The 1980s were a hedonistic time which saw self-indulgence and greed reach levels not seen since Henry VIII held court and proclaimed, pre-lunch, that one hog-roast was sufficient for him whilst a barbecued hamster would suffice for his 250 guests, that included the infamous Go-Lightly family from Wales and the Robusts (pron Rowboosts) from France.
After the dismal 1970s which saw Great Britain grind to halt after halt from Industrial Action and the far out 60s were just a hazy memory for those who really did live the decade, the dawn of red braces, wine bars and filo faxes of the 80s was the opportunity to shrug off the beige cardigans and slippers and start living as if it was the end of the world.
House prices rocketed, normal Joe Public were suddenly paper rich with enormous equity in property and city bonuses were on par with Ethiopias national debt. As Gordon Gekko said greed is good, greed works. Money was cheap and there was plenty more wherever it came from. This was when we really saw the beginning of the premium car market. London-based Porsche dealerships were almost unable to cope with the influx of stripy shirted yuppies marching in, oversized mobile phone (or two) in hand demanding the best car stock list; it must be more expensive than the guys at the desk next door.
Whether it was better was never a particularly important point, for all that Rupert cared it could drive like a bag of blind badgers but it must have the wow factor to woo the legal secretary out of the wine bar for a spin around the square mile then back to the Docklands Apartment for champagne, strawberries and hopefully a lot more. Though once morning arrived, she is discarded along with the car because Tarquin in futures has bought one of those damned Ferraris. The Porsche 911 was the archetypal yuppie mobile, more often that not finished in Guards Red; it really did shout look at me, especially the turbo model with its broad rear arches and enormous rear wing. Despite being the ill-est handling of the breed and not the true connoisseurs choice, it was the market leader for those in a hurry.
Porsche has fought long and hard to shake off its flash pratt image and become a real world choice for those who want a fast, reliable and aesthetically pleasing sports car that wont offend the in-laws. They are just as happy being driven around town as they are lapping the track without a murmur from any of its component parts. The current Porsche range contains a model for almost all seasons. The Boxster is a 2 seater open top, the 911 range holds the coupe, cabriolet, turbo and race bred GT variants and then there is the controversial 4-wheel drive Cayenne. Many said that Porsche had lost its way and was losing sight of its roots by building a soft-roader family car. Although the Porsche tifosi may be appalled by the Cayenne, despite its challenging looks is in fact an excellent car, and in turbo form can touch 911 speeds and is actually not an awful lot slower through the twisty bits. They have to bear in mind that Porsche is a company that needs to make money, like any other, to facilitate the development of the next generation of the true Porsche cars for either the road or track. The answer to their critics was the Carrera GT. Its race-developed V10, 210mph top speed and tricky on the limit handling really did show the world that the Stuttgart firm hasn’t lost sight of its goals.
So how did other manufactures fair in the 80s and how have they developed in terms of image and product?
Ferrari emerged from the 1970s, having produced the beautiful 308, looking for a model to suit its amply bottomed new clientele. The previous customer was seen as a lithe and tanned playboy who, in-between dressing in black and using a variety of Bond-esque methods to deliver Milk Tray to cliff-top-home bound women, would go shark hunting with no more than a small pair of Speedos and a Swiss army knife. But Ferrari could see that the new money was with fat-cat businessmen who were more likely to eat the chocolates before any pathway to the house was getting the slightest bit hilly. For this they needed a new model that fitted in with the look how much money I’ve got mentality and be comfortable and spacious enough to allow wallets and stomachs to travel in comfort; dynamic prowess was now to be a by-product. So in 1984 the Testarossa was realised and was an instant hit. Used examples traded at three times their original list price as moneyed dorks from all over London were dying to be seen in the car of the moment and were willing to pay through the nose for the privilege.
The Testarossa was hugely profitable for Ferrari and, like the Porsche Cayenne, was not particularly liked by the true enthusiast but served a purpose and revived the Maranello companies fortunes, allowing development of later cars such as the F40 which again were very bullish and were selling for up to four times the original asking price. This shockwave of feverish buying was felt all the way down to previously unloved models such as the 400i and 246GT which is a true design classic with curves to rival any 1950s starlet. It was strangely ignored, perhaps due to the fact that the car didn’t carry a Ferrari badge anywhere on its body and was badged Dino in memory of Enzo Ferraris son who died tragically young.
Over the road to Ferrari, Lamborghini realised that it needed a something outrageous to cash in on the new money. The trouble is that they did not have the capital required to design and build a completely new model. The Countach was the companies showcase for its young designers with scissor doors and dramatic – almost violent lines when first introduced in 1976. When surrounded by Ford Cortinas and MGBs, it looked like Buck Rogers and Captain Scarlet were on a road trip. To bring the Countach up to date, various spoilers and body kits were added over the years culminating in the 1989 Anniversary model. It had become a monstrous and freakish sibling of its forefathers and at the time there were no rivals for sheer presence on the road. Contrary to what contemporary reports may say and despite being nigh on impossible to drive in town, for an original 70s design it actually was and is a great car. Sure you can’t open the windows fully therefore you find yourself slow roasting on a summer’s day and the clutch is stiffer than you’d ever imagine, but when on the right road (preferably straight and clear) nothing can beat the Countach for drama.
Despite commanding huge premiums 20 years ago, you can purchase one of each model for a total expenditure that’s less than the 80s priced Testarossa and still have change left over. An excellent 911 turbo can be bought for 20k, Testarossa for 35k and a Countach Anniversary for 40k. There are examples out on the market that are priced at less but you pay what you get. With these types of cars, condition is everything and who knows when the next feverish mega money car market comes along, you may be sitting on a nice investment portfolio which let’s face it, is more interesting than penny shares and currency trading, and remember: greed is good, greed works.