For New Book, Bring A Trailer Picks Its Top 80 Cars of the 1980s

top 80 of the '80s
Bring a Trailer Picks Its 'Top 80 of the 80s'Courtesy: Bring a Trailer

Collector-car auction site Bring A Trailer is omnivorous in its automotive representation. As such, it doesn't restrict the vehicles it offers to any particular body type, condition, or even time period. But, if one had to choose a decade most commonly associated with the listings on the site, it would probably be the 1980s. (BaT, like Car and Driver, is a part of Hearst Autos.)

So, it makes sense that, for BaT's first hardcover book offering, it would choose to focus on this era. "Top 80 of the '80s"($55)—an oversized compendium of four-score four-wheeled vehicular gems from that beloved and reviled decade—does just that. It is also a fundraiser; the proceeds from all books sales will go to the American Diabetes Association.

"We started with the Eighties, because it's right there in our ethos with a bunch of the cars that we feature on the website," BaT founder Randy Nonnenberg tells Car and Driver. "But we love them on the website because our team is sort of fanatical about them."

the interior of a car
Juan Martinez, DriverSource - Car and Driver

So how does a group of '80s car-obsessives begin to winnow down a decade-worth of their favorite vehicles to just six-and-a-half dozen? "Good question," Nonnenberg says. "It could've been '800 from the '80s' if we wanted, because there's a lot of cars that were super interesting from that era."


The team had to prioritize it selections. "There were some that were obvious. I mean, you open the front cover, and there's a red Lamborghini Countach. That was a must. And there definitely had to be a Mustang SVO, which is in there. There definitely ought to be a Conquest TSi, which is there," Nonnenberg adds.

a car parked on a road
Morando Media Studio - Car and Driver

Coincidentally, all the 1980s cars that Nonnenberg owns, personally, are also represented. So there's a BMW E28 5-Series, like his 535is. There's a Renault R5 Turbo, red, like his. And there's a Volkswagen GTI, though his is a Mk II from 1992, not the '80s Rabbit GTI pictured.

Then there are some surprises. "The 1989 Pontiac Firebird Turbo Indy 500 Pace car..?" Nonnenberg says, mentioning the F-Body fitted with the forced-induction 3.8-liter V-6 engine from the Buick Grand National. "Is that in the top 80? I don't know, that was maybe kind of on the bubble a little bit."

pontiac firebird turbo trans am
Snappr - Car and Driver

Because the voting was majority rules, this meant that someone on the selection team had to have made a strong case for this car and convinced others that it belonged. "I'd say there's a good portion of cars in there that needed a little bit of arm wrestling," says Nonnenberg. "And I love that process. Because we do that every day with the cars we list for sale on the site. So, it's kind of fun to do it in a non-commerce setting where nobody's trying to sell the car. We're just kind of talking about it objectively."

As a fan of 1980s pickups and SUVs, Nonnenberg was also happy to see included vehicles such as a seventh-generation Chevrolet "Squarebody" Suburban, a Range Rover, a Toyota FJ60 Land Cruiser, and a Jeep XJ Cherokee, and a Jeep Grand Wagoneer. He could have included many more. "I can go pretty deep on four-wheel-drive vehicles," Nonnenberg says. "So the team was, like, we may need to do a separate edition, another book, for you and your weird tuck obsession."

an orange and white car
Patrick Ernzen

BaT was able to draw on its relationship with Hearst Autos for many of the stats contained in the book. "Since we're tied into Car and Driver and Road & Track’s resources, we have good availability of their historical road test and data, which we actually include on listings," Nonnenberg says. And for the photography, many of the vehicles pictured were actual cars that have been up for auction on the site. "So we have a deep library of so many photos of the cars that are, honestly, car-magazine grade," he says.

The current plan is to do just one printing of the book, so if you’re interested, head on over to the BaT store soon to get your copy. However, there's another incentive to buy one. If the book does well, there may be other iterations forthcoming in the future—"Top 90 of the '90s" or "Top 100 of the '00s," perhaps.

"Definitely, many other additional titles, eras, ideas have kind of burst forth while we were working on this one," Nonnenberg says. "We'll see what happens with those."

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