Retro Show: Where Were You In ’82?

It’s time again for another visit to the Chicago Auto Show, thanks to my friend Jim Smith. You see, he’s been attending the event for fifty years. And took quite a few pictures in that time. Lucky for us! So let’s dive into a world of Broughamage and wood-sided wagons, and see what kind of new rolling stock is on display!

Let’s start off at the Chrysler section, shall we? This year, it was all about the K-Car. Though the Dodge and Plymouth versions had appeared a year earlier, plush Chrysler variants joined them in ’82. LeBarons were offered in four body styles, including a coupe, sedan and this handsome faux-wood Town & Country station wagon.

The big news, however, was the convertible, which was finally offered by an American manufacturer for the first time since the 1976 Eldorado was discontinued. GM would respond almost immediately, however, with Eldorado and Riviera convertibles.

A Dodge 400 convertible was also offered for a bit less than the LeBaron. And there was even a K-car limousine! Known as the Executive, this Mini-Me limo was based off of a LeBaron coupe, with an appropriately stretched wheelbase and fold-out jump seats. Color-keyed wheel covers a la Mercedes-Benz were available on all LeBarons, not just the Executive.

The R-body Chrysler New Yorker and Newport were cancelled after 1981, so what had been the ’81 RWD LeBaron gained a new roofline with a landau top and became the 1982 New Yorker. This only lasted one year though, as the New Yorker would migrate to a stretched LeBaron platform for ’83. This car would remain in the lineup-all the way to 1989-as simply the Fifth Avenue.

Meanwhile, over at GM, Cadillacs were about the same as they had been since 1980, except for one minor detail. The 368 CID V8, which had powered most Cadillacs since ’80, was replaced with the HT4100 V8. Which, as most here know, was perhaps not the greatest engine Cadillac made.

It was somewhat slow and weak compared to recent 368- and 425-powered Caddys, and of course its reliability would prove somewhat lacking. But in ’82 it was new, fuel-efficient and probably interesting to new Cadillac shoppers. The hangover would come later…

Only one Cadillac still retained the 368, with V4-6-8 electronics intact: The Fleetwood Seventy-Five sedan and limousine. They were available either with or without a divider window. Most were black. All were plush!

Of course, that didn’t stop coachbuilders from making their own Cadillac stretch limousines. These were displayed by Hanley Dawson Cadillac, which was for years the big downtown Chicago Cadillac dealer. Long gone now, sadly.

As previously mentioned, Buick had a new Riviera convertible to show off. It was the first Buick soft top since the 1975 LeSabre.

Only two colors were initially offered: White and Red Firemist. 1,248 were built for 1982, due in part to the MSRP: $24,064. That was about ten grand more than a Riviera coupe, which had a base price of $14,468. So you really had to want the convertible.

As with many Detroit special editions, these were farmed out to American Sunroof Corporation (ASC). Coupes were sent off, and they were converted (ha!) into luxury drop-tops like the one seen here.

And here we have one of the most popular U.S. cars of the early 1980s: The Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme coupe. These were absolutely everywhere when I was a kid I especially remember a school friend’s mom had one of these, triple burgundy metallic. It was, naturally, a Brougham.

But the Broughamiest Olds of the year was the Ninety-Eight Regency. These were preferred by Midwestern professionals, who wanted to let people know they were “doing well” but didn’t want to look like a bunch of pretentious snobs.

And it was a pretty darn nice car in its own right. And unlike Cadillac, the Olds retained its 5.0L V8, though the 4.1L V6 was the standard engine. You could also get the 5.7L Diesel if you were so inclined, but by the early 80s the appeal of a Diesel GM product had waned considerably. Kind of a shame, as by this time all the bugs had been worked out.

Over at the Ford display, LTDs were well in evidence. This year marked the return of the historic Ford “blue oval” emblem, and it appeared on all 1982 models, from Escort to Econoline to the top-drawer LTD Crown Victoria, as seen here. A coupe was also available, but the four-door sedan far outnumbered it in demand. Despite this, the LTD coupe would last all the way through the 1987 model year.

And when it came to Ford longroofs, none were nicer than the LTD Country Squire, with its famous Di-Noc vinyl woodgrain sides. The interiors on these were quite nice, almost to a Lincoln Town Car standard.

You could even get leather as an option. It and the slightly flossier Mercury Colony Park were FoMoCo’s best family haulers. No crossovers, and even the Aerostar minivan was still a few years away. Just wagons, in small, medium and large. The only other options for family hauling would have been an Econoline Club Wagon or Chateau full-size van.

Meanwhile at Lincoln, a new Continental appeared, more or less replacing the Versailles, which was discontinued in 1980. It was smaller than the Town Car and Mark VI, and clearly meant to compete with the Cadillac Seville, right down to the bustleback styling out back. It would last until 1987, and would be the last V8-powered, rear-wheel drive Continental.

Finally, let’s take a look at the top of the line Continental Mark VI. It rode the same Panther chassis as its Town Car sister, but with the spare-tire hump and hidden headlamps that had been a Mark feature for decades. It was also the last two-door, as the Town Car coupe lasted only for 1980-81 and disappeared for good. The ’82 Continental Mark VI was pretty much the same as it had been since its 1980 introduction, with the exception of new colors and genuine wire wheels, which had become available in 1981.

I see our time is up for this week. But rest assured there are still many more vintage pictures from Jim’s cache to share in the future! Until then, keep calm. And Brougham on!

13 Replies to “Retro Show: Where Were You In ’82?”

  1. JustPassinThru

    One of the more-interesting photos to me was the third, of the Dodge 400. In the background, there is the area under the banner DATSUN.

    I thought the rebranding to Nissan had been completed by 1982. I had a 1979 PL620 truck, and on the fender badging it read DATSUN by NISSAN. The 1980 replacement/update, was sold as a Nissan – proof was the large label on the tailgate. So…were they putting that up to call in show-goers who weren’t savvy of the rebranding? Or just saving money on signage?

    Also interesting was the AMC sign and stand. 1982 was the last year of AMC non-Eagle passenger cars, and IIRC, sales were comparable to Studebaker’s 1966 production. The car was most-popular with government agencies – both FedGov and the State of Ohio had new fleets of stripper Concords in the Cleveland area that year. Must have been a special order, since the whole point of the Concord was to wrap the Hornet in Brougham. But by that time, nobody else was buying what was known to become an orphan car – the AMC badges were disappearing from Renault Alliances, and Jeeps were marketed as Renault/Jeep, at least in advertisements.

    I have little warm feelings for those years, auto-wise; but it does take me back.

    • Carmine

      I remember even through the 1984 or so shows, Nissan was handing out brochure bags with “The name is Nissan!” tag line printed on them, so they were still pushing the Nissan rebrand at that time even. I still have a few somewhere.

    • George Denzinger (geozinger)

      I thought the final AMC badged cars were in 1983.

      But, I’d love to have one of those strippo Concords now. A quick LS3 swap and off to the races!

      • JustPassinThru

        Was it 1983? Or was it midyear or fall of 1982? I do remember they weren’t selling AT ALL. AMC dealers, rechristened as Renault-Jeep dealers, were doing cartwheels with the arrival of the Alliance. Not knowing, of course, that the Franco-American car was flawed on both ends. It made no money for AMC; and in an age when Toyota was upping the bar of quality expectations, the American Renault was worse than even French Renaults.

        Anyway. January 1983 had me working as a security guard in Terminal Tower…nights, of course. The Frank Lausche Office Building, with various Ohio state agencies, used the old underground railroad train-shed as a parking area. About 20 Concordes, beige and white colors, with State plates. Upstairs, there was another pool of them with U.S. GOVERNMENT tags on them.

        In that environment, I remember…nighttime patrol…in our Escort security car…I’d have the radio on; and I seem to recall one night, the news was that AMC had just discontinued its poor-selling passenger-car line. The Eagle was expected to continue for the present. Several hundred laid off.

        Probably one reason we can’t remember exactly, was that it was a non-event. Like the Nissan Cube being discontinued. If a car model is killed, and nobody was buying it…did it make a sound?

        A sleeper-stripper Government Concord might be fun…gimme a two-door. Those State of Ohio Concords were two-doors, without the vinyl roofs…roofline just like the Hornet from which it sprung. I’d pass on the big-block in favor of a later Chrysler-Jeep four-cylinder with EFT.

        Why? It would go in easily, for one. Just as with the Wrangler of the Chrysler era, the four could be pushed up against the firewall…leaving the forward space free; and having the whole of the engine behind the front wheels. The weight savings…the AMC 258 six weighed 500 pounds, the four, IIRC, was under 300.

        Technically it would be a mid-engined RWD sedan; with far-better weight distribution than any Hornet ever had. Power, in the 250-hp range, was over twice what the carb’d six made. More than the V8, after 1974. It would win no races, but it would depose itself well on the street.

        And it would be a throwback to a different era…when cars felt different, looked different, ran differently. Maybe no better; maybe worse; but definitely different.

  2. Rick T.

    I think our first visit was in 1985 when we bought a 1985 Sentra shortly thereafter – which split the timing belt way before the manual’s replacement schedule and ruined the engine.

  3. John C.

    You can really see the kinship between the Cutlass and the 77 you brought us the other day. Too bad there was that stubby one between them.

    The 98 does a good job of saying I have arrived. As Carmine once put it at the other site about what the Chrysler Executive says, “I have arrived…. in a K Car…”

    • Carmine

      I have always had the theory that these were created because there was no way Lido was going to show up anywhere in a Cadillac or a even worse a Lincoln limo built by his former employer.

  4. ArBee

    I hate to pile on the poor little K-car limousine, but Lordy…Can you imagine being the senior executive who drew that in the lottery? Time to resign gracefully, I think, because the board is trying to tell you something.
    Those Mark VI Lincolns look a liitle better with every passing year, but I’d still take that Crown Vic sedan and invest the difference.

  5. George Denzinger (geozinger)

    Tom, you must be an old soul. I was 19 back then and there were few big/luxury cars that appealed to me at that time. The real news for me was the return of the 5.0L Mustang GT and it’s Mercury Capri RS counterpart. The Dodge Charger 2.2 was also big news, too. But the biggest news for me was the new for 1982 Chevy Camaro and Pontiac Firebird. There were huge expectations for these cars, as they were supposed the signal the end of the malaise era for muscle cars. And again, a young lady’s comment was the impetus for me to find my way out of my 1980 Capri turbo and into a car loan on a 1983 Trans Am WS6…

    Of all of the broughamage displayed here, I think I’d go for the Dodge 400 convert. But I’m contrarian like that…

  6. DirtRoads

    You’re certainly correct about the aluminum Caddy engine. Lord what a mess. The Northstar was quite an improvement over it, even though it, too, was problematic. My 94 Eldo had the engine replaced in 96 (they warrantied it) because the top end gave out….

    Loved that Riviera!


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