1980 was a significant year for new releases, and the optimism of a new decade meant that there was a hopeful outlook for the motor industry after several years of gloom.
One significant car that did offer a positive British outlook was the Mini Metro. Based on the Mini, it was a clever piece of packaging matched by some effective marketing.
Ford was not to be outdone by BL though and for the small family car sector came the FWD Escort. It was to eventually become the best selling car of the decade.
GM rebadged the Opel Kadett as the Vauxhall Astra. Like the Escort, offered in many trims and specs. Vauxhall had by now lost its design independence but it gained an improving set of products.
Rootes’ Talbot Solara was a rare new release since the takeover by PSA, but a saloon version of the Alpine debuted in this year. Still heavily connected to its Simca roots, it was to be the last flourish for the brand.
The US only V8 Triumph TR8 and TR7 cabriolet finally arrived in 1980, with many agreeing that they should release them when it first appeared in 1975. Sadly, it was too little too late.
Audi released their Quattro with feverish anticipation and it turned out to be a trendsetter. Not only did it transform family motoring but also caused chaos on the rally stages.
Reliability and ease of ownership were Datsuns hallmarks, so there were no surprises for the new Bluebird. More refined than previous versions, it sold well to undemanding owners.
Offsetting Nissan’s conservative approach, the arrival of Suzuki’s first UK car was met with more interest. The rear-engined ‘Whizzkid’ SC100 proved to be as enjoyable as it looked.
Fiat, the masters of the small car also released a new car in this year, opening up an alternative against the Renault 4 and Citroen 2CV. Basic and utilitarian but full of talent, the Panda became a long-lived design too.
Renault had a hit in the UK with the mid-ranged 18, and the Fuego also stuck a chord with the public. Smart, efficient and well priced it showed what a modern coupe could offer.
The end of a decade is as significant as the start of a new one in the motoring world, acting as a psychological barrier. Having seen some new 1980 products, let’s have a quick scan of a handful of cars were finally discontinued in 1980.
The MK2 Ford Escort wasn’t quite the end in Fords involvement in RWD, but it was a sign that they understood that to stay relevant they needed to overhaul their volume seller.
The Marina had served BL well over its 9-year life, considering its roots lay in the Minor. However, an acute lack of investment meant that the design remained on life support as the Ital until the mid-’80s.
The stylish 1275 GT Clubman was not particularly welcomed into the range when announced in 1969 as a replacement for the much loved Cooper cars, but sold even better and still retained the cheeky charm.
1980 marked the end of the Triumph Dolomite and it was no secret that the brand name was on borrowed time. Yet Triumph was actually one of the stronger names in the BL stable which makes it mystifying why it was shelved at all.
The old Civic was replaced by a remarkably similar model in 1980, but it marked the end of what was a hugely successful first time attempt by a relative newcomer to the car industry which got a product so right the first time.
Considered an anachronism, the Toyota Crown stuck out like a… well, Toyota Crown. The Trans-Atlantic styling was so at odds with European rivals, it was generally dismissed by the press. Yet just 9 years later its Lexus successor rewrote the luxury car book.
The VW Passat was also a significant car for the brand. The conventional FWD water-cooled design thrust the brand into financial security and a whole new design methodology. The new car strived even higher with its upmarket feel.
The Rolls Royce Silver Shadow was now 15 years old, but remarkably for a Rolls, still looked relatively modern. Created as the closest Rolls Royce to appeal to the everyman, the car was replaced by a less elegant looking Silver Spirit.
Many of Renaults designs look state of the art when new but often fall foul of fashion trends. Yet the 12 was the exception, at the end of its 11 year run it was still an acceptable option to buy.