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Hagerty Employee

In the 1970s, police departments relied on the Renault Le Car | Hagerty Media

The Malaise Era's impact on performance, in the years between 1973 and 1984, is well-known to car enthusiasts. As automakers struggled to meet new emissions targets, with the weight of the mid-'70s oil crisis adding additional strain, the age of big American cars with generous displacement came up against demands for efficiency and budget-consciousness.

This reminds me of Peugeot taxicabs faltering in New York and a failed experiment in European mini-buses in my hometown.


During the austerity of the late '70s, someone was sold on the idea of having a bunch of Mercedes-Benz 309Ds serve as city buses in Charlottesville, Virginia. They rolled coal everywhere they went, for the handful of months that they stood up to local conditions. The press ran feel-good pieces about efficiency and price, and then mostly ignored when they were replaced with larger Blue Bird buses almost immediately. The hulks could still be found rotting around town into the late '80s, but I think they had been stripped of the incriminating smiling-sun logos that marked them as taxpayer abuse endemic to Charlottesville public diktats.

It's still a bit of a mystery why Mercedes-Benz 309s that survived for decades in perpetually developing countries went to pieces overnight as they were being driven around paved streets while almost entirely empty, but Charlottesville has long been a very progressive place.


The first example of imports making the grade in tough duty cycles that I can recall would be the first generation Honda Odyssey and its Isuzu Oasis twin standing up to NYC taxi duty. They were so much more comfortable than Crown Victorias with partitions that some people waited for one to pull up. They also proved that front-wheel drive componentry was finally ready for the most brutal environments in time for Toyota to take over the taxi world with their hybrids. 


Inflation adjusted, those Le Cars were costing LaConner (LaConner???!) around 16 grand.

Top of the mornin' Officer!