44 of the Most Bodacious Car Ads of the 1980s

1980s Ads Lead

The malaise that was the 1970s dribbled over into the 1980s, with ads touting Corvettes that made all of 190 horsepower, gussied-up econoboxes parading as Cadillacs, and dubious technology such as the Moleculetor promising improvements in fuel economy of up to 23 percent—yours for just $214 (plus $5 shipping)! And there’s John Z. DeLorean hawking Cutty Sark scotch, with nary a kilo of coke in sight. With apologies to Mr. Dickens, it was the worst of times, it was the worster of times.

A few bright spots managed to punch holes through the darkness. Turbocharged engines began to appear under the hoods of a number of cars, including the Datsun Turbo ZX, the Mazda 323 GTX, the Porsche 944 Turbo, the Volvo Turbo, and even the Subaru XT Turbo.

Nascent technologies also made some of their earliest appearances in these pages, with ads for Apple’s Macintosh desktop computer, Panasonic’s TV with a 1.5-inch screen, and the Maxwell Portable Cellular Phone with one hour of talk time for $695. And if the Maxwell was too pricey, you could order a fake “Cellular Fun Phone” and “enjoy the status of owning a car phone for just a fraction of the regular cost.” Cost: $49.95.

The decade couldn’t end soon enough.

(Note: Click or tap an ad to enlarge.)

 

Pontiac Grand Prix – April 1980

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The Sharper Image Xernus – June 1980


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International Harvester Scout – June 1980


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Mercedes-Benz – July 1980


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Energy Efficiencies Inc. Moleculetor – September 1980


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Jeep CJ – October 1980


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Panasonic TravelVision – October 1980

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Chevrolet Corvette – December 1980


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READ MORE: Our Original 1980 Chevrolet Corvette Road Test

 

 

Chevrolet Citation X-11 – August 1981


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Ronrico Rum Sweepstakes – September 1981


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Jeep Scrambler – October 1981


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READ MORE: A History of Jeep Pickups: The Lineage Is Longer than You Think

 

 

Renault 18i – November 1981


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Chevrolet Corvette Collector Edition – January 1982


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READ MORE: 1982 vs. 1962: Last-of-Their-Kind Corvettes

 

 

Jeep CJ – February 1982

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READ MORE: Our Original 1982 Jeep CJ-7 Limited Test

 

 

K40 Radar Detector – February 1982

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De Lorean Motor Company – February 1982


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READ MORE: De Lorean DMC-12 vs. Corvette, 280ZX, 308GTS, and Porsche 911

 

 

Volvo Turbo – February 1982


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Volkswagen Scirocco – March 1982


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Cutty Sark Scotch – April 1982


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Volvo Turbo Wagon– April 1982


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Alpine Car Audio Systems – June 1982


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READ MORE: Our Original 1983 Lamborghini Countach 5000S Road Test

 

 

Megaforce – June 1982


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Ford Motor Company – June 1982


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Datsun Turbo-ZX 5-speed – September 1982


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Cadillac Cimarron – October 1982


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Porsche – October 1982


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Callaway Turbosystems – March 1983


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Cadillac Cimarron – March 1983


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Saab – April 1983


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Nissan Truck – April 1983


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Chrysler Laser XE – October 1983


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Dodge Omni GLH – October 1984


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READ MORE: Awesome to the Max: C/D’s Coolest Cars of the 1980s

 

 

Apple Macintosh – December 1984


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Ford Motor Company – November 1985


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Chevrolet Corvette – July 1986

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READ MORE: Our Original 1986 Chevrolet Corvette Road Test

 

 

Subaru XT Turbo – July 1986


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READ MORE: Battle of the Winter Beaters: Subaru XT6 vs. Camaro RS, Renault Fuego Turbo

 

 

Pioneer DEX-77 – December 1986


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General Motors Parts – March 1987


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Daihatsu Charade – February 1988


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BMW Motorsport Division M-Cars – April 1988


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READ MORE: Original Tests of the 1987 BMW M6 | 1987 BMW M5 | 1988 BMW M3

 

 

Cellular Fun Phone – April 1988


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Ford Taurus SHO – April 1989


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READ MORE: Our Original 1989 Ford Taurus SHO Road Test

 

 

Maxwell Portable Cellular Phone – April 1989


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Isuzu Amigo – June 1989

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