While many questionable fashion choices were made in the 1980s, this decade was a huge turning point for concept cars.
Concept cars have always played an integral part in the styling direction of production vehicles, but the decade defined by poofy hair, lots of denim and Hammer pants brought an equally charismatic look to the automotive industry.
The early ’80s saw some very futuristic concept cars hit the auto show circuit, while the later years introduced a sportier, more performance-oriented attitude.
As proof, here are eight of the best concept cars of the ’80s.
1980 Citroën Karin
Citroën got the ’80s kicked off in proper style with its Paris debut of the Karin concept vehicle. This pyramid-shaped concept had butterfly doors with a three-seat configuration, and its large glass panels provided for a massive greenhouse.
Citroën has always gone over the top with its production cars and has a long history of highly stylized concepts. The Karin was only the beginning.
1981 Mercedes-Benz Auto 2000
Like most concept cars, the 1981 Mercedes-Benz Auto 2000 hinted at a new design language for upcoming Mercedes-Benz products.
The key styling attributes of this concept focused on the low-slung ride height and the glass rear hatch, and both of which were an attempt to help the car maximize fuel efficiency. And this definitely worked with a slick drag coefficient of just 0.28.
1984 Ford Maya
By the mid-1980s, there was a resurging trend for sporty cars such as the Pontiac Fiero and Toyota MR2. From the Ford camp came an interesting series of concept cars named the Ford Maya, which enticed auto show attendees with a peppy, mid-engine V-6.
This gorgeous concept never made it to the U.S., but there’s no doubt it would have been a solid seller had it ever entered production.
1986 Chevrolet Corvette Indy Concept
General Motors practically owned the 1980s when it came to concept cars, and the 1986 Chevrolet Corvette Indy Concept revealed at the 1986 Detroit Auto Show.
The styling of this concept car shows obvious hints at both the C5 Corvette and the fourth-generation Camaro, but the main focus of this car was its Lotus-derived, mid-mounted 2.6-liter V-8 rated at 600 horsepower.
This concept only helped to fuel rumors over the next two decades of a mid-engine Corvette, and it looks like this could finally become a reality in the next few years.
1985 Buick Wildcat
Not long before the mid-engine Corvette was revealed, the 1985 Buick Wildcat debuted at the 1985 SEMA Show. Buick built this as a show car for racing events, and it featured a McLaren V-6 engine with 360 horsepower that was sent to all four wheels.
The coolest part of this concept was its forward-tilting, single-piece canopy with advanced technologies such as a head-up display and a center-mounted digital display.
1988 Oldsmobile Aerotech
From 1987 through 1992, Oldsmobile released a trio of concept cars called the Aerotech.
The first, Aerotech I, debuted in 1987 with performance to back up its racecar looks. This original concept set endurance speed records and hit a top speed of over 290 mph, but the biggest use for this car was developing the 4.0-liter, 32-valve DOHC V-8 that was later used in the production Oldsmobile Aurora sedan.
1989 Pontiac Stinger
The 1989 Pontiac Stinger looked more like a concept car we might expect from Jeep with its open cabin and height-adjustable suspension.
Although nothing like the Stinger ever made it into production, the pointed nose and two-tone body were a staple of Pontiac through the 1990s.
1989 Dodge Viper Concept
My favorite concept car of the 1980s is the 1989 Dodge Viper Concept, because I was at that Detroit Auto Show when it was first revealed. This original Viper concept was a V-8, but a year later Chrysler engineers teamed up with Lamborghini to develop a high-powered V-10 for its performance halo car.
Not much changed from the early concept cars to the production model in 1992.