By on November 15, 2009

(courtesy:hogansclassiccars.com)

Passenger pigeons were the most common bird found in North America. So common that flocks numbering 2 billion were up to a mile wide and 300 miles long. In other words, the average North American in the 18th and 19th Century saw a lot of these pigeons. You could easily argue that a passenger pigeon sighting in 1812 was something on the same scale today as seeing mind-numbing crap on TV. Not a particularly noteworthy or unique experience. So what took the passenger pigeon down? It was a combination of things but the biggest factor was that these pigeons tasted pretty good (a lot like chicken) and they were plentiful-hence a cheap source of food.bThey were wiped out at the pace of millions per year, so the last documented passenger pigeon named Martha died on September 1st 1914. In other words, something the average American had seen every day was extinct in a matter of a few decades. Quick extinction of a very common species is not a phenomenon exclusive to Mother Nature because cars can disappear overnight too. Here are a few that will soon be joining that “whatever happened to…” list.

The 1971 Chevrolet Vega-this car had the best press in the world because GM orchestrated a brilliant pre-introduction PR campaign. They kept dropping hints about the car to an extremely curious press but never really leaked any substantial information. Then, when the Vega was unveiled, it really captured the imagination of the auto world. It had a sporty European look, disc brakes, coils all around and an exotic aluminum engine.

It was Motor Trend ‘Car of the Year’ in 1971 and was picked as Reader’s Choice ‘Economy Car of the Year’ at Car and Driver. They sold 277,000 of these 1st year econo- boxes and it was a great moment for Chevy-until the reviews came in after 20-30,000 miles. GM cheaped out on the aluminum engine and used cast iron heads so the bond was never really good between head and block. Vegas became instant oil burners and to be honest, they also cheaped out on the build and material quality.

The net result was the cars sucked mechanically and in build quality, they were cheap and disposable and they disappointed a lot of owners in 1971. They were as common as dirt in the early 70s but try and find a stock, mint condition 1971 Vega in 2009. It would have to be stored in a vacuum sealed garage with 2 miles on the dial.

1972 Dodge D100 pickup-these were actually a pretty decent looking departure from the boxy D 100 look that Dodge leaned on from 1961-71. In fact, the cosmetics compared favorably in some ways to the legendary 1972 Chevy C10 plus Chrysler trumped the competition by introducing the Club Cab-the first entry into more space in a pickup.

The problem was that Chevy was at the end of the run for its design from 67-72 and the 1973 GM set the bar for design in 1970s trucks. In 72, Dodge had a nice looking truck with decent appointments but it was stuck in the 60s design that GM had just left behind.

Dodge also had some serious rust issues with these trucks around the wheel wells and the government mandated smog crap was a disaster for Mopar engines. They just hated damp and cold conditions and that automatic choke problem was a big problem for anything with a pentastar on it for most of the 70s.

They sold 100,000 of these trucks but try and find a 72 Dodge truck at a show. Worse, if you want to be cruel, count the number of 72 Chevys at the same show. Dodge trucks were just that-trucks. So they lived a fairly short, beat the hell out of me, unglamorous life as a workhorse then disappeared off the face of the earth.

Because of this horrible abuse, the AT&T, or highway maintenance 72 Dodge fleet trucks that were so common in the 70s were used up and became a part of automotive history by the time Ronnie Reagan took the oath of office. They didn’t even save the 1972 Dodge call truck from the TV show Emergency.

1973 Plymouth Fury-This was the workhorse of cars back in 1973. They were a natural taxicab with great interior room and, if you were falling down drunk and didn’t take a cab home, they also made great police cars. Either way you got the roomy back seat. 1973 Furys were all over the place. They were unglamorous working vehicles and the closest they came to looking sporty was when Dad ordered a station wagon with the fake wood on the side.

The Arab oil embargo sounded the death knell for these giant cars- nobody outside of police agencies saw any value in these big Furys and the styling was getting old. They had some rust issues but no more than average. The quirky “I hate cold, wet weather” carb was probably their biggest mechanical liability.

They were just too big and outdated at the wrong time so even though Chrysler sold 288,000 of these 4-wheeled Clydesdales, they are a heartbeat away from the passenger pigeon Hall of Fame. Vintage NYPD police car collectors are the only guys with even a remote interest in these cars that used to jam up every urban street in North America.

1974 Honda Civic-The Civic was the answer to the problem that 73 Furys couldn’t solve-they were fun, ran great and most of all they were lethal to the efforts of OPEC to hold a world hostage to oil prices. The Civics looked contemporary-even cutting edge in style so they clearly said “welcome to the 70s” to buyers. They pulled down 40 MPG, had decent power and, with the addition of the CVCC motor and a 5 speed, gave the little Civic some real sportiness. Sales topped 100,000 in 1974.

They ran like Swiss watches, quickly establishing early Honda engine reliability as a constant but they had one fatal flaw. In their rush to save weight, Honda put some pretty thin metal in the Civic-the result was disastrous for the future of these mid-70s icons. Most owners really enjoyed their Civics but the concept of a long-term relationship for the tragically rusty Civic was, at best, a dream for anybody living outside the non humid- no rainfall Death Valley zip code.

1977 Toyota Celica-Most people liked to call the lift back version of this car the Japanese Mustang and the term fit. This was a good-looking little car and, even though those back seats made a Mustang fastback back seat feel like a limousine ride, the Celica was a winner in every way. The 20 R engine was evolved from earlier engines and it was indestructible, economical, reliable and it had decent power and great economy. These cars sold like crazy from the start-1.5 million from 1970-77. They were found everywhere as North Americans became more familiar with the positives of these imports. They appealed to younger buyers and like the Civic, their timing was great during the soaring gas price era of the mid-70s.

The Celica was taken down by some of the same issues as the Civic. The light metal wasn’t great so these cars practically disintegrated over 2 or 3 North American winters. Heat was also a bit of an issue in northern climates for Celicas-they had trouble keeping up with the demands of a real winter and drivers often looked through frosty windows as part of a Celica cold weather experience. Interiors weren’t really big enough for super-sized Americans either and seats didn’t hold up well with 200 pounders.

Like the Civic, the Celica established Toyota as a player in car building and as we all know, they cured most of the rust and interior space issues. But it didn’t stop these cars that were once so common, from becoming a member of the Passenger Pigeon Hall of Fame.

In almost every example these were above average vehicles in many ways and they covered city streets in the 70s like a flock of passenger pigeons.

But like those unlucky birds, we’re down to the “Marthas” of 1971 Vegas, 72 Dodge pickups, 73 Plymouth Furys, 74 Honda Civics and 1977 Toyota Celicas.

For more of Jerry Sutherland’s work go to mystarcollectorcar.com

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53 Comments on “Feature: Five Automotive Passenger Pigeons...”


  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    I don’t understand your rationale here, Jerry. What is the big deal with these specific years? How about ’72, or ’74 Vegas; ’75 – 77 Civics; ’73 on Dodge pickups? And there are a slew of Celicas (and gen1 Civics) of this vintage happily at work in Eugene. Bad heaters??
    You could pick any dozens (hundreds, actually) of similar old cars that are at risk of disappearing from the street scape: how about a ’74 Dodge Royal Monaco? A ’75 Monza notchback coupe? A ’77 Subaru Leone? I could go on all afternoon, but I have better things to do than list all the cars that are obviously missing from the streets these days.  Am I missing something about the specific uniqueness of your choices?

    • 0 avatar
      Jerry Sutherland

      Okay, the reasons-the 71 Vega comes down to 2 words:unfulfilled promise.They were a lot like the 57 Exner-mobiles at Chrysler with appealing styling,cutting edge engineering but substandard build and material quality so they enjoyed very brief initial popularity, followed by years of life as a punchline.
      The 72 Dodges were the first year of the new look for the Dodge truck lineup but by 73, when the new GM trucks came out, the Mopar trucks were like the TV show Laugh-In, a little too late 6oish to be relevent into the 7os.
      The 73 Fury was picked because it was a year where the big Fury still held relatively strong sales levels as a working vehicle but thanks to the oil embargo, the  Fury name was doomed to a future as a “mid-size” car by 75.
      The 74 Civic was picked because this was the peak of the oil crisis and these little cars were a good answer.They’d been around a few years but skyrocketing gas prices really did more for sales than 50 Super Bowl ads ever could.As for survival rates, Oregon is easier on cars but I’m sure you don’t see them as much in places like the Northeast where cars with thicker metal get ground up and spit out by salt on a regular basis.
      The Celica was picked because it was the peak of the first-gen look for these cars and it underscores the learning curve that Japan was going through.The cars were well built but until the Supra was released they hadn’t thought about extra interior room for us larger guys on this side of the pond.
      Again,getting back to northern geographical regions,I never saw a Celica up here that could completely defrost the windows at  highway speeds on a frosty winter day. No problem now for any Toyota or Honda because now they understand our demands physically and geographically.
      I realize that there are many other examples of vehicles that fit this description but these were picked simply because they were so generic,visible and nondescript.

      • 0 avatar
        confused1096

        Interesting article, thank you. Just saw a ’73 Fury at the local Pull-A-Part this morning. Hadn’t seen one of those in years. Would have rather seen it with a for sale sign than waiting for the crusher though.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    A few more for the list: Gremlins, Pintos, Chevy Novas and the massively popular 1970s Chevrolet Monte Carlo and Oldsmobile Cutlass. Plus, when was the last time you saw a Cordoba with “soft Corinthian leather”?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vsg97bxuJnc
    Heck, even Ricardo Montalbán has disappeared both from the face of the earth and the public’s conciousness.
     

  • avatar

    You are so right! My college roommate in the early 80s had a Celica Supra. One of these. I haven’t seen one in the flesh for ages. Perhaps 20 years. They were like passenger pigeons, for a while in the 80s they roamed like buffaloes over America’s roads… by the hundreds of thousands. Now you NEVER see them anymore. A real shame as they were nice cars.

    • 0 avatar
      mpresley

      While walking down the street the other day I came upon a Celica Supra from the late 70s or early 80s.  It was one of those moments that brings  back memories–they used to be very common, but this had to be the first one I’d seen in a dozen years or more.   I just stopped for a minute as if I was at a shrine, paying my respects.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      And for you Chuck, I’ve get a lovely Celica Supra just like in your picture. Coming soon.

    • 0 avatar
      PGM-FI

      I remember reading that a popular swap was to take the 22R out of the pickup and put in the Celica Supra strait 6. We all know how indestructible the trucks were so perhaps there’s still some supra engines still out there.. Getting back to the Celicas, I’ve mentioned before my first ride was a well used ’81. Though it may have taken  forever to heat up due to a non-functioning thermal whatever to suck warm air from the exhaust manifold, it would still fully defrost my windows on my way to high school in the middle of Minnesota winters. Progress?

  • avatar

    Like Paul, I question the premise behind this article. In fact, as a science writer who majored in biology, I think it’s downright misleading. There are lots of model automobiles disappearing, but that’s the fate of human-made objects, sooner or later. (seen any carriages lately?) Thriving species, on the other hand, do not become extinct in a matter of decades unless something highly unprecedented is happening. (And in fact, the human population explosion and ability to exploit resources is unprecedented, which is why we’re in the midst of the sixth major extinction this planet has seen, and no, I really don’t want to get into a flame war about this–I’m just trying to emphasize while these two phenomena have nothing to do with each other.)

    • 0 avatar
      jet_silver

      Heh.  There’s an Ami near my house in France – I see it frequently at the Intermarché, and my neighbor has a 2CV.  They are not bought and sold much, either of them, but they turn up in the ads from time to time.  There are also plenty of Renault 4s around, and these seem to be the real workhorse winner.   What seem to be rare are Simcas.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert.Walter

        Had never seen one before, but recently saw a beautiful condition little Simca near my place in Switzerland … tiny little handles on the door and boot … still had a factory label in the rear window with the term “Simca, a product of Chrysler Corporation” (or something similar.)

    • 0 avatar
      Jerry Sutherland

      I think it’s important to distill this down to the basic analogy-something  that was a common sight in the everyday life of the average North American disappeared in a relatively short period of time.No, I haven’t seen a carriage lately but I have seen a fair number of 72 Chevy pickups.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    I also don’t really get the selection criteria.   But I’ll play along anyway.    What about Delta 88s from the mid ’70s to mid ’80s.   Here in Lansing, there was a time when every third car seemed to be a Delta 88.   The were much sought after as used cars, being big, comfy, and mechanically pretty straight-forward.      You don’t seem them much anymore, but that may be due to the fact that they are all more than 20 years old.
    As long as we are on this subject, you don’t really see a lot of Model Ts anymore either. But I suppose there are plenty of those preserved, and I guess that’s part of the point – there are precious few of the cars you mentioned, in any state of being.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      My buddy inherited a 70-something ’88.  I swear, you could turn the steering wheel 180 degrees before the car would start to turn.  But it did have smooth ride on the highway.

  • avatar
    esldude

    The truth is that in one more generation it is quite possible that automobiles in general will fit the passenger pigeon idea.  Might take two generations.
    Otherwise, I too cannot see the rational behind your picks on this list.

  • avatar
    George B

    Add early GM N Body cars like the Pontiac Grand Am and similar L body Chevrolet Beretta/Corsica to the passenger pigeon list.  They were everywhere 15 to 20 years ago.  Despite the lack of road salt here in North Texas, I can’t remember the last time I saw a GM N or L body on the road.
     
    I think it would be easier to list the car models that survive.  They tend to be relatively attractive cars with some nostalgic value to people willing to preserve them.  The 1967-1972 Chevrolet glamor pickups, most Ford Mustangs, 2 door examples of Chevrolet passenger cars from the 60s, etc.  Other less collected varients like 4 door sedans become parts cars or become scrap metal.  The 1989-1994 Nissan Maxima and 1991-1995 Acura Legend may be in the process of escaping extinction with nice examples still appearing on the streets.  Of cars currently on the road, I expect Toyota Camry’s to mostly disappear while a relatively large percentage of Infiniti G35 coupes will be preserved and restored.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    An interesting read. I think these are just examples of cars that were numerous at one point but are next to impossible to find. Vegas seem to still be relatively plentiful… if you want one that has a V8 shoehorned in.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    If you see any car daily driven that is 20 yrs old   or  more , it  is  a  tribute  to  the  maintenance it  is  getting.

  • avatar
    Oregon Sage

    I think one thing that may contribute to the appearance that some models disappear faster than others is the refresh rate.  Pickups often have minimal change in their bodywork for a decade or two, hence there are more similar units hanging around. As for the Dodge, the mentioned body style lasted over a decade and I had one from the early 80s that still ran strong and functioned like a truck should.  A simple carburetor swap cured most of its built in deficiencies.  My recollection is that the Dodge never sold in significant numbers when new compared to Chevy and Ford, so it is no wonder that there may be fewer left over. As for restored units, Chevy parts and accessories are cheap and plentiful so they almost always have a higher percentage of restored and hot rodded vehicles over 10 years old.
    As others have pointed out, I think the logical flaws and data implied in this article are significant.

  • avatar
    amca

    Believe it or not, I saw a mint first year Vega at Barrett-Jackson a couple years back.  White, blue interior.  The bottom of the line stripper.

    Still had the original window sticker and just a few miles on the odometer.  It was a real eye opener – the myriad quality flaws visible on quick inspection, with the doors locked.  The one that stands out most was the fact that even in the poor light under the B-J tent, one could clearly see where the paint had been sprayed more generously on certain areas of the car. It was that bad.

    Small wonder the Vega was such a debacle.

  • avatar
    amca

    Ha! I read down and see mention of the ’74 Civic, which triggers another memory.
    There was one that sat parked without moving for a long, long time in my Chicago neighborhood.  Rusty was too kind a word for it.
    Eventually, the strut towers rusted through all by themselves, and the front end of the car dropped to the ground while the struts popped the hood open.  It sat in that death pose for a while longer until, I assume, the city came and towed away the remains.

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    Pretty much every Japanese car through the early 1980′s was a rapid ruster.  The first-gen Civics and the Celicas are just the ones we miss the most because they were such good cars.  No one cares about all the Datsun B-210′s that crumbled just as fast.

    Toyota didn’t solve the Celica rust problem for a long time.  I remember the late 80′s hatchbacks always corroding right through on the rear of the hatch, until you had in effect an extra grab handle to pull the hatch down.

  • avatar

    Jerry,
    While it’s interesting to look at why some cars are still around 40 years later, and others aren’t, it’s a bad analogy (and unnecessary to your article). It offends me for the reasons I stated in my earlier post, but it’s also bad because no matter what, there aren’t very many of any model from 40 years ago that are still on the roads in the US, whereas passenger pigeons would still remain as abundant now as they were when John Adams was president if humans hadn’t been killing them off in ridiculous numbers. When you gloss over big differences in the way things work (biology, vs manufacturing, using, discarding), you encourage your readers to think sloppily. That’s bad for a nation that depends on science and logic.

    • 0 avatar
      Jerry Sutherland

      David
      I think the point is that everyday events like passing a Vega in 1971 or shooting a passenger pigeon  in 1871 weren’t that common a short time later.In one case, the reason was questionable quality in a car and the other was that we made rifles, but skipped providing  Kevlar vests for tasty birds.
      I don’t think I meant to imply or expect that most 40 year old cars should still be on the road (that’s kind of obvious-I’m just explaining why a 77 Caprice lasted longer than a 77 Celica in the adverse climate found in northern latitudes.
      Maybe the  key word should have been “theme” ( not analogy)-the theme being “where have all the flowers gone?”…
      with all due apologies to Peter,Paul and Mary.
       

  • avatar

     
    GM cheaped out on the aluminum engine and used cast iron heads so the bond was never really good between head and block. Vegas became instant oil burners and to be honest, they also cheaped out on the build and material quality.
    I could be wrong but I think the Vega’s oil burning was not due to a material mismatch between the block and head. There are lots of cars with iron blocks  and aluminum heads. The problem with the Vega is that they were trying to use an aluminum block without steel liners. The aluminum alloy had silica particles that were supposed to make the cylinder wall wear resistant but as with other GM innovations it was rushed to market without proper development, they didn’t have the right distribution of silica and the bores wore out. Porsche later perfected the process and now it’s commonplace.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      You’re right, it wasn’t as the author stated at all. I’ve covered this in several prior Vega articles and my Vega CC. But this article has its limitations.

  • avatar
    donkensler

    I had a summer job with the State of New Jersey from ’73-’77, and not only the cop cars but the whole damned pool fleet of the State was these Furies (Chrysler must have priced them at about $1 a unit variable profit to get the deal).  A couple of summers I got to drive a pool car once a week, and used to have fun cruising in the left lane and creeping up on people.  As soon as they’d see me in the mirror they’d put on the brakes and pull into the right lane, sure I was an unmarked state cop.
    Another one that was fairly common in the 70′s but sure wasn’t worth preserving was the Ford Granada/Mercury Monarch/Lincoln Versailles.  I owned one of these pigs (courtesy of my Dad, who felt compelled to unload it after only a year), and it was the worst car I ever owned.  Awful gas mileage (around 10 city to 18 on a straight flat freeway doing 55), non-existent acceleration (with the 302 V8), hesitation that made you think the engine was going to stall every time you accelerated from  a standstill, next to no trunk space (four of us had to leave the spare tire at home to fit in a tent, four sleeping bags, and four small suitcases for a camping trip), and a rear suspension so soft you had to go 15 over train tracks to keep from bottoming out.  And oh yeah, it rusted.

  • avatar

    jet_silver,
    how often do you see Peugeot 404s?

    • 0 avatar
      jet_silver

      They’re not uncommon, and what distinguishes most of them is the absolutely thrashed bodywork.  Why that is I cannot tell, since similar vintage Citroëns and Renaults are better cared for.  A pristine sedan in the characteristic dark green showed up at the town festival this year and it attracted lots of favorable comment.  The ones that were special in the beginning (coupé, cabriolet) are the exception and you see these much-cherished cars on weekends.  I’m observing in small-town Languedoc, in case distribution by region within France is uneven.
      What’s much more common than you’d expect is the 504 Pininfarina coupé.  There’s one that I see nearly every time I pass through Ginestas and another lives in or near Capestang.   I’ve seen three besides those on the A9 in six or seven summers.
       
       

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    AMC Pacer, American Eagle 4×4, Dodge Rampage, Omni GLH, Ford Courier pick-up, Ford LX, Gran Torino Elite, Zephyr ZX-2, EXP (a generation before, my dad made similar comments about the Isetta) …  Growing up in Detroit, I saw many of these, but they seemed to fade from the scene much faster than their contemporaries.

    btw, with all respect to David, I recognize that there were different forces at work in the two cases, but I rather liked the justaposition of extinct cars and birds.

    I’ve thought about this phenomenon (disappearing cars) and have not found a suitable analogy … somehow, it is like watching the sun set … and just a bit before it disappears from the horizon, one takes a little nap … and when one awakes shortly thereafter, one realizes the sun is gone, and all is left is the dusk of memories.

  • avatar

    Chevettes.  They’re all gone.

  • avatar
    geeber

    There needs to be a distinction here. Some cars have disappeared because, from day one, they were piles of junk that disappointed their owners, so they quickly ended up in the scrap yard (Chevrolet Vega).

    Other cars have disappeared because they did the job that they were supposed to do, were happily used up by their various owners, and THEN ended up in the scrap yard (early 1970s Plymouth Fury,  early Honda Civics).

    Most of the 1971 Vegas were scrapped by 1980; most of the 1973 Plymouth Furys weren’t scrapped until about 1995 0r so.

    That is a big difference.

  • avatar
    UnclePete

    Wow a whole bunch of cars I do remember!
    I took driver’s ed in a 73 Fury III, you could have 5 students and the instructor in that thing. I drove a ’64 Corvair, and then to get in the Fury was like being the pilot on the Queen Mary.
    One of my friends bought a used ’71 Vega – it lasted for about a year before the engine seized. Don’t remember much else, but it was a forgettable car.
    In my high school was a kid whose dad owned a couple of car dealerships. He opened a new one, a Honda dealership, and sent his kid to school in an orange Civic. I think it was a ’73 model. It ended up being carried all over the place by students putting it into all sorts of odd places (locked in the center of the running track, middle of the cafeteria, etc). We thought those little tin cans would never sell. Oops.
    Finally, any Celica before 1990 seems to be non-existant in the Northeast. I had a 1984 GTS, and I can’t remember the last time I saw one of those. I’m sure they had rust problems too.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I think this has an awful lot to do with the area. All those Curbside Classic-mobiles in Oregon have LONG since rotted into dust or flunked our safety inspection here in Maine. Which is also why Japanese cars do NOT have the bulletproof reputation here that they have elsewhere, and Saabs and Volvos are so popular. The Japanese cars rusted so fast no-one ever got to see how reliable they were, and the Saabs and Volvo lasted FOREVER despite needing a certain amount of fettling.

    What does seem to be constant everywhere though is that the crappy American cars are all gone pretty much everywhere. Stuff like GM A-cars (Chevy Celebraty, Pontiac 6000, etc.) from the ’80s, original Taurus’s, Chrysler LH’s – cars that sold in the 100K per year numbers (might well have been 3-400K for all the myriad variations of A-cars) for a decade are gone, gone, gone as they were both rust-prone and mechanically unreliable.

    There are always random survivors, but considering the quantities sold in this country, they should still be all over the place if they were any good.

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    @donkensler:  The Granada was not a bad car, really.  You have to compare it to a ’75 Torino to understand.  The Granada was 800 pounds lighter and a foot shorter (roughly) than the Torino but had more room and, believe it or not, better mileage.  The Versailles was a joke, but Mustang enthusiasts love to find one because the disc brake rear axle setup bolts right in.

  • avatar
    afabbro

    “Passenger pigeon car” to me means a car that was once plentiful but has now disappeared.
    A less obvious pick would be the MG (Midget, MGB, whichever).  Used to see lots of them – not so many any more, because they were mechanical junk.  Same thing for Triumphs.

  • avatar
    italianstallion

    Weren’t most of the early 1970s Plymouth Fury cars destroyed in the making of the Blues Brothers and the  Dukes of Hazzard TV show?

  • avatar
    jjf

    I think you are forgetting the most important factor in the disappearance  of the Grad Furys:
    Hollywood.
    This car was a staple of most Hollywood films and TV shows of the late ’70s and early 80′s.  Like the passenger pigeon the Grand Fury was cheap plentiful, and provided satisfaction in it’s destruction.  There were at least 10 of these cars totaled in every Dukes of Hazard episode, and I’ll bet the Blues Brother’s movie alone probably killed off 10% of the surviving cars.
    Seriously there must have been huge supply of running Grand Furys for them to be used so wastefully.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    Even  more rare today than the 73 Fury is the 71-72 Ford LTD/Galaxie.  These sold in much greater numbers and were everywhere in the 70s.  These suffered horribly from rust in northern climates, and were not nearly as durable mechanically.  Although they did not suffer mopar’s carb maladies, they did have the transmissions that would jump into reverse with no warning.  I see the fury’s regularly on ebay today, but the LTDs are really rare.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    To most of the cars listed in the above tome, all I can say is goodbye and good riddance. Thank god they don’t build them like they used to. The Big Question remains…”How does today’s lousiest econobox (available in the US and Canada), compare with the best econobox from 25 years ago? Go apples to apples in sizes and then you realize how good we really have it now.

  • avatar

    By far the best car my parents had in my childhood, and probably the best ever with the possible exception of the ’95 Volvo 940 wagon, was the 1970 Valiant. These cars had a reputation for going 300,000 miles. It’s been years since I’ve seen this, or the ’71 and ’72 whch had the same styling.
    Of course, I’m sure there is at least one in Eugene, and probably numerous copies in LA, which, last time I looked, was absolutely loaded with old American cars.

  • avatar

    I photographed a really nice copy of a vega in Durham NC about a year ago

  • avatar
    Sigsworth

    Has anyone seen a Fiat lately? At least, a non-124 Spyder? And by the way, Jerry, you’re premise is flawed. Cancel my subscription immediately (/sarc off).

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    We will be reminiscing in the future about how few SUVs we see on the roads.

    Being raised in Chicago, I grew up around Oldsmobiles, Buicks and Pontiacs. Millions upon millions of them! The Camcord of the 1970′s was the Cutlass. Now Oldsmobile is itself, extinct!

    We didn’t get five year rust-through warranties until 20 years ago. Before that time, cars rusted through under their tailgates, behind the front tires, and in the rear fenders while car payments were still being made. It wasn’t an American phenomena either – the Japanese cars were even worse.

    Mufflers fell off within a year or two. Carberators went on the fritz twice a year. If you traveled west – maybe even more often than that. GM driver’s seats collapsed under regular usage within two years. Hubcaps popped off so often there was a huge market for replacement hubcaps. Trim came off when the rust behind the paint weakened the fasteners. Rear bumpers trapped rain, mud and snow up inside of them. Truck beds rusted out within five years.

    Cars a a whole lot more money than they were just twenty years ago – and just like health care, no one would be willing to settle for what passed as cutting edge technologies today, regardless of price.

    So, you have noticed that the familiar sights of the 1973 Fury, 1972 D-100, and 1974 Civic are no longer familiar. You can thank rust, time, technology, and the American market for allowing us to benefit from the latest automobiles and trucks. Cars cost more, because they are worth more.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    Maybe cutting to a specific year was pushing it a little. For instance, as a federal civil service worker I picked up a new 1978 Dodge truck for our organization. It had a big smudge of grease on the steering wheel, another on the seat, one windshield wiper was only partially installed, and I could see daylight over the top of the driver’s door with the door closed. I said “We’ll keep the ’70 Ford until you get this thing ready, thank you.” We ended up having to take it anyway, cleaned up and with the wiper fixed. It did last quite a few years under what were fairly horrible operating conditions, but everyone called it Moby Dodge, and it helped make me ashamed of being a Mopar fan.
    The 1973 Fury was the last of five years of big Plymouths that had pretty good body integrity and got decent performance even from the 318 V8′s most of them had. The cop cars of those years with the 440 4-barrel engines were basically four-door Road Runners. A friend of mine bought a 318-powered ’69 Fury II with 100k miles on it at a state auction. It still looked good inside and out, and lasted him 150k more miles with the original engine and transmission.

  • avatar
    Hognose

    Datsun B210
     
    1971 LTD Country Squire wagon (green of course)
     
    VW Squareback and Hatchback
     
    American Motors anything
     
    Dart/Valiant/Duster sibs

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    Pointles or not, the article did bring back memories of the late 70′s Celica one of my college roommates had back in 91-93 (he leased a Lexus shortly after graduation).  A couple of years later, he admitted to missing that Celica.  I remember the night we crammed four guys and three girls in that thing for a 3 mile drive back to the odd man out’s apartment and then 4 more miles back to our apartment.  It was a bit cramped, four in the back and 3 up front, including one girl who was stradling the stick and doing the shifting for my room mate.

    I think that I see more 50′s vintage Chevy Trucks than 70′s Celicas now.

  • avatar
    NickR

    There’s a nice 73 Plymouth Fury for sale on http://www.trader.ca.

  • avatar
    briandfromo.p.

    Datsun F-10.  ‘Nuff said

  • avatar
    jplane

    From above, the LTD is a perfect choice.  My dad had an LTD company car every year.  They were like roaches.  When is the last time you saw an LTD?


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