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1984: Was It A Very Good Year?

Orwell_1984George Orwell foresaw it. David Bowie sang about it. 1984 was almost like "Y2K," in that we had been told it was coming and we should prepare for it. But looking back, the year seems to have been one of national pride, salad bars, economic prosperity, and, well, just good times.

Nineteen Eighty Four did not go unnoticed by several Car Lust contributors:

Anthony Cagle penned the 1984 Mustang SVO.

Bernard Bolisig wrote about the Toyota MR2.

Chris Hafner brought us the Pontiac Fiero.

Cookie The Dog's Owner did the VW GTI.

David Colbourn authored the 1984 Chrysler Executive.

But did 1984 impress other enthusiasts? Were there any new cars that changed the landscape? And did we run out of fossil fuels as had been predicted in 1973?

FieroAs mentioned, 1984 brought us the Pontiac Fiero. In typical GM fashion at the time, it was rushed to market and was not ready for sale, as early- model engine fires and other recalls proved. We all know the car was originally meant to be a high gas mileage commuter car, and by the time the Fiero GT was finally tuned as a true sports car, its reputation was soiled and the car was cancelled.

I had a 1986 model 2M4 later on, which was visually identical to the first year, and it was a very good used car. But a 4-year-old, mint condition, low mileage car with four brand new tires that sold for one-third of its original price says something as well. I hope to do a post on the car some day.

1984 Chevrolet Corvette Ad-04Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Four was the year of the greatest car commercial ever. It introduced the C4 Corvette, which unfortunately may not have been the best Corvette ever.

The 90-second ad still draws rave reviews whenever played, and I used it in a high school television production class once to show "How it's done." Fifteen years after its premiere, eyes were wide and mouths were still opened by the ad.

MCMLXXXIV was also a good year for The Cars. No, not the ones with wheels, but the band. And perhaps their most reveared song from their album "Heartbeat City" may have been "Drive." How appropriate.

007Several superb and unique events happened that year that may have made 1984 the best year of my life. One memorial moment was while I was working at the Nissan plant, and had the opportunity of a lifetime, being able to walk my Nissan Sport Truck down the assembly line as it was finished.

I didn't get to start the truck its first time, but I dropped a business card in the glove box. Then later I retrieved it at the dealership in front of amazed family members when I took delivery.

1984 300ZX1984 was also Nissan's 50th Anniversary, and a Special Edition 300ZX was made just for that. Will we, can we, should we, ever forget that arcade game-style digital dash? Or the vibrating seats?

This was also the 300ZX's first year, and Nissan was implementing a global campaign to erase "Datsun" from our memories and proudly proclaim all of their vehicles as Nissans. "Come Alive, Come And Drive... Major Motion From Nissan" was the slogan.

I think this car has stood the test of time. But a couple of years later, new bumpers made the car look "droopy," in my humble opinion. I lusted for a 300ZX when they were new, and I lust for one now.

The only car-related movie of 1984 that I could find was (Please turn away now unless you have a very stout stomach) a very undeserved sequel, "Cannonball Run II." Let's just say that it did not live up to the lofty standards of the original "The Cannonball Run," and we'll leave it at that.

On TV, Clara Peller asked us, "Where's The Beef?" Poor Michael Jackson caught his hair on fire while filming a Pepsi ad, but a month later he won eight Grammys. And Apple Computer launched the Apple Macintosh in an ad that only ran once, during the Super Bowl called, astonishingly... 1984.

Knight rider 1 A Team van










Also on TV, we had David Hasselhoff driving (riding?) and talking with KITT, also known as Knight Industries Two Thousand. And on the right, I pity the fool that can't name the TV show that used that custom van.

While on company shutdown, I had the pleasure in July of 1984 of visiting Los Angeles during the Summer Olympics (Better known as the Games of the XXIII Olympiad). We toured quite a bit of the area, stood here at the halfway point of the first ever Olympic Women's Marathon, and saw history in the making.













That's an ABC camera truck lensing America's Joan Benoit in the lead, where she stayed till the end. Also on the trip I saw my good friend George Arents for the last time; he passed a few years later.

Minivan 1984OK, I've saved the best for last. What the 1984 model year may be best known for as its most significant accomplishment is the introduction of the Dodge Caravan/Plymouth Voyager minivan. The Chrysler Voyager and Chrysler Town & Country minivans came a few years later.

We know that it's based on the K-Car platform (A brilliant idea!), that it was developed before Lee Iacocca was hired, and that it revolutionized family transportation. It also started the industry- wide minivan wars that lasted until, well, today.

Minivan cutawayIn response to the overwhelming success of this minivan (Some say it saved Chrysler from bankruptcy), Ford soon built the Aerostar and GM made the Chevy Astro/ GMC Safari. Not to be left behind, the imports got into the act, initially bringing glorified jitneys here. Even Car Lust dedicated a whole theme week tribute     to these amazing family movers.

Chrysler Corporation's "Grand" minivans were essentially these models, but stretched a bit for more cargo/grocery room, soccer gear, or pets. They were offered a few years after this initial SWB model was introduced, and then they eventually replaced them altogether.

These vehicles don't look especially dated to me, so they might possibly become future collectable classics. It would be worth looking for a decent one now, and maybe finding a couple of others for parts. And please don't let me forget to buy a roll of stick-on woodgrain vinyl.

So 1984 was almost a breakthrough car year, and it was a special year with special times, at least to me. On a personal level, and I'm going to say it now... it was the best year of my life... so far.

Come on, 2012!

--That Car Guy (Chuck)

Image Credits: The 1984 book cover image is from Our Fiero image is from The Corvette image referring to the TV ad is from I took the photo of the 1984 Nissan Sport Truck in, well, 1984. The twin Nissan 300ZX image is from The Knight Industries Two Thousand and passenger photo is from The A-Team van image is from The images I took of the Dodge Deora-looking ABC camera truck and Joan Benoit have faded after 28 years, but they are still in a photo album with the rest of the pictures from that trip. Our 1984 minivan image is from; the cutaway drawing is from


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Oh, I love 1984 as well, perhaps my favorite year along with 1983. It was my second-to-last year of college (undergrad anyway) and I was actually enjoying school and doing well at it and drinking a lot of beer (yes, it is possible to do both). MTV played videos! Van Halen still had David Lee Roth! I was listening to Vivaldi while measuring little bits of bones and cataloging anthropological papers. Ah, good times.

And pickup trucks were cheap. I can't say I was into the cars very much at that point, although I didn't like the current crop of Firebird/Camaros. I was happy with my Hornet.

I think the minivan was the seminal event of that year, which was probably responsible for the rise of the SUV as well, although both can probably be laid at the feet of CAFE. It really was a brilliant response to the death (mostly) of the station wagon.

The only time I ever bought a new vehicle, a 1984 Honda Magna.

698cc because of the $300 tariff on Japanese motorcycles over 700cc, liquid cooled V4, shaft-drive.

Quick, fast, nimble, quiet, smooth as silk black and chrome gorgeousness.

I loved that bike. Rode it for 10 years and it didn't have a scratch on it when I sold it when moving out to Hawaii.

When I found out the guy I sold it to sold it to someone who rode it into the ditch and totaled it I almost cried.

The C4 Corvette is my least favorite of all the Corvette's. Hate the way they look. I'd rather have had an '84 Firebird without question. I'd even rather have an '84 Mustang than that model of 'Vette. There is no other model of Corvette I'd say that about!

The best (or worst) thing I remember about 1984 (automotively speaking), that's the year my family bought a craptastic 84 Dodge Aries K-car wagon (!). I was all excited because all I knew beforehand was that we were getting a new car, but it was a "surprise" - yeah, it was a surprise alright! But in fairness, compared to the other selections of the day I suppose it could have been worse.

1984 was also the first year for the new generation Datsun "Z" and "ZX"
It was the first 300 and the first year with the sharp crease bodystyle which had an optional digital dash.
In 84 they were badged Nisaan 300ZX by Datsun, in 85 just Nissan.
How do I know this trivia? I had a 85 2-seater (a 4 seat 2+2 was also offered) Gold, non-turbo, T-tops, digital dash, leather interior.

Nice car.

I didn't care for the 4-seater. The car was stretched, the window lines elongated... it looked like "too much" of a sports car.

The 2-seater's lines are classic sports car, IMO.

I read this while listening to the extended version of the 1984 Olympics theme song, " Reach Out", by Giorgio Moroder:
Wonder what became of that ABC camera truck...

Dudes! The Ferrari Testarossa went into production in 1984!!

Wait, no reference to Van Halen's "1984" (I know it was released in 1983, but still...)?
Oh, A-team and Knight Rider came on TV in 1983 and 1982, respectively. Couldn't help jumping the gun and mention 'em already, could ya? You know what 80s icon came on TV in 1984? The Transformers!

1984 was the end... for Atari. Flood of crappy 3rd-party games and half-baked games from Atari itself (E.T. The Extra Terrestrial is widely considered to be one of the worst games ever) caused its implosion.

1984 marked the beginning of a tariff for 750cc+ machinery, courtesy of a certain Milwaukee-based motorcycle company... Enter the tariff-beaters. All companies had 'em, though it was more apparent with Honda.

Kawasaki had one helluva year. The Ninja 900 made waves, kicking 1000cc butt. There was a 750 version too, to fill your need for speed when Top Gun came out 2 years later. Kawasaki had the only remaining production turbobike, the 750 Turbo.

Honda redesigned their Goldwing line, making 'em lower but with improved corner clearance. You could get the Aspencade with an air compressor and CB radio! Enter the CB700SC Nighthawk S and VF1000F Interceptor. Many Honda models returned, but with reduced displacement to beat the tariff, like davidt's 1984 Honda Magna.

For unknown reasons (the book's author couldn't find any concrete evidence, even when many '83 models returned available for sale), Suzuki's catalog only showed 3 bikes, the GS550ES, GS1100GKE and GS1150ES. Don't feel too bad for them, as 1985 will be a pivotal year for 'em...

After a great 1983, Yamaha had a reduced catalog (17 models gone!) with a couple of new machinery: the cruiser-esque X50, XV1000 Virago, FJ600 and FJ1100. 2-stroke crowd got the new, liquid-cooled RZ350 and you could get it with Kenny Roberts colors, sorta making up for years unsold in the US.

The hottest car of 1984 was probably the 3rd generation Honda Civic. It was a game changer, and VW didn't even achieve parity when the MKII Golf and Jetta followed in 1985. The basic hatchback made everything else seem dated while the CRX and Wagovan took advantage of the strong bones to create their own niches.

The BMW E30 came to the US for 1984, and although it started indifferently as the 318i, it would prove to be the apex of BMW's trajectory that had started with the 1500.

The Audi 4000S quattro showed up in 1984, offering our first taste of AWD sports sedan goodness. It would be nice if the current ones offered manual differential locks like the 1984 Audi had, replacing the frangible solutions of today.

Fiero? You gotta be kiddin. The CRX was easily more significant than that typical GM mess as it was over most of the models listed above.

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