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A drive down memory lane

5th May 2022

PaddlUp has grabbed the keys to a Porsche 911 SC, cranked up the radio – Take On Me is playing, of course – and we’re hitting the open road!

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Automotive nostalgia, in its simplest form, is a sentimentality for a particular car or marque from the past, typically from a period that you associate with warm and happy experiences. Many studies suggest the senses, and in particular sight, smell and even taste evoke strong nostalgic reactions due to the processing of these stimuli first passing through the emotional seat of the brain. So that new car smell (or in this case, vintage car smell) is a very real key to unlocking all sorts of car-related memories.

It is no wonder then, the recollection of a childhood road trip, the first sighting of a low-slung performance car on the open road, a supercar passenger ride or a visit to the show stand at Earls Court are all potential conscious, or subconscious influences on our modern-day taste, eventually determining what we drive on a day to day basis and indeed, the wheel we long to get behind one day.

From supercar brochures, road test magazines and motor shows during their peak in the sixties and seventies through supercars in music videos, feature films and video games in the eighties and nineties, to the internet generation with dial-up supercar forums through to the high-speed streaming of today’s automotive influencers, each of which left their own stamp on the automotive landscape of the time.

Perhaps the only overarching source that spans all of automotive history is the influence of motorsport. With F1, Le Mans and DTM to name but a few, all potentially leveraging, at the very least manufacturer loyalty and often putting the age-old ‘win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ mantra into practice.

Here, we take a look at the epochal supercars that made a significant impact on pop culture of the eighties and nineties. How many of these do you remember fondly and have any of these influenced your own car ownership journey?

The eighties

Firstly, we’re taking you back to the beginning of the eighties with the 1981 feature film Cannonball Run starring an early low-body 1979 Lamborghini Countach LP400S in black, complete with a ludicrous protruding front wing, a detail which ensured this particular Countach remained fresh in the memory for years to come.

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Credit: supercarnostalgia.com

By the mid-eighties, video games had taken the world by storm and Sega released the classic OutRun in 1986. At your local arcade, you could take the wheel of a rare Ferrari Testarossa Spider Pininfarina, albeit a pixelated one in classic Rosso Corsa and not the Argento one-off produced by Pininfarina for Gianni Agnelli to mark his 20th year at the helm of Fiat.

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Credit: @KevinVanC

A year later, Eddie Murphy’s portrayal of Axel Foley arrived on the silver screen. Foley was working undercover in a less than conspicuous Ferrari 328 GTS for the close-up and gentle drive-by scenes in Beverly Hills Cop II. Miraculously, the car transformed into a lesser value Ferrari 308 GTS when the more detrimental stunt driving was required on set.

The Lamborghini Countach made a return towards the end of the decade in the opening scene of the hit 1988 film Rain Man. This time four ‘grey market’ Countach were unloaded from a cargo ship in Los Angeles; a red LP400S and three LP500S cars in red, white and black, named the LP5000S in the North American market.

The nineties

Before the successful 2014 Hollywood adaptation, nineties gaming gave birth to The Need for Speed, first seen in 1994 on the short-lived 3DO console and subsequently PC, original Playstation and the Sega Saturn. You could choose from a red Ferrari 512TR, a black Lamborghini Diablo VT or a Jungle Green 993 Carrera to compete on various road courses and, for the first time, have individual handling characteristics across the different models.

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Credit: gamesnostalgia.com

The early stages of the entertainment platform for the modern age made driving racing cars and supercars in your living room a reality. Titles such as the original Gran Turismo in 1997 gave the public access to a range of driveable cars and circuits like never before. Tracks from indie-rock group Feeder feature throughout the game's history and simply hearing the guitar intro to Buck Rogers – from Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec – triggers vivid memories from years past.

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Credit: gtplanet.net

Similar to the decade previous, the film industry was rife with supercar appearances in the nineties. Most notably, the 1991 classic Thelma and Louise featured a swathe of automotive eye candy in the form of a 1966 Ford Thunderbird, a 1954 Chevrolet 300 and a 1977 Chevrolet Corvette.

Music videos became the next pop culture frontier for cars to conquer, when in 1996, Cosmic Girl thrust a trio of supercars to the fore in Jamiroquai’s latest hit song. A black F355 Berlinetta, Nick Mason’s red Ferrari F40 and what was meant to be Jay Kay’s own purple Lamborghini Diablo SE30 all enjoying a spirited drive in the Spanish mountains. The Lamborghini, in actual fact is famously a replacement as the intended car was ‘totalled’ during loading for transportation by an unfortunate delivery driver.

Cosmic Girl Video Ferraris

Credit: automotiveaddicts.com