Early ’80s Executive cars

There were plenty of option if you were in a position to buy a large saloon car in 1982. We’ll set a budget of 8.5K to 10K for this review. There is a real motley crew of prestigious brands, value-oriented cars loaded with everything, FWD load carriers and cars designed to go on forever. We’ll have a brief review of 16 possible candidates available on the British market.

Right at the bottom of the budget is the Datsun 280C, which actually undercuts the 8.5K minimum by £100. It was the most expensive Datsun saloon of their range, with most sales going for Taxi use and those who appreciated the very smooth-running engines and comfort with an impressive amount of kit.

Still undercutting 9K and also appealing to the private hire trade is the Peugeot 505. Petrol versions were priced higher than diesel, but both engines were considered the best in the sector. The range was still growing and its good ride with steady handling made it an increasingly common sight in UK roads.

The fuel-injected Volvo 244 was priced close to the Peugeot and was even more popular, being 1982’s best-selling imported large car, although the estate versions would have taken most of those sales.

The slightly misunderstood 2.5-litre Vauxhall Viceroy continued its identity crisis, as the identical Opel Commodore was confusingly sold alongside it at a near-identical price. Both were axed in this year and replaced by the new Opel Senator.

The entry-level BMW 520i was a revised version of the original and not surprisingly offered a rather basic spec for the money in standard form but there were plenty of takers for these well-liked cars.

The Audi 100 was in its last year, with the novelty of an inline 5-cylinder engine supposedly combining the smoothness of a six in the space of a four. Also sold as the hatchback Avant, they offered decent levels of standard kit for a German car.

Another 5 door offering came in the form of the Renault 30. Now in its 7th year of production, the V6 engine shared with Volvo and Peugeot gave it a useful power edge over rivals, typically for a large French car, they were comfortable and practical.

Looking like a hatchback but actually a 4 door, the Lancia Gamma was another car with its roots firmly in the mid-’70s. The flat-four 2.5-litre engine was a novelty but the Gamma suffered from Lancias UK’s regular relaunches which often meant patchy availability in the limited numbers of dealers. 

Straight in with the Talbot Tagora, considered an alternative to the Peugeot 505, it shared components including the engines. Its lack of development meant it never really stood a chance.

A more common but leftfield option came via Citroen, with their head-turning CX. Another victim of PSA neglect, it still maintained a following simply due to the individual execution of its character. 1982 did bring on a few milestones to the design though, with styling revisions and fuel injection sprucing up the range.

One of the most common options for UK buyers was the Ford Granada. It offered power and a lavish interior which made it a firm favourite as the UK’s best selling large saloon and estate.

For around the same money, you could be tempted by a Mercedes 230E. What you’ll lose on gimmicks and pace, you’ll gain in longevity and rock-solid protection against depreciation.

Saab has been developing its 900 range since the late ‘70s and offered a wide selection of body options, as well as their image changing Turbocharged models. As another increasingly popular import, the 900 models developed a reputation for being driven by those with ‘aspirational’ professions.

Also notable for their Turbocharged options was Colt, who fielded no less than four distinctively different Turbocharged cars in their range. The use of a Turbocharger pushed their prices up, which meant the 170bhp Galant was also a contention in this price range.

The Rover SD1s were still considered as viable options in this sector, with the six-pot versions fitting into this price category. The cars parent organisation was still making the headlines but for happier reasons, as the slimmed-down more efficient Austin Rover Group started improving the built quality of their products.

The most expensive car in this group shown here is the Toyota Crown, which retailed well over the 10K budget. Its engineering, comfort and calm ambience contributed to its average 450 yearly sales but it was to become the models last full year in the UK new car price list.