I went to the first Back to the 80’s back when they were hosting it up in Blaine. It was pretty cool to see the show happen but, good lord, you don’t realize how far away Blaine is from Minneapolis until you sit in traffic for an hour and a half in a CRX without AC just to go walk around in a hot parking lot for the rest of the day. It was a sign of things to come though, the organizers had more passion for that show than I’ve seen in most other shows.
Fast forward to 2019, the show is now in Burnsville, still a third ring suburb but much easier to reach. The word has gotten out and the sponsors have been coming out of the woodwork, the organization has improved drastically and the show itself has exploded in size.
Going to the show for the first time in years, I was worried about it being another parking lot show. That being said, it didn’t feel like it was in a parking lot. Of course, it was cloudy, which did help but I didn’t feel like I was walking across the entire Earth to get from one end to the other end. I could walk from Shane’s Celica to the food trucks, effectively across the show, and I wasn’t looking off into the horizon to find something worth looking at.
The abundance of interesting things at BTT80’s is one of the show’s strong suits. It brings out a lot of the obscure cars around the state that you just don’t see anywhere else. The show isn’t just a bunch of Fieros, C4 Corvettes and dudes walking around in tube socks with jorts. While yes, those things exist at BTT80’s, there were also some of the weirdest things you just don’t see at other shows. This Ford EXP is a prefect example, I had never seen one in the flesh until this show. Apparently the owner owns a dozen of these, the majority are parts cars to support the runners, and as the owner of an obscure 80’s car, I feel his pain.
Cars like this Pontiac Tojan were there, speaking of weird things that you just don’t see. The Tojan was supposed to be a Ferrari fighter based off of the F-Body platform with a heavily modified TPI V8, vastly improved handling and Gotti wheels. Unfortunately given that the Pontiac name didn’t have the cachet of the Ferrari name, less than 150 were produced. There might be a day when the Tojan just explodes in value, remember Duesenbergs were once totally forgotten too.
Next to the Tojan was my personal favorite car of the show. The world’s cleanest V20 generation Toyota Camry. This car was never intended to be preserved, it’s shocking to see one in this good of condition. The V20 Camry holds a place in my heart, not only was it the first car I learned to do spark plugs on but its actually a really cool car when you start to look into them. I actually did an in depth history of this car for Japanese Nostalgic Car a couple of years ago, you can find the link here.
Talking to the owner of it, he said that it was actually an eBay buy. The car had an insane reserve price, so the current owner PM’ed the seller to drop the price a bit, after some back and forth it became his and for a much more reasonable price. While I still am confused as to why this was preserved to such a level, I couldn’t be any happier about the results and his buying process was totally within the spirit of Carbitrage. Our friend of the show that I was walking aroung with, Darren Brooke, described the car as “profoundly beige” and that it was the “essence of the color beige.”
One more insanely rare car goes back to GM, or rather Suzuki, for one of the coolest cars I’ve known about but never expected to actually see in real life, The Chevrolet Sprint Turbo. This is a 3 cylinder captive imported Suzuki Cultus featured a turbocharger and possibly the smallest intercooler I’ve ever seen in my life.
Here is a picture of said intercooler with Josh Stowell’s hand for scale, like I said, comically small. With the 8 psi of additional boost and a large dollop of torque steer, the Sprint Turbo reached 70 HP and a shockingly fast 8.1 second 0-60 time. For reference, thats faster than the last years of the C3 Corvette, the AW11 MR2 non-supercharged and even an E30 325i.
Anyway, this car went through a complete engine out restoration and is likely the best Chevrolet Sprint in existence. If I recall correctly, the owner’s efforts resulted in a first place finish for the Captive Import category of the show.
Outside of the weird stuff floating around the show, there were so many C4 Corvettes, 3rd generation Trans-maro-birds and G-bodies that it would make your head spin. They likely accounted for at least 10% of the show but what felt good about it is that they appeared in smaller clumps and it made it a bit easier to take in. With so many cars, some were easy to walk past while others were rather unique. This Regal T-Type was a great example, judging by the chrome trim, I don’t think it was actually a Grand National or GNX but with the drag radials in the back and massive exhaust, it looked like it could boogie.
I do have to mention the C4 for a moment because there were a lot of them. Some of them looked slapped together with coathanger exhausts but, cars like this Lingenfelter ZR1, were in amazing condition. We forget how important the ZR1 was for the Corvette when it came out, it brought the Corvette back into the limelight after people had written it off for the better part of a decade. The ZR1 sported an aluminum V8 with DOHC 32 Valve head and 375 HP from the factory. The Lingenfelter version even expanded that an extra 100 HP, making it one of the most powerful cars you could purchase in the early 1990’s.
Of all the manufacturers from Asia, one brand in particular was able to create more consistently great cars than any other, Toyota. The Toyotas in show were excellent, a handful of trucks were there, a few Mk2 Supras and every variant Celica sold in the 80s. Getting a good look at the white MA61 Celica Supra at the DJ booth was entirely worth experience all of the 110 decibels of Huey Lewis coming out of those speakers behind it.
Outside of the Supras, the 80’s Celicas were all pretty great, albeit not the fastest thing in the world but they’re 80’s cars, it likely never will be the fastest thing around. Instead, for very little money a Celica can get you into something that is fun, bulletproof reliable and easy on the eyes. This red A40 Celica falls deeply into the podium of best A40s I’ve ever seen, not just in Minnesota but have seen at all.
The first car I saw when I pulled into the show was this ST185 Celica. At first, I saw it and thought that it was a nifty little GT Four clone, it had the right bumpers, hood and even graphics. Then the owner got out and I saw that it was RHD, it was a real ST185 GT Four and further more was a GT Four RC, the highest trim level with the widebody and AWD. The owner and his girlfriend were wonderful people, extremely friendly and were thrilled to show off their car in the show.
Robert Correll brought out his Hello Kitty Itasha Suzuki Alto Works. Fun fact, me and Jana have almost bought this car on several accounts but the logistics never worked out, it was either posted for sale when we were out of town or right after we had just bought a car. I am really happy to see it went to a good home and Robert has done a great job expanding on it’s theme. When we were at the show this little girl came up to Jana and poked her on the butt asking if she owned the car, the girl was rather shocked when a tall mustachioed man turned out to be it’s owner.
If you’re not familiar with a Suzuki Alto Works, it is a kei hot hatch. It was government limited to 60 HP but you can easily double the stock output with bolt on parts. The car came in either FWD or AWD and was manual only. If you want a more in depth description of the Alto Works, I have an article here at Japanese Nostalgic Car. The Alto Works is most definitely a Carbitrage Top Buy.
Speaking of imported cars, we should probably mention the R32 Skyline. To stand out with an R32 GTR today, you have to have something really special, I found the coolest and most special GTR I’ve seen yet. This is an actual Tommykaira R32R, one of 400 ever made. These were $76,000 when new back in 1992, that was double what the standard GT-R retailed for. For those who are unfamiliar with the brand, this is to the GT-R what RUF is to Porsche.
It came with a bespoke bodykit, wheels, interior accents and was tuned to make more power while still being just as driveable as a standard GT-R. Unfortunately the owner didn’t have the Tommykaira wheels on the car. Apparently, the night before the show he discovered a loose wheel face bolt. With dozens of bolts holding the wheel face on, he didn’t have the time to make sure every bolt was torqued correctly and didn’t want to damage the car so he threw on his spare wheels.
Naturally with a show featuring 80’s cars, we were bound to see a lot of the first wave of modified trucks, sky high Toyota pickups, the last clean Bronco II, both generations of Subaru BRAT and some wild paint jobs were to be seen.
Without any doubt, the one that caught our eye was this slammed C1500 with a choptop, a FedEx truck Detroit Diesel engine coming out of the hood and in the bed, not only smokestacks but two fog horns out of an old supertanker that was scuttled in Duluth. This truck is every bit as ridiculous as it is awesome.
So not only is this arguably the best Cabriolet in existence but it also has a cool story to it. Chad Erickson, the owner of SCI, originally built this with his dad back in the 90’s and it’s still in the family. It still has the Calloway turbo kit on it that they installed over 20 years ago and it is still going strong. Chad posts regularly about cruising around in it with his mom, his kids and, fun fact, he can even fit his BMX bike in the back.
Back to the 80’s has grown massively since it’s inception. I am really happy to see what it has done, it’s a testament to the commitment of the hosts. Growing from a small show put on by the local Minnesota Fiero club to something that can take up nearly a quarter of the parking available at one of the largest malls in Minnesota is nothing to scoff at. It is a unique show in of itself too, kind of a combination of Concours of Lemons and Radwood. I really have to say, if you didn’t go this year then you have to go next year. Even if you don’t particularly care for 80’s cars, there is still something there for everyone.