Nine great driver's cars from the 80s and 90s we missed out on

Though South Africa developed a number of unique high-performance machines during the '80s and '90s there were a number of great driver's cars that sadly never made it to our shores. Here are 9 of the best...

If you read motoring magazines or played Top Trumps cards in the last 2 decades of the previous century, the cars listed below will definitely ring a bell.

Peugeot 205 GTi

Widely regarded as the finest-handling hatchback ever made by the French marque (which says a lot), the 205 GTi sadly never made it to our shores... though as the picture above shows, a few owners have managed to import some cars into the country.

In the '80 and in the UK, it was voted "car of the decade" by Performance Car magazine, who praised it for its superb throttle response, lively steering and "frisky" chassis. Initially offered as a 1.6-litre model (78kW, then 84kW), a larger capacity 1.9-litre variant (97kW) was added later.

Renault 5 GT Turbo

Although South Africa did originally get the "Le Car", the later, updated "5" never made it here. It's a pity because the line-up included this little firecracker, the 5 GT Turbo. It may seem like the most unlikely of driver's cars, but according to the UK media, the 5 GT Turbo didn't only possess explosive performance (0-60mph in about 7 seconds), but also a composed chassis that made it possible to exploit all that power (88kW). 

BMW (E30) M3

South Africa missed out on the first-generation M3, a car widely regarded as the finest sports coupe of its generation. (As a "substitute" BMW South Africa developed the SA-only 333i). 

The M3 may have had "only" a 147kW 4-cylinder engine, but you could feel the motorsport genes in the way it was willing to rev and through the superb chassis. The racy feel should not come as a surprise, the M3 was developed with motorsport success (European Touring Car Championship) being very much the goal.

Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500

We may have had the XR8, but in Europe Ford had the generously winged Sierra Cosworth RS500. Also created as a homologation special to get Ford into the European Touring Car Championship, the "Cossie" brought master engine builders Cosworth to the party. The result was a car that could outpace the E30 M3 and even give the Porsche 944 Turbo a run for its money. 

Power came from a turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder that punched out 167kW, helping the Sierra sprint to 100kph in just over 6 seconds.

Honda Integra Type R

Although Honda South Africa did bring a few examples of the Integra Type R to South Africa (one example was tested by CAR Magazine), it was never officially part of the product line-up. It's a pity, because according to the UK media this may well be the finest-handling front-wheel drive car... of all time.

It featured all the bits that made period fast Hondas so great - an engine happy to rev to 9 000rpm, light weight and a slick manual transmission. It didn't handle, they say... it "danced".

Renault Clio Williams

The greatest hot hatch of all time? Some members of the UK press believe the Clio Williams to be just that. It was far more than just a special edition Clio with gold wheels and stickers. Renault re-engineering the 108kW 16v engine to give it more torque, and fine-tuned an already excellent chassis to deliver a deeply impressive combination of suppleness and sharpness. It blitzed to 100kph in 7.8 seconds.

Opel Lotus Omega

The Opel Lotus Omega will forever be remembered as the car that was debated in the UK parliament - it was so fast. Powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.6-litre straight-6 that delivered 281kW, the big sedan rocketed to 100kph in 5.4 seconds and had a 283kph top speed, enough to crush the period BMW M5 and Mercedes-Benz 500E... and even scare some supercars!

Volkswagen Corrado 16v

Based on the excellent underpinnings of the Golf Mk2 GTI, the Corrado 16V offered slightly improved performance (over the Golf) and an impressive combination of comfort and sharpness. It was called the "poor man's Porsche" at the time of its launch. The 16V variant had 104kW from its 1.8-litre engine, good for a 0-100kph time of 9.1 seconds and a top speed of 212kph. 

Ford Escort RS Cosworth

Another big-winged Ford makes this list - the legendary Escort RS Cosworth. Powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine that developed 167kW, this Cossie could rocket to 100kph in just over 6 seconds and on to a 220kph top speed. It also featured all-wheel drive, making it blisteringly fast even on slippery roads or in changing conditions. 


4 comments

  • I would like to showcase my 3 classic cars 1980 Scirocco mk1, 1984 Scirocco mk2 and my Corrado 16v contact me 0730598158

    Ozwyn
  • You missed a few, including the most important of them all, the GTV6 3.0.

    Toy de Carvalho
  • Three of these cars speak to my soul:
    1)R5GT Turbo:My first car was a R5 TS 1.4 Cabriolet.It was quite nippy and underestimated by my friends.It was even more fun to drive after I cut the gear lever in half and fitted mags with 175/70/13 tyres and a freeflow exhaust.At that time I dreamed of having a GT or Giordini Turbo…
    2)Opel Lotus Omega:I have been an Opel fan since I first drove my 1984 Ascona 1.8GLS hatchback.When the Solex carb packed up I fitted a 36DCD Weber and a freeflow exhaust and it turned into a real sleeper that could easily have run with the big boys if I had fitted a different gearbox.A friend had the Rekord 380i V6 which was also no slouch,but I would really not mind a spin in that Omega!
    3)Sierra Cosworth RS500:After my Ascona got written off after being rear-ended,I bought a Sierra 1.6 and was ever so sorry!It had a heavier body and less power than the Ascona,only a 4speed box,and was much thirstier and very sluggish.Not long afterward the engine gave in and after I msnaged to drive that one to its death as well,I fitted an Essex 3.0 V6.Same fuel consumption,double the power,plus the fun of kicking the backside out if you wanted to show off a bit.I heard sbout the Cossie from other FFF’s (Fast Ford Friends 😜) and have read plenty of articles about it.It seems to be wuite popular to modify as well,and the Sierra is still a damn goodlooking car with the right aero fitted,like on the Cossie and XR6 and XR8.

    Frederik Roux
  • Three of th

    Frederik Roux

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