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The 1980s Advancing Technology

Mud, snow, water, woods—you can take a rented car anywhere. True, you can’t always get it back—but that’s not your problem, is it?”


Cars from the 1980s are recognizably related to those on sale today. In overall concept, the typical car has hardly changed at all, and the electronic systems in modern cars owe a great deal to the technical advances of the 1980s.

Perhaps the most significant technical development was the introduction of automotive electronics and sensors, which began to appear throughout this period. These triggered a mini revolution in engine management systems, increasing fuel efficiency, and leading to power units that could perform more reliably and consistently. Furthermore, functions that maximized convenience and luxury such as electrically assisted seats and windows could now be incorporated, safe in the knowledge that they would work properly.

Engine systems and transmissions advanced, too. Fuel injection, turbochargers, and four-wheel drive all began the decade as exotic new technologies and ended it as relatively commonplace features. Emissions rates were significantly reduced thanks to the widespread introduction of lead-free fuels and catalytic converters.

Designers were drawn to experiment with new formats for the family car, such as the off-road sport-utility and versatile multipurpose vehicle (SUV and MPV respectively). In the upper echelons, roadgoing supercars finally pushed top speeds beyond 200 mph (322 km/h).

Competent cars from South Korea now fought for a slice of world markets alongside their Japanese, American, and European rivals. Everywhere there was a drive towards increasing standardization as many outwardly different cars began sharing internal platforms to cut the huge investment costs now demanded to turn a simple design into complex reality.

Key events

> 1980 MG’s world-famous Abingdon plant closes down.

> 1981 The Audi Quattro is the first car with four-wheel drive and a turbocharged engine.

> 1982 TV series Knight Rider makes a star of the new Pontiac Firebird, a robot car called KITT.

> 1983 Chrysler’s Plymouth Voyager/Dodge Caravan begins the trend for multipurpose vehicles (MPVs).

> 1984 Toyota launches its affordable mid-engined sports car, the MR2.

> 1984 Jaguar is privatized and floated on the London Stock Exchange.

> 1985 General Motors creates Saturn, an all-new marque, to combat Toyota.

> 1987 Ford buys a 75 per cent stake in Aston Martin.

> 1987 Enzo Ferrari unveils the 201 mph (323 km/h) Ferrari F40; he dies the following year.

> 1988 Jaguar reveals its sensational XJ220 supercar.

> 1989 The M5 edition of the BMW 5 series is acclaimed as the world’s best sports saloon.


It is a quote. The Classic Car Book – The Definitive Visual History 2016

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