Mysterious rust-related charm of ’80s’ classic cars

Viewers love cars—including my beloved, family station wagon. Now, if only a crazy expert could tell me how to tear it apart, put it back together again, make it better and then improve it…

Mysterious rust-related charm of '80s' classic cars

Viewers love cars—including my beloved, family station wagon. Now, if only a crazy expert could tell me how to tear it apart, put it back together again, make it better and then improve it with a new engine, a lightweight, eco-friendly body, powerful brakes and never-before-seen technology.

Well, a friend of mine is doing just that with a historical restoration project to promote a new magazine—a remarkable piece of engineering, hard work and little more than skill and wonder.

The Detroit Auto Show comes to an end this weekend, and, it’s the end of the ’80s/’90s era for car companies. As the decade comes to a close, the attention will turn to a new generation—one still in the throes of boom-time rush and popular hysteria—which will emerge in about 10 years. What will its choices for cars look like? Will the sexy, loud exotic be replaced by a handsome, comfortable sedan? Will we see a wave of new, socially responsible, sports-oriented models, based on fuel efficiency and green power?

We’re probably about 18 months away from that. But before then, we’re going to look back on an era of the best and most innovative vehicle design from the ’80s and ’90s, and perhaps inspire designers today. The car companies you see here were no exception.

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Styling

Most of the classic designs that we associate with automotive greatness came before the era of neo-grunge, when engineers and designers began to eliminate door handles, moved seats, cut windshield pillars and even couldn’t find anything they liked enough to put back into a production car. If there’s a timeless beauty to be found in the models here, it’s definitely through the styling.

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Top craftsmanship

The winning designs here can really drive the power train and suspension as well as the insides of the car. Here are some of the latter elements that were redefined and put to work on cars—like the aluminum hood, which helped modern design departments meet the demands of a weightless, post-war world in the 1960s.

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Chassis

It’s amazing how much metal a car can be aero-perceptible by the sheer amount of surfaces used in front and back. Consider that the Ford Pinto, with very thin rear roof pillars, was three times wider than a modern car.

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Controls

Control panels were considered part of the cabin when most production cars first hit the market, and are still standard equipment in most models today. But, that isn’t to say that the seating arrangement and control layout won’t eventually change. Who knows what the future will bring?

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Haptic control

The hand-stitched leather seats are amazing, but their body panels are where the real inner work was happening. Thicker in back, lighter on the front seats, this high-impact and energetic design really is a modern touch.

* The specific cars and their makers were chosen for their market dominance, intelligence and clearly defined cool.

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