upside down when he is befriended by Dr. Emmett Brown, a scientist. Dr. Brown’s time machine invention was based on a modified DeLorean DMC-12, a two-door gull-wing sports car. That machine transported McFly back in time and ahead to the future, a story line that eventually produced a series of three very successful movies.
Only 9,000 production models of the original DMC-12 were ever built, all manufactured in Northern Ireland. Unlike Doc Brown’s DeLorean, none of these included a flux capacitor. Too bad, because who wouldn’t want a time machine that suddenly transports the car and its occupants when reaching 88 mph?
Other models featured during the 1980s are worth mentioning too. These include David Hasselhoff’s Pontiac Trans Am from “Knight Rider” and the Buick Grand National in “Scarecrow and Mrs. King.” Each of these sweet 80s autos added a unique touch to a decade we’ll never forget.