1988 Nissan 300ZX: Less Brougham, More Sport

In the late ’70s, the Datsun Z-cars lost their original sporting intent somewhat. While still sporty automobiles, plusher and plusher interiors, available two-tone paint and other items were making them Z-Broughams. But by 1984, Nissan finally decided to dispose of some of the 280’s Broughamier cues in an effort to recapture the model’s essential roots:

240Z

Early 240Z, spotted by yours truly at Lindsay Park Yacht Club last summer.

The original 1970 “24-ounce.” Although the new ’84 300ZX retained a nice ride, cushy interior and myriad power assists, it was somewhat closer to that original, sporty little two-seater.

300ZX

Like the 280ZX, it offered plush interiors, lots of sound insulation and a comfortable ride–but at the same time was quicker and had much-improved handling.

The 300ZX debuted in late ’83, as an ’84 model, and started the “Z31” generation with a bang, with the black-and-silver, limited-edition 50th Anniversary 300ZX Turbo, which was built to commemorate Nissan’s 50th year in business. The 1984 model was one of those transitional “Datsun 300ZX by Nissan” variants, but the following year it was badged solely as a Nissan.

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1988 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser – Hail The Traditional American Station Wagon!

Of all the GM wagons made in the final full-size, B-body station wagon years, I think I loved the Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser the most. I mean, first of all, is that a cool name or what? “Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser.” Even if you didn’t even know what kind of a car was, you’d probably agree that is a most excellent name. And these final Olds wagons remained unerringly, unapologetically full sized to the very end in 1992. They even eclipsed their Eighty Eight brethren starting in 1986, establishing them as perhaps the Broughamiest Olds in the lineup.

1986 full-size Oldsmobiles: Ninety-Eight, Eighty-Eight and Custom Cruiser.

Yes, the second round of downsizing hit the Oldsmobile full-size line in the mid-’80s. The first round, for those of you just joining us, was in 1977, when the trim, smaller on the outside yet bigger on the inside B-body GM sedans, coupes and wagons appeared on the scene. Round two started in 1985 when the top of the line Ninety-Eight shrunk, along with its corporate cousins, the C-body Buick Electra and Cadillac de Ville/Fleetwood. They were also front wheel drive, and unit-bodied. Not a rare format in 1986, but completely new to the Olds flagship, which had been proudly gigantic and full-framed for decades.

The Eighty Eight got the same treatment in 1986. So now all of the big Oldses were front wheel drive, V6-only and unit-bodied. What was a full-sized car lover to do? Buy the wagon!

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1988 Peugeot 405 S – Au Revoir, Lion

The U.S. market can be a funny, unpredictable thing when talking about various imported motor cars. Take the Peugeot 405, for instance. This is a car that one would have seen all over the place in Europe, but rarely in North America, even when they were still new cars. Of course, all markets have its preferences. I’d wager that there were damn few Cadillac Broughams or Chrysler Fifth Avenues in Nice or Paris. The new 405 was Peugeot’s last try in cracking the U.S. car market’s potentially lucrative nut.

In July 1987, the 405 made its first appearance as an ’88 model. The mid-sized, front wheel drive 405 sedan and estate had been originally slated to replace the venerable RWD 505. Peugeot, however, demurred, and decided to sell the 505 alongside the 405 for a few more years, much as Volvo kept the 240 around after the 740/760 began production. The 405 sedan became available to Francophiles in October of 1987; the station wagon arrived several months later, in May of 1988.

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