The 1980s represented an era when performance finally made a comeback at Detroit.

It was a different kind of performance—not the thumping, big block stuff of the late 60s and early 70s.

The most obvious example came in the form of the 1984 Corvette.

The C-4 Vette represented a huge step forward for the legendary Corvette brand because it became a legitimate sports car in 1984. The C-3 Vette had been hanging around since 1968 and it ran until 1982—there was no ’83 Vette.

The ’84 Vettes were beasts because they could hit 140 miles per hour, do a 7-second 0-60, and run a 15-second/90 mph ¼ mile. They could also give a Ferrari a serious run on a road course. The 1984 Vette brought back classic muscle car performance and added great handling—Detroit was back in a big way.

The next car came from a different camp.

The 1984 Chrysler Daytona Turbo Z was an exercise in how much you could wring out of a four-cylinder engine. This little road rocket had a 2.2 liter, 142-horsepower 4-banger under the hood.

That doesn’t sound like much, but the Daytona didn’t weigh much either, so it did 0-60 in eight seconds, and it topped out at 128 miles per hour. It also handled great –not bad for what was essentially a spruced-up Omni with new outer skin.        

The 1984 Ford Turbo EXP Coupe was another example of the little car/bigger horsepower game. This car represented 80s technology at its finest because the little four-cylinder was fuel-injected and turbocharged—new concepts at the time for Detroit production vehicles.

That gave the 97-cubic-inch engine 120 horsepower—do the math. This two-seater car could corner like a Porsche at a fraction of the price, so it had the power and the handling to make it a standout in 1984.

The 1984 Buick Regal Grand National followed a more traditional muscle car road. This Buick didn’t come with a thumping V-8 under the hood, but it did have the next best thing—a V-6 with some new-tech tricks.

The turbo-boosted 3.8 liter six produced 200 horsepower and 300 ft.-lbs of torque in a light car. That meant it did 0-60 in 7.5 seconds, a 15.5 ¼ mile and gave you over 20 miles per gallon. Welcome to 1984.

The final example of 1984 muscle was the ’84 Mustang Predator GT 302. This was a less publicized version of the legendary pony car, but it was all business.

The Predator was a specialized build (130-ish built) by Soloman America and sold at only a few Ford dealers.  The ‘stang came with a roll cage, wheels, valve covers, numerous badges and functional air dams specific to the Predator.  The 302 under the hood was relatively stock at 223 horsepower but in ’84 the Predator was a 7.5 second 0-60 mph 80s street machine.

By: Jerry Sutherland

Jerry Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer with a primary focus on the collector car hobby. His work has been published in many outlets and publications, including the National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Regina Leader-Post,  Vancouver Sun and The Truth About Cars. He is also a regular contributor to Auto Roundup Publications.