Source: General Motors

The Best Car Ads of the 1980s

Now that cars from that era are becoming a primary force on the auction market, a look back at how some of these now-iconic automobiles were originally sold to consumers.

Experts say cars made in the 1980s are some of the best investments on the market today. Last year they were the only segment to increase in average auction values from the year before. And that group saw the largest increase in volume offered at auction, more than double what was sold at the famous Monterey Auctions in 2014. This year, expect the same. Such '80s-era models as Porsche 911s, Ferrari 328s, Lamborghini Countachs, and Ford GTs will be be very popular on the stand.

Funny thing: Back then, a lot of the highest-end luxury brands didn’t issue print advertisements. None. Ask Ferrari to send you old ads and you'll hear, “We didn’t make any.” Sniff. It’s as if the company expected the cars to sell themselves. Other brands did use print to advantage, and the ads are pretty classic. You’d get banners touting new 190-horsepower engines, turbocharging technology, and the “John Z. DeLorean lifestyle.” Here are a few of the best.

  1. Cadillac Allanté

    Cadillac Allanté

    Cadillac sold its two-door, two-seat roadster from 1986 until 1993. With its all-new 4.1-liter V8 engine, it was made to compete with the Mercedes-Benz SL and Jaguar XJS. It also offered, as an option, a cellular-style car phone, which was very advanced for the time. 

    Source: General Motors

  2. Bentley Mulsanne

    Bentley Mulsanne

    Turbocharging was a big deal in the 1980s, and Bentley used a beautiful, high-performance luxury sedan called the Mulsanne to house the technology. The car had a 6.75-liter V8 engine and a three-speed automatic transmission. It epitomized the glorious decade's big-bad-bold mood. 

    Source: Bentley Motors

  3. Toyota Cressida

    Toyota Cressida

    This was the American version of the Toyota Mark II, which the company made from 1976 until 1992. (Toyota replaced it with the popular Avalon in 1992.) The mid-sized sedan was beloved for its reliability—and its ability to drift, given the right circumstances. 

    Source: Toyota

  4. Porsche


    In 1989, Porsche was at the height of its road-and-track glory, making such winners as the then-new 911 Turbo, and the 911S (aka Carrera 3). It also introduced new engines, improved disc brakes, and a five-speed gearbox that came with a new, hydraulically operated clutch. 

    Source: Porsche

  5. Toyota Tercel

    Toyota Tercel

    In 1982, Toyota began offering the Tercel 4WD Wagon, which was known in Japan as the Sprinter Carib. (Short for caribou.) It came with four-wheel drive and a tiny 1.5-liter, 65-horsepower engine. But Toyota capitalized on its reliability and plucky-under-duress nature.

    Source: Toyota

  6. Cadillac


    The 1980s were good times for Cadillac, which excelled at making long, heavy, powerful coupes and cruising sedans. Caddy focused on selling the image of easy living, of enjoying success in all forms. 

    Source: General Motors

  7. Thrust 2

    Thrust 2

    Thrust 2, designed by a British company and powered by jet fuel, held the world land-speed record from 1983 to 1997. This poster from 1983 advertises Castrol, the Thrust 2, and Richard Noble, who in October of that year drove the car in Black Rock Desert, Nev., and hit the world record speed of 633.468 miles per hour.

    Photographer: Heritage Images/Getty Images

  8. Cadillac Seville

    Cadillac Seville

    Cadillac began selling the Seville—not to be confused with the larger Cadillac De Ville—in 1975 as a top-of-the-line option that was just a hair smaller than its other, boat-like sedans. This version is known in popular lingo as a "slantback." 

    Source: General Motors

  9. DeLorean DMC-12

    DeLorean DMC-12

    Perhaps the most famous '80s car, the DMC-12 was the only car ever made by the DeLorean Motor Company. Famous for its gull-wing doors and stainless steel body, the DMC-12 was manufactured only from 1981 to 1983; further sales were hampered by company founder John DeLorean's legal troubles and business ineptitude.

    Source: DeLorean