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If there was ever an era where cars were cool, it was the 80s. This was the final era of some of the best muscle cars in history as well as some of the most successful NASCAR drivers in history. It was an era where getting into a car and driving to synth music meant you were the epitome of cool.
Most of us know a lot of the most iconic cars in history had their glory days during this decade, but what may surprise you is that not all of the fastest cars of the 80s were big names. In fact, the following cars were considered to be among the fastest... but never quite had as big a following as they deserved.
(Note: For the sake of this article, we're sticking to cars that are somewhat obscure, so no Ferrari F40s, no Buick GNX, no Porsche 911 models, etc. Don't hate me, bro. We might include a couple of cars that were banned on US streets, though.)
The Lotus Esprit X180 (1989)
One of the prettiest cars that everyone seems to forget also happens to be one of the fastest cars of the 80s. The Lotus Esprit was known for its sports car body, quality steering, and light build... as well as being able to reach 60 miles per hour from standing in under five seconds.
The X180 model, in particular, became known for its type 910S engine, unique cooling system, and unusually rigid build. The end result? A beautiful car that could clock in at high speeds.
Top Speed: 160 miles per hour
The Porsche 959 Sport (1986)
Yes, yes, everyone and their grandma remembers the Porsche 911—but who really remembers the Porsche 959? Not many, and part of that is because the body's build wasn't exactly visually appealing to many folks.
That being said, it's impossible to disregard the fact that it was the world's fastest street-legal production car and the fact that it was also the world's most technologically advanced car when it was first introduced.
To this day, it's still considered to be the father of all supercars because of how trendsetting it was. That being said, 959s stopped being produced in the early 90s—making them a true 80s car if we've ever seen one.
Top Speed: 197 miles per hour
The 25th Anniversary Lamborghini Countach (1988)
Most people remember Ferraris of this decade thanks to a number of TV shows that featured the cars, but most people forget how impressive Lambos were. In terms of speed, the most impressive car of all had to be the 25th Anniversary Countach.
This Lamborghini was designed by none other than Horacio Pagani, and boasted an enormous V12 engine, extended rear "airbox" intakes, along with an extremely futuristic bodykit. It made history as the most refined Countach of its time—and also scored among the fastest cars of the 80s.
Top Speed: 183 miles per hour
The Ferrari 288 GTO Evoluzione (1986)
Admittedly, the Ferrari 288 GTO isn't exactly a machine that people ignore. In fact, you might have heard of it because of the fact that a couple of Formula 1 racers have been gifted them at the end of the 80s. This is perhaps the most recognized car of all the choices for my list of the fastest cars of the 80s.
Along with having a nice bodykit, the standard Ferrari 288 GTO had top quality twin turbos, intercoolers, and a Weber-Marelli fuel injector. The end result was it becoming the first street-legal car to hit 186 miles per hour.
The 1986 supercar version, the Evoluzione, had an even more powerful engine—with a max theoretical speed of 230 miles per hour. If you ask us, that's one good reason to call this the fastest car in the world... in 1986.
Top Speed: 189 miles per hour for standard, 230 miles per hour for Evoluzione
The Porsche 944 Turbo (1985-1989)
One of the nicest Porsche series to come out was often overshadowed by another one of the fastest cars of the 80s: the Porsche 911. This is a shame, since the Porsche 944 Turbo definitely had its own redeeming qualities that deserved praise.
Though it only had four cylinders, the Porsche 944 Turbo was capable of clocking in at up to 247 horsepower by its last iteration during the decade. Yes, it was zippy—and yes, it was a supercar by those old standards.
Top Speed: 162 miles per hour
The Aston Martin Volante V8 (1985)
Yes, Aston Martin existed during this era—and yes, they produced one of the fastest cars of the 80s, too. Though Aston Martin was ailing during the decade, the fact is that they created one of the prettiest luxury convertibles you could find on dealership lots: the Volante.
The Volante's V8 engine was nothing to sneeze at, either. In 1985, this beautiful little car could go from 0 to 60 in just 5.8 seconds. Back then, it was a "torque, not power" car. However, by 1989, more power was added to the engine, which in turn meant a smaller time to 60 and an overall very impressive design.
Top Speed: 149.8 miles per hour
The Ford RS200 (1984-1986)
Ford may have made Mustangs that ripped the racetracks, but the company also did a lot more than just Mustangs and rally cars. The short-lived Ford RS200 was a prime example of how some of the fastest cars of the 80s ended up being forgotten.
The thing about the Ford RS200 was that it didn't have a very high top speed. What made it one of the fastest cars of the decade was its acceleration, which made the 1986 RS200 capable of going from 0 to 60 in under 3.4 seconds.
Top Speed: 118 miles per hour
The Isdera Imperator 108i (1984)
Now, let's talk about some of the fastest cars of the 80s that were super exclusive, super rare cuts—like the Isdera Imperator 108i. This 1984 limited-edition release was a sub-brand that was actually backed by major car manufacturer Mercedes-Benz, as part of a top employee's personal project.
This highly stylized car was known for having a M117 V8 Mercedes-Benz engine in it that gave it a lightning-fast speed. It also had a periscope that caused a strange bump at the top of the hood, because it was the 80s and cocaine was a thing.
Top Speed: 171 miles per hour
The De Tomaso Pantera GT5-S (1985)
De Tomaso is another "deep cut" name that most people won't recognize right off the bat. Only 38 of these supercars were made in 1985, making them so hard to find, it's even hard to find an article about the De Tomaso Pantera GT5-S online.
It's a shame, since many alterations to later Mustang models can be traced back to influences from this supercar. In its time, it was excessively fast and regarded as impressively good when it came to steering. Part of the reason it was so zippy was its lightweight, fiberglass body.
Top Speed: 165 miles per hour
The Ferrari Koenig Competition Evolution II (1987)
Ferrari definitely rules most mainstream lists of the fastest cars of the 80s—and honestly, that's a title that's very well-deserved. However, not all the Ferraris you'll hear about have a history like this car. This was an already-fast 1987 Ferrari Testarossa that was souped up by none other than Koenig himself.
So, the already jawdropping 800 horsepower car got a tune-up in an extreme way. The 12-cylinder engine became known as the most extreme supercar of the 80s once it hit the tracks.
Top Speed: 230 miles per hour