The 1980s and 1990s didn’t just bring us Madonna, the Walkman and Air Jordans. It was also a wild era for the automotive industry, which delivered some true icons that are still loved and adored today. It was a time of flared arches, enormous wings and low tech. After all, traction control was something you did with your foot. Here are six of our favorite “youngtimer” icons...
Nissan Skyline GT-R (R32)
Nissan revamped the Skyline GT-R brand in 1989 with the Nissan Skyline GT-R R32 model. It was a car that was a revolution in the car industry. Its now-infamous RB26DETT engine put out an impressive 320hp although, at the time, Nissan said it only produced 276hp, following a gentlemen’s agreement among Japanese automakers not to share actual output figures. The twin-turbo, straight-six sent power to all four wheels, and the car featured a rear-wheel steering system to improve stability. The R32 is one of the most popular JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) cars globally for a few reasons. First and foremost, apart from being an incredible road car, it might even have been a better race car. It was winning races all over the world from the fierce Japanese Touring car championship to Spa and the Nürburgring all the way to the Bathurst 1000. Nissan also made a rear-wheel-drive version called the GTS-T which became very popular in the rapidly growing Japanese drift scene. Last but not least, the R32 gained popularity in the past decade by being one of the few Japanese cars US citizens could legally import because of the 25-year import ban.
BMW E30 M3
The BMW M3 is, without doubt, one of the most iconic road cars BMW has ever built. And we have Mercedes-Benz to thank for it. In the early 1980s, Mercedes-Benz was dominating the DTM championship. BMW ordered its motorsport department to build a racing version of the E30 BMW 3-Series. Originally BMW Motorsport wanted to use the straight-six from the infamous M1 race car, but the engine was too heavy for the small sedan. So they reimagined a four-cylinder version of it. In order to enter the DTM series, a manufacturer would need to build 5000 road-going versions of the car. The M3 was born. The race car was a success and it dominated not only the DTM but other series as well. British racing company Prodrive converted one for rally use, and it became one of the most spectacular rally cars of its era. Funnily enough, the original M3 shares only a few body panels with the actual E30 3-Series, making it a true homologation special.
Lamborghini Countach LP500S
Technically the Lamborghini Countach was first introduced to the world way before the 80s as it already set the car industry on its head in 1974. The Countach was sold until 1990 and the 80s versions were its most successful iterations and the ultimate poster car of a generation. Through the years the Bertone-designed car became wilder, wider and faster. Its 4.8-litre V12 was an evolution of the Bizzarini-designed Miura engine and sent 370bhp to its 345/35R15 rear tyres, which were the largest tyres ever fitted to a road car at the time. Throughout its lifespan, the Countach design became bolder and bolder culminating in the LP5000 QV, which was its most powerful and popular iteration. Its final version, before it was replaced by the equally mad Diablo, was the 24th Anniversario, a redesigned version of the 5000QV by the hand of none other than a young Horacio Pagani. Although the Countach had an impressive 19-year lifespan since its first prototype in 1971, only 1983 cars were ever produced.
The DeLorean DMC-12 or more popularly known as “The DeLorean” is one of the 80s and 90s most popular and iconic cars. A mid-engined, wedge-shaped, stainless-steel bodied sports car with gullwing doors. It doesn’t get any better. However, John DeLorean’s brainchild was only in production for less than two years before the company folded after criminal allegations towards its flamboyant owner (which were later dismissed). We all know the car as a creation of Doc Emmet Brown when he famously introduces the car that served as a time machine with the bold words: “At 88mph you’re going to see some serious sh*t”. The DeLorean was projected onto the silver screen and forever engraved in our retinas. Since then, the DMC12 has kept its iconic status and people have been rebuilding and improving classic DeLoreans, even in EV-form. Yet none of them leave flaming skid-marks…
Toyota Supra A80
The fourth-gen Supra is a car that shaped a generation of car enthusiasts, gaining a large part of its popularity through the original Fast & Furious movie, where a bright orange car ruined a Ferrari (or any other car it competed against) driver’s day. However, there was more to it than just movie credibility. The A80 Supra or Mk4 came with a 3.0-litre straight-six engine sporting the code 2JZ-GTE. The straight-six engine was so well engineered aftermarket engine tuners quickly realised that with a few modifications it could put out way more than its original power output. 800hp to 1000hp Toyota Supras are no exception. Even today the 2JZ engine is still used to build modern race and drift cars. Even the newer model A90, which was built in collaboration with BMW, had its BMW heart swapped for a 2JZ unit by Drifter Daigo Saito not long after its release.
Ruf RCT Evo
The 1990 Ruf RCT Evo is Alois Ruf’s reimagination of the immensely popular Porsche 911 964. As part of its RCT Evo programme, Ruf swaps out the engine and transmission for its own units. After this conversion the RCT Evo puts a healthy 425hp onto the road that will take it all the way up to 320kph. The single-turbo Ruf engine is set up to feel like a large-displacement, naturally-aspirated engine instead of the sudden build-up of boost that has been a signature of the standard donor car. However, Ruf doesn’t stop there. It goes on to take the brakes, suspension and cooling. If that isn’t enough, Ruf offered the option to have a full carbon-fibre body and integrated roll cage as well as ceramic brakes. Following its mantra, “if it works, don’t fix it”, the company is still making Ruf RCT Evos to this day!
Today’s technology for yesterday’s classics
Motul’s never-ending quest for innovation and passion for performance has now led to the development of two engine oils, which deliver unrivaled protection and superb functionality for classic and vintage engines. Suitable for genuine or rebuilt engines, CLASSIC EIGHTIES 10W-40 and CLASSIC NINETIES 10W-30 are semi-synthetic multigrade engine oils specially designed for modern classic and youngtimer vehicles from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s fitted with four-stroke engines, fueled by either gasoline or diesel, naturally aspirated, supercharged or turbocharged, injection or carburetor. These semi-synthetic formulas feature a high-Zinc (ZDDP) content for protection and Molybdenum for performance. Its unique formula, reinforced with synthetic base oils, provides excellent cold flow properties to prevent engine wear during start-ups. The unique additives package also brings excellent long-term storage protection for those periods when driving just for fun just isn’t possible.
Modern classic/youngtimer vehicles are those driven for fun, with passion, and by owners with an interest in collecting them – especially sport or premium/limited edition models. The market numbers almost 10 million cars, 50% of which are in the USA. There has never been a better time to update a classic range and to get those cars back on the road and running better than ever.