5 Legendary Cars You Won't Believe Turn 35 This Year

In 1988, spiked hair, crew cuts, mini-skirts, faded jeans, and high-top sneakers became cool. However, in the automotive world, 1988 was the year when these five legendary cars were born.
Cizeta V16T 16 photos
Photo: Cizeta Automobili
Alpina B12 5.0Alpina B12 5.0Alpina B12 5.0Jaguar XJR-9Jaguar XJR-9Jaguar XJR-9Ford Taurus SHOFord Taurus SHOFord Taurus SHOMcLaren MP4/4McLaren MP4/4McLaren MP4/4Cizeta V16TMcLaren MP4/4McLaren MP4/4
Though it's not really a coincidence, 1988 was also the year when I was born. As a matter of fact, I'm turning 35 today, and the best way to celebrate my birthday is to do what I love the most: write about legendary cars.

So for this article, I will focus on four-wheeled icons that first hit the road, track, or stage back in 1988 and are also celebrating their 35th birthday this year.

Alpina B12 5.0 (E32)

Alpina B12 5\.0
Photo: AAlpina Burkard Bovensiepen GmbH & Co. KG
Alpina Burkard Bovensiepen GmbH & Co. KG, or Alpina for short, started by manufacturing typewriters, but by the late 1960s, it had become both the world's leading BMW tuners and a successful factory-backed racing team.

In 1983, the German Ministry of Transport officially identified Alpina as an automobile manufacturer, and five years later, the company withdrew from racing, focusing its entire efforts on developing high-performance, road-legal BMWs.

That year, the Bavarians launched the B12, which became the first Alpina production model to feature a V12 engine under its hood. Based on the E32 7 Series full-size luxury sedan, introduced two years earlier, the B12 was the high-performance version that BMW failed to deliver.

Like the range-topping 750i, it was powered by the new M70 5.0-liter V12, but Alpina engineers worked their magic and bumped its output from 296 to 350 hp. Moreover, the car received a revamped suspension system with sporty shocks and springs, a ZF four-speed automatic with modified gear ratios, a front chin spoiler, Alpina's renowned multi-spoke alloy wheels, and a bespoke interior tailored to each customer's demands.

While it was still a genuine luxury sedan, the B12 5.0 could sprint to 62 mph (100 kph) from a standstill in 6.9 seconds and reach a top speed of 171 mph (275 kph).

Jaguar XJR-9

Jaguar XJR\-9
Photo: Jaguar Land Rover Automotive
Unlike today, during the 1980s, Jaguar was still heavily involved in the world of motorsport, particularly the Group C of endurance racing. However, Porsche dominated the decade, and the Britons had to work hard to develop a worthy challenger.

They finally succeeded in 1988 when they unleashed the XJR-9. Designed by the legendary Tony Southgate and assembled by the experts at Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR), the XJR-9 debuted with a win at the 24 Hours of Daytona.

Powered by a monstrous 7.0-liter, naturally-aspirated V12, the car won six of the eleven races in that year's World Sports Prototype Championship, giving Jaguar the manufacturer's title and making Martin Brundle the driver's champ.

But the most significant achievement on the XJR-9's resume was the overall win at the 1988 edition of Le Mans. Co-driven by Johnny Dumfries, Jan Lammers, and Andy Wallace, it brought the carmaker its sixth Le Mans win and ended Porsche's seven-year run in the world's most famous endurance race.

Ford Taurus SHO

Ford Taurus SHO
Photo: Ford Motor Co.
The 1980s saw the rise of high-performance sedans, but while European carmakers like BMW or Mercedes-Benz were riding this new wave, American manufacturers were falling behind.

That changed when Ford introduced a surprisingly potent version of the otherwise dull Ford Taunus. Dubbed SHO (Super High Performance), it was powered by the most high-tech engine used by any of the Blue Oval's models during the 1980s.

A compact DOHC 24-valve 3.0-liter V6 that redlined at 7,000 rpm, the unit designed and built by Yamaha was rated at 220 hp and 200 lb-ft (271 Nm) of torque.

Apart from the performance engine, the SHO came with a few exterior improvements, including a Mercury Sable hood, a pair of sporty bucket seats, and a beefier suspension system.

Introduced in late 1988 as a 1989 model, the Taurus SHO was an affordable (and less luxurious) alternative to the BMW M5, but it was on the same level in terms of performance. Ford's factory sleeper could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph (97 kph) in 6.5 seconds, compared to the 6.3 seconds of the 311-hp E34 M5.

McLaren MP4/4

McLaren MP4/4
Photo: McLaren Racing Limited
For many Formula 1 enthusiasts, who have been bored to death during the last two decades by the lack of competitiveness, the 1980s was the sport's golden era.

Williams, Ferrari, and McLaren were battling for supremacy, with the latter team emerging as the force during the second part of the decade.

In 1988, after losing the previous two constructor's titles to British rivals Williams, McLaren switched engine suppliers and unveiled a contender: the mighty MP4/4.

Designed by the great Gordon Murray (who later conceived the McLaren F1 supercar) and powered by a 700-hp, turbocharged Honda V6, the MP4/4 dominated the 1988 season.

Driven by the experienced Alain Prost and the legendary Ayrton Senna, it crossed the finish line first in 15 out of 16 races. Still considered the greatest Formula 1 car of all time, the MP4/4 brought Senna his first driver's title and secured McLaren's fourth constructor's championship.

Cizeta V16T

Cizeta V16T
Photo: Cizeta Automobili
Following the footsteps of Enzo Ferrari, former test driver Claudio Zampolli quit Lamborghini and established Cizeta Automobili, intending to build his own supercar.

With financial backing from music composer Giorgio Moroder and the help of other former Lamborghini employees, including experienced engineer Oliviero Pedrazzi or renowned designer Marcello Gandini, Zampolli did just that.

Called V16T, Cizeta's first (and only) production model resembled the Lamborghini Diablo - particularly when viewed from the front - yet it was a completely different beast.

As the name implies, it was powered by a V16 mounted transversely in the middle of the chassis. With a displacement of 6.0 liters, the engine created by joining two Lambo Urraco V8s could make 540 hp and 400 lb-ft (540 Nm ) of torque. This translated to a 0 to 60 mph (97 kph) acceleration time of 4 seconds and a top speed of 204 mph (328 kph).

Although production of this crazy supercar began in 1991, the first functional prototype was unveiled to the public at an event held in Los Angeles in December 1988.

Despite promising to be one of the most exciting supercars ever built, the V16T's exorbitant price tag and Cizeta's manufacturing issue prevented it from reaching its true potential. In the end, only 13 cars were ever produced, including the 1988 prototype, which was auctioned off last year.
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About the author: Vlad Radu
Vlad Radu profile photo

Vlad's first car was custom coach built: an exotic he made out of wood, cardboard and a borrowed steering wheel at the age of five. Combining his previous experience in writing and car dealership years, his articles focus in depth on special cars of past and present times.
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