1970s: Why cars lost their Luster

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2 years 11 months ago - 2 years 11 months ago #1168 by JP
JP created the topic: 1970s: Why cars lost their Luster

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Looking back at 1970 from the quarterback’s chair of over 45 years ago, it would not surprise you if knowledgeable people in the automotive industry would today be able to claim they could have forecasted what was going to happen in the decade called the 1970s. They would say the signs were all there, i.e., speed limits were being applied more and more rigidly all over the world. In fact, some parts of Europe were still quite liberal in that regard, however, America had begun to suffer an overall imposed speed limit of 55 mph for several years. We can all remember that…can’t we. Suddenly the ride felt like grandpa was driving…at night! Back on the world scene Britain was about to expand and discover what a 70 mph speed limit would mean to their citizens.


1975 Chevrolet Monza



1973 Chevrolet Chevelle SS

In the USA it was time to impose regulations. You know, the government, that’s one of the many things they were born to do. Thus, exhaust pollution regulations were biting really hard and companies were spending millions of dollars on getting their cars to conform to the game changing regulations, without improving their car's performance one iota. (That means nothing was done to enhance the engine’s power and performance.) In fact, power out­puts were dropping alarmingly and motorheads could not believe that this was happening to their fun machines. As stated above, America's effort to bring its cars into compliance with the new environmental rules had a negative effect on automotive horsepower. The impact was such that, across the board, car weight and sizes had to be diminished to balance their cars' loss of performance power. Oh boy, what a challenge that was.

So, in 1968 the American muscle car owner was becoming accustomed to and expected the automotive industries to continue to win sales by building better, more powerful machines. However, sadly, by 1970 the performance car was on the verge of becoming a fond memory. In fact, regretfully, it was soon time to play taps and bow heads at the loss our future cars were about to experience over the decade called the 1970s. We can’t argue with the need for clean air but…why couldn’t the industry see the horrendous impact coming at this time?


Bright Yellow 1975 Chevrolet Camaro

On the other side of the world, European manufacturers of exotic cars also saw much of their market evaporate overnight, for although they could often modify their engines to meet American pollution regulations, they had to redesign their cars completely to meet our new safety laws. This meant they needed to come up with new bumpers capable of withstanding a 5 mph crash. This was out of the question because that kind of contact would have ruined the appearance of most of their classic GT and sports cars. Consequently, many manufacturers simply decided that it was not worth the effort and they withdrew from their cars from the American market, which for a number of them meant it was the end of the road because the bulk of their sales were in the rich US market.


1975 Ford Granada coupe 2600



1975 Ford Mustang Mach I, fastback



1975 Starsky & Hutch replica



1975 Ford with Guru Lee Iacocca standing near it



1979 Ford Pinto, rear end explosion version, uh, if you don't know, Ford had a bad problem with rear end collisions with this car which the lawyers had a feeding frenzy over...well deserved, unfortunately.



Ford Maverick, my friend's girlfriend owned this car while we were in college, it took a beating but kept on ticking.

Fortunately, other auto manufacturers carried on and were able to “re-enter” America, but a lot of famous companies like Lamborghini, de Tomaso, Lotus and Aston Martin, to name but a few, had to withdraw either temporarily or permanently because they could not, or would not, comply with the new, stringent regulations established for cars by the USA.


1975 Plymouth Duster, custom with owner Jay Leno



1975 Dodge Dart "Hang Ten" edition with beautiful surf board



The One Year Only 1975 Plymouth Road Runner

Then, if that was not enough, more problems for the automobile industry arose when the Arab-Israeli war suddenly awoke everyone to the fact that oil could be used as a political weapon and was then also viewed by our wonks as a “finite resource.” (That’s what all the minds of yesterday believed. Technology had yet to be created for drilling by fracking or the sophisticated use of imaging to find we today's repositories of oil enough to supply the U.S. for many years to come.) However, as the story of the 1970s goes, with the steep rise in oil prices that followed, the emphasis of car makers had to switch to fuel conservation. And, although cars of the 1970s may not look too much different from their predecessors, there is no doubt that emphasis began to swing toward more and more towards fuel economy. (We were prisoners at the time; and maybe still today. However, the soft oil prices of 2016 indicate it’s possible that OPEC has lost its stranglehold on America, maybe.)

So, it is for these reasons that the classic cars of the early1970s are the heartthrob of many in America's classic car community. In 2016, classic car auctions saw 1970 cars capture a healthy price. These cars apparently were sought by people who want to keep this piece of American automotive history well preserved.


AMC Pacer, 1975-80, may it rest in peace, ugh.

Since the conclusion of the 1970s, there is now a huge number of restoration experts who now know how to cleverly modify exotic cars to meet the U.S. environmental regulations for cars. This has been instrumental in keeping many beloved classic cars on the roads.


1970 Plymouth Road Runner, Superbird, Classic car, Muscle car, a wonder to many who know it well.

The number of collectable cars built in the 1970s had undeniably diminished in comparison with the 1960s. In addition, the subsequent monotony of look-­alike contraptions made by the major manufacturers had caused car enthusiasts to turn their attention on the older cars. Because of this many quality makers of cars fell by the wayside and several famous names struggled through the 1970s. For example, Maserati was abandoned by Citroen and later rescued by de Tomaso; Lamborghini went through two changes of ownership, a spell in the bankruptcy receivers’ hands, and were struggling for survival; even Rolls-Royce went bankrupt, but they were rescued; Jensen struggled hard against the problems posed by the American market but eventually succumbed; Abarth in Italy went out of business as far as car making was concerned; British Leyland dropped the Austin ­Healey marque name ; an Italian firm shut up shop; Lancia had to merge with Fiat to avoid bankruptcy; in Britain, Aston Martin under Sir David Brown had to give up the struggle, but were taken over by a property company who tried to keep the company viable and were rescued eventually by an Anglo ­Canadian consortium, who in 1980 attempted a similar rescue act on MG, but failed to raise the necessary capital.

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Last Edit: 2 years 11 months ago by JP.

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2 years 11 months ago #1172 by Brownie
Brownie replied the topic: 1970s: Why cars lost their Luster
Yes, we see some truth here; our inventory of post 1970 cars are far more affordable, like a '79 Lincoln Continental @$12,000, a 1975 Volkswagen Beetle convertible at $11,000, a '72 Chevrolet Corvette @ $35,000, and more. We understand but people still ask about these so we have them in inventory. What post-1970 car is your passion; maybe we'll post here at the Swap Meet and see if you want to possibly buy it.

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