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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

7 underappreciated 1970s cars | Hagerty Media

The '70s were a great time for music, film, and (arguably) fashion. For cars, though? Not so much. It was a turbulent time for the automobile. Engine performance couldn't keep up with the pace of ever-stricter emissions laws, and insurance rates were making muscle cars increasingly hard to own.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/valuation/7-underappreciated-1970s-cars/
91 REPLIES 91
GAPeach
New Driver

I agree with dd1, and I miss my 1973 Opel GT. Had lots of fun driving it, maybe too much fun. It looked exactly like the one pictured in this article. It was automatic and had air conditioning, a must in Atlanta. I recently considered purchasing another one, already restored but decided to go with a 2019 Mazda Miata RF. It's a lot of fun and with the push of a button the top goes down. She's red and I call her Ruby.
fhollier
Pit Crew

About 8 years ago Ibought a 1980 TR8 as I was very curious to how it performed and handled. . It was a blast to drive and very unique to say the least. However about a year later when I tried to sell it, it was very difficult. Most people did not like the looks (most referred to the ugly wedge design) and it was a very hard sell. Very under appreciated din my opinion.
SilentBoy741
Advanced Driver

Another oddity about the Lil Red Express is that it came with wooden "Mojock" style wheels [not shown in the above picture]. There was an Express that was parked down the road from my house. Obviously wood spokes applied over the chrome wheels, but to this day I've never seen another wheel design like it. It fit - yet didn't fit - the Express' design cues perfectly.
JSievers
Advanced Driver

Hey, don't dis cars from the seventies. First, nearly a third of the decade (70-72) benefitted from the much more attractive pre 5mph bumpers. Second, many of these same cars, and virtually all from 73 on, were fitted with hardened valve seats to allow the use of unleaded gasoline, which means they can safely be driven on today's pump gas. Third, the changes to meet emission requirements were fairly simple and can easily be addressed during an engine overhaul with higher compression pistons, a good camshaft, proper ignition timing and advance, and larger carb jets. I always wanted a first generation Grand Am with the 455, maybe it's time to start looking?
DaveVan
Intermediate Driver

First, I m bias. I am the owner of a two owner 73 Javelin that WAS pampered like a Mustang or Camaro may have been. The car is wearing it's 2nd paint job, when I got it it had it's Fawn Beige biscuit dough color. I painted it BBO, not in the catalog in 73 but I understand you could get it......doesn't matter....I like it!
The Javelin is a very well built car. It was a real American motors car....using the best of what was out there to build a solid car. Ford components under the hood, 727 trans and suspension that is very close to the Mustang of the era.
Value: a double edge sword. I bought mine at the bottom of it's value I feel. $3000 in 1993 for a car that was VERY nice. The original buyer had 100% of paperwork and even the warranty card etc. He stored it inside all it's life and so have I. I has some wear but much less than a near 50 year old would.
I am extremely happy I found her......
adtom1
New Driver

General Motors did NOT offer air condtioning on any Hi Performance car with Solid Lifter motors. That’s why you could get air conditioning in a Camaro after 1971
Teampantera
Pit Crew

WTH...no Ford-powered Pantera or Mustang.Really?
Wow!

This year is the 50 year anniversary of the Pantera. Way ahead of its time. With little modification or cost the 351-C engine will push 600+ HP. The ZF transaxle is bulletproof and as a long term owner I would say the only undeveloped issue was the cooling as delivered to Lincoln Mercury dealerships from Italy. That single issue was easily fixed immediately with a Ron Davis or Griffith performance radiator.
MattK
Detailer

Ford sold over 2 million Mustangs in the 1970s over a million Mustang II's (Pintos!) How does that translate into underappreciated. I don't blame anyone who doesn't want a mustang II.
Billthecat707
Detailer

The title is "Underappreciated..." Have you priced a Pantera recently?
Beestly
Intermediate Driver

Although I’d love to own a ‘69 Hurst SC/Rambler, I have to say that AMC’s big issue is in the little design details. They had great ideas that were oddly executed and just not quite as cool looking as the big 3’s version of whatever. Body lines, taillights, scoops, spoilers, shifters, dash clusters, upholstery… all of it had this weird “meh” factor. Low sales created a tiny future aftermarket for restoration parts. They’re expensive to restore and you’ll lose your shorts on them as an investment. Still, fun cars and unique at shows.
OldCarMan
Instructor

Not sure what design credential you have that would call weird. They were as good or better, than any Big 3 accouterments. Remember Levis upholstery? Nothing that cool from staid Ford and GM. The AMX and AMX II were trend setting designs with performance equal to many other fast cars... Hurst shifters not good enough? Full gauges standard? Methinks you really weren't there in the '70s.
Another well loved, but almost forgotten car, was the Gremlin, in either generation. Blew the doors of Vegas and Pintos, carried 4 adults and were reliable, easy to maintain and use. Most were driven into the ground by multiple hand-me downs until the rust worm got them or they exceeded 150k miles.
salsa96
Intermediate Driver

Well I was there during this time and I remember AMC as weird looking cars. My friends and I used to wonder why? Whenever we saw a pacer a gremlin and yes the javelin/AMX which was not nearly as cool as a camaro to our eyes. Today they have appeal because of their weirdness and their ties to the 70’s.
mhealy1
Detailer

AMC reliability was spotty in the 70’s, mostly rear ends and electrical gremlins (no pun intended-really). Transmissions and front ends held up well. As far as engines go, the seven main bearing in-line sixes were near bullet proof if you kept the oil clean. My friend had a $100 ‘72 Gremlin that saw him, and later his brother, through college. They sold it in the early eighties for a couple hundred bucks. I wouldn’t be too surprised if it was still running today.
Dave404
Detailer

Boy do I remember those cars, saw all of them and drove most of them. I was a passenger in a red '71 Opel when a Olds Cutlass landed on top of it. There were actually three of us in the Opel. It was totaled but we walked away. The Express trucks were cool. There was also a black version called "The Warlock" if I remember correctly.
rmytych
New Driver

A little disappointed Ford’s Mustang II didn’t make the list. It was the car that saved the Mustang brand in the 70’s.
Rick2
Detailer

And the fastback with the German V6 and four speed was and sounded cool
J_P
New Driver

This is why my Fil holds dearly onto his special order 73 Grand am 455 with all the options and only 30k on the clock. We know the market will correct on these and they will join the upswing as well. There are several cool cars on that list I wouldn’t mind owning.
OldCarMan
Instructor

The Opel GT was appreciated, but more like a baby Vette.
The '68-'71 Javelin was better styled, without the ridiculous Corvette-style, fender humps.
The Grand Am was well thought of, but might have been too expensive, as they didn't sell well. Might be interesting to see their pricing vs the similar same bodies from the other divisions...
I believe they also had adjustable pedals, a first for any American car. Also had swivel bucket seats as an option, too.
Dragonwing
Pit Crew

Hey, wait a minute! Did everyone forget the Mercury Capri? Began life in 1970, and petered out as that decade came to a close. Ford sold a half million of those little hot rods during its lifespan. Brings back fond memories of my own misspent youth. I had an MGB-GT. One friend had an Opel GT. Another had the Capri. Yet another had an NSU 1100. One guy’s family had a Grand Am that he drove. And one had 240Z. Geez! Thinking back, we were all a bit nuts, but had quite a choice of cars to cruise with. And the Capri seemed to be everyone’s favorite….
salsa96
Intermediate Driver

I currently own a 240Z and I’ve owned two capris. I do have fond memories of the Capri but would never give up the Z for one and current values has nothing to do with it. Still the Capri is a very under appreciated car and should have made the list.
tberg
Pit Crew

i had a '73 Cqpri with the 2600 V6.  It replaced my first car, a 1969 Cougar Eliminator.  We called the Capri, the poorman's BMW 2002.  It was a fun car and my first manual transmission car.  My other 1970's cars which I still own are a 1978 Datsun 280Z (bought new) and a 1972 De Tomaso Pantera (owned over 20 years).  

DSCF8742 (640x480).jpg

 

Billthecat707
Detailer

Beautiful car. Always loved Panteras.
SJ
Advanced Driver

'70-'72 were some of the best of the era, some CR's went down yes, but might even be the best years. Hate it when people lump these into the later '70's junk. Boss 429/302, Hemi, LT1, 454 etc etc etc etc etc.
farna
Detailer

ANY AMC is underappreciated... mostly for the reason you gave -- no one recongizes them as an American make unless they were born in the 60s. By the time someone born in 1970 was driving (age 16) AMC was two years from being bought out by Chrysler, and there was really only one AMC car in 1986 -- the 4x4 Eagle. The others were Renault and Jeep models. I've been told that "they must have made bad cars, they're went out of business" more than once. Some bad business decisions were made, not bad cars. They were on a par with all other makes. They also got trampled by the big three -- AMC wasn't big enough to absorb losses like the others, they just didn't have the capital. I could go on, but not much point...
salsa96
Intermediate Driver

Their styling kinda looks like they were trying a little too hard to be different. I think that had something to do with their downfall.
BMD4800
Instructor

Stop spreading lies. AMC, especially 6cyl and V8 cars, are horrible garbage that no one should ever consider. Jeeps are worse still.
No one should ever buy them. Only a late model front drive sedan is reasonable to the potential AMC fan.

Anyone that tells you different is only trying to take money from you.
Billthecat707
Detailer

Soooo, you're hunting for AMC's and don't want the price to go up?
janedon
Pit Crew

Good points-- My observations were (&are) the car companies that could Afford big advertising won out---Quality had little to do with anything- Much like fast food--McDonalds/Pizza hut/Pizza Hut ect ect are still in bus because they have big advertising budgets-- Not because of high Quality-
Jocko
Pit Crew

74 was really "the end" within the spirit of this topic. For the hardcore among us it was 71. Cars only mind you, music was hit and miss. Without a diverse open mind you were stuck with the same old artists doing less than stellar work. Fashion? No comment. GM, mid 70s. Dark days in both style and some engineering foibles that could induce road rage to the sincere enthusiast. Ever drive just about any 71-76 GM hardtop with a 1/2 open window? My original 39 Ford regulators and whiskers hold the glass tighter. Now maybe on ribbon quality roads in the southwest it wasn't as bad, but in Detroit? Roads with holes big enough for families to occupy? Oh my. Hinge pins too. Somebody was asleep at the meeting and didn't think bigger, stronger, harder. Right about now all the fans of that era, even in the the good ones like Camaros and Firebirds are nodding their heads. If you have one that's still OG (that means original for all you older types like me) you're nodding harder than the rest. No matter, enough unique and even stellar models from all 4 kept the faithful's attention. The L'il Red Express was actually the quickest thing you could buy 1 year and ran the lowest ET in stock form for either Car Craft or Hot Rod mag. Sad to think "muscle car" and 75-6-7-8, huh? I always felt that 1971 stuck a fork in it for the hardcore. Ford and GM fell into line but Mopare held up their end 1 last time. 440+6 and the HEMI was still in. I salute them there. Garlits won the Winternationals in a rear engine dragster and changed the complexion of Top Fuel forever. Big Brother was able to tell all of us what we could and couldn't have. The End. But if you knew how to check all the right boxes youd time-tested fashion of denim and tshirt was still appropriate, otherwise you had to leave dress shirt 1/2 open, hang some gold, maybe even don a pair of platform shoes. Oh, the horrors! Another fun topic, thanks...
RichH
Detailer

Only one I want is the Opel.
But I'd LOVE one of those GMC motor homes that used the Toranado/Eldo/Riv drivetrain.

mfp4073
Intermediate Driver

I would like to throw in the 3rd. generation Charger. They powered them down sure. But you can fix that. At car shows the resto-modified examples are getting more attention than the 2nd. Gen so called muscle car era... My car often quotes Rodney: I get no respect! (We can relate)
Hudson
Pit Crew

I had a Javelin. Loved the way it looked. Turned out that was all that was good about the car. It didn't have a lot of pick-up, wasn't comfortable and I couldn't see out of the back window. Didn't have it long.......
Hugh1
New Driver

I bought a new 1975 Grand Am through an Armed Forces auto buying program when I was stationed at the US Navy's communications station in Exmouth, West Australia. I had it delivered at a dealership in Portland, OR, and picked it up when I was changing duty stations from Australia to a ship homeported in San Diego. It was a wonderful car! I put over 12,000 miles on it the first 30 days (there went the warranty). Drove it from Portland to San Diego, to Houston, to Indianapolis, then back to Houston, then back to San Diego. Never had any problems and it got 16 mpg on average the entire trip. It was one of the most luxurious cars and better driving cars I have ever owned.
millbuna
Pit Crew

A neighbor had a pool and his brother would bring his family over on summer days in the sharpest 71 Toronado you've ever seen. He ordered it in red without a vinyl top and a black leather interior. It looked downright sporty compared to most with vinyl tops in some earthtone combination that seemed ubiquitous at the time.
Still443
Intermediate Driver

I bought a used '76 Triumph TR7 Victory Edition in 1977. I should have questioned why someone would get rid of a 1 year old car. I figured it out soon and unloaded it a year later. Cute car, Chocolate brown with a white stripe and white wheels. I thought it was a great looking little car. That said, I wouldn't trust it to get me out of my driveway. It's without a doubt the worst car I've ever owned. As a matter of fact, one high profile magazine proclaimed it the worst car made until the Fiat X1/9 came along to replace it as the worst.
Gopher_Baroque
Intermediate Driver

Triumph TR8/TR7 - I remember watching the TV commercials for the shape of things to come concluding with the car driving into a wedge-shaped garage. I've always had the impression that Triumph TR-x have always been under-appreciated. But that could just be me. We had a 1969 Sprite in our family (I learned mechanics on the rebuild, then my dad commuted with it twenty years to wear it out again.) so I may just be tuned to see more of them.
Surfer
New Driver

Bought a new 1970 Opel GT. A fast little car. It was a joy to drive. Unfortunately I sold it seven years later for 4x4 truck. Wish I had kept it.
cigarmerchant
Pit Crew

My uncle gave me his "used up" Kadette about three months before I turned 16. Three weeks after getting my license I was out driving and got t-boned at an intersection (passenger side) by a car that ran a red light. The door still opened and closed. The officer said he could not place blame and to just let our insurance companies take care of it. The car that hit me was a station wagon with a mother, going to her daughters wedding and the grandmother. Inside their car were all of the crystal ware that was destroyed and the wedding cake in the back seat that ended up on the dashboard. I had to show the officer my paper license but when I got home my regular license was in the mail.
BPatLeMays
Intermediate Driver

For abourty years now, I've thought if I could find a good Chevelle S-3 Laguna with the big block, I could make a hell of a (very heavy) street muscle car. Nowadays, you can build a n aluminum block, fuel injected engine with three times the horsepower and twice the fuel economy as well as better durability. That could make for a fun car that destroys tires.
BPatLeMays
Intermediate Driver

For about forty years now, I've fantasized about putting a built aluminum block 454 into one of the S-3 Lagunas and make a hell of a fun (but heavy) muscle car.
craigh
Pit Crew

They could also slowly pull away from a Triumph GT6 from a stop light. Much to my unmitigated embarrassment and frustration! ...After all, I had a inline 6!
Gary_Bechtold
Instructor

The GM cars are mostly terrible in their styling. The Chevelle is just sad. The Toronado and Grand Am just don't do it either. The Opel GT was cool. I remember a friend who had one.