As we close out our celebration of machines from the 1980s, it’s only natural that this week’s poll reflects our focus on the decade of excess. After a lengthy discussion behind the scenes, the Speedhunters crew has come up with a list of 25 performance cars which we think best define the ’80s. It’s a wide list of cars that includes working man’s hot hatches, unobtainable exotics and everything in between.
As you go through the list, you might notice a few important models like the R32 Skyline GT-R and S13 missing. While it’s true that these cars debuted at the very tail end of the decade, we saw them as being more associated with the 1990s and decided to leave them out for the purposes of this poll.
Anyway, here’s our list of 1980s performance icons. Which will you pick?
There are few cars more closely associated with the ’80s than the Testarossa. Being featured in one of the decade’s most popular TV shows, Miami Vice only helped cement the car’s reputation an ’80s icon.
Ford Cosworth Sierra RS
Whether it was on the street or in touring car racing, the Cosworth Sierra RS will forever be known as one of the greatest enthusiast cars of the ’80s. How can you not like the angular, spoilered styling?
RUF CTR Yellowbird
In terms of outright performance, there were few cars that could top the Yellowbird in the ’80s. Even the most advanced exotics of the time had trouble keeping up with this heavily tweaked 911 and its 211 MPH top speed.
The madness of the ’80s perfectly embodied by the infamous rally cars of Group B. Among these insane machines, the Ford RS200 may be the most well known. With just 200 produced, the RS200 will be sought after until the end of time.
Renault 5 Turbo
Like the RS200, the Renault 5 Turbo is another car which made its reputation on the rally stage. Aside from its competition success, the idea of mid-engine turbo hatchback is just universally awesome.
Unlike a lot of the cars on this list, the Porsche 959 had specs and performance figures that would still blow minds today. Given how fast cars have gotten in the last few decades, that it is saying a lot.
Ford Mustang 5.0
The 5.0 Mustang is the car that can be credited with launching the modern muscle car movement. Even today, you’ll be hard pressed to visit an American drag strip without seeing a couple 5.0s.
Nissan Skyline DR30
Before the R32 GT-R wowed with its high tech gadgets, the DR30 Skyline RS-Turbo had already established itself in Japan as a legend in both production form and as a Super Silhouette racer.
Chevy Camaro IROC-Z
While the Camaro IROC-Z didn’t develop quite the same budget racer following as the 5.0 Mustang, it’s badass attitude made up for of it. When you think ’80s tough guy, you think IROC.
Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk.II
VW essentially created the hot hatch with the the Mk.1 GTI, and the second generation car brought the famed nameplate into the next decade with a modernized take on the same formula.
Ferrari 288 GTO
Once again a car that owes its existence to Group B rally, the 288 GTO is another one of those great Ferraris from the ’80s. This one particualry stands out with its distinct motorsport roots.
When a car still sits at the top of dream car list 25+ years after it came out, it did something very right. The F40 is a legend, plain and simple.
Mazda RX-7 FC3S
The FC3S wasn’t the first RX-7, but it’s hard to think about the cars of the ’80s without coming back to the FC’s angular good looks and optional turbocharged powerplant.
Ford Escort RS Turbo Series 1
Ford’s answer to the VW GTI, the front-drive Escort RS Turbo won over European enthusiasts with the same balance of fun and practicality on a budget.
BMW E30 M3
If a car is still lusted after today, it’s very much worthy of being on this list. The E30 M3 most certainly qualifies in that department. It looks great, and drives even better.
Mercedes 190E Cosworth
Of course you can’t include the E30 M3 without including its main rival, the 190E Cosworth. Like the M3, the 190E Cosworth built a strong reputation on both the street and the race track.
Mercedes AMG Hammer
As its name suggests, the Hammer was a brutally fast luxury machine from the crazed minds at AMG. It’s another one of those cars with performance credentials that still hold up today.
Lancia Delta S4
Are you sensing a theme here with the Group B cars? The mid-engined Delta S4 was Lancia’s contribution to this outlawed form of rally competition.
Whether it’s the first or the second generation models, the CR-X is a car that built Honda’s reputation for building fun, economical, and extremely reliable cars for the masses.
Buick Grand National/GNX
Few cars from the ’80s were as downright sinister as Buick’s turbocharged Grand National and the even hotter GNX. With turbo V6 power, these cars would handily outperform the muscle cars from a couple decades earlier.
BMW M635 CSi
The ultimate Yuppie car? Whatever you call it, the M635 CSi was fast, comfortable, and stylish. One of the best GT cars of the decade.
Not only did the Quattro dominate rally competition, but it helped launch Audi’s reputation for building kick-ass AWD performance cars – something that still exists today.
AE86 Toyota Corolla/Levin/Trueno
It’s the AE86. What can you say? It’s one of the world’s greatest cult cars and has such a great reputation that Toyota channeled its spirit (and name) for its new FR sports car.
Peugeot 205 GTI
The 1980s were a decade filled with with simple and affordable driver’s cars, and the 205 GTI was Peugeot’s worthy addition to this booming group.
What needs to be said about the Countach? It’s the car we all had hanging above our beds in poster form. An ’80s icon not just in terms of cars but in terms of pop culture in general.
Now, it’s your turn to vote for the most iconic performance car of the 1980s.