I’d spent some time researching (and being suitably impressed by) these facts in the time between winning the car and picking it up. But what I hadn’t been expecting was quite how modern the 80 is to drive.
It would be hyperbolic to say it feels like a new car, but with its slick gearchange, light power steering, user-friendly controls and crisp, sure-footed handling, neither does it feel like a car that’s anywhere near 30 years old. And because it’s so aerodynamic, there’s little wind noise to speak of (although I will admit that the engine is relatively noisy by modern standards).
It’s comfortable, too. The interior is Spartan and the seats look unyielding, but I recently undertook a 230-mile round trip in two two-hour stints. I emerged at the end of each with no backache – not just a little, but none at all. That’s not something that can be said of a lot of the more modern cars I review.
What’s more, in today’s overheating market, my 80 feels like a bit of a bargain. I paid £1,300 for it, with a long MOT and a reasonable mileage, and in good condition. Judging by other 80s that have come up for sale since, this looks as though it might actually have been slightly too much. Yet for one of its contemporary rivals, like the E30 BMW 3-Series or the Mercedes-Benz 190, you’d need to pay at least double, if not triple that figure to get a car in a similar condition.
Why so cheap? Well, I reckon it’s because the 80 is one of those cars that’s fallen through the cracks of the public consciousness. Whether it didn’t make enough of an impact in its time, or it simply fails to excite enough people today, it’s ended up forgotten by classic car buyers more interested in chasing its more fondly remembered competitors.
Of course, there are downsides to owning a car like this. I happened upon mine on eBay, but generally forgotten classics are rarely fawned over and attentively maintained by previous owners – most of the time, it simply isn’t worth doing so financially; maintenance and repairs get scrimped on, and such cars are usually on a one-way ticket to a scrapheap. As a result they’re usually hard to come by, which means you have to look hard to find one.