1) Ford Escort - 1,607,999 Registered
The Ford Escort was originally sold in 1969 but it took another 14 years to tale the number one sales spot. Two generations of Escort in the 80s - the front-wheel drive Mk3 in 1980, followed by its face lifted replacement, the Mk4 in 1986 - Many more desirable models followed like the RS1600i. Many of the lesser models have not stood the test of time with literally hundreds left still registered. Incidentally, in 2015 there are still 700 XR3I’s still registered but only 100 RS1600’s
2) Ford Fiesta - 1,273,689 Registered
The British motoring public could not get enough of the classic Ford Fiesta. Originally introduced in 1976 it was the nest-selling car of the 1990s and 2000s. Although it didn’t quite manage the number one spot during the 1980s. Just like its bigger brother the Escort the Fiesta’s desirability was reinforced by sportier models like the XR2. Over 2000 XR2’s remain on UK roads (or garages) and if you want one now, expect to pay a premium as they are very sought after.
3) Vauxhall Cavalier - 1,007,866 Registered
The most popular Vauxhall of the 80s was the Cavalier, which just like its German counterpart, the Opel Ascona, was a front-wheel drive. As was popular in the era, the Cavalier range featured some swift, desirable models like the SRI 130. With over a million Cavaliers sold in the UK during the 80s, only a handful remain. Even scarcer is the sporty SRI model with around 762. If it’s an Auto SRI you’re after, prepare to spend big, only 8 survived to 2015.
4) Ford Sierra - 979,379 Registered
The Ford Sierra replaced the massively popular Cortina in 1982. Its radical aerodynamic styling didn’t capture the motoring public and sale were initially, disappointing. Despite not selling as well as its predecessor, the Sierra was still a very popular model and it spurred on legendary vehicles like the RS Cosworth, a specially designed beast to Ford compete in Group A racing. The Mondeo replaced the Sierra after it ceased production in 1993. 2,537 RS Cosworth’s are still registered in the UK.
5) Austin Metro - 913,336 Registered
The “British car to best the world” was the heavy burden placed on the Metro. Launched amid a barrage of flag-waving patriotism in October 1980, the Metro initially struggles to meet demand and seemed to be the answer to all of BL’s tormented dealer’s problems. Hardly any survive today, - rust issues, general market indifference and the fact it provided a suitable engine donor for Minis may have aided its demise. The rare MG Turbo still has 179 left registered.
6) Vauxhall Astra - 654,933 Registered
The only one of our top 10 that’s still going today. The 80s saw two generations of Astra, worth a variety of buyers in Vauxhall’s sights, version such as the estate and saloon ‘Belmont’ models were made available. The GTE came along in the second generation model listing. It was more than 150bhp and high-tech features like a vacuum fluorescent digital dashboard. There was a downside, the attraction of such high performance made it a joyrider’s dream car. The 2nd Generation Astra was on of the most stolen cars of the 80’s.
7) Ford Cortina - 497,706 Registered
An all-time classic - We only looked at the period between 1980 - 1989 to compile our list yet the Cortina still jumped in at 7th place despite only being produced for three years in the 80’s. In Britain during the 1970’s, the Cortina was the most popular car. People still continued to show their love for it long after it was replaced by the Sierra buying up old stock models. This really is the end of an era though, very few remain and the popular 1.6 GL fell of registration stats in 2009. Lotus Cortina’s still survive in their hundreds.
8) Ford Orion - 384,381 Registered
Ford’s main aim with the Orion was to attract former Cortina owners who were put off by the Sierra’s radical styling. Having said that, you could argue that the Orion was a Ford Escort with a boot. Thankfully, a few sports models redeemed some credibility for this car. Still in demand today are the XR3i-engined 1.6i Ghia, and Tickford-trimmed 1600e. The Ghia I still has around 515 registered in 2015.
9) Vauxhall Nova - 360,829 registered
Originally introduced in 1983, the first version of Spanish-built “mini” from Vauxhall was called the Nova in the UK. It remained common on UK roads, due to its simple build and maintenance, until the 1990’s. Most Novas have now been scrapped and only a few remain.
10) Austin Maestro - 324,125 registered
The Metro had a bigger brother in the Maestro. Again it was supposed to return BL to profitability in the 1980s but in reality it was too little too late. It lacked showroom appeal in comparison to the smart looking Ford Escort Mk3 and slick Vauxhall Astra. Engines and (VW-sourced) gearboxes were a disappointment, rust didn’t help the survival of the Maestro, engines and VW-sourced gearboxes were disappointing. Very few remain and you’d be lucky to find an MG Turbo with only 100 left registered on UK roads.