One of the constants in the world of old iron is the amount of scorn heaped on vehicles from the Me Decade, aka the Seventies. I still retain a boatload of scorn for the music from the back nine of that decade (disco sucked then, now and forever for me), but I liked the 70s vehicles, and that makes me somewhat of an outcast in car circles.
The early part of the 70s was a no-brainer for most guys because muscle cars still had plenty of horses corralled under the hood. The usual big block suspects were still street monsters during that time frame, so names like SS 454, Hemi ‘Cuda and Ford Cobra Jet had plenty of menace left in their game during the early 70s. Even Buick got in the muscle game with their 1970 GS Stage 1 model and its free-breathing 455 cubic inches of hell fire under the hood.
Few people could argue about the early 70s when it came to horsepower under the hood or music on the radio, but things changed dramatically in 1973 when the oil taps were turned off in the Middle East and North America saw a big spike in gas prices at the pump.
Cheap oil was no longer a way of life and the situation got even more complicated in the US when fuel supply shortages became a big problem. In fact it was a big enough problem for people to be shot when they attempted to cut in front of angry drivers at the massive gas station lineups during the oil supply crisis.
The knee jerk reaction was to castrate the big V-8 engines and take away their testosterone. Big blocks were de-stroked and the minimal horsepower left was strangled in a complicated exhaust emission system that ensured horrible performance and little else.
The other issue in 1973 was the 5 mph bumpers legislated onto North American vehicles. The bumpers were not pretty and made the cars look like a buck-toothed kid with old school braces on his teeth. Eventually the bumpers were aligned with the lines of the car as the decade moved on, but the bumpers on most 1973 models looked like they were added on by bad automotive legislation instead of good automotive direction. Indeed they were, for all intents and purposes.
But the overall style of the 70s cars from Detroit defined the decade’s automotive look and I believe there were a lot of home runs in the style department during the 70s. In fact, when I look at cars from an era that brought us short decks and long front ends like the 70s car style, I still like the look.
Sure the cars were underachievers in the horsepower department- and who can forget their first whiff of catalytic convertor exhaust effluents in ‘73 -but the cars looked cool to me then and now. The advent of T-top roofs was an even hipper part of the automotive culture of the 70s.
The wild decal packages on cars like the Pontiac Trans Am gave them massive curb appeal then and now in my opinion, along with hood scoops on some of the sportier cars built in the 70s. The factory horsepower ratings were low, but the cars still looked like they meant business.
Some of the cars did mean business after they underwent an emission system removal and a few engine changes by the right mechanical surgeon. The process to regain the lost muscle under the hood was rarely advertised by practitioners, but the best of them were gods to car guys in the 70s looking for more power.
I will always be a staunch defender of the unloved cars from the 70s. These rides may be the favorite whipping boy for other car guys but, unlike disco music, I have always been on the 70s cars’ side- then, now and forever.