Merkur XR4TiEnlarge Photo
If you have never driven a turbocharged car, you have to get out there and find a way to take a spin in one. The added drama of turbo lag and the sudden surge of power is a riot, and I guarantee it will slap a big old grin on your face. Turbocharging became popular in the eighties when emissions regulations and fuel economy regulations choked big V-8 engines down to power figures well below 200 horsepower. Now a lot of those cars are sitting around forgotten because they have been outclassed and outdated in the eyes of many people, or they were just too obscure to start with. This means with the proper Craigslist or eBay skills, you can pick up a working example of any of these cars for less cash than you might think.
1. Merkur XR4Ti
A what? Merkur? Who in the heck makes that? Take a closer look, and anyone familiar with European Fords will see that this is simply a Sierra with a new badge on the front. Power comes from the 170 horsepower 2.3-liter turbo engine that was also found in the Mustang SVO and Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, however, it lacked the intercooler that the other two had. For its time the Merkur was fairly luxurious, with options like heated seats. It even made Car and Driver's 10 Best list in the eighties. Nevertheless, its obscurity prevented it from ever really catching on and now anyone looking for a cheap turbo car can reap all the benefits.
2. Mitsubishi Starion/Chrysler Conquest
The obscurity thing keeps going with the Mitsubishi Starion. Although the name might not be very well known, the Starion does have a couple impressive items on its resume. Any avid Top Gear fan will recognize this as a car that Clarkson bought for a cheap coupes challenge. While it wasn't an impressively fast car, it was surprisingly the most reliable of the three cars. Also, this car was used by Mitsubishi as a rally car with a few successes. With that information, you could go as far as saying this is the Lancer Evolution's grandfather... or maybe great uncle. Chrysler was selling their own versions of Mitsubishis in the eighties, so look for either if you want a turbo with pop-up headlights.
Dodge OmniEnlarge Photo
3. Dodge Omni GLH
"What? They put a turbo on those things?" Yes sir. Probably the most hilarious car to ever have a snail under the hood is the Dodge Omni. The hideous hatchback was never an attractive car in its normal trim, but add the "Goes Like Hell" GLH package and you get a genuine sleeper. Power comes from the 2.2-liter turbo engine that was also found in the Charger from back in the day. The engine makes much more sense in the Omni, because it makes it virtually the only American hot hatchback from the eighties. That in itself is cool.