What would you drive in 1985?

IROC-Z? Volvo 240? Marty McFly's truck? Here's what we would've chosen

Bereft of live baseball games to watch, I've turned to the good ship YouTube to watch classic games. While watching the 1985 American League Championship Series last night, several of the broadcast's commercials made its way into the original VHS recording, including those for cars. "Only 8.8% financing on a 1985 Ford Tempo!" What a deal!

That got me thinking: what would I drive in 1985? 

It sure wouldn't be a Tempo. Or an IROC-Z, for that matter, despite what my Photoshopped 1980s self would indicate in the picture above. I posed this question to my fellow Autobloggists. Only one could actually drive back then, I was only 2 and a few editors weren't even close to being born. Here are our choices, which were simply made with the edict of "Come on, man, be realistic." 

West Coast Editor James Riswick: OK, I started this, I'll go first. I like coupes today, so I'm pretty sure I'd drive one back then. I definitely don't see myself driving some badge-engineered GM thing from 1985, and although a Honda Prelude has a certain appeal, I must admit that something European would likely be in order. A BMW maybe? No, I'm too much a contrarian for that. The answer is therefore a 1985 Saab 900 Turbo 3-Door, which is not only a coupe but a hatchback, too. If I could scrounge up enough Reagan-era bucks for the ultra-cool SPG model, that would be rad. The 900 Turbo pictured, which was for auction on Bring a Trailer a few years ago, came with plum-colored Bokhara Red, and you're damn sure I would've had me one of those. Nevermind 1985, I'd probably drive this thing today.


Associate Editor Byron Hurd: I'm going to go with the 1985.5 Ford Mustang SVO, AKA the turbocharged Fox Body that everybody remembers but nobody drives. The mid-year update to the SVO bumped the power up from 175 ponies (yeah, yeah) to 205, making it almost as powerful (on paper, anyway) as the V8-powered GT models offered in the same time frame. I chose this particular car because it's a bit of a time capsule and, simultaneously, a reminder that all things are cyclical. Here we are, 35 years later, and 2.3-liter turbocharged Mustangs are a thing again. Who would have guessed?


Consumer Editor Jeremy Korzeniewski: I had a lot of good options to choose from, so I narrowed in on my ultimate choice, a 1985 Jeep Cherokee, by considering what I actually would have wanted to buy new if I were of new-car-buying age back in 1985 (for the record, I was a decade short of the appropriate age at the time) instead of what I'd like to own now. At the time, I wouldn't have known that the legendary 4.0-liter inline-six engine was coming in just a couple years, and I'm figuring I'd have been smart enough to skip the GM-built 2.8-liter V6 and stuck with AMC's adequate 2.5-liter four. Manual transmission, four-wheel drive and four doors — now, just point me in the direction of the dirt, please.


News Editor Joel Stocksdale: Figuring out what car I would have in 1985 was tricky, since any Miata, let alone my second-generation model, wouldn't come out for a few more years. So I started thinking about what's very Miata-like: something responsive, reliable and not too expensive. Toyota actually had two strong options in the first-generation MR-2 and the famed AE86-generation Corolla GT-S, but I went for the Corolla since its front-engine, rear-drive layout would be closer to a Miata, and it would be more practical. Also, I actually prefer the lines of the Corolla to the early MR-2, which I've always found a bit stubby. No offense to MR-2 fans, they're very cool cars, just not my favorite as far as styling is concerned.

And of course, the Corolla GT-S got the same rev-happy, mod-friendly, twin-cam engine as the MR-2, plus a limited-slip differential, so it should still be fun. I'd also go with the hatch version of the Corolla because I think it looks better than the notchback, and it would be more practical. The icing on the cake is of course the fact that the Japanese twin of the Corolla GT-S, the Sprinter Trueno, is the hero car of one of my favorite shows, Initial D. Someone find me a Eurobeat cassette!


Senior Editor, Green, John Beltz Snyder: Just feed me Cutlasses. All the Cutlasses, but stop before you get to the ‘90s. 1985? Feed me that Cutlass. And make it Supreme, please. Look at that profile. Look at that grille. Look at those comfy-ass seats. Look at that instrumentation. (Photos from Bring a Trailer.) This is a couple generations younger than the Cutlasses I was raised to love, but it’s from the same era as the 88s and Custom Cruisers classmates were getting as hand-me-downs when we all started driving.

The appealing thing about pretty much anything on this list is getting to relive my childhood, only from the front seat, and I’d rather do that in one of the later rear-drive Oldsmobiles. As much as I like the Volvo 200- and 700-series wagons (hi, Mrs. Wrase!) for this list, I’d rather relive those memories from the rear-facing jump seat in the wayback.


Road Test Editor Zac Palmer: No, it’s not the rare and desirable 16V Scirocco from the 1986 model year, but the rules are the rules. These days, I drive around in a two-door 2001 Acura Integra GS-R. I’d like to think that 1985 me would also dislike rear doors and prefer hatchbacks, so the Scirocco is the one for me.

This one pictured here is quite sporting, featuring the prominent spoiler that cuts through the rear glass. I’ve always liked the shape of the Scirocoo, in every generation no less. And since it’s a 1985 model, it gets the GTI’s engine (90 horsepower! 100 pound-feet of torque!) and sway bars in front and back that VW added for 1983. Mine would be a manual, and I could very likely go for the red seen in this original VW press image. The limited power doesn’t really bother me, as most of Detroit was pumping out a bunch of slow, heavy behemoths anyways. I’d put some irresponsibly loud exhaust on the back and win every drag race on Woodward where the other guys aren’t paying attention.


Photo by Justin Lippolis

Managing Editor Greg Rasa: OK, I was the one staffer who could drive in 1985, and my car that year was a 1977 BMW 320i — at least before it overheated on a 100-degree August day stuck in traffic on the Kansas Turnpike. Those things had tiny radiators. Still, I liked it until the head warped.

I've always loved the look of an early-'70s 3.0CS, and in 1985 its successor was the less-desirable-but-close-enough 635CSi. Cars looked like toasters in 1985, but this sleek BMW coupe was an exception. It had a 3.4-liter inline-six that made 182 horsepower, and naturally it could be had with a five-speed, because back in my day we shifted our own gears, sonny, and that's how we liked it. There was also an M version, shown here.

The 635CSi cost around $40,000 new, and the 1985 me could NOT have swung that, but the time-traveling modern me would carry 2020 money into the past to get the "Hello, I'm from the future, sell me all your beautiful cars" constant-dollars discount. I'd then carefully store it in a barn to reclaim it in modern day. (Do you think barn finds are actually the work of time travelers doing just that?) 


Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore: Wow, my top picks, the Cutlass and the Jeep are already off the board. And though I'm a child of the '80s, I've always thought the '70s would have been a really interesting time to lounge around. I digress. Also, Riswick's wrong. The year to re-watch baseball is 1984. So, with all of my top choices taken, I'd waver between an '85 Buick Regal or an '85 Oldsmobile Delta 88, coming down just barely on the Olds.

I remember my parents had one from this generation as a loaner for some reason, and I loved it. I do like GM's B-body sedans, after all. I'd roll with the Olds since it's roomy and I really like the squared-off design and 'bold' grille. Plus, rear-wheel drive with a Rocket V8 under the hood, case closed. The one above (it's a 1984 model) on BaT sold for $7,100 in February. Had I known, I might have pursued it.

OK, so that's what we would drive in 1985. What would you?

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