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Very Fast Saloons

Supercar pace with saloon car space was yours for the asking, thanks to super saloons with epic engines. The in-house projects, like Mercedes-Benz’s mighty 500E and Aston Martin’s futuristic Lagonda, were joined by collaborations across big automotive groups—Fiat’s luxury car brand Lancia dropped a Ferrari engine into its Thema, while General Motors’ sports car maker Lotus reworked the Opel Omega/Vauxhall Carlton with turbo power. All these cars delivered executive-level comfort and the kind of performance big saloons had never offered before—provided you could cope with their spectacular price tags.

Lancia Thema 8.32, 1987


Engine2,927 cc, V8
Top speed149 mph (240 km/h)

Trimmed to the highest standard and hugely expensive, the Lancia Thema 8.32 was fitted with a Ferrari engine based on the unit used in the 308GTB/GTS and Mondial but with a cruciform crankshaft and smaller valves. Price, and availability in left-hand drive only, limited its appeal.

Unique features

The discreet yellow radiator badge was one of the few visual clues to this Lancia’s special status. Another was the bespoke leather interior, by Italy’s upmarket Poltrona Frau.

Ferrari power

This was the second Lancia after the Stratos to have a Ferrari engine, in this case the Tipo 105L borrowed from the mid-engined Ferrari 308, its 32 valves signalled in the saloon car’s name.

Aston Martin Lagonda, 1980


Engine5,340 cc, V8
Top speed143 mph (230 km/h)

A computerized digital dashboard and harsh wedge styling made the Lagonda seem futuristic in the 1970s. Announced in 1976 but problems with the futuristic dash meant it was late 1979 before the first customer car was delivered, the model truly coming of age in the 1980s.

Maserati Biturbo, 1981


Engine1996 cc, V6
Top speed132 mph (212 km/h)

To expand the market for his Maserati marque, Alejandro de Tomaso launched this turbocharged, rear-drive saloon. Some thought the styling was too staid, and build quality was patchy, but the motors were punchy and the interiors were a fine blend of Italian wood and leather.

Ford Taurus SHO, 1989


Engine2,986 cc, V6
Top speed143 mph (230 km/h)

Yamaha reworked a Ford V6 engine for use in a sports car and limited-run performance saloon, but only the four-door made it to production. The Taurus SHO proved so popular it became a regular production model and survived for two more generations.

Vauxhall Lotus Carlton, 1989


Engine3,615 cc, straight-six
Top speed177 mph (285 km/h)

Sold in mainland Europe as the Opel Lotus Omega, this was a modified version of the standard Carlton saloon. The engine was enlarged, reinforced and turbocharged with twin Garrett T25 units and a water/air intercooler, to give phenomenal performance. Just 950 were built.


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

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