Lipstick on a Pig: 5 "Performance" Cars That Really Weren't
The late 1970s and early 1980s were the zenith of a particular phenomenon: You looked at a car in the showroom and it had all the earmarks of great performance, but when it came right down to it, it was a tape stripe and sticker package. BoldRide presents a selection of cars that should've moved you, but moved you along instead: BMW 850i
Still, 15 years later, the BMW E31 looks as fresh and frightening as it did the day it rolled off the assembly line. The big, brutish hardtop is sexy from every angle and somehow manages to make flip-up headlights look cool. It should've been awesome, but it wasn't because of the V12.
PHOTOS: David Hockney 1995 BMW 850CSi Art Car
The 4.0-liter variant wasn't bad, but the big draw should've been the 850i with the M70B50 5.0-liter V12 was a disappointment from the get-go. Essentially two M20 inline sixes fused together at 60 degrees, but very few of the parts from the M20s cross over to the M70. The engine requires individual ECUs for each cylinder bank, and it weighs in at 522 pounds. Still a badass looking car, but performance-wise, it was a disappointment.
1980 and 1981 Ford Mustang
Whether you liked the Fox-bodied, third-generation Mustang early on, it's hard to deny its appeal over its almost 15 year run. It was light, pretty well built, a blank canvas for modification, and it signaled a return to performance V8 engines.
PHOTOS: Return of the H.O. - 1983 Ford Mustang GT
Of course, in order to signal a return, you have to first experience a disappearance, and that's exactly what happened in 1980 and 1981. Those two years, the 302-cu.in. V8 went on hiatus, replaced by a horrible 4.2-liter V8 that offered all the disadvantages of a V8 with none of the horsepower. Choked down to just 120hp, the 4.2-liter was outgunned by a turbocharged four-cylinder those two years.
1980 and 1981 Pontiac Trans Am Turbo
This sounds fast just saying it: Trans Am Turbo. You get visions of a twin-turbocharged 400-cu.in. V8, with gobs of power to spare and your palms get sweaty just holding that copy of Car and Driver circa 1979.
PHOTOS: The Real Thing - 10th Anniversary 1979 Pontiac Trans Am
Only you didn't get a 400. You got a 301, the lamest V8 Pontiac ever produced. In certain controlled tests, you could make it run from 0-to-60 in eight seconds, but if you wrung it out on the quarter mile, the engine detonation was Hiroshima level. Great to look at, horrible to drive. Try again when electronic timing advance catches up with turbocharging.
Everybody likes the Delorean because of Marty McFly and Doc Brown, but remember: the Delorean was in that movie satirically, not because it was a great car. By the time Back to the Future came out in 1985, the Delorean was already a painfully expensive joke.
PHOTOS: Hope for the Future - Delorean DMC-12 EV
The car was built in Northern Ireland, but the engine came from France, a Peugeot Renault Volvo (PRV) 2.85 liter V6 that ended up in quite a few awesome performance cars like the Dodge Monaco and the Eagle Premier.
1975 and 1976 Cosworth Vega
The Vega is a very convenient scapegoat, but there's a lot to love about them. They were a test bed for a lot of new technologies, and unlike most crap-can economy cars of the era, the earliest Vegas were really handsome little cars. If they had performed as well as they looked, we'd have thought about them in the same light as we do the BMW 2002 and the Datsun 510.
PHOTOS: 1974 Chevrolet Vega
The promise of performance came with the Cosworth Vega. In one of his last acts before he died, GM President Ed Cole authorized the production of the Cosworth engine after seeing one run up to 122mph at the Arizona proving grounds. Unfortunately, in production, it only delivered 110hp and the quarter in 18.5 seconds. The ad campaign -- "ONE VEGA FOR THE PRICE OF TWO" -- probably didn't help.