Volume VII, Number 4

Toy Supercars of the 1980's
by Doug Breithaupt

While the 1980's saw a re-birth of the supercar, the beginning of the decade began with few new models. By the end of the decade, amazing cars like the Ferrari F40 and Porsche 959 had set new benchmarks for what a supercar must be. In this our fifth review of of the world's most desired cars, we continue to look at the cars everybody wanted. In the stories on the 1950's, 1960's, 1970's and post 2000 models, a definition of 'supercar' was offered.

"In the 1950's, they had to be able to exceed 125 mph. In the 1960's, 140 became the benchmark with a bump to 150 for the gas-starved 1970's. For the 1980's, top speed of 170 was required, moving to 180 for the 1990's and 190 mph or more for the supercars of today. While these numbers narrow the field, they are not the final determining factor. A true supercar is more than the sum of it's parts."

Many of the cars below arrived in the last several years of the decade. The Corvette ZR-1 arrived in 1989 as a 1990 model with a Lotus-built twin-cam. The BMW 850i, Mercedes-Benz 500 SL and Ferrari F40 were also 1989 models. Some models like the Jaguar XJ-S and Porsche 911 Turbo became available in cabriolet form as the convertible came back in style. Several models like the Audi Quattro and Lancia 037 won their spurs through international rally success and the factories offered production examples to a lucky few. While the top speeds were lower for these models, their suspension and brakes set new supercar standards. The Audi, Quattro and Porsche 959 led the way for all-wheel drive to became a more attractive feature on supercars, a trend continuing today. Turbocharging was the rage in the 1980's, appearing on everything from Formula 1 racers to economy cars. While turbocharging does not make a supercar, many supercars of the '80's featured the turbo. The Lotus Esprit and the Porsche 944 only became supercars with turbo help, although some may wish to debate these additions. BMW, Mercedes-Benz and other restricted top speed to 155 mph even though the potential speed was higher. Twin turbos pushed the Ferrari F40 over the 200 mph barrier. Only one American car and no Japanese cars are included for the 1980's. That will change for the 1990's.

Most of the toy cars shown here were produced in the 1980's. Matchbox and Majorette produced excellent models in that period that have not been surpassed by these companies today. Maisto and Edocar offered many of these supercars and three are shown here. One of the best of the end of the Corgi line, the Ferrari 348tb, featured engine detail. Some of these models are more recent additions like the Motor Max Porsche 959 and the Johnny Lightning Lotus Esprit Turbo.

The 'missing' list below the images is a short one for the '80's supercars. Hot Wheels actually did produce a Ferrari 328 with a plastic body and a wind-up motor actuated by a huge rear spoiler. A better example would certainly be welcome. How Majorette (and everyone else) missed the Renault Alpine GTA is still a mystery to me. A crude version of the Cizeta-Moroder V16T may have been done by Imperial. Can anyone confirm?

Audi Quattro - Matchbox
0-60 7.5 sec., top speed 151 mph

BMW 850i - Matchbox
0-60 7.0 sec., top speed 155 mph*

Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1 - Maisto
0-60 5.6 sec., top speed 180 mph

Ferrari 288 GTO - Siku
0-60 4.9 sec., top speed 189 mph

Ferrari 348tb - Corgi
0-60 6.2 sec., top speed 170 mph

Ferrari F40 - Matchbox
0-60 3.5 sec., top speed 201 mph

Ferrari Testarossa - Majorette
0-60 5.8 sec., top speed 180 mph

Jaguar XJ-S Cabriolet - Majorette
0-60 7.0 sec., top speed 160 mph

Lamborghini Countach LP 5000 S - Hot Wheels
0-60 4.9 sec., top speed 178 mph

Lancia 037 - Edocar
0-60 5.6 sec., top speed 149 mph

Lotus Esprit Turbo - Johnny Lightning
0-60 6.4 sec., top speed 160 mph

Mercedes-Benz 500 SL - Majorette
0-60 6.2 sec., top speed 155 mph*

Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet - Siku
0-60 4.9 sec., top speed 156 mph

Porsche 911 Turbo Slant Nose - Hot Wheels
0-60 4.6 sec., top speed 165 mph

Porsche 911 Speedster - Maisto
0-60 4.8 sec., top speed 160 mph

Porsche 944 Turbo - Matchbox
0-60 6.5 sec., top speed 165 mph

Porsche 959 - Motor Max
0-60 3.9 sec., top speed 196 mph
Missing in 1:64 scale
Aston Martin Vantage Zagato
Aston Martin Virage
Cizeta-Moroder V16T
Ferrari 328
Ferrari 400/412i
Renault Alpine GTA
TVR (any model would be welcome)

Source for 0-60 and top speed stats: The Worlds Most Powerful Cars, Graham Robson, Chartwell Books Inc., 1990