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.
This makes no sense. There are cars in this list without any form of performance and some others that are erformance cars are not in this list...
I'd say Delorean as far as iconic cars ago, but I went Countach. To me, the 80's were the age of sharp and angular. The Countach was just that!
honestly finding it hard to believe some of the cars that have more votes than the legendary sierra rs. its one of my favourite cars ever though so my opinion is probably jaded
Setting aside all the Cosworth love - well deserved of course - i just noticed there's not a single properly British car in the list.
Tried to think of one that deserved a place. Couldn't. I'm ashamed :(
This would have been a tough vote... but then you guys included the F40. Come on now SH. Too easy! Next question!
This is a very hard choice. While cars like the F40, Countach, 959 and crazy Group B rides are absolutely amazing, they for a lot of people, have been, are and going to be, out of reach. Mostly a dream car if anyone wins the lottery. :) So my vote goes for the AE86, a car which is more than iconic not only in Japan, but worldwide! A truly legendary car, one of the best things that came from Japan. Affordable, great tuning potential, great fun, you just have to love it! Anyways all the cars on the list are amazing, I wouldn't mind owning them all in my own little personal collectors garage, aka "arab style", haha. Oh, the dreams...
No Shelby Turbo Dodge? Much faster bone stock than many above, easily into the 12's for free and the little GLH outhandles most above as well.
When i was a little boy, the 288 GTO was my favourite toycar. But there is such an overkill in excellent motoring here, that i can't decide. I'll think i go for the renault 5, just because of the crazy aero that is on such a little car. Plus it is way cooler (more vintage looking) than a similar 205 GTI or golf mk1, which are also very cool. hardest poll EVAAAH
This is a difficult one. If I had to pick the most iconic of the 80s, I'd say the f40, but if you asked my favorite, that would be between the 16v gti, 190e cosworth, and the gnx.
i think this poll should be split into 3 parts
1. 80s dream car
2. 80s best rally car
3. 80s road icon
Awkward......The fastest 4 door saloon from that time isn´t in the list...... Opel/Vauxhall Lotus Omega/Carlton A
Damn you Speedhunters for making me choose between a RS200, Quattro, S4, and R5 turbo. That's like a nightmare where you can only save one of your family members!
I think we need a new poll: AFFORDABLE 80's performance icons. Take the $100k+ cars out of the equation and re-poll. I knew the F40 was going to win from square one.
performance icons people, i can't believe people are actually thinking that the ae86 and CRX could possibly be the PERFORMANCE ICON OF THE 80S.
I simply can't choose anything else but the mostly forgotten Countach. It's unique as any of the cars above, and yet the only one which rims were drawn by me hundred of times. :D
Love the Audi Quattro but just had to vote for the Pug, as my first ever car was a Peugeot 205 GTi Zender. Loved it.
I had to choose an attainable car. The CRX Si. The impact that car (and the Miata) had on the US grassroots motorsports arena is huge. Sure the F40 and Countach is all about childhood dreams but cars like the CRX, civic, and Golf were already in the driveway ready to be handed down to new young drivers. I guess I'm just stuck in reality and unobtainable cars aren't in my reality.
Every one of these cars is amazing, but in the end, I has to be the F40 in my opinion. It seriously may be the best sports car ever made.
The 80's really had some cool cars, and the best part is most of them are cheap enough to afford now. Wish we had cars like them now instead of SUV's.
audi quattro ,lancia delta s4 ,bmw E30 m3,sierra rs,RUF,mercedes 190E,288 GTO,Golf mk1 ,959,renault 5 turbo and 205 GTI are between 2-9% and corolla ae86 has 14% ???ok probobly the votes are from young drift kids....i am also but i know what cars are the 80s icons....yes its also ae86 but if you compare it with the other cars it doesent deserve 14%.....my opinion...
It was a toss up for me between the F40 and Countach. The F40 is pretty much an automotive god in my opinion, yet like the article suggested, I had so many Countach posters in my room as a kid, you would've thought I had Countach wallpaper. I was quite simply obsessed with that car (and the subsequent Diablo that followed).
In the end, I had to give it to the F40 purely because the performance eclipses that of the Countach. Aside from the performance, they were dead even so I had to decide the winner somehow!
I think most of the 86 corolla buzz is from highschool. I remember being in highschool when i first saw "drift bible" and keichi and his little panda corolla was tearing up tarmac. The things he could do with such a common car was inspiring. We use to go around the trader mags looking for cheap twincam corollas to tear up. cheap, easy to drive, and most of all the best bang for buck. That's why there are so many votes for the 86. shame the new 86 isn't as easily accesible as the ol rolla.
Not really a fair poll at all due to some being unobtainable to but a very few. Anyways as much as I love the AE86 it has to be the F40. Sidenote - As much as I respect the Ford Cosworth Sierra RS I just can't stomach the styling.
@LouisSoon My thoughts exactly man. I tried to vote for the e30 M3... i really did... but my mouse just headed straight up to the f40 and there was nothing i could do about it.
@TorstendeLange Awkward... The Lotus Carlton didn't appear until 1990. This poll is about the 1980s.
probably because most site visitors are not from Europe where those cars ran the most. And the AE86 being an 80s icon ... sure it was a used as racecar, but so are the Citroen C2 and (new) VW Scirocco today, and noone would call those icons of the 2000s ;-) The AE86s fame came later in the 90s and early 00s, when it became an affordable used car.
I chose the Audi Quattro, since it was genesis for AWD sport cars. All others (205, R5 Turbo, 959, Skyline GTR) were made after Audi proved against all odds that the concept worked.
Btw, if you like to know which car in turn inspired the Urquattro, follow this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volkswagen_Iltis
@Jdmcolliemane Agreed, choosing one is impossible for me.
@reno808 It was shortlisted but didn't make the final cut.
its not about fame....yes the ae86 it is really famous car because exactly what you said...but its only that compared to the other....and its not about were you live,europe or asia or usa...its about car culture...thats why i said that it doesent deverve 13%....its really nice fun car and theese days cheap..but only that... :)
@PatRicK_13 @Acc The AE86 is so deeply entrenched in car culture it's not funny. I admit comparing it to cars like the 959 is stupid however when compared to other affordable performance cars of the 80's (205 Gti,mk 2 gti) it more than holds its own. Also the AE86 didn't suddenly become popular it was a hit from release.