1980s Poster Cars splash

While the 1980s started 43 years ago, the cars produced during this decide remain just as influential to enthusiasts today, and include some of the most sought-after models for collectors.

Advancements in engine technology, the creation of lightweight materials, and bold new design choices meant that some of the world’s most famous sports car makers were able to create outlandish and supremely powerful new vehicles, effectively cementing the ‘80s as the decade of the supercar.

These sensational new cars naturally came with appropriately high price tags; and while this was no issue for a raft of celebrities, businessmen, and high-flying executives, it had the unfortunate side effect of making the cars feel almost entirely out of reach for any youngster growing up in the era.

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While few managed to see a contemporary supercar in person, much less sit in one, young car enthusiasts around the world could at least experience a tiny bit of their magic via popular printed media.

Card games such as Top Trumps put these vehicles into children’s hands while also providing countless performance stats to memorise. Computer games like OutRun gave them a taste of the supercar lifestyle and a vague, heavily digitised hint at what a flat-12 sounds like at high revs. And, perhaps most importantly, stylised posters provided them with the opportunity to gaze upon their favourite exotic car, day-in, day-out – dreaming of what it might be like to get behind the wheel.

Now, four decades on, some of those young dreamers are in a position to finally buy the car which was once pictured on their bedroom wall. While the cost of these thrilling vehicles has by no means suddenly tumbled, their raw performance and analogue controls make them a compelling alternative to increasingly digital and electrically assisted supercars.

With all that in mind, we’ve rounded up some of the finest 1980s ‘poster cars’ sold on Collecting Cars to date, with each being arguably even more impressive and exciting some four decades after their launch.

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Where else could we start but with a Ferrari Testarossa? Arguably the quintessential 1980s supercar, it was made all the more popular by its appearances in Miami Vice and OutRun, with celebrity owners over the years including Mike Tyson, Elton John, Michael Jordan and Dr. Dre. This 1985 example has the distinction of being a UK-market, right-hand drive ‘monospecchio’ (single mirror) car – thought to be one of only 94 produced.

Finished in the iconic Ferrari colour combination of Rosso Corsa over a beige leather-trimmed interior, it was imported into Canada in 2021, and was offered for sale in Toronto. Clearly won over by the car’s condition and low indicated mileage, it attracted no fewer than 61 bids, resulting in a sale price of CAD$175,000.

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While the vast majority of petrol or diesel-powered cars today feature a turbocharger, things were different in the 1980s. Granted, the first turbocharged cars were introduced in the early 1960s, but the idea took 15-20 years to really take hold. The 930-generation Porsche 911 Turbo lead the way when it came to the demonstrating the technology’s performance applications, with its forced-induction 3.3-litre flat-six producing just short of 300bhp.

Offered for sale in the Netherlands, this striking example was finished in the rare and vibrant factory colour of Talbot Yellow, and had covered fewer than 2,000 kilometres since undergoing a detailed mechanical and cosmetic restoration. After attracting 5,906 views and 130 bids, the car sold for an impressive €143,000.

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With Ferrari and Porsche already covered, only one marque could complete the holy trinity of modern classic supercars – Lamborghini. While the striking Countach was first drawn up by Marcello Gandini and his team at Bertone in 1970 and displayed in prototype form at the 1971 Geneva Auto show, the later variants came to represent the pinnacle of ‘80s excess – particularly so with the introduction of the LP400 S, which added dramatic wheel arch extensions and a substantial rear wing.

One of only 17 right-hand drive examples fitted with the optional straked side skirts, this later Countach LP5000 QV was powered by a 5.2-litre V12 fed by six Weber downdraft carburettors, sending 449bhp to the 12-inch-wide rear wheels via an open-gate five-speed manual transmission. Finished in Rosso Siviglia, and boasting a few special order features, this sought-after supercar sold in June 2020 for £269,500.

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Although most poster manufacturers would probably not have had an image of the very rare Aston Martin V8 Volante Zagato in their portfolio, this coachbuilt British-Italian hybrid still deserves a place on this list. While originally built as a right-hand-drive example in 1989, after changing hands a number of times, it was sent to Aston Martin Works in 2012 for substantial restoration work, when it was also converted to left-hand drive.

The car was refinished with Bentley Magnolia paintwork, and fitted with uprated suspension and braking systems, as well as a custom transmission. While it had found its way to Hamburg, Germany, this rare Aston Martin showed just 341 miles on the odometer when it was listed on Collecting Cars in January 2021, and secured a winning bid of €170,000.

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Featuring an angular ‘folded paper’ design courtesy of Giorgetto Giugiaro, a turbocharged engine, and bold branded decals, the Lotus Esprit Turbo is every bit the 1980s poster car. While it might lag behind the supercars profiled above in outright power, this lightweight British sports car still had an impressive turn of pace, and its achingly cool styling saw the model appear in a number of films and TV shows; including For Your Eyes Only, Wall Street, Miami Vice, and Knight Rider.

First registered in August 1984, this example was the eighth of only ten UK-market 1984 Esprit Turbos to leave the factory with black paintwork, gold body decals, and ‘gold’ half-leather upholstery, in tribute to Lotus’ famous John Player Special racing livery. Showing just 48,697 miles on its odometer and benefitting from a £10,000 engine rebuild just one month prior to listing, this appealing example sold for £30,500.

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Introduced in 1976, and the second Ferrari in this list, the 512 BB would usually be disqualified from our 1980s round-up – but this example’s build date and period modifications are enough to justify its inclusion. As with all 512 BBs, it was powered by a 4.9-litre flat-12 coupled to a five-speed manual transmission. But where this car differed was the addition of a striking Zender bodykit, comprising a deeper front bumper and lip spoiler, wider side skirts with NACA ducts, a modified rear clamshell, and an aerodynamic rear bumper.

Delivered new to Hong Kong, this 512 was imported into the UK in April 2016, and was fully resprayed from its original red to a handsome blue metallic hue some three years later. Offered for sale in October 2021, the listing was viewed 7,685 times and attracted 63 bids, resulting in a sale price of £121,000.

For many life-long petrolheads, the cars they idolised in their youth are the ones that still hold the most appeal in their older years. Technology has come a long way in the intervening years, making cars faster, safer, and more comfortable – but enthusiasts are rarely driven solely by logic. If you’re looking to make your childhood dreams a reality, then keep an eye on our upcoming auctions, and subscribe to updates to make sure you never miss the chance to bid.

Photo credit: dicemaestro.com (Top Trumps)

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