American Cars Still Holding Their Own

According to accounts from the time, more than 40,000 GM cars were produced between 1977 and 1987 in Iran by GM Iran
American cars are still being traded to this day in Iran.American cars are still being traded to this day in Iran.
A Lincoln Continental in pristine condition is likely to cost the same as a new Chinese SUV

It is almost three decades since the last Buick Skylark rolled out of Pars Khodro  factory in Iran, but that hasn’t dampened the mood for American-derived vehicles in the years since.

Large American cars still hold a special place in the minds of many people, with memories of long drives across the country in cars with engines above three liters.

The widespread fascination with the aging beasts can be seen on several Iranian websites with hundreds still for sale even after some 40-odd years.

 GM Iran

Buick’s Skylark, for example, was assembled in Iran (4-door models only) from 1977 to 1981 and again from 1986 to 1988 under the brand name of “Buick Iran.”

The cars were equipped with an incredible 5.7-liter engine, and were fully equipped with all the mod-cons including power door locks, power window, power steering, automatic transmission and a/c.

The Cadillac Seville and Chevrolet Nova were also manufactured in Iran during the same period.

According to accounts from the time, more than 40,000 GM cars were produced between 1977 and 1987 in Iran by GM Iran.

Appetite for the cars in 1978 was so great that the Iranian-made Chevrolet Nova and Buick Skylark cars had order backlogs stretching more than a year.

Unknown to many, GM Iran changed its name to ‘Pars Khodro’ after the revolution i9n 1979. The company now assembles cars from Renault as well as Chinese brands.

Since the spare parts and the assembly-line equipment were not used between 1979 and 1986, the last batch of GM cars built in Iran between 1986-87 did not have the same quality as the ones that were made before 1979, according to American car enthusiasts.

The last of thee Buicks rolled out of the factory in 1988 when relations with the American company ceased as relations between both countries soured.   Diplomatic ties were cut off in 1980 by Washington after Iranian students seized the US Embassy in Tehran and detained more than 50 diplomats they accused of spying and undermining the interests of the Islamic Revolution.

 American Car Legacy

Many of those locally made 1970s and early 80s models are still on the road today, with a few being gracefully restored to their former glory.

Many other American cars were imported to Iran are also getting a facelift by people with the time and money to import many of the rare parts.

There are several websites where these relics are sold to buyers who are willing to take the hit if something goes wrong.

Sites like and list hundreds of models, some with breathtaking price tags – others considerably cheaper.

 One example of this trend of cars holding their value after decades can be seen in the price of a 1985 Buick Skylark with 200,000 km on the clock going for 110 million rials ($2,700).

A Lincoln Continental in pristine condition, however, is likely to cost the same as a new Chinese SUV. One example is a burgundy 1977 Continental in mint condition costing a whopping 1.2 billion rials ($30,000).

Meanwhile, a rare V8 1984 Chevrolet Caprice station wagon in sky blue, with a supposed 5,000 km on the clock goes for a much lower 320 million rials ($8,000).

 America No More

However, the prospect of newer American models coming back to the Islamic Republic is looking increasingly unlikely after several diktats from government officials poured cold water on the idea.

In November, Nayyereh Pirouzbakht, head of Iran’s Standards Organization, said: “American cars cannot be imported into Iran, as American auto standards are not accepted in the Islamic Republic.”

She, however, said American brands could be introduced if their standards comply with European Union standards and do not have major differences.

She wrongly noted at the time that since 1979, in the case of foreign car imports, Iran has been following the standards set by the European Union. She may not have known the Buick was still being produced until 1988.

 Free Zone Exemptions

The last bastion of new imported American cars was Iran’s Free Trade Zone’s. However, even these have now have been told by the government that importing US cars is illegal.

Akbar Torkan, a senior presidential advisor and director of Free Trade Zone High Council, said in July that American cars are officially banned in the free zones.

That announcement came after one car company attempted to bring 200 Korean-made Chevrolets into the mainland.

The Leader of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said in April, “The American people, due to their excessive use of these cars, are not willing to purchase them anymore. Bearing this in mind, why should we buy cars from American companies that are facing bankruptcy?”

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