Jul
08
Cheapest American Cars of 1980

1980 Mercury Bobcat

There are few emotional influences more powerful than nostalgia. To hear my mother tell it, for example, everything was better in the old country. Given the fact that mom’s childhood home lacked electricity, indoor plumbing, and access to Netflix, I’m pretty sure the fog of time is clouding her judgement somewhat.

But we all succumb to the enticing lure of better times—and more affordable times. Cars, for example, seem awfully expensive today. The average transaction price of a new vehicle is now just under $37,000, which certainly seems like a lot of money. But is it really?

We have to go back about 30 years to find cars that could still be modestly equipped for under $4000. At that price, one could expect a car with an automatic transmission, air conditioning, and an AM/FM radio—not much else. The question is, did those cars actually represent good value?

We will leave that determination up to you, but we’ll help you with the math. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, something that cost $1.00 in 1980 would cost $3.29 today. That means that gasoline in 1980, which averaged $1.19 that year, would cost about $3.90 in 2019. Which, actually, feels about right—and means we’re paying a little less for fuel, inflation adjusted, than we did when Ronald Reagan was elected president for the first time.

Below are the five least-expensive American cars of 1980, each presented with basic optional equipment and an inflation-adjusted 2019 price. Let us know if you think these cars were good deals.

For comparison, we went to the Chevrolet website and built the least-expensive Spark (Chevy’s entry-level subcompact hatchback) we could, equipped with an automatic transmission. That car came to $15,195 before incentives. The place to leave comments is at the bottom of the page.

10 Most-Expensive American Sedans of 1980

 

Cheapest American Cars of 1980

1980 Chevrolet Chevette: $15,713

1980 Chevrolet Chevette

1980 Chevrolet Chevette

Base price: $3782 (Scooter)

Automatic transmission: $320

Air conditioning: $531

AM/FM radio: $143

Total: $4776

Inflation-adjusted price: $15,713

The 10 Fastest Cars of 1980*

 

Ford Pinto: $15,805

1980 Pinto Pony

1980 Ford Pinto

Base price: $3781 (Pony 2-door hatchback)

Automatic transmission: $340

Air conditioning: $538

AM/FM radio: $145

Total: $4804

Inflation-adjusted price: $15,805

Model-Year Madness! 10 Classic Ads From 1980

 

Mercury Bobcat: $16,740

1980 Mercury Bobcat

1980 Mercury Bobcat

Base price: $4217 (Runabout)

Automatic transmission: $314

Air conditioning: $495

AM/FM radio: $62

Total: $5088

Inflation-adjusted price: $16,740

Review Flashback! 1980 Toyota Cressida Wagon

 

Chevrolet Monza: $17,069

1980 Chevrolet Monza

1980 Chevrolet Monza

Base price: $4184 (2-door coupe)

Automatic transmission: $320

Air conditioning: $531

AM/FM radio: $153

Total: $5188

Inflation-adjusted price: $17,069

Diesel Doldrums: The 7 Slowest Cars of 1980*

 

AMC Spirit: $17,259

Cheapest American Cars of 1980

1980 AMC Spirit

Base price: $4193 (2-door sedan)

Automatic transmission: $305

Air conditioning: $529

AM/FM radio: $219

Total: $5246

Inflation-adjusted price: $17,259

Review Flashback! 1980 AMC Eagle

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Cheapest American Cars of 1980