Most Popular Cars of the 1970s

Throughout history, vehicles have been imperative to our culture. Many cars are products of their times and represent their era in the boldest of manners. They tell stories of a period long lost and preserve history within them. 

The 1970s’ automotive journey was characterized by the oil crisis of 1973, which put the entire industry in turbulence. Regardless, manufacturers continued to make strides in developing cars by introducing newer technologies, flashier designs, and better reliability.

The average American was no longer interested in the fastest cruiser that was legal on the street but instead a robust and compact that would last for years. But, the racing craze and the drive to innovate in the automotive space were still alive and kicking. Hence, the 1970’s cars were some of the most iconic cars of all time. Here are ten of the most popular of them.

1. BMW 2002Tii

At the top of our list is the iconic BMW 2002Tii, the car that defined the 70s. This car is credited by many as the catalyst that kickstarted the turbocharged craze in the vehicle realm. A turbocharged engine allowed consumers to save on fuel prices, especially amidst the oil crisis of 1973, while still having a reliable and powerful vehicle.

It was the first European turbocharged car ever, even beating the Porsche 911 Turbo, and its lightweight build, combined with the 130 HP engine, made it appeal more to the conscious driver. The 2002Tii was consumer-friendly but at the same time could give competition to even some popular racing cars, and that’s what made it so popular amongst the everyman. It wasn’t the enthusiast that made it so popular; rather, it was the common man instead.

2. Ford Mustang (& Mustang II)

You know a car is genuinely legendary when its inception gives birth to an entirely new genre of cars and sparks fierce competition that leads to the further diversification of the automotive industry. So goes the fabled tale of the Ford Mustang, the first-ever pony car to exist.

Packing an I6 engine that went up to 105 HP, the Ford Mustang was initially introduced as a compact car for everyday drive. Mustang II, the later revision, built upon its predecessor’s success, offered an even better overall vehicle with a V6 engine. While many critics still censured the Mustang for being “outdated” and “underwhelming” at the time, it still rose to enormous heights of popularity, and the Mustang lineup still lives to this day.

3. Lancia Stratos 

The Countach walked so the Stratos could run. Lancia Stratos is the definitive vehicle known for the Italian Wedge design combined with an arched windscreen that’s unusually curved and deep along with the retractable headlights, which all add to its voguish appeal that still lives to this day.

Made by the legendary Italian manufacturer Lancia and designed by Bertone, the Stratos is arguably the most well-known rally car ever that crowned many victors of its era and still takes the front seat in many competitions today. It has a V6 engine that can push 190 HP and a design capable of making even the most stubborn car enthusiasts lust over it.

4. Jaguar XJS

Sometimes, even an incredible V-12 engine mixed with distinctive luxury looks can’t save you from your downfall. Unfortunately, the Jaguar XJS, as great as it was, was plagued with reliability issues and serious depreciation. The car lost its value quickly over time, but it was a true icon of the 70s.

At its inception, most shunned this car as too stylish and not in-line with more sleek-looking chic vehicles of the time, but as time went on, the skepticism took a back seat, and by the end of its life cycle, the car was desired by many and considered a classic. It was powerful; it sported a gorgeous design and acted as the perfect status symbol for the upper-middle class.

5. Lamborghini Countach

Appearing in the movie “Wolf Of Wall Street” as Jordan Belfort’s drive of choice, the Countach cemented Lamborghini’s rank amongst the bigger players and turned it into the household name it is today. 

Bertone also designed the Countach, and this car helped establish the “Italian Wedge” shape that’s a Lamborghini signature nowadays. It came equipped with a V12 engine at 32 HP. There is no denying that the Countach was explicitly a popular racing car; in fact, the car is still fast even by today’s standards which have driven its value through the roof. You won’t be able to find this Lamborghini for cheap in 2021. It’s one of the best cars made in the 70s.

6. Dodge Challenger

Perhaps, the most well-recognized muscle car of all time, the Dodge Challenger marked its first appearance in 1970. There were two distinct versions of this car in 1970, the T/A (Trans Am) meant for racing, and the R/A (Road & Track) meant to be driven by the common folk.

It featured a 440-cubic inch V8 engine with 350 HP and 425 HP (T/A) for the racing fanatics. The car was made to compete directly with Ford’s Mustang, Pontiac’s Firebird, and Chevrolet’s Camaro. It was intended to be a part of the upper echelon of the popular “pony car” and to this day follows that model.

7. Ford Cortina Mark III

The third edition of the well-established Cortina line of vehicles by Ford had a lot riding on it, and it delivered on all fronts. It was so successful that it became the best-selling car of the entire 1970s in Britain. 

Many of you will bring up the Ford Pinto, which was Mark III’s replacement in the United States, but the Cortina was a global hit, unlike the Pinto whose life was mostly marked by a bad rep of catching fires.

This car was assembled worldwide in right-hand drive markets such as New Zealand, South Africa, and Pakistan, which constituted its global popularity. Furthermore, it was affordable, and because of its compact construction mixed with the increased engine size of 2 liters, it made for an excellent option for first-time buyers in foreign countries.

8. Pontiac Firebird

This is one for the history books. Known by most as “The Bandit Car” (as if its real name weren’t already rad enough), the General Motors produced Pontiac Firebird boasted an incredible design that radiated 70s energy. It was sleek, stylish, and the perfect embodiment of a vintage car. The large bird on its hood speaks for itself.

It went through many iterations throughout the 70s and even the early 80s, but it mostly retained a GM-made V8 engine that varied in horsepower due to differing engine sizes within each model. The Pontiac Firebird was a powerful vehicle that looked straight out of a movie while still being built like a tank, making it extremely popular among car enthusiasts.

9. Fiat X1/9

Introduced in 1972, this was essentially the perfect “cheap” car, and Fiat had hit a home run with it. It was explicitly meant for the American market; conceptualized and designed keeping the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards in mind-the first Fiat ever to do so.

The car is famous for its superb handling because of its lightweight body combined with only 61 HP. It was designed by Bertone as a direct competitor to the Porsche 914 but offered nice extras such as front and back storage compartments and retractable headlights. The iconic design still stands the test of time today.

10. Alfa Romeo Montreal

Ironic to its name, this car was never actually sold in Montreal because, at the time, European markets were Alfa Romeo’s focus. The Montreal got its name from the 1967 Expo held in Montreal, Canada, where it was first seen as a concept.

The car stunned many as it was nothing like Alfa had done before; the front headlights, the slats, and hood-mounted NACA duct all made it stand out among the rest. AR fitted it with a V8 engine, and the car itself was constructed as a 2+2 coupe. Its production started in 1970 and lasted till 1977.

Conclusion

The 70s were a dark time for many. Economic struggle blended with a sense of fear due to increased terrorist attacks, on-going wars, and worsening political ties had taken a toll on several countries. This era also spawned a lot of failed car models that can be described as some of the worst cars made in the 1970s.

The automobile industry also faced instability with the oil crisis, but that did not stop innovation, and manufacturers adapted swiftly. In fact, some of the most legendary vehicles were produced in the 1970s that helped lay the groundwork for the cars we drive today.

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