Culture seems to progress in cycles and for some reason, the 1980s are making a resurgence today. But anyone who lived through the 1980s must surely remember feeling very happy when the calendar turned over to January of 1990 and the 1980s became a remnant of history.
Technology in the 1980s advanced at what must have seemed like a rapid rate. All kinds of digitized gadgets and doodads made their way into everyday life—perhaps nowhere more so than in the world of automotive design. As every manufacturer tried to transform their cars into the most advanced vehicles on the market by introducing odd aspects of design and engineering into the mix, some serious mistakes reached production.
Keep scrolling for 15 ridiculous features from the 1980s that everyone laughs at today.
This steering wheel, center console, and dash is just pure 1980s Japan. The most absurd part must be the radio, which looks like the record player that grandpa kept next to the globe bar before he moved into an old folks' home and his grand children installed Alexa. Is it Betamax or some other lost piece of audio technology?
14 The Twin-Stick
Another of the most absurd transmission decisions to reach production during the 1980s was the peculiar gearbox that featured in the Dodge Colt and its Plymouth Champ sibling. Technically, the 'Twin-Stick" came out in 1979 but it's got typical 1980s style. After all, why have a normal transmission when you can have one that has multiple gears to go forward and backward?
13 Nissan Pulsar Sportback
At first glance, it might seem like the most laughable 1980s feature on this Nissan Pulsar would be those taillights. But in fact, the whole rear canopy is a hilarious design decision that could only have come from the most ridiculous decade of the 20th century. Yep, that Sportback is completely removable.
12 Bugeye Porsche
Porsche's 928 freaked out die-hard Porschephiles who rightfully worried that the company might abandon the rear-mounted, air-cooled engines that had made their cars so unique. While the overall layout of the 928 and its siblings has now started to make a resurgence, the headlights still remain hilarious. They don't fully retract, rather facing upwards when they're laid back.
11 Isuzu Piazza's Dash
Of course, many of the most quintessentially 1980s features that found their way onto cars came from Japan. Just look at the steering wheel and dash of this Isuzu Piazza. Exactly what each and every cluster on the digital display is supposed to inform the driver is hard enough to figure out while looking at it on a computer screen—just imagine trying to figure it all out while driving.
10 Corvette's 4+3 Transmission
Some of the most ridiculous features to emerge during the 1980s came from the minds of engineers. The surprising fact, though, is that no executives or designers managed to convince everyone that details like the C4 Corvette's 4+3 manual-automatic gearbox might have been a bad idea. With four standard gears plus three automatic overdrives, it was needlessly and hilariously complex.
9 Sick Doors
The BMW Z1 represented a big step forward into design and engineering from BMW. Probably the most noticeable and aggressive design feature, the doors of this sports car didn't swing up like a Lamborghini or McLaren. Instead, they slipped down into the body, though used examples, of course, struggle to keep their doors up at all.
8 Impact Bumpers
The 1980s saw some major steps forward for the automotive industry as a whole when it came to safety features. With the roads becoming increasingly crowded and power figures ramping up steadily, on-road incidents increased, as well. Transportation authorities implemented stricter safety requirements, while brands like Bricklin introduced semi-hilarious impact bumpers like those seen above.
7 Impact Bumpers Part II
Perhaps the most notorious instance of an automaker adding impact bumpers that could only have looked acceptable in the 1980s came from Porsche. In fact, their models from these years are generally known as the 'Impact Bumper' cars. Those bellows just in front of the wheel wells allow for small collisions without affecting the car's frame.
6 Mustaches All Around
The differences between safety regulations in Europe and the United States resulted in some strange-looking features getting tacked on to existing models, just to make them legal for importation. Nowhere did America's strict rules stand out worse or create an uglier add-on than on the Lamborghini Countach, where the impact bumpers looked like a strange mustache.
5 Countach Continued
Seen here is the front bumper of a Lamborghini Countach without the ugly impact bumpers added on. But what might be even more quintessentially 1980s—and especially so for Lamborghini, perhaps the wildest designer of the time—is the flip-up headlights. While flip-up headlights might have been semi-normal, flip-up headlights above normal headlights could only have been a design decision made in the 80s.
4 Automatic Seatbelts
Automatic seatbelts are a silly feature that must have seemed like a good idea during the 1980s but that can only be laughed at today. The decision must have seemed wise because it would prevent people from forgetting or deliberately choosing not to use their seatbelts. But technology in the 80s wasn't quite ready for day in, day out use and they obviously broke all the time.
3 Genius DeLorean
The DeLorean DMC-12 is one of the most iconic cars ever built—even if it wasn't terribly good at being a car. Perhaps John DeLorean should have spent more time developing it past the concept car stage—or perhaps he shouldn't have used a terrible engine and transmission—but he definitely should have passed on the early use of Gullwing doors.
2 DeLorean Part II
The DeLorean in Back to the Future looks so futuristic because of its stainless steel exterior. While using aluminum would have been way cooler and much lighter—which would have additionally helped the weak powertrain cope—the stainless steel does age better. But in the 1980s, entirely steel-bodied sports cars were already a thing of the past.
1 Brats in Back
Subaru had cranked out some awesome vehicles before their all-wheel-drive rally cars started to dominate the world. Case in point is the compact truck known as the BRAT. Perfectly Japanese and perfectly 1980s, BRATs are highly sought-after today, especially if they've got the completely laughable jump seats still bolted into the bed.
Sources: Ford Six, Bring A Trailer, and Wikipedia.