A lot of cool cars were made in the 1980′s and many can be bought for cheap. Many of these sport cars can handle and perform equal or better than many new cars for similar or less money. There were impressive import and domestic cars and a reasonable variety of each. Lets go through a list of cars by their manufacturers starting with domestic cars. Unfortunately tightened emission specs limited the horsepower potential of the 1980′s era cars, so some cars will be judged more on their handling abilities. One way to beat the stricter emissions standards was to use a smaller engine with a turbo to increase the horsepower.
GM stayed with it’s traditional V8 engine with the Camaro, Trans Am, Monte Carlo, Regal, Cutlass and the Corvette. Although none of these cars were known for their exceptional power, all could be modified to make good power. Buick even produced a performance version of their regal model called the grand national. It used a turbo v6 engine that could make a lot of power. After it’s success pontiac came out with its own version called TTA which stood for turbo trans am. Pontiac also came out with the fiero.
Ford produced the mustang which generally used a v8 engine with exception of the svo. The svo like the buick used a turbo to make power out of its four cylinder engine. Ford offered a turbo and supercharged version of the thunderbird also. Ford also produced the lightening which was a powerful awd truck. Dodge/mitsubishi made a turbocharged charger and omni which made descent power and was light. They also produced the turbo eclipse and the tsi. Also they produced the stealth.
Imports finally had a chance to fit into the performance scene. Most already came with smaller engines now needed to pass emissions. Many imports also had turbos which allowed for easy power improvements. Nissan had the 300 zx 240sx and the datsun 240, 260, 280 z and 280zx which were good starting platforms for performance. Mazda had the rx7 which was a very light car with a high power rotary engine. The 323gtx was also a fun tunable car. Mazda also came out with the miata at the end of the decade. Toyota made the celica and the supra which both performed well and could be heavily modified. Toyota also made the mid engine mr-2 which performed well. Honda made the prelude and the crx which used light weight cars to perform.
European performance cars include the porsche 911and 944 among almost every model made by them. Bmw also had many good models such as the M3. Audi, Volvo, Mercedes all had performance cars also but were geared more toward luxury.