Why are cars from the 80s so ugly

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and even though almost everyone might deem a car atrocious-looking, that does not mean that someone else necessarily agrees with that. That being said, this article is mostly about why some people believe that certain 80s cars were rather unsightly.

The reason why so many 80s cars were ugly is that the oil prices went up, the competition got stiffer and the world was introduced to mainstream unibody car construction. The goal was to make cheaper and lighter cars which meant better efficiency and a fairly boxy, flat-panel design language.

Later in the 90s, computers were starting to take over which meant that you could shape body panels in many interesting ways which resulted in a curvy design language. Simplicity was also a prominent factor when it comes to 90s design, and that’s fair because many 80s cars were quite the opposite.

The 80s were a period where bold attractive design was the goal for many manufacturers, this means that they either managed to do it the right way, or they didn’t manage to do it at all. In order to further illustrate the issue, we have lined up the worst car designs from the 1980s.

1987 Nissan Pulsar NX

Back in the 1980s, the design department in Nissan was quite entertaining. For some reason, they reckoned that an interchangeable rear hatch design on a station wagon is what the general public craved for. However, not only that this design was downright ugly, this ‘’feature’’ was desired by absolutely no one.

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The concept was to enable you to choose between a more station wagon-looking mobile, or a half-done hatchback. The front looks like it was designed by a soulless man because there is absolutely no emotion whatsoever. Wheels looked like plates, and everything else was utterly boring and lifeless.

1989 Nissan S-Cargo

Continuing from the Pulsar NX, it is once again obvious that the 80s design Nissan department had to be in somewhat of a comedy role because the S-Cargo minivan(?) looked like it was designed by a 3-year-old. Who says that the Japanese have no sense of humor because the “Oh, I get it—it’s a cargo van that looks like a snail, and you called it S-Cargo!” joke literally made it in production.

The S-Cargo was intended to be somewhat of a tribute to the legendary Citroen 2CV, but it seems like they digressed into unfamiliar territory while designing it. It is unfair to roast a car and a design department this much, but the joke is obviously still going strong.

1985 Subaru XT

This is the last Japanese car to make it on this list, but be aware that there are many other Japanese design fails from the 80s. In order to fully understand the design philosophy behind the XT, all you had to do is buy a straight edge ruler. There isn’t a single curve on the XT, even the Lamborghini Countach had more curves than the XT.

The wheel option looked like a casino dice and the interior was even more appalling than the exterior. The Subaru XT had the worst-looking car steering wheel of all time, without a shadow of a doubt. The rest of the interior, including the gear lever, was pretty much the same as the rest, ugly, and downright weird.

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1983 Chrysler LeBaron Town & Country

The Chrysler Lebaron is actually a fairly decent car for its time, but the town and country convertible edition was something else. For some reason, Chrysler decided to kit the car out with fake plastic wood trim panels, which was quite frankly one of the oddest car design decisions from the 80s.

To make matters worse, so many genuinely premium car manufacturers used high-quality polished interior wood trims, but Chrysler had a different idea.

1985 Alfa Romeo Milano

It might come as a surprise that an Italian manufacturer might end up on any ‘’ugliest car lists’’, especially because Alfa Romeo is a brand widely known for its expressive and almost always beautiful design. There is a running joke that a CAD software machine crashed when they designed this car, and I get it.

When looking at the side profile, the back of the car looks like it was crashed. The wheels also looked like plates and the front was extremely boring. It’s still unclear what happened, and why Alfa even decided to release the Milano, especially after they named it after a famous city in Italy.

FAQ Section

What are the best-looking cars from the 1980s?

The 80s were an entertaining period, and even though there are many design fails which originated back in the 80s, there are also several 80s cars that are often considered as some of the most beautiful cars of all time. The Ferrari F40 and the Lamborghini Countach are arguably the coolest and best-looking supercars from the 80s.

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As far as more ‘’attainable’’ cars are concerned, the Renault Turbo 5, BMW E30 M3, and the Corvette C4 are widely regarded as 80s car design highlights.

Which 80s car is the most iconic of them all?

Choosing a single 80s car as the most iconic is a difficult thing to do. As far as I am concerned, I am leaning towards the F40 or the Countach, but it’s difficult to say that the DeLorean is not the most iconic car from the 80s.

The Ferrari Testarossa and the Buick GNX are also cars that defined this period, so it seems impossible to choose the most iconic one. However, I am biased towards supercars, and it’s only right to conclude that for the general public, the DeLorean is the most iconic 80s car out there.

What was the most popular, best-selling car back in the 80s?

Back in the 80s, Ford was somewhat dominating the sales chart with the Escort and the Fiesta as more than 2.8 million of these combined were sold. The Ford Sierra was also extremely popular with almost a million cars sold, and the sales of the Cortina almost reached 500k units.

Besides these Ford models, the Vauxhall Cavalier and the Austin Metro were also extremely popular with around 1 million units sold each.

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    Marko Mikulic

    Why do you love writing about cars? I love writing about cars as cars are a huge personal interest of mine. I was raised in a car enthusiast community and ever since I was young, I always wanted to do car-related work.

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