Fullsize Disco
1977-90 Chevy Caprice
The '77-90 Chevy Impala and Caprice cars are great examples of what this article is all about-forgotten pseudoluxury cars from an overlooked era. But these models retained a basic architecture that was decades old. As full-frame cars with a live rear axle, these cars used a multilink rear suspension that traces its design heritage back to the A-body of the '60s.

Impalas were available in both two- and four-door versions. Some of the two-door cars even had an aero rear window that would be brought back in '86-88 on some Monte Carlos. In 1980, the body was slightly revised to be a bit more streamlined. In 1981, a police package was introduced that brought with it heavy-duty brakes, steering and suspension, plus some cool dog-dish wheels.

Earlier models came with a 350 V-8 that made an amazing 170 hp. In the '80-85 models, a 305 is much more common. The engine specs don't matter that much. All those V-8s underhood mean it already has the motor mounts and accessory drive that you'll need when you drop your fresh small-block in place. (Beware, some wagons had the 307 Olds underhood, so some cajoling may be in order.)

This era of Caprices and Impalas were built on the B-body platform, and there were also Buick, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac versions available. By this time, GM had nearly perfected badge engineering and the only real exterior differences between the brands were the grilles and trim. They retained engines from the brand lineage.

Model years: '77-90
Most desirable: '77-79 two-door coupe
Engine you want: 305 or 350 Chevy V-8
Why you want it: Haul the gang to the dragstrip and then lay down some
11-second quarters for cheap
Price range: $2,500-$4,000

Rich Corinthian Leather
1980-83 Chrysler J-Body
A subset of the M-platform-fullsize rear-wheel-drive cars that Chrysler and Dodge built for 12 years-the J-platform cars were the two-door versions, and marketed as personal luxury cars. This segment was actually pretty crowded in the early '80s with Thunderbird, Cougar, and a host of two-door coupes from GM.

The J-body included the '80-83 Chrysler Cordoba, Dodge Mirada, and Chrysler Imperial. Ironically, the Cordoba has a crosshair grille that would be applied to the Dodge brand 20 years later. The Mirada tried to garner some racing heritage. Richard Petty and Junior Johnson built test cars, but they were supposedly so far off the mark on the Daytona track that both teams jumped to other brands. Some lesser known teams did campaign the Mirada and Imperial without much success.

The J-platform cars sit on a leaf-spring rear suspension and had a torsion bar front suspension. These were available with a 318 V-8 and an A904 automatic. For '80, special Mirada and Cordoba models were available with a 360 V-8, the last year the engine would be offered in Chrysler cars. It was rated at 185 hp and combined with a 727 TorqueFlite.

Model years: '80-83 Chrysler J-platform cars
Most desirable: '83 with the 360 and 727 TorqueFlite
Engine you want: 318 or 360 V-8
Why you want it: Dirt-cheap, and your 450hp LA engine will bolt right in!
Price range: $1,500-$4,000