Iconic Cars of the 80s: The Mid-sizers

Let's continue our discussion of Iconic Cars of the '80s. Some of these are classified closer as compact cars but when one sees these vehicles, it's challenging to differentiate the size. How many of us recall seeing these vehicles running around or perhaps had one in the family to get us to and from our destinations? Would you call them iconic or leave them in the forgotten world?

We'll begin with the Ford Tempo/Mercury Topaz. Although it is categorized as a compact vehicle, this closer to mid-size car was a well meaning economical car that transported the growing family throughout its tenure but was known to be slightly underpowered during its inaugural production. As the model generations advanced, the car's performance became better suited and more reliable adding an optional all-wheel drive to keep it on the market for nearly 10 years.

Who cannot forget the Ford Taurus from RoboCop? Yes, the high-tech film featured the Ford Taurus as the next generation police interceptor. This car appeared to the average car buyer in 1985 after much development to replace the boxy LTD. Larger than the Tempo, this car became one of Ford's anchor cars known for its safety and reliability. The Taurus and Mercury Sable also introduced a solid, paneled grille versus the standard grate-style grille allowing them to up the economy, gaining on those buyers. Up until 2019, the Taurus name continued to thrive in the automotive world.

GM went through several body platforms that would be considered mid-sizers. One of those, although arguably categorized as compact sized, was a staple of the American family transport; the predecessor to the Cavalier. Ah the X-body family of cars that GM produced, the Chevrolet Citation and it's multiple cousins (Buick Skylark, Oldsmobile Omega, and Pontiac Phoenix) endured a six year reign on the market becoming the inaugural compact car (although closer to a mid-size vehicle in many minds) of the 80s. These cars came in various configurations from the two-door "notchback" coupe, the two-door hatchback, the four-door sedan, and the four-door hatchback. Because of numerous manufacturing flaws and recalls, this platform unfortunately was relieved of duty in 1985.

GM also ushered in the A-body beginning in 1982 which was truly categorized as a mid-sizer that came in a variety of layouts from sporty 2-door coupes to the elongated wagons. This solid seller remained on dealer lots and buyer's hands into the mid 90s and was the basis of the U-body minivans (aka Lumina, Transport, etc).

Yet, GM continued it's marketing of yet another platform known as the N-body. The N-platform remained more of a niche, 2-door sporty coupe but was not advertised as a sports car. Nonetheless, this platform was another great seller and well-loved in the '80s.

Before the 80s expired, GM introduced one more platform to the inventory which was the L-platform. This body style was a mixture of economical J-body (aka Skyhawk, Cavalier, Sunbird, etc) with the tapered styling of the N-body. This sleek look, however, brought the buyers out to the dealers for only a short period, living out only a 5 year run. A comical note, however is that the Pontiac Tempest was a Canada only car with the US version being the Grand Am.

Although redundant from our Economy Class, the larger Chrysler K-car platforms such as the Dodge Dynasty and Chrysler Town and Country were consider mid-sizer cars as they interior volume was stretched to afford it to be marketed as an economical competitor while adding more room.

Volvo delivered their mid-sizers under the Model 24X (242, 244, and 245) name. They marketed these cars as the "wolf in sheep's clothing" providing great performance and economy despite the boxy appearance.

Seeing double? Yes, in my previous Economy Class article we included these beloved Chrysler products as compact cars, however like the Ford Tempo/Mercury Topaz and the GM X-bodies, these vehicles are more appropriately categorized, by size, within the mid-sizers. These vehicles had a signature sag on the rear axle as if the suspension was not sufficient to keep the car level.

Do any of these iconic cars of the '80s ring a bell or make you recall some memories? Next we'll visit the Iconic Cars of the 80s, the Sportsters.

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