1984: Was It A Very Good Year?
George 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:
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?
As 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.
Nineteen 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.
Several 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.
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.
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.
OK, 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.
In 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 TheCoaterack.files.WordPress.com. Our Fiero image is from ImageShack.us. The Corvette image referring to the TV ad is from OldCarAdvertising.com. I took the photo of the 1984 Nissan Sport Truck in, well, 1984. The twin Nissan 300ZX image is from Cache.Jalopnik.com. The Knight Industries Two Thousand and passenger photo is from RideLust.com. The A-Team van image is from IMCDB.org. 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 CarGurus.com; the cutaway drawing is from AllPar.com.