How did the automobile scene look twenty-five years ago? For instance, radio was an optional extra and air-conditioning was a luxury!

Before the 70s, it was the time for big dreams and large cars. Those were the times of cars with wings and 12-cylinder gas-guzzling powerhouses. The next two decades brought legal mandates, innovative technologies and interesting challenges to the industry, inducing major advancements in fuel economy and safety. These decades saw a mass switch from rear- to front-wheel-drive, and growing consumer preference for smaller cars.

Chevrolet introduced the climate control in this one, making it a privileged car in 1986.

Twenty-five years ago, it was 1986…

Fuel-injected engines were becoming more prevalent, but many cars still had carburetors. The age of six and seven speed transmissions were light years away. Automatic transmissions were three- or four-speeds. Power steering and power brakes were optional on many entry-level cars as is the case with many developing markets even today. Some models offered a driver’s-side airbag, while BMW made the year noteworthy by becoming the first manufacturer to make anti-lock brakes standard equipment in all of its models. In the realm of safety measures, the US government made centre-mounted third brake lights a must for all new 1986 passenger vehicles.

The fleet fuel economy average was 8.2 L/100 km while car prices ranged from just under $6,000 for a Pony to $170,000 for a Rolls-Royce limousine. The figures have just over doubled in the last 25 years, unlike the inflation. So, cars have become much cheaper for sure.

Rolls Royce launched the Camargue in 1986

Here’s an interesting comparison to feel the winds of change!

In North America, Motor Trend gave its Car of the Year honour to the new Ford Taurus. The Taurus came with a 2.5 L four-cylinder that made 88 horsepower, or a 3.0 L V6 that made 140 horses. By comparison, the 2011 Ford Fusion has a 2.5 L that makes 175 horsepower, or a 3.0 L that makes 240. Unlike the Fusion’s six-speed automatic transmission, the Taurus’s choices were three- or four-speed automatics. The stock wheels were 14 inches, with a 15-inch option. Only the top trim levels came fully equipped with air conditioning, power locks, power windows and a tilt steering wheel, and the station wagon and base sedan didn’t even have rear-seat head restraints. There were no cup-holders, and the AM/FM radio was up to you to choose. But like most cars of the day, every Taurus came equipped with a cigarette lighter and three ashtrays!

Ford Taurus 1986 - Car of the year in North America

1986 seems like a year of major happenings until we acknowledge that more, much more was yet to come! Like, electronic stability control, luxury SUVs, hybrids, satellite radio and electric cars for the road as well as 19” alloy wheels were still miles behind in chronological road map of motoring!

Story adapted for you from various articles published by

Retold by: Sudeep Koshy

Once upon a highway… Cars 25 years ago was last modified: January 1st, 2017 by Sudeep Koshy

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