Image: 1980 Pontiac Bonneville CoupeWe introduced the new Buy/Drive/Burn series back in December via a QOTD post (read that first for the rules). Shortly afterwards, the inaugural post in the series tackled the destruction of one of a trio of new luxury coupes. Those powerful and modern coupes are at the higher end of the market, which is just about the only place one finds luxury coupes today.

It wasn’t always that way — there used to be personal luxury for the masses. Coupes in the finest brougham tradition, exuding class, elegance, and sophistication. One of the best years for the personal luxury coupe (PLC) was 1980, right at the height of malaise and the downsizing trend. All are superb vehicles, surely. Which one burns, and which goes in your driveway, and which do you simply borrow from a friend?

And no, the Bonneville isn’t in the running. Too easy.

Ford Thunderbird Town Landau

Image: 1980 Ford Thunderbird Town LandauStarting off our trio from the Big Three is the Ford Thunderbird Town Landau coupe. The new for ’80 eighth-generation luxury coupe from Ford showed new focus on being right-sized and fuel efficient. It was considerably smaller (17″ in length) than the prior T-Bird, which shared its underpinnings with the LTD II. Engine size shrunk from 6.6 liters to either the 4.2- or 5.0-liter Windsor V8. The ninth-generation Thunderbird couldn’t come fast enough.

Chevrolet Monte Carlo

Image: 1980 Chevrolet Monte CarloChevrolet brought a revised Monte Carlo to dealer lots in 1980, a modification to the downsized (and short-lived) third generation of 1978-81. 1980 saw the debut of more acceptable corporate GM styling with a more formal edge. Engines were plentiful: a 3.75-liter Chevy V6, the 3.8-liter turbo Buick mill, a 4300 V6, and a 5.0-liter V8 (5.7-liter diesels were added in the move to the G-body in ’82). At a tidy 200 inches in length, the Monte Carlo was the same size as the Thunderbird and considerably smaller than the Cordoba.

Chrysler CordobaImage: 1980 Chrysler CordobaAlso new for 1980, Chrysler’s Cordoba was now in its second generation. Shrinking just six inches over the prior generation, it was available with the slow and steady 3.7-liter Slant 6 engine (95 horsepower), or a 5.2-liter (318) V8 with 120 horsepower. The Cordoba’s days were numbered. While Ford and Chevrolet corrected their cars’ issues, Chrysler saw the way forward in front-drive K-Car models and left development of the rear-drive PLC off the table entirely. The Cordoba vanished from dealers after 1983.

There they are, contestants. Three PLCs from the age of brown, polyester, and California smog. Which of these is the Buy, Drive, and Burn?

[Images: General Motors, Ford, Chrysler]




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