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THE CONSUMER YEARS: 1982-1989 - KAWASAKI GPZ00R 908 cc, 1984, Japan

cars

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THE CONSUMER YEARS: 1982-1989


KAWASAKI GPZ00R
908 cc, 1984, Japan
Collection of John Hoover



 

The 1980s was characterized by extremes. The decade began with the Iranian hostage crisis and ended with Operation Desert Storm. It opened with the proposal of the 'Star Wars' space defense program and closed with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the crumbling of the Soviet Union. President Jimmy Carter had declared a 'national crisis of confidence' in the summer of 1979. By the beginning of the '80s the country found itself in the throes of a full-fledged recession. Ronald Reagan's presidency neatly spanned the decade, and by 1983, signs that inflation was being brought under control pointed to the beginning of an economic recovery that would transform the bank accounts and lifestyles of much of the American middle class.

Newfound economic power in Asia was manifested by the flood of cheap electric goods, cars, and motorcycles that came pouring into the United States. Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha were among the most heavily marketed and widely bought motorcycles of the '80s, and they came to define and eventually to symbolize the look and design of the motorcycle during that era. Speed capabilities and racing-type styling found its quintessential form in the 'crotch rocket' and its market in the newly flush yuppie with a taste for the image of danger and the status of speed.


Buell RS1200
1,203 cc, 1989, United States
The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum
Birmingham, AL

The lust for consumer goods extended to the art market, helping to radically inflate prices paid for art at auction. In 1987, the same year as 'Black Monday,' the largest Dow Jones industrial average plunge up to that date, Vincent van Gogh's Irises was auctioned for a record $53.9 million at Sotheby's in New York. Art had become merely another commodity to be bought and sold in the marketplace.

Perhaps the epitome of the decade's sensibility could be found in the alternately praised and derided Jeff Koons. With his stainless-steel bunnies and floating basketballs, he seemed to wish to prove, with Gordon Gekko in Oliver Stone's Wall Street (1987), that greed was not only good, it could also be fun.

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